During the recent updates to the newly amplified Freedom of the Seas, the ship received some new dining establishments. Among the additions that we were most eager to try was Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen. Did it meet our expectations? Well, we share all the delicious details in our Freedom of the Seas Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen Review.
Freedom of the Seas Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen Review
Similar to other ships in this class, two specialty dining venues are located on Deck 11 near the Windjammer. On the portside, you will find the popular steakhouse Chops Grille. The starboard side is home to the new Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen.
The layout of the restaurant is familiar with two dining areas, a large family style table, and several seats with great ocean views from the large glass windows that line the venue. There is an open kitchen in the front of the restaurant to watch the chefs prepare your culinary feast. In the back, there is even a new pizza oven.
The decor and color palette are welcoming with neutral colors providing a more rustic and homestyle feel. We both commented that we liked this subdued appearance over the bold and colorful decor of Jamie’s Italian. The restaurant certainly has a warm and cozy vibe as diners indulge in some hearty cuisine.
Overall, we got the sense that Royal Caribbean was aiming for a more personal and casual appeal with this restaurant concept. From the home-like accents to the pizza oven and other menu items, guests almost feel transported to some Italian relative’s home kitchen.
An additional touch is that all the waitstaff have an “Italian name” that they use during the dinner. Although they do not keep up the rouse very long, we did feel the waitstaff here were more conversational and personable than other restaurants in the fleet.
Dining at Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen on Freedom of the Seas
Pre-cruise, we had reserved a table for two on the first formal night of the cruise. Given the extenuating circumstances around our ship’s return to Puerto Rico, we actually dined at Giovanni’s again on night 9.
Obviously, we must have enjoyed our first dinner experience enough to pay for a second feast. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Arriving a few minutes early for our first reservation, we were sat in the back of the restaurant, opposite the pizza oven. For a formal night, the restaurant felt a bit quiet.
Both evenings, our servers approached the table promptly to introduce themselves. Our waiter the first evening was Salami. He reviewed the menu with us and provided some of his suggestions. On our return visit, our waitress, Bella, did the same offering slightly different recommendations though.
The menu at Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen is organized into three sections- starters, pizzas, and entrees. The dessert menu is a separate, smaller set of options. Whatever you do, make sure to save room for the dessert.
The Food at Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen
Of course, we ordered some drinks to begin the evening. On both occasions, I opted for a glass of wine, while the Princess ordered her typical cosmo. I was able to get a decent pinot grigio as part of the Deluxe Beverage Package.
After placing the order, the waitstaff returned with soft, dunakble garlic rolls which are quite addictive. We learned our lesson the first time to leave room for the remaining courses.
Across our two visits, we sampled the Assorted Meat and Cheese Board, the Calamari and Polenta, and the Trufle Caprese Salad as appetizers. You MUST try the salad. The rich and creamy burrata that is the central element of this dish was light and flavorful. The calamari was good, but not the best that I have ever had at sea. If you love seafood, then by all means this starter is certainly worthy of your attention.
Honestly, the meat board was perhaps our least favorite starter. The selection of meats and cheeses were underwhelming compared to its similar counterpart at Jamie’s Italian.
We also highly recommend ordering a pizza at Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen. It is certainly some of the best pizza at sea!
We ordered a pizza during our second visit to the restaurant. With so many options, it was a tough decision but we decided on the Giovanni’s pizza. After all, it is one of Nonna’s Favorites. Yes, it also became one of our favorites! The thin, crisp crust was topped with spicy salami, large pieces of fresh mozzarella and ricotta cheese, and drizzled with light honey which was the perfect accompaniment. With just two of us, and more food to sample, we had to limit ourselves to just a couple slices.
So far, the restaurant was exceeding our expectations. When it came to the entrees, our opinions were a bit more mixed. The Princess’ chicken parmigiana on night 2 was a hefty portion smothered with the right amount of cheese and sauce. It was certainly something you would expect at a North End restaurant in Boston. My Osso Bucco was tender and flavorful, but did not taste much different than the shank cuts of meat in the main dining room. While it was good, it did not wow me.
During our second visit to the venue, we decided to try some pasta dishes. Where my entree fell slightly short the first night, the linguine with shrimp more than exceeded my expectations. The simple olive oil and garlic sauce coated the al dente pasta perfectly, and the dish was chock full of shrimp. The Princess’ spaghetti carbonara was equally impressive. I was only able to steal a few bites, but can attest that it was excellent.
Finally, there’s dessert. While we are usually not fans of cruise ship desserts, we left raving about everything we tried at Giovanni’s. It is tough to pick our favorite. Both the tiramisu and cannolis that we sampled the first evening felt like something you would find in a small pastry shop in the Italian section of town.
The standout dessert though might be the Nutella and banana stromboli. Baked in the pizza oven, this massive dessert calzone was oozing with rich and creamy Nutella. No matter how much you like sweets, this dessert is certainly shareable.
Recap of Freedom of the Seas Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen Review
Getting to dine at Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen twice during our trip was the culinary highlight of the cruise. The freshly made, rustic Italian food left us happily content during both visits. The meals were paired with friendly and attentive service from both of our waiters, and the courses were perfectly timed during each of our 90 minute eating marathons.
One benefit of this specialty restaurant is that you pay a flat-fee ($34.99 per person for our cruise) to dine here. Of course, we took advantage of this pricing structure to sample several of the restaurant’s popular starters, entrees, and desserts. Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen is also covered in Royal Caribbean’s Unlimited Dining Plan. So, you don’t need to worry about paying extra if you are using this package.
On our 7-night Southern Caribbean Cruise on Freedom of the Seas, the restaurant was open for dinner nightly from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm. It was also open noon to 1:30 pm for lunch on sea days, with mostly the same menu.
The restaurant is a bit more casual than other specialty restaurant like Chops Grille, inviting families to join in the tasty fun. We would certainly not hesitate to dine at Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen on another cruise in the future.
Would you dine at Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen on Royal Caribbean ships? Which menu items would you sample? Drop us an anchor below with your thoughts on this new dining concept in the Royal Caribbean fleet.