On our initial night aboard the Allure of the Seas, we went to the first specialty restaurant (Giovanni's) in our Central Park Dining Package. Buying this ahead of time online essentially meant we got 3 restaurants (Giovanni’s, Chops and Central Park 150) for the price of 2 if purchased separately. However, our kids had to pay full price even if they ate off the children's menu (boo!). Giovanni’s emphasizes a family-style theme and it showed with its large sharing dishes.
With that in mind, we started with the Capesante al Forno (oven-baked, almond crusted scallops with red pepper pesto) which were quite good. Nicely presented on a half-shell and buttery-soft, the scallops were just barely cooked. They were naturally sweet with a mild flavour from the pesto. We didn’t detect any red pepper, but then again, the sauce did not interfere with the delicateness of the scallops. Next up was the Mozzarella in Carrozza alla Giovanni (warm mozzarella and prosciutto bake on crispy ciabatta with mixed greens and Dijon mustard drizzle). Although a bit large in size and filling, the bouncy mozzarella was flavoured nicely by the freshly shaved prosciutto. This was a good, if not unremarkable appetizer.
A visit to an Italian restaurant is not complete without an Antipasti per Due constructed of salami, freshly-sliced prosciutto, anchovies, olives, artichokes, peppers, zucchini and Gambonzola cheese. Most things were pretty typical except for the remarkably not salty olives. That meant Viv actually ate some of them (as she hates salty olives). We also had the Carpaccio di Manzo made of thinly sliced tenderloin, crispy lettuce, shaved fennel, julienned sundried tomatoes, crispy garlic chips and herb oil drizzle. I liked the melt-in-my-mouth beef as well as the complimentary ingredients which provided texture and acidity, however, I felt there should’ve been more salt.
Moving along, we had the Melanzane alla Parmigiana (baked eggplant). Although the eggplant was tender and caressed with tomato sauce and cheese, there was a lack of acidity and an overabundance of salt. We did like that the dish wasn't overly greasy though. On the topic of too much salt, the Cioppino con Pesce Misto (fennel-scented tomato-seafood stew) was exactly that. Too bad really since the fish, calamari and shrimp were cooked just right. The thick broth (served table side) would’ve been fine with half the sodium since it had a nice sweet fennel flavour. My dad had to pick out the seafood to avoid eating all that salt.
As part of this alla famiglia style of dining, we shared 2 pastas next. The Pappardelle alla Crema di Radicchio e Panchetta (pappardelle pasta in radicchio cream and pancetta) was the better of the 2 consisting of al dente pasta with a minimal amount of sauce. It was flavourful, tomatoey and meaty, yet suffered the same fate as the cioppino being really salty. We weren't really all that impressed with the Ravioli di Polpa di Granchio (Maryland crab ravioli with sweet corn and crab meat sauce) as the pasta was far too dense and doughy. Furthermore, the crab filling was totally lost, having no impact on the dish whatsoever.
Onto the entrees, I had the Ossobuco alla Piemontese (veal ossobuco au jus with tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese polenta and sautéed green beans). I guess I was hungry as I forgot to take a picture of it! Anyways, I thought this was done quite well being moist and tender. The sauce had depth but was once again salty. Fortunately, the tomatoes helped with some acidity. Despite being cheesy, I found the polenta to be overly stiff. Unfortunately, Viv had the Fagottini di Vitella Ripieni al Funghi Porcini (veal tenderloin stuffed with porcini mushrooms, provolone cheese and ham) which was plain terrible. The meat was so dry and hard, it was barely chewable. Furthermore, the sauce was consistent with everything else being laced with salt. She was only able to have a couple of bites. My mom ended up with the Gamberoni al Forno (baked jumbo shrimp) which were somewhat like scampi. However, they were bland and overcooked.
For dessert, they wheeled out a cart with all of the available options. We first started with the Tiramisu which was served table side. It was sweet with a pleasing soft texture, but there was not enough of a coffee hit. Next was the Cannoli filled with a creamy ricotta, chocolate and rum. The exterior was flaky and light while the filling was light and had a significant hit of rum. Lastly, we had a couple of Custards which were too sweet and completely forgettable. Considering that Giovanni's is a specialty restaurant with a cover charge, we felt the food as a whole was not really worth it. Sure, a few dishes stood out, but not enough to warrant a departure from the main dining room.
- Something different from the main dining room
- Intimate setting
- More focused service
- Doesn't warrant spending a cover charge