Since 1984 sisters-in-law Brenda and Lynne Reilly have been building their business and their brand with Brenda’s brother and Lynne’s husband Chef and Restaurateur Tim Reilly.
The women have built their lives and raised their families amid the growth and development of the family heritage of serving fine food at a fair price in Middletown.
In 1937 grandparents Anthony and Rose opened the Rose Garden Restaurant on Stack St. They went on to own and operate the Cabin Restaurant in Meriden from the 60’s to the 80’s.
That’s when Tim, Brenda and Lynne went on their own and opened J.T. Reilly’s in Portland in 1984. They quickly expand into the catering and banquet business.
In 1995 they pioneered the revival of downtown Middletown with the opening of Tuscany Grill and were instrumental in its development as the dining destination of Middlesex County. As the family grew so did the business and a second restaurant Baci Grill in Cromwell opened in 1998 with expanded facilities for banquets.
Living a life with happiness and success tragedy struck in 2009 when beloved brother and husband Tim lost his five year battle with cancer. The women mourned their loss and committed to carrying on the family business.
They have established themselves through the quality and value of their menu, their personal interaction with their guests and their pride in ownership. Their outstanding reputation for food and service is based on their strong family values and ties to the community.
They spearhead the annual Appetite for Life program which partners Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center and participating Middlesex County restaurants during the month of June to benefit the Center for Survivorship and Integrative Medicine. Brenda and Lynne were recently recognized by Middlesex Hospital for their support of the Cancer Center. They also host “Tip-a-Firefighter” every year in October to support MARC Community Resources for people with disabilities.
Brenda and Lynne will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Tuscany Grill in February 2015.
Erin Reilly and Ruth Shea are a dynamic duo as the beverage directors for Tuscany Grill and Baci Grill in Middletown, CT and Cromwell, CT respectively. Reilly is the daughter of one of the restaurants’ owners and basically grew up in the business. As a child Reilly was always close by her father, mother and aunt as they ran their first family restaurant. Reilly worked her way up the ranks of the family restaurant starting as a busser in her early teens then moving up to server and bartender. Reilly took a short break from the family business to experience other aspects of the hospitality industry. Reilly graduated from culinary school, managed a spirits shop and was a sales representative for a Connecticut wine & spirits distributor. Since expanding her knowledge of all things food and beverage, Reilly has returned to the family restaurants as a manager and pastry chef. Reilly teams up with Shea to develop the beverage program for both restaurants.
Shea, general manager of Tuscany Grill has 25 years of experience in the food and beverage industry. “When I was 16 and looking to get my first job, my Aunt Millie, a lifetime server, advised me to get into the restaurant business. She told me that no matter where I go in life, I would always be able to find work in a restaurant.” Over the years to come, Shea worked in many different styles of restaurants and bars. From diners to dives to fine dining in Philadelphia, New York City and all over Connecticut; finally landing in the place Shea considers home, Tuscany Grill. “We have a great team here. And I am always encouraged to be creative and set the next trend in cocktails. I often hear from our guests that we have the best cocktail menu in town. It’s exciting that people enjoy what we create.”
Reilly and Shea create seasonal cocktail menus for the Fall / Winter and the Spring / Summer seasons. The team spends hours brainstorming, researching, and tasting months before each menu will be released. Their menus always feature fresh, seasonal ingredients and always touch on each category of base spirit. “I was fed up with the flavored vodka regime. Every place I went cocktail menus were inundated with flavored vodkas.” says Shea. “When Erin and I took over the beverage program, we decided to make sure every spirit is showcased on each menu. We wanted to remind people that whiskey, gin, rum and tequila are still out there.”
Chef Benjamin Gamble has been a leading culinary influence in Middletown, CT for the past 3 years as the executive chef at Tuscany Grill. You wouldn’t think it when you see this laid- back bearded boy of 26, but he is methodical and focused when it comes to managing his team and executing flawless meals at his 200 seat restaurant. “When I’m not in the kitchen, I’m skiing, fishing, or four-wheeling with my buddies” Gamble tells us. It’s obvious that he enjoys the thrill of a challenge both in and out of the restaurant.
Chef Gamble attended culinary school with Erin Reilly, the daughter of one of Tuscany Grill’s owners. He got to know the Reilly family during this time and learned about their restaurants. “I admired the Reillys’ passion for their family business and their appreciation of great food. I knew that I could continue learning my craft with them and that I could bring something to the table as well” says Gamble.
Chef Gamble’s adventurous side definitely shows in his cooking as well. “I love experimenting with different flavor combinations. Sometimes you have to break tradition and challenge people’s palates” he says. “I know that the name Tuscany Grill suggests that we are strictly an Italian restaurant but we really consider ourselves a modern Italian place with lots of global influences.”
So, does this wild young chef have a soft side too? He sure does. Chef Gamble and Tuscany Grill owners Lynne and Brenda Reilly believe that it is important to give back to the community that has been so supportive of their restaurant over the last 19 years. They host several charity events at Tuscany Grill every year and Chef Gamble has participated in local charity competitions including an annual chili cook-off. “Of course I always want to win”, Chef Gamble laughs, “but really, the competition is a thrill in itself. There is a lot of culinary talent in Middletown and we push each other to constantly improve ourselves.”