Guest Column: Brio@Bacchus—a year in review and the tapas-inspired menu

What is Brio and their “tapas-inspired” menu?

The simple concept was to have a great menu of dishes that were about half the size of standard restaurant entrees at half the price. This means you have more freedom to try a variety of dishes. This was a new idea for many people to grasp, which was very evident about a month into it when we had $120 in sales one night. Even my chefs were struggling to understand. I had to constantly remind them that there were no mashed potatoes to put on the plate. I had to train the staff to educate the customers on this new concept; otherwise “John Doesn’t Get It” will order the seared tuna and think someone forgot the other half of the meal. “It’s about 3 to 1,” I would say. Three courses are equal to one entree on the Bacchus menu prio to Brio. Huh? Just make sure you let them know how large the portions are, 3 to 1.

For example, Bacchus before: Australian beef tenderloin ($32) includes house salad. Brio now: shrimp asiago ($8), brio salad with goat cheese ($5) and Black Angus filet ($15), total: $28. That’s it, for $28 you have three courses and $4 left for a drink, dessert, or to put toward your kids’ college fund. Simple, right? Mix and match, be creative; this is your dining experience—have fun!

One part of Brio that has been great is the tasting menus (tasting: a series of smaller customized courses created by the chef). Any night of the week, I will create a tasting menu of three to 10 courses for your table simply by request. Tastings offer a chance for me to be creative with all the ingredients I have in the kitchen, and give the diner the chance to taste something no one has ever tasted before, even me. The tasting menus have really become unique to Brio and special for people like Roger and Trish Corrigan (foodies) who are in frequently to experience new tastings. Or Dale Leden (another great chef), who just likes to test me. It is a really exciting way to enjoy Brio and the passion behind the scenes.

Just in case you didn’t already know, I purchased Bacchus Wine Bar from Chandler and Michelle and changed the name to Brio@Bacchus. Brio began serving dinner six nights a week on Jan. 16, 2005. Almost a year ago, and I still can’t believe it. The focus has been on food and people, the two things in life I enjoy the most. I’m not going to lie; it is a lot of fun to own a bar and restaurant, meet great people, and eat and drink whatever you want. I am a young man, 28 to be exact, and the restaurant business has been all I ever wanted to do. I read cookbooks instead of novels, cooked instead of playing Nintendo; it’s all I wanted to do. So, without sounding cheesy, I want everyone to feel the passion I have, and that’s BRIO. As my New Year’s wish, I would like to thank the entire community for all their support, and invite you to stop in and say, “hi!”

Brio@Bacchus is at 515 E. State St. in downtown Rockford, phone 968-9463. For more information, e-mail Paul Slettin at or visit the Web site of

From the Jan. 11-17, 2006, issue

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