Palo is an adults only restaurant and can be found on all four Disney Cruise line ships. It is of the Italian persuasion, but not the round chef in the kitchen tossing homemade pizza dough in the air Italian; think old world cuisine. The word Palo means stick or pole, in this case referring to an oar used to steer the gondola. This unique experience includes four courses, (not including a palate cleanser served just before the main course) each plating more mouth-watering than the last. While it is true that DCL is not necessarily known for their cuisine as a whole, when it comes to nominal fee commodities, they make it worth your dollar. No awkward small talk and obligatory facebook friending with your dining cronies, either. At Palo you will enjoy a candle lit, four course, two hour experience with your party only. Traveling with friends and want a night of celebration with wine ranging from $30-$15,000 per bottle? On board with kiddos and the grandparents or kids club took one for the team? What about a romantic vacation with your partner and just want to make some memories? Make your reservations for brunch and/or dinner as soon as you book your Disney cruise!
Our server was Italian and goes back and forth between the dining team at Palo and the Italy pavilion in Epcot. As she so cheekily put it, ‘if you want to know about authentic, Italian food, I’m your best friend.’ We couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide through our decadent experience! The demeanor given off by the wait staff and restaurant in general was a marriage of fancy meets chill. Our server was so focused on us that I barely knew there were other occupants! Nothing was rushed, but we were asked if we had any shows or other obligations immediately following, in order to determine the speed of the experience. At Palo, they live to serve. Literally! Good food is one thing. When the pairing is excellent service, you’re not just having dinner, it a savoir-faire!
To start, we were brought a savory plate of antipasto. Assorted cured meats and sauteed peppers, Kalamata olives, a variety of garlic bread and hard cheese flatbreads, and parmesan chunks tossed in a light layer of balsamic. Personally, I am not the biggest meat eater, so basically the hubs enjoyed the prosciutto and such, but had to fight for even a sample of what remained on the cruelty free side. As someone who could live off of olives, cheese, and bread alone, I could have eaten my weight in this simple delicacy. The authenticity of Palo being what it is, the olives weren’t pitted, but slid off of the ‘meat’ like butter. Having only ever experienced the hard as a rock, straight from a jar Kalamatas, it was refreshing to forego the grotesque finger fishing and pit spitting I am accustomed to. No sickeningling salty, indistinguishable pit from olive action happening here! And Parm garnished with balsamic? As a savory over sweet fanatic, this really hit the spot! Both balsamic and Parmesan are strong flavors, and some might find it overwhelming. But as for the Stephen’s household, it has become a before dinner staple!
Next came our appetizer. You may choose as many as you want and maintain the $40 PP price point of the whole dining experience, but we wielded self control and selected just one a piece. The calamari was tender, lightly battered and crisp. It was also served with jumbo ( and I do mean jumbo!) shrimp and both a marinara and white cream sauce to accommodate any palate. The calamari was anything but rubbery and much to my surprise, the colossal shrimp was tender as well! Patrick had the soft potato gnocchi, and it was unlike anything that had ever entertained my taste buds! I thought I loved the specialty potato gnocchi from World Market! (no hate, WM, you’re still a tuesday night special;) It melted like chocolate in my mouth and was complimented by a light, fresh tomato sauce.
The lemon sorbet palate cleanser was more delightful than I expected, in more ways than one. For starters, it was nice to sweeten up the the taste buds after so many piquant flavors. Who wouldn’t want something sweet after all of this aforementioned, savory deliciousness? This refreshing scoop of lemon ice topped with a single blueberry was just what the doctor- or chef ordered to precede the main course.
There is a funny story about how I came to choose my main course. While a small amount of english was scattered throughout the menu, it was mostly in Italian. Despite hiring a tutor and purchasing Rosetta Stone as a futile attempt to learn this beautiful language, sadly, I am not bilingual. Palo’s menu is relatively large with the main courses being seperated by meat, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. Under the impression I would be choosing one dish from each section, I ordered the mushroom risotto, poised and ready to announce my seafood and meat offerings. Upon realizing such was not the case, I was too embarrassed to change my order to the fish I had my eye on, and reveal I was expecting three main dishes, so I kept my mouth shut and accepted my fate. And what a creamy, cheesy, delicious fate it was! Served with two parmesan sticks (or Palos, that didn’t escape me, Disney!) and topped with a sliced cherry tomato, this dish was more than I had hoped for. The server was right when she said upon placing my order ‘if you love mushrooms and risotto, you will love this!’ Fresh pasta and the perfect pairings of spices and strong cheese had me transported to a floating gondola on a street made of water!
The dessert experience at Palo caused me to discover two things; I am not a fan of souffles, and Orange almond flour cake is a heck of a lot better than it sounds.
Having never tried a souffle, I was positive I would love it. But there is something about the texture of baked egg whites that is a little bit of a let down, for yours truly. The important thing to know if you have never had this dessert is that souffle is not cake. It looks like cake and it smells like cake, but it tastes like semi sweet air. My husband, on the other hand, was more than happy to hear I wasn’t a fan; he gobbled up his chocolate as well as the amaretto dessert I had ordered! From what I am told, if you like souffles, you will love the ones at Palo. And judging by the rest of the menu, I have no doubt that is true! But if you’re anything like me and appreciate the substance of cake , but are presented with a dessert that lacks the dense richness of such, you may be a tad disappointed. Palo souffles, it’s not you, it’s me.. But that scoop of decadent gelato placed in the middle of the dessert is enough alone to order this dish!
The Orange almond flour cake on the other hand..what a pleasant surprise! Now this was the heavy, moist consistency I had been waiting for. Orange is not necessarily my flavor of choice, but Disney has a way of converting me to the citrus side. (they did it with the citrus swirl, too!) It tasted sort of like a denser version of the best pound cake you have ever had with a very natural orange flavor. None of the artificial sunny D flavoring, it actually tasted like biting into an orange! Refreshing and satisfying.
It’s no secret that lemon plays a major role in the Italian kitchen, so what better way to begin and conclude the Palo experience than with a limoncello frozen liquor. Although this final course is presented in a shot glass, you will not want to ‘down the chute’ this acidic, icey delight. Made with brandy, this micro portioned beverage will give you just enough warmth and chill to leave you feeling completare!
Food is one of life’s greatest joys, and nothing says passion like authentic,Italian food. Palo is food for the pickiest foodie as well as accommodating enough for the average Jane. (yours truly!) Aside from booking a dinner or brunch dining experience, the Disney Fantasy cruise ship offers a special treat that hopefully all four ships will eventually adopt; an in depth cooking class at Palo! Included in the $279 PP is your own chefs jacket embroidered with your name, hands on crafting of homemade pasta and desserts by world class chefs, two glasses of wine, and, of course, enjoying your well deserved lunch! If you choose Palo on your next Disney cruise, which I strongly recommend that you do, don’t make the same mistake we did and book it for the first night. You may fail to enjoy the other four, perfectly tasty table service restaurants on the ship. The standard has been set, and no other dining experience (save Remy, see previous blog post!) on the ship will compare. At $40 PP, the experience of Palo is the happiest union of high quality Italian fare intersected with laid back, yet fine dining. Bon appetit!