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Brio Tuscan Grille at Walt Whitman mall: First bites

Margherita flatbread at Brio Tuscan Grille, Huntington Station.

Margherita flatbread at Brio Tuscan Grille, Huntington Station. (October 2013) Credit: Newsday / Joan Reminick

A recent lunch at the new Brio Tuscan Grille at the ever-evolving Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station revealed a decorator’s showplace, plush and beautifully appointed. A pity the faux Tuscan food didn’t approach the level of the faux Tuscan decor.

Case in point: the grilled salmon salad ($14.95), a humdrum toss of greens, tomatoes, asparagus, feta (Tuscan?) topped with a salty slab of salmon and shoestring potatoes that tasted of the oil they’d been fried in. Then, there was a Margherita flatbread ($13.15), a cracker thin-crusted pie crowned with flavorless sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. When it comes to pizza, good canned tomatoes or tomato sauce almost always trumps watery sliced ones.

From the restaurant’s “Lighter Side of Tuscany” menu came a surprisingly good 5-ounce filet mignon ($20.45) with grilled asparagus and a muddled vegetable mélange that included sweet potatoes, spinach and roasted peppers in a pesto vinaigrette. The entire plate weighed in at 365 calories — a small but satisfying portion. But the lunch version of chicken under a brick ($14.35) proved a case of expectations unmet. Rather than skin-on bone-in poultry grilled under a brick (to flatten and evenly brown it), this was a grilled boneless breast topped with a Marsala wine sauce whose main ingredient had to be salt; on the side were decent enough vegetables and mashed potatoes.

Best value: lasagna Bolognese — good if you like a cream sauce layered in with the meat,  cheese and pasta — served with an ample chopped salad ($15.35), a huge amount of food for the money.

Service was professional and enthusiastic.

The chain restaurant is situated in the center of the mall and faces Route 110. It can only be entered from outdoors.

Brio Tuscan Grille is at 160 Walt Whitman Rd., Huntington Station, 631-479-3816,

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