The Tuscan Grille is the most popular specialty restaurant on Celebrity Eclipse. It is less formal than the elegant Murano Restaurant but still a suitable venue for a special occasion. Indeed, we witnessed the staff coming together several times in order to serenade guests with a chorus of “Happy Birthday” - - sung in Italian.
This restaurant joins together two very popular dining concepts - - an American steakhouse and Italian cuisine. When this concept first debuted on Celebrity Cruises' first few Solstice class ships, there was some attempt to blur the line between these two styles, combining elements of each style within single dishes. This was not altogether successful with the whole being less than the sum of its parts. Now, although all the dishes still are listed on the menu in Italian, the border between the two styles is being respected and so one finds both traditional Italian favorites and traditional American steakhouse favorites. This is a much happier state of affairs and works quite well on Celebrity Eclipse.
Tuscan Grille's décor reflects the restaurant's concept. Guests enter the room through a series of arches that recall a barrel from a Napa Valley Italian-American winery. There are also wine barrels and displays of bottles of wine by the entrance.
Inside the room is quite contemporary. It is done in browns and earth colors with ocher leather chairs and banquettes that would be at home in a corporate office in California.
Located at the stern of the ship, the dominant feature of the room is the floor-to-ceiling glass wall at the back. It provides stunning views over the ship's wake as well as natural light in the early evening. Naturally, the tables for two that line that wall are most in demand but the view and the light also benefit tables more in the interior.
After ordering, guests are presented with a large dish of antipasto. These included mushrooms, olives, asparagus, tomatoes, and slices of Parmesan cheese and prosciutto ham. All were fresh, nicely prepared and very tasty. The server also brought a small basket of various types of bread along with a selection of three spreads: one olive based, another based on sun dried tomato and the third on caramelized garlic.
For appetizers, Tuscan Grille offers such favorites as fried calamari and beef ravioli. Somewhat inexplicably, the calamari arrives in a cone lined with a page from a fictional London newspaper, a nod towards the way fish and chips were once served in England. More importantly, the calamari was crisp and not rubbery. The flavor was good regardless of whether you dipped them in the small dishes of ketchup and mayonnaise that were served along with the cone of calamari.
The crab cake appetizer successfully avoided the dryness that can sometimes afflict crab cake. Its spiciness was not overpowering and became apparent only as it lingered in the mouth making it quite delightful.
The soup and salad offerings again include a number of popular favorites such as minestrone and Caesar salad. A somewhat more different option is the Tuscan onion soup. This is a take on the French onion soup model that one often finds on the menu in up-market American steakhouses. Instead of being covered with Gruyere cheese, however, this soup uses provolone cheese. The cheese is not as outspoken as the French variety but the garlic croutons that substitute for the French bread in the soup make up for it.
For the main course, the Tuscan Grille offers a selection of pastas and a selection of steakhouse favorites. Any one of these will suffice as the main course but it is not uncommon for guests to have a pasta course and a steakhouse course.
The Tuscan Grille's Melanzane Parmigiana is a good eggplant parmigiana. It arrived in its own cast iron skillet and accordingly was very hot. I let it sit for awhile as my view is that you cannot really taste all the flavor of this dish until it is nearly cool. This turned out to be a good move as there is much traditional flavor in the Tuscan Grille's version. In addition, it had an interesting fruitiness that contrasted well with the spices.
Lasagna is served in the same manner - - sizzling hot in its own skillet. Once again, the dish was moist and flavorful.
Steakhouse offerings include rib eye, grilled strip steak and veal chop. There are also the usual fish alternatives - - grilled sea bass, red snapper and scallops and shrimp - - that one often sees on a steakhouse menu.
The king of steakhouse dishes of course is filet mignon. If a steakhouse can do a good filet mignon, chances are that it can do anything. Consequently, I usually order the filet at a steakhouse. Also, it lets me compare the venue to other steakhouses.
The filet at Tuscan Grille was beautifully prepared. It was tender and cooked as ordered, not over-cooked and not under-cooked.
At the recommendation of the restaurant's maitre d', we also tried the rib eye steak. Because of its marbling, many people find rib eye more flavorful than filet mignon. However, it is not as tender. Therefore, it is better to order it medium rare rather than medium.
The rib eye at the Tuscan Grille was nicely prepared and tasty. However, the success of the dish was more dependent on the accompanying sauces than was the filet mignon.
Of the four sauces listed on the menu, the Gorgonzola butter best brought out the flavor of the beef. The maitre d' also said that if a guest asked him beforehand for a sauce that is not listed on the menu, he would confer with the chef and try to fulfill the guest's request. A peppercorn sauce that we so requested provided a nice mild contrast to the beef.
The available side dishes are steakhouse regulars including sauteed spinach, garlic mashed potatoes, truffled Parmesan steak fries and grilled Mediterranean vegetables. They do journeyman work and support the central actor without intruding.
Of the desserts, the star is the dark chocolate fondue. The melted chocolate was not as dark as we would have preferred but made a respectable coating for the various pieces of banana, strawberries, pineapple and marshmallows that are provided for dipping. Also good was the three varieties of gellato that come in a waffle-like basket.
The service throughout the meal was prompt, efficient and friendly.
The Tuscan Grille has a cover charge of $30 for dinner.
Cruise ship entertainment - Celebrity Eclipse - Celebrity Cruises