Canaletto is Holland America Line’s version of the Italian dining experience featured on a number of cruise lines. Sailing Holland America’s Oosterdam this week, we found Canaletto to be the best dining option available, a notion that clearly goes against traditional thoughts of upscale dining on the line.
Top-rated signature steakhouse the Pinnacle Grill usually takes the honors as best on board dining, and rightfully so. It has all the trappings of a full-service luxury restaurant and could compete favorably with other, similar venues at sea or on land. But one element comparatively absent on Pinnacle Grill is ever present in Canaletto: A simple system, done well by motivated service staff.
Canaletto, it seems, has to try harder. The space it occupies is actually part of the Oosterdam’s Lido buffet restaurant by day. Sometime between lunch and dinner, the 66-seat space is transformed into a family style Italian restaurant with a thoughtful menu, aptly tailored to cruise travelers.
L’ ANTIPASTO (pictured above) starts the show with a selection of antipasti served tableside. Attractively displayed, this is about as close to the traditional family style service with huge bowls of food for passing around and sharing. Everything else is prepared to order, for each guest
IL PRIMO continues the snappy service with a soup or salad selection. Insalata Canaletto seals the deal on authenticity with wedges of yellow and red tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella and a variety of vegetables tossed with fresh basil and basil oil.
IL SECONDO is where Canaletto’s knocks Italian dining at sea out of the park. With familiar items that jump off the menu for those wanting to play it safe to unique, original recipes that offer something new, this is the heart and soul of the space.
Spaghetti and Meatballs, Tortellini, Linguini, Veal and Cod are all recognizable menu items found at Canalettos. From what we tasted and saw, they are all done well.
That’s coming from someone who tries really hard to stay away from saying a dining venue is “good” or “bad” as food is such a subjective term. What one person finds heavenly (Escargot comes to mind), another person does not like at all. We know that. This is that good.
IL DOLCI is the dessert section that ends the experience which did not take forever to do, was choreographed well and left diners wanting to come back again.
But all of the above is not the real reason to visit Canaletto. Actually there are two reasons: The bread and the ability to hit special requests out of the park.
Visiting Canaletto pretty much completes our tour of dining options on board Holland America’s Oosterdam. A common element among other venues is a lackluster bread basket. Those who bake know that after bread comes out of the oven it begins to degrade as air robs it of freshness. There is a post-baking period of resting needed where baked goods are difficult to serve as they cool. Optimum timing would have those products served just as they reach room temperature. From that point on, baked goods are less than the best they will be. Like other cruise lines, bread in other venues aboard Oosterdam is served beyond this point.
The other unique ability Canaletto has is an age-old restaurant panacea that is always a sure-fire winner: Special Requests Are No Problem. I ordered linguini with a light sauce, vegetables and Italian sausage. It’s a favorite combination I have at home and on the road when possible. Canaletto delivered the best rendition ever.
While Chris is being sponsored by Holland America Line this week, on board Holland America’s Oosterdam in Alaska, he is free to relate the experience to readers in his own words, as it unfolds. Follow along on our SeaLog, on Twitter, Facebook and, new for this event, HipGeo’s journal account of the voyage.