This was on the menu once, eons ago, but I'd use it again somewhere if I could:
3/4 inch eggplant "fries" soaked in milk (does that counter the bitterness? not sure/can't remember. I know we didn't salt out or water and squeeze the eggplant).
Then tossed in a breading that had flour and ground rice (coffee mill), the ground rice is nice for texture
We made a ketchup for it, but I'd bet marinara would fit the bill.
Not really lunch fare, but eh, It'd probably sell.
The "chicken/eggplant parmesan sandwich" is killer. A great seller, anyplace I've worked.
Cook chix (pounded flat) or eggplant on platter, hit with warm marinara, top with fresh mozz, broil until melted, slide onto bread (prob not sandwich bread tho).
Usually bread chix with breadcrumbs, not panko, but who knows?...
I just make it messy, serve extra napkins. Fresh mozz for sure. YUM!
Thanks for jogging my memory!