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Review of the new Brio Tuscan Grille at the Irvine Spectrum
The Chicken Milanease was essentially Chicken Parmesan.

Review of the new Brio Tuscan Grille at the Irvine Spectrum

Brio Tuscan Grill, an Upscale Macaroni Grill?

The Irvine Spectrum has gone through some major changes by expanding their footprint into former parking lots; one of these new restaurants is Brio Tuscan Grille.

If you are thinking that this a second location of Brio Tuscany Grill, in Dana Point, you are wrong. The only similarity is in the name. If you think this is fine dining, you are also wrong. Brio Tuscan Grille is a restaurant chain with 103 locations across 32 states. Brio Bravo’s website calls their concept “upscale affordable restaurant.” 

Brio Tuscan Grille Exterior at the Irvine Spectrum

Brio Tuscan Grille Exterior at the Irvine Spectrum

The Brio Tuscan Grille occupies a brand new building at the Irvine Spectrum Center. It was built on the former valet station by Yard House. The interior is fancy with high ceilings, stonework, faux finish and marble chandeliers. The interior reminded me of The Cheesecake Factory, with an Italian flare. 

Brio Tuscan Grille Interior

Brio Tuscan Grille Interior

Service was standard chain restaurant efficient, friendly but slightly impersonal. The premium is around the efficiency of delivering food with the standard waiter and expediter combo. The menu format is Italian, although it is more than just pasta. 

There is an emphasis on grilled meat and traditional dishes like Milanese and bruschetta. My overall impression is that Brio Tuscan Grille is a slightly fancier  and more expensive version of Macaroni Grill. 

What we ordered at Brio Tuscan Grille

Roasted Garlic, Spinach & Artichoke Dip

The dip is made with a combination of garlic, spinach, artichokes and topped with broiled parmesan cheese. I personally thought that this dip was a little sub-par, as it was thin, oily, and the flavor fell flat.

I would not recommend this appetizer, go with the calamari or bruschetta instead. The biggest issue that I had with this dish is that the parmesan crisp flat bread tasted stale, as if it was made a couple days ahead. We discovered that the complimentary table bread was more suited for the dip as it could soak up the oily texture.  $11.45

Brio Tuscan Grille Garlic Spinach Artichoke Dip

The Garlic Spinach Artichoke Dip was just o.k. The main issue is their use of stale parmesan crisps. Brio uses the same flat bread base on the complimentary bread and flatbread dishes.

Pasta Fra Diavolo

The Pasta Fra Diavolo was perhaps when of the best dishes that we tasted that night. Campanelle pasta is tossed with a spicy tomato cream sauce, creating a nice balance of spicy and acidic. Our friend Peggy, added shrimp  to the dish. The shrimp added some sweet umami flavor layers and broke up the constant spicy tomato sauce flavor. $18.95 (with shrimp).

Brio Tuscan Grille Pasta Fra Diavolo with Shrimp

Brio Tuscan Grille Pasta Fra Diavolo with Shrimp

Compart Farms Duroc Pork Porterhouse

A porterhouse cut is just fancy speak for pork chop.  The porkchop was cooked to medium, per the Chef’s recommendation. The pork chop was tender and had decent flavoring, although it did not rank on my top ten pork chops that I have tasted.

This pork chop tasted similar to the Macaroni Grill preparation. When I took my first bite from the center, I was thinking that it could be juicier. This dish is served with mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes and topped with arugula.   $20.95

Brio Tuscan Grille Pork porterhouse

The Turac Farms Pork Porterhouse, is really just a porkchop. The renaming is there to justify the higher price.

What is a Pork Porterhouse? The fancy name “Pork Porterhouse” is really not that impressive, it is really the same bone-in “pork chop.” The same pork chop that your mother served you as a kid. Last year with the rising cost of grain and drought, the meat industry decided to re-standardize meat cut names to sex them up a little. The restaurant industry has grabbed on to this new names to give their dishes a higher sense of perceived valued for the money. Stay informed my friends! Read this NPR article for more info on this naming shift

Chicken Milanese

The Chicken Milanese is essentially their version of chicken parmesan. Two small chicken breasts are coated with bread crumbs and baked until crispy. The chicken is topped with melted mozzarella cheese. The chicken is served atop pasta and pomodoro herb sauce. We all agreed that this was a good chicken parmesan preparation, although for $20.35, it was a little expensive.

