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Dining Guide for Families in Orange County

A Touch of Italy at Brio Tuscan Grille

We dined as a guest of Brio
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One of the newest dining additions to the Irvine Spectrum is Brio Tuscan Grille. Families can enjoy the flavors of Tuscany at this plush new restaurant. The inside of the restaurant has a modern sophisticated feel while the outdoor patio is more relaxed and casual.

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We dined at Brio Tuscan Grille for the first time as a mother daughter date night with my girlfriend and her daughter. While the girls started dinner with a refreshing lemonade, my girlfriend ordered the white peach sangria, and I treated myself to their raspberry mojito.

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The Raspberry mojito was made with Bacardi black razz rum, fresh lime juice, crushed mint and raspberries. The white peach sangria was made with peach nectar, berries, citrus fruits, peach Schnapps and Chardonnay. The sweet cocktails were the perfect prelude to our dining experience at Brio.

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The highlight of the menu is “the lighter side of Tuscany” where they offer multiple dishes that are less than 595 calories. There are also a vast amount of dishes that are marked with an olive leaf to advise guests that those dishes are also less than 595 calories.

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We started our dinner with the bruschetta quattro that allowed us to have a sampling of their various bruschetta appetizers. My favorite bruschetta was the roasted tomato and herb pesto bruschetta that came with grape tomatoes, ricotta, parmigiano-reggiano, thyme and pistacio mint pesto.

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My steak loving daughter enjoyed every bite of the sliced steak bruschetta. It came with gorgonzola cheese, arugula, charred tomato, parmigiano-reggiano and a slice of steak.

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While my daughter enjoyed the steak, my friend’s daughters favorite was the roasted red pepper bruschetta. It was the fresh mozarella that won over her heart that was topped with basil, parmigiano-reggiano and a balsamic glaze. We were also treated to a slice of the chef’s seasonal bruschetta that was made with fresh seasonal ingredients.

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After enjoying the fresh bruschetta appetizer, we shared the spicy shrimp and eggplant. This popular appetizer came with pan seared shrimp, Romano crusted eggplant, and a black pepper cream sauce. Don’t let the name fool you because this dish was not too spicy for the kids. The eggplant was breaded giving it a crunch that the kids enjoyed and the shrimp was perfectly paired with the summer vegetable.

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My daughter has a love for a white cream sauce and a carbonara has always been her favorite pasta dish. She ordered the campanelle carbonara that came with grilled chicken, crisp bacon, parmesan and spinach covered with a creamy alfredo sauce. Her favorite thing about the carbonara is that it did not come with the traditional peas that she often picks out of the dish but came with spinach instead. By adding the spinach, it gave the dish a whole new take on the flavor of a traditional carbonara, and is one of her new favorites.

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The highlight of our main course was the shrimp and crab cakes. When it comes to crab cakes they are either cooked perfectly or cooked terribly. There is never an “in-between” when it comes to this tricky dish to prepare, and Brio thoroughly impressed me with their crab cakes. They came with large chunks of crab and shrimp with roasted red potatoes, roasted vegetables and caramelized onions. They perfected the seafood flavor on this dish without a single soggy bite.

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The dish that we ordered off the “light menu” was the Pasta Pesto. I was curious to see how they could make a dish with so many of my favorite flavors “light.” The dish came with angel hair pasta, grilled chicken, caramelized onions, tomatoes, roasted peppers, feta, basil and a pesto sauce. With every bite of this incredible dish, I could not believe that it was in fact less than 595 calories!

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Another favorite from the “light” menu was the grilled salmon fesca. The dish was beautifully presented with grilled asparagus, sweet potatoes, spinach, roasted peppers, pesto vinaigrette, feta, diced tomatoes, and a balsamic glaze. Again, I was impressed that this dish was under 595 calories.

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We could not end the evening without indulging in some of their desserts. Our kids were watching the dessert tray being shown around the restaurant all night long. They offer a delectable dolchino sampler that has just the right amount of dessert for young kids. Our kids ordered the chocolate caramel cake and peanut butter with chocolate mousse.

My friend enjoyed the Torta di Cioccolata that has a warm chocolate center, and topped with vanilla bean gelato, anglaise sauce and chocolate. Creme brûlée and cheesecake came together with the Carnegie Deli New Your Cheesecake. The top of the cheesecake has caramelized sugar like a creme brûlée, anglaise sauce and fresh strawberry – unforgettable.

The only improvement to our dining experience would have been the service. While the staff was clearly working hard, our dinner took three and a half hours, which was a little challenging for our kids.

Make plans to get together with your girlfriends to have lunch or dinner on the beautiful outdoor patio at Brio Tuscan Grille. Brio Tuscan Grille is located at 618 Spectrum Center Drive in Irvine.

Brio Tuscan Grille on Urbanspoon

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