Mangia, Mangia on Costa Smeralda
If there is one thing synonymous with the Italian way of life, eating would certainly rank at the top of the list. For Italians, it’s not just sustenance for survival, it’s a cultural celebration that is carried out flawlessly aboard the beautiful Costa Smeralda.
Ranking as the fifth largest cruise ship afloat, this Costa flagship is big. Very big! With the vessel currently sailing at 75% capacity or less to comply with safe health considerations, I set aside a flawed, self imagined aversion to mega-ships and quickly developed a deep appreciation for the personal space afforded onboard. It’s the massive physical size that allows for the amazing plethora of attractions, pools, showrooms and lounges to fill leisure time at sea. Sampling the onboard amenities and shoreside destinations are exciting enough but let’s get to the main event of Costa’s Cruising Italian Style.
Nostalgically recalling cruising in the 1980’s, ships generally employed two distinct seatings in the one and only main dining room. Served by the same waiter at the same table each evening, you risked the doors being closed should you fail to assemble at your assigned time. Reserving your dining time required meeting with the maitre’d on arrival or requesting the desired time slot with fingers crossed in advance. Those days have passed and Costa has turned the page and set the table for an international epicurean adventure on your terms. Choose from dining experiences in exquisitely designed venues catering to every taste and whim.
The ship has not one but four full service dining rooms to choose from for breakfast, lunch and dinner, While these venues retain the assigned two seating tradition, they also reflect European standards by offering later evening dining times. As one would expect, regional Italian dishes are in the spotlight alongside continental favorites all under the direction of Michelin starred Chef Bruno Barbieri.
What most ships call a buffet, dining in the Ristorante La Sagra dei sapori (the festival of flavors) is a virtual international feast. Designated stations serve specific foods ranging from grilled meats and seafood, a salad bar, freshly baked breads and focaccia and a lavish dessert bar. In tune with the Cruising Italian Style theme, the most popular stations serve a selection of prepared to order pastas plus a kiosk featuring fresh fruits, Italian specialties and of course mozzarella, prosciutto and mortadella.
Offered at reasonable additional fees, the Costa Smeralda keeps with the trend of specialty restaurant dining with venues of differing appeal. Gastronomy hounds will relish the opportunity of being tutored by one of the ship’s celebrated chefs in the Ristorante Laboratorio Del Gusto. Experience the art of preparing culinary creations in a high tech kitchen followed by a dining extravaganza in the exquisite setting of this intimate restaurant.
Expect dinner and a show in the Teppanyaki Restaurant. Select your favorite dishes and sit back while the entertaining cooks put on a humorous show preparing your meal in front of your eyes on the teppanyaki grill.
The exclusive Bellavista Club Restaurant is a dining venue featuring a premium menu and wine list highlighted by extensive personal service. Suite guests enjoy complimentary access, however non suite guests may also reserve tables for an additional fee.
Due to the popularity of these restaurants, the new Archipelago restaurant has been designed to explore three differing menus that capture the spirit of the cruise itinerary, each curated by a different chef. Expanding on the cultural experience, intimate “island” tables have been framed by copper sculptures enclosing driftwood salvaged from the shores of Italy.
Costa Smeralda’s Best Restaurants
Expanding even further on the alternative dining concept, Costa has developed an innovative hybrid menu that is quite unique. Should you choose to dine in the main restaurants, there is an opportunity to select specific premium dishes at a nominal cost that would otherwise only be available in the specialty venues.
For families with children Tutti a Tavola is a restaurant dedicated for families that wish to dine together in a casual setting.
Salty Beach Street Food outdoor kiosk offers light bites for noshing poolside and innovative cafe stations offer opportunities to create custom made poke bowls or healthy wraps. The poolside grill whips up burgers and fast food options that everyone can grab on a moment’s notice.
What would a visit to Italy be without pizza? As would be expected, Costa offers a journey into Italian authenticity in the Pizzeria Pummid’oro, with selection of freshly prepared pizzas. The trattoria styled restaurant also serves up complete dinners of pastas and Italian favorites.
The Il Bacaro Venetian Bar is an upscale Italian version of the tapas bar concept in Spain. Wine, champagne or aperitifs complement small plates of appetizing delights. Sushi lovers will relish the all you can eat selections from the bounty of the sea at Sushino.
To satisfy hankerings for midday, early evening or late night nibbling, an intermezzo of gelato indulgence is always appropriate in Trastevere. Enjoy trivia, games or videos while savoring shakes and cakes, extravagant frozen creations or simple cones or cups of your favorite flavors. Grabbing a gelato, cake or crepe on the run is also possible at the Gelateria Amarillo.
Close by the main pool is Nutella Bar with the name likely conjuring up images of the featured component of the menu. Adorn the delicious chocolate hazelnut spread on anything imaginable but nothing tops the toasty waffles.
With twenty decks to cover you’ll quickly discover that a week is not enough to explore every inch of this floating resort. It’s the spa, the pools, La Spagna, San Remo theater, Colosseo, the 19 bars, coffee and pastries in Cafe Vergnano. I could talk for hours but it’s impolite to talk with my mouth full so you’ll need to visit the ship to find out more.