Sabatini's is the Italian specialty restaurant on Emerald Princess. Located high on the aft part of the ship, this restaurant boasts superb views as well as an elegant interior. “If you go to Sabatini's in Florence, it is really an elegant restaurant. It is really fine dining.”
Consistent with this, Sabatini's on Emerald Princess offers guests an experience that is beyond the ship's main dining rooms. “The setting is completely different, the menu, the crystal ware, the chinaware, the linen, is completely different. The passenger is also paying an extra amount of money to be there so between ambiance and service [it has] to be something more than the dining room.”
Along the same lines, this is not a spaghetti and pizza place. “What you find in Sabatini's is Italian dishes. It is not Italian adapted to American culture or South American culture. No, what we do in Italy is what we do up there.”
The menu is not limited to any one style of Italian cuisine. “We basically cover all the regions. Of course, the seafood dishes are more the southern part of Italy, seaside. The chops are more north. The burrata is from the south of Italy. The vitello tonnato is from the Piedmont in northwest Italy. It covers all the regions of Italy.”
Sabatini's has evolved since it first premiered on Grand Princess in 1998. “I think the menu that we have now is the best menu that we have had in Sabatini's. In the past, personally, I think we were serving too much food. People could not even finish their main course or enjoy their dessert. We keep reviewing the concept of Sabatini's.”
“We have specialties like the burrata. The vitello tonnato, that is a typical dish from Piedmont. The way we present it here is novel and special. The fish cooked in rock salt, the sea bass, is great. Every night there are two different types of pasta that change every day. So many different dishes.”
The Crown Grill is the ship's upscale steakhouse. The concept debuted on Crown Princess in 2006 and was so successful that it was continued in almost identical form on Emerald Princess and later Ruby Princess.
Mr. Mazzone was on the management team that brought Crown Princess into service and remembers that “it was a challenging [first] season[for the Crown Grill] because Crown Princess started out in New York and New York is a place where restaurants are very competitive. The people know their business.”
However, the restaurant, which was designed as a New York style steakhouse met these demanding guests' approval. “I had people say 'if you put the Crown Grill in New York you wouldn't have any problem because the standard of service and the dishes you are serving you could be any place in New York and it would be full every night.”
The Crown Grill has a welcoming club-like atmosphere. Its walls are wood paneled with large black and white photographs of New York in the first half of the 20th century. Near the entrance there is a marble fireplace. The lights are kept low. “The Crown Grill has a very warm ambiance.”
Since the concept premiered the menu has been continually updated. “It is not only meat, there is seafood. There is a choice for everybody, not just the strict beef eater. You have a great choice.”
“Try the lobster bisque, it is one of my favorites.”
The Chef's Table
The Chef's Table is not a dining venue but rather a dining event held once or twice during a cruise. Guests who want to participate make a request to do so. Although the price is not insubstantial, $95, there are always many more requests than places.
“It is a special program that Princess developed quite a few years ago. It is really popular. Basically, the chef prepares a special meal only for a certain number of people.” Typically, participation is limited to a dozen or so guests per session.
"First of all, we go into the galley during operations. It is the only time that passengers are allowed to come into the galley while we are in operation. We [had to obtain] a special authorization from the CDC.” Consequently, strict sanitary precautions are taken.
Once in the galley, the guests can see how the food is prepared and how the meals are assembled and brought to the dining room. Then the guests are taken to a special section of the galley where they are served real champagne and a series of special appetizers. During this time, they can talk and interact with both the executive chef and the maitre d' hotel. “That night the chef and the maitre d' are only indicated for the table.”
Following the appetizers, the guests are taken to a large table in the Michelangelo dining room. There, they partake in what can only be described as a feast. One spectacular course follows another.
There is no standard Chef's Table menu. Rather, each meal is a manifestation of that chef's creativity.
“Even on the same cruise, the Chef's Table menu changes completely from appetizer to dessert. The chef on the ship decides what to prepare.”
It is all personally supervised by the chef and the maitre d'. This personal touch adds greatly to the experience. Moreover, when the chef and maitre d' have a rapport like Mr. Mazzone and Chef Giuseppe Pollara, it makes the evening even more memorable.
As a final going away present, each guest receives a copy of Princess Cruises' cookbook Courses: A Culinary Journey as well as a group photograph.
Cruise ship dining - - Princess Cruises - - Emerald Princess - - Dining Guide - - page two