Brio Tuscan Grille Chicken Milanease

The Chicken Milanease was essentially Chicken Parmesan.

Dessert Trio

Desserts were the truly exceptional part of our meal. We tried the dessert trio, which offers a sampler sized portion of three of their desserts.  The sampler includes:

Creme Brulee  made with Tahitian vanilla beans and a nice caramelized sugar crunchy top.

Carmel Mascarpone Cheesecake made with a nice does of mascarpone, giving the cheesecake a nice creamy texture, topped with anglaise sauce and whipped cream.

Butterscotch Pecan Bread Pudding was soft and sticky, perhaps my favorite of the three. It was topped with vanilla bean gelato and anglaise sauce. 

Brio Tuscan Grille Desert trio

Desert Trio

My Final Thoughts About Brio Tuscan Grille

Brio Tuscan Grille could be a good experience, just expect a “Upscale Affordable” chain restaurant  experience. Except for the artichoke dip, there was nothing technically wrong with Brio Tusan Grille’s food. The food was good, but not exceptional. Expect mass production food that has been analyzed to death in order to shave 10 cents per portion. Some restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory have mastered this art, but Brio Tuscan Grille has not.

Expect the pasta dishes to cost on average $17, specialty meat dish averages $21, and steaks run in the high $20’s. The food quality is just slightly higher in than Macaroni Grill, although you can expect about a 20% price increase for that difference. The difference that you are paying for is the fancy building at the Irvine Spectrum. I recommend my readers give it a try if you are looking for a family style Italian restaurant that feels a little higher end.  

Brio Tuscan Grill Location

618 Spectrum Ctr Dr, Irvine Ca 

brioitalian.com

Phone: (949) 341-0380

Brio Tuscan Grille on Urbanspoon

 

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Spagehetini

Brio Tuscan Grill, an Upscale Macaroni Grill? The Irvine Spectrum has gone through some major changes by expanding their footprint into former parking lots; one of these new restaurants is Brio Tuscan Grille. If you are thinking that this a second location of Brio Tuscany Grill, in Dana Point, you are wrong. The only similarity is in the name. If you think this is fine dining, you are also wrong. Brio Tuscan Grille is a restaurant chain with 103 locations across 32 states. Brio Bravo's website calls their concept "upscale affordable restaurant."  Brio Tuscan Grille Exterior at…

Review Overview

Food
Service
Ambiance

Summary : Good food that is a little over priced in comparison to their closest competitor, Macaroni Grill. Averge food and average experience.

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About Tom Holmberg

Tom grew up in a cultural diverse neighborhood and a culturally diverse family, so he has learned to appreciate all types of food. "I am not a Chef, nor do I play one on T.V., but I have learned to appreciate food from years of eating and cooking." Tom also spent 10 years in the restaurant industry in various roles, from Prep Cook to server.

16 comments

  1. All this food sounds wonderful and the desserts look amazing! I am Italian, and when I find a great Italian restaurant it is rare…it’s hard to compete with my grandma! :) We have a Brio Tuscan Grill in Scottsdale, but I have never been. I think I will try it soon. Thanks for the great review!

  2. Thanks for the head’s up about Brio Tuscan Grill. I prefer to check out mom and pop Italian spots!

  3. I haven’t had a dinner yet and this post is just too delicious to read with an empty stomach! I really want to visit this restaurant and eat everything they have!

  4. Brio Tuscan Grill Is one of the beautiful dishes in the place. I can tell because of its dishes and ambiance.

  5. The Chicken Milanese look fantastic. I would really like to try that one.

  6. Maybe, I’ll stick with Tutto Fresco, and spare the Spectrum add-on costs.

  7. I have had Brio several times and really enjoy eating there. The food is always great and the atmosphere is wonderful

  8. Juanita Aguerrebere

    When are they coming to Hawaii? It looks amazing!

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