Brianno's (Eagan, MN)
By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
We're such fans of home-cooking that we don't mind if someone else does the cooking. Bring us fresh ingredients cooked simply. We like rich flavors and recipes handed down from our, or somebody else's, mother. And we adore Italian cooking. We get Brianno's to go.
Brianno's isn't a restaurant. It's a deli, a grocery, a take-out place.. And it's the best Italian cooking in the South metro.
Start with the pizzas. We're talking thin crust, with a real crisp bite all around the edges. The oven's hot and the crust cooks hot and fast. No soggy doughy chain pizza here. The dough and sauce are home-made. Watch them run the dough through their counter-top machine. It's almost as much fun as watching the guy throw the dough in the air. The Napoletana is their house specialty, a delicious combination of sausage, pepperoni, and onion, and Parmesan, Romano, Provolone, and Mozzarella cheeses.
Next, the sandwiches. The bread, dense but not chewy with a fine texture, is baked on the premises. Their Italiano sandwich is a tangy combination of Cappicolla, Proscuitto, and Genoa salami, and Mozzarella and Provalone.. We especially liked their meatball sandwich with Mozzarella. It's messy, but delicious.
They serve both eggplant and chicken parmigiana sandwiches, and Italian sausage with peppers. And you can buy them either half- or full- size. Try any of them, and you'll wish these guys were on every corner, like the chains.
The basil vinaigrette, on sandwiches or just on the side to dip bread into, is very good. Less interesting was the garlic bread. We wanted it to taste more cleanly of both garlic and butter.
Hot entree selections include lasagna, Italian sausage with onions and peppers, and eggplant parmigiana. All are wonderful.
Brianno's sells an array of deli salads. We can recommend the artichoke salad and the tortellini salad. The penne salad, with plenty of grated Romano mixed in with tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and basil vinaigrette, was our favorite.
And don't forget desserts. These, too, are made in the store. You can buy individual slices of cheesecake, carrot cake, and tiramisu. Our guests liked the tiramisu so much they fought over the crumbs. They nearly had a plate-licking contest. Make no mistake... this is the good stuff.
Brianno's sells packaged foods as well. In the grocery aisles, we found pastas, sauces, peppers, olive oil, and other Italian foods. Behind the deli counter they have an impressive array of cured meats, Italian cheeses, and olives.
Selling other people's food is the exception, though. Most of the items sold at Brianno's are made right there. In the frozen section, they sell their pastas, sauces, soups, pans of lasagna and other prepared dishes, and desserts.
The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. Curious what's in their minestrone soup? They know. Want to know which pastas are made in-house, or what flour is in the bread? They're happy to tell you, or even offer you a taste. Brianno's accepts personal checks but not credit cards. And in the summer, they create an impromptu café with tables and chairs set out in their parking lot.
Atmosphere: Grocery store-ish
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