100 Favorite OC Dishes, #69: Spicy Shrimp And Eggplant from Brio Tuscan Grille

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.

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.

The List:

70. Crawfish Mac & Cheese from The Wharf
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

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