MSC Italian Cruises believes in a traditional dining concept, so forget any thoughts of "freestyle" when-and-with-whom-you-please options. Cuisine mostly focuses on Italian fare (banish thoughts you may have of more Americanized "Olive Garden" style interpretations) with specialties that include risotto-made-tableside, fresh fish, such as cuttlefish, veal stew, and penne al 'arrabiatta (to name a few).
There are four different dining areas onboard: Both La Bussola Restaurant on deck 5 and L'Ippocampo on deck 6 serve sit-down meals, although the latter is used only for overflow. Le Bistrot Cafeteria on deck 11 is the spot for informal buffet breakfasts and lunches. The fourth dining venue, La Pergola Restaurant, is adjacent and offers outdoor dining -- including casual fare, such as pizza, pasta and burgers. Tables are tucked under a large canvas and well protected from the sun, rain and winds.
The meal times are rather short and are designed more according to European tastes than to American. Buffet-style breakfast and lunch are served at the Le Bistrot Cafeteria from 6:30 to 10 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. respectively. The more formal La Bussola is open for breakfast from 7 - 9:30 a.m.; lunch is served from 12:30 - 2 p.m. There are two seatings at dinner (6:45 and 8:45 p.m.). There is no casual alternative dining during evenings. MSC Italian Cruises, however, seems to be among the last lines to feature the midnight buffet - it varies each night, from a fruit-themed spread to a gala anything-goes repast.
Room service is rather limited. The menu includes only cold sandwiches, and there is in-cabin continental breakfast available. MSC no longer charges for room service on any of its ships.
A hint: If you miss breakfast and don't want to use room service, there are croissants available at the Coffee Corner, which surrounds the atrium on deck 6. But be prepared to pay for your coffee: an espresso costs 1.50 pounds.