I like that Irvine Spectrum has been adding restaurants to its repertoire left, right, and center recently, however, not all the new eateries are right for this center. Keep in mind that this is a place where families congregate, where people bring their children, it is still surprising to me that not all the restaurants have something kid-friendly on the menu.
Not that this matters to me in any way. My child has not ordered off a kids’ menu since he was three years old, but it is just an observation for when I eat with my friends who do have young children. This is why the new BRIO Tuscan Grille may be a very attractive choice for families — and singles — alike.
A meal is definitely made better when you have a good server, and ours, Cyrena, was perfect. She was attentive without being intrusive, and if she didn’t know the answers to my myriad of questions, she found someone who could answer them for me. Absolutely delightful.
A basket of complimentary bread arrives — the crisp bread is addictive — and I suggest you do not overindulge in either because you’ll regret it when your meal arrives — portions are generous!
Since we aren’t able to decide on a bruschetta, we opt for Bruschetta Quattro ($15.45) which offers a selection of Roasted Red Pepper bruschetta, fresh mozzarella, basil, parmagiana reggiano, balsamic glaze; Roasted Tomato & Herb Pesto bruschetta, grape tomatoes, ricotta, parmigiano reggiano, fresh thyme, pistachio mint pesto; Sliced Steak bruschetta, gorgonzola, arugula, charred tomatoes, parmigiano regginao; and the Chef’s Seasonal bruschetta (bacon onion jam). Although each is tasty in its own way, my favorite is the roasted tomato with ricotta.
Our next appetizer, Spicy Shrimp & Eggplant ($11.45) of Romano crusted eggplant topped with pan seared shrimp, served in a black pepper cream sauce, sounds better on paper. The Romano crust is too thick and overwhelms the delicate eggplant — I am not able to decipher the eggplant at all. The shrimp is nicely prepared, however, the sauce is bordering on the cloying side.
There are different sections on the menu and I like “The Lighter Side of Tuscany” best. These dishes are all under 600 calories per plate but none of the many dishes I have tried suggest compromises in flavor. In fact, I prefer them over the others.
Take for instance Campanelle Carbonara ($16.85), which is nice, but not a traditional carbonara since it clearly states “creamy Alfredo sauce” on the menu. The pasta to ingredients ratio is extremely generous and offers plenty of grilled chicken slices, crisp bacon, Parmesan and my favorite, spinach.
The next selections are the ones to keep on your radar. Grilled Salmon Fresca ($18.95) sits on a bed of sweet potatoes, spinach and roasted peppers tossed in a pesto vinaigrette. Then, grilled asparagus, feta, diced tomatoes are added before it is finished off with a drizzle of balsamic glaze.
Chicken Pomodoro Classico ($15.15) might possibly be one of my favorite entrees here. The tomato sauce is fresh and the penne has soaked up its great flavor. They do not skimp on ingredients and there is as much pasta as there is grilled chicken, pine nuts, basil, parmagiano reggiano and cilantro pesto. An incredibly respectable starch/protein ratio in every bite.
Another dish is Chicken Piccata ($12.95). There really isn’t much to say except those who aren’t adventurous will really love it because it pretty much stays true to the classic. This version is served with roasted vegetables, so if you want it with mashed potatoes, order the Mezze Chicken Limone instead.
Shrimp Mediterranean ($14.95) with an orzo and farro pilaf is one I’m truly enamored with. Spicy grilled jumbo shrimp are plump with a great snap, and the use of colorful vegetables such as broccolini, asparagus, tomatoes, and spinach really brightens up the plate, and also makes it a healthier option all around.
If you’re desperate for meat, then choose the 5oz Filet Brio ($19.95). The accoutrements of sweet potatoes, spinach, roasted peppers and grilled asparagus are great, but if it is steak you want, I would really get it elsewhere. There are so many other great things on the menu for you to choose from, there is really no need to get this.
What I can definitely say about BRIO is that you will always know what to expect each visit after your initial one. The food is consistent and once you find your favorites, you’ll probably stick to them — like I have.
These days, I’ve been holding most of my giveaways on my newsletter — if you haven’t subscribed yet, please do so at the top right hand corner of this page. However, this week, I do have a giftcard courtesy of BRIO to giveaway valued at $50. Please leave a comment and tell me where your last memorable dining experience was and tell me why, for a chance to enter.
