Before Brio, I'd never been to an Italian chain restaurant that didn't seem a little cheesy (and not in the good, stringy way). Most of them were trying too hard to please folks who can't afford a trip to experience the real thing. So the bar was set low the first time I dined at their Irvine Spectrum spot a couple of years ago. Thanks to them, my opinion finally changed for the better.
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Every visit was as good as the last, if not better. I've bounced around the menu, but the one dish I request very single time is an appetizer featuring Romano-crusted eggplant and shrimp that's been pan seared, resting in a peppered cream sauce. I manage to convert every dining companion to its crunchy, mildly spicy goodness. And it's perfectly portioned to share while you're waiting for the rest of your meal. Just don't even think about the caloric intake, and you'll be fine.
Brio Tuscan Grille, 774 Spectrum Center Dr,. Irvine, (949) 341-0380; www.brioitalian.com.
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71. Malasadas from Dough Doughs Hawaiian Cafe
72. Salsas from Salsa Bandolera
73. Chorizo Breakfast Bagel at Spigas Bakery and Cafe
74. Whole Chicken Combo at Falafelo
75. Toothpick Lamb at Sichuan Impression
76. Hainan Chicken Rice at Baos Hog
77. Fruit- and Ice Cream-Topped Waffles at Crave
78. Garlic Shrimp Poke at Costco
79. Chimichurri Fries at Piaggo on Wheels
80. Torta Cubana at Cancun Juice
81. Adobo Bowl at Irenia
82. Garlic Noodles at Krave Asian Fusion
83. Broccolini at SeaSalt WoodFire Grill
84. Spicy Tuna Roll at Yard House
85. Amber Roll at Orange Roll and Sushi
86. Frito Chili Cheeseburger at Burger Parlor
87. Maui Sunrise at The Original Banzai Bowls
88. Meals from The Performance Kitchen
89. Pizza-Sized Quesadilla at Los Sanchez
90. Filipino Brunch at EATS Kitchen And Bar
91. Mexican Chocolate at the Pie Hole
92. Biscuits at James Republic
93. Mushroom Flatbread with Kale and Kumquat Salad at Lemonade
94. Mexican-Style Gelatins from Santa Ana's Gelatina Goddess
95. Hot Pastrami Caesar Salad at Bruxie
96. Jalapeño Pupusas at Las Cazuelas
97. Meatball Sliders at Fresh Brothers
98. Buffalo Cauliflower at Mead's Green Door Cafe
99. Raindrop Cake at Sunmerry Bakery
100. Doughrito at Surfin' Donuts