Ask anyone – not just cruise passengers – what his or her favorite food is, and chances are the answer will be “Italian.” And no wonder, Italian cuisine boasts the palate-pleasing treasures of olive oil, basil, garlic, oregano and balsamic vinegar. It represents la dolce vita– the good life for those who indulge in it, and my husband Humberto and I do, on land and most definitely at sea. Here are popular alternative Italian restaurants on board ships that feature most everybody’s favorite cuisine. I thank my lucky stars we have had the pleasure of dining at all of them!
Aqualina (Azamara Cruises) –Hmm, let’s see. Perhaps prosciutto-wrapped scallops or lobster ravioli for an appetizer, Caesar salad prepared tableside, a Venetian seafood platter and tiramisu with caramel biscotti? Yum! Yum! Aqualina, an alternative restaurant with an attractive, airy, contemporary decor, features classic Italian cuisine with a modern twist.
Canaletto (Holland America Line) –Named after an 18th century Venetian artist and inspired by the Italian belief that there is nothing better than having a great meal with family and friends, Canaletto is an ocean-view alternative restaurant available across the fleet (often carved out of the Lido Restaurant) with a menu that invites sharing. Humberto and I always frequent it when our daughter and grandsons join us for a cruise. Traditional delights include delicious antipasti and other small plates, chicken cacciatore al forno and garlic shrimp ravioli entrees. And for dessert, choices include cannoli alla Siciliana and creamy, delicious gelato.
Jamie’s Italian (Royal Caribbean) –Celebrity British Chef Jamie Oliver’s love for Italian cuisine shines through in the handmade rustic dishes using seasonal ingredients and following authentic recipes on the menu. “We’re all about simply cooked food that makes you happy,” Chef Jamie says on the restaurant’s menu. And who could be anything but deliriously happy after a meal of Jamie’s famous specialty Anti Plank appetizers! This dish is piled high with carved meats including fennel salami, pistachio mortadella and cheeses, olives, pickles and rainbow slaw. Or try one of the house-made pastas like penne pomodoro with sweet tomatoes, garlic, basil, mozzarella and herby croutons, followed by a meringue lemon Amalfi cheesecake?
La Terrazza (Silversea) – Years ago, we were dining in Silversea’s signature alternative Italian restaurant, La Terrazza, while sailing off Italy’s Campania wine-growing region, when our steward Stefano offered us a glass of Aglianico wine. “The grapes for this wine were grown right there,” he said, pointing to the Italian coastline visible in the twilight through the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows, as he poured the wine. “I know,” he added, smiling broadly, “I am from there!” Aglianico wine, Stefano explained, is made from a black grape grown in the southern regions of Italy: Basilicata, Campania and Puglia, and it was his favorite. It became one of ours too! A robust red wine, it was divine with the osso bucco we had ordered, one of the specialties of La Terrazza, a restaurant that deliciously reflects Silversea’s Italian heritage. The food we were served, the wine we drank, and Stefano’s comments about the wine and the Campania region of Italy from his first-hand experience made it a most memorable meal! The dinner menu, which changes every few days, features the freshest, authentic, ingredients including buffalo mozzarella from Naples, organic balsamic vinegar and olive oil from Umbria and air-dried ham from Parma. The Emilia-Romagna region of Italy is the source for the line’s 24-month-aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. On the menus to tempt all palates are delectable soups and salads, mouthwatering breads (in baskets accompanied by garlic cloves and a cherry tomato), outstanding pastas made fresh onboard, entrees like our favorite osso bucco, and desserts including creamy, sinful, chocolate gelato that we can never say “no” to. La Terrazza is also open for breakfast with bountiful buffets, and for lunch – we often order the delectable pizza margherita made with buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil (one of several pizza options on the extensive menu) and enjoy it in the outdoor section of the restaurant which is shaded by a canopy and fanned by sparkling breezes.
Prego (Crystal Cruise Line) –Italy’s flavors can be savored at Prego onboard the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. Intimate tableside service is perfect for a romantic occasion – perhaps indulging in an appetizer of Parma ham, salami and parmesan cheese, a roasted rack of baby lamb or veal scaloppini, and a Piedmontese flan (a delight in chocolate-almond flavor).
Sabatini’s Italian Restaurant (Princess Cruises) –This alternative eatery featuring contemporary décor with rustic touches on Princess ships serves up traditional Italian dishes from Tuscany and beyond a la carte. Some Princess ships feature a Sabatini’s trattoria and others a classic Sabatini’s. Delights include such appetizers as calamari fritti, delectable homemade pastas like pappardelle with shrimp and broccoli, entrees including osso bucco, and sinful desserts including tiramisu – all served by a friendly staff. Many of the recipes have been contributed by the line’s own Italian captains.
Toscana (Oceania) –The mothers and grandmothers of Oceania’s culinary staff members from Italy are the source of many of the recipes served here. Presented on lovely Versace china, many dishes, including the artichoke parmesan timbale with black truffle sauce, celebrate the cuisine of Tuscany. Some dishes are inspired in Northern Italy like the lasagna al forno Bolognese.
Tuscan Grille (Celebrity) –The décor is sophisticated contemporary with touches of rustic elegance. The dishes are iconic Italian with a modern treatment. Specialties include handmade pastas, artisanal salami, USDA Prime dry-aged steaks, and house-made limoncello liqueur. Delizioso! Tuscan Grille serves dinner and it is open for lunch once during a cruise. A Wine Connoisseur Dinner is offered. Tuscan Grille has a robust wine collection – a fact alluded to by the restaurant’s wooden-arched entrance, reminiscent of aged wine casks, and wine bottles displayed on glass-doored cabinets also flanking the entryway.
If you wish to enjoy “buon appetito!” at one of these Italian restaurants at sea, contact Cruise Specialists.