BRIO Tuscan Grille
618 Spectrum Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
John Olsen says
My last memorable dining experience was Taps Sunday Brunch. It’s pretty outrageous with a huge selection of cold and hot foods. Endless mimosas come with the brunch. You can also opt for their house made beer. I’ve never seen a brunch that included craft beer. Good stuff.
Jonathan Zabala says
My last memorable restaurant visit was at the Ranch Restaurant. It was my first time and my wife was treating me. I ordered the most expensive tomato appetizer I’ve ever seen. It was with every penny!
Bree Briggs says
Our last great dining experience was La Cave in Newport Beach (Costa Mesa) It was valentines day, spendy and overall perfect
Sol Grill, Balboa peninsula, ambiance mom and pop feel and the meatballs are amazing
Deb moretti says
It was Five Crowns two years ago for our 16 year anniversary. It was memorable because I stepped on a bee earlier that day. My foot was so swollen I could barely put a flip flop on, but darn it, I was going! Had my foot up on a chair the whole time…had to get a shot in it the next day. But dinner was still yummy even though I had anxiety over my expanding foot. The glass of wine helped, too. 🙂
I just checked out Anaheim Packing House this weekend and had a delicious bowl of ramen, it was so flavorful.
My last memorable dining experience was having lunch at Kentro Greek Bistro in Fullerton, CA! It was very nice restaurant with a modern vibe, but classic mediterranean cuisine!
Madeline Chu says
We went to Villa Roma recently and it was memorable because it was our first “fine dining” experience while bringing our baby girl. She did really well and we enjoyed our seafood risotto!
Dave Ehrlich says
Our last memorable dining experience was at the Ranch Restaurant in Anaheim. The staff was extremely friendly and knowledgeable, everything we tried was “our favorite dish,” and the restaurant itself was beautiful & elegant. What made the dining experience even better was ending the night at their Saloon, listening to good music and watching people dance the night away.
David Ehrlich says
My last memorable dining experience was at Public House in Las Vegas, my fiance surprised me by taking me to Vegas for my birthday, we had a fantastic server and meal.
My last memorable dining experience was at Marche Moderne–excellent food and a lovely ambience.
Stephanie M says
My last memorable dining experience was definitely Dami Sushi in Buena Park! The pork belly appetizer, massive nigiri sushi platter, and dozen TVs with non stop sports and K-pop.
The bruschetta platter is a nice option!
petey hsieh says
I had a very enjoyable evening with the misses and some friends at Tommy Bahamas Bar and Grill in NewPort about half year ago. Drinks are stiff, just the way we like them. The atmosphere was great and service was above and beyond. So we are going back next week for our anniversary. Too bad I missed out your giveaway for Tommy Bahamas, that would’ve been 4 extra drinks! 🙂
Loretta Gowan says
My last enjoyable meal out was with my husband was for sushi place at Ryokan Seal Beach 5 months ago. We are newly married and have 2 step boys ages 12 & 14 so going out to eat is a luxury we can’t really afford too often. If we go alone that is a very rare treat!
Mad Hungry Woman says
congratulations you are the winner of the Brio giveaway
jihan Assi says
Oh my!!! Everything looks mouthwatering!!! A must try place for sure!
Thanks again for sharing your experiences!!!
Allyson Hirose says
I usually don’t get to treat my boyfriend to dinner very often but I wanted to do something meaningful for his birthday. I made reservations to Gabby’s, he has always been curious about that place. I think quality and consistency are the most important things in a restaurant but, it doesn’t matter how good the food is, without good service, everything will taste bitter. I was so worried about things going well on that night but the services was amazing, the waiter was so nice, recommended his favorite dishes and drinks and explained the specials in detail and was very kind making sure everything was running ok. Everything really was worth it, especially when my boyfriend said that the pork chop he ordered was one of the best he has ever tried. Everything went so well from beginning to end. That is the kind of place you will definitely recommend to friends and family.
Karen Terry says
My last memorable dinner was with good friends at Brick in San Clemente after the Walk Against Hunger for Family Assistance Ministries. Doing for others is so rewarding and then relaxing with great food and drinks to laugh with friends at such a warm and welcoming restaurant makes a perfect ending to the day.