Passengers aboard Costa Toscana aren't likely to go hungry, with 21 different dining options onboard -- though North American cruisers will notice some subtle but definite differences in the way food is organized and presented.
First and foremost, dining times are geared towards a European audience. That means early dinner is at 7 p.m., and late seating is at 9 p.m. If that's too late, buffet service is available at 8 p.m., while most specialty restaurants open slightly earlier, at 7 p.m.
Most venues close during the afternoon, too: lunch ends at 3 p.m. sharp, and with the exception of tea and cakes in the La Sagra Dei Sapori buffet in Deck 8 served between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m., don't reopen again until dinner.
Finally, cruise staples North Americans might be drawn to -- burgers and pizza -- carry an extra charge here. Pizza's start at around 8 to 10 Euros in the Pummid'Oro Pizzeria on Deck 8, and burgers run from 3.50 Euros and up in the Salty Beach Street Food venue on Deck 16, or around 9 Euros for the more elaborate burgers available at the Heineken Star Club Bistro on Deck 7.
The good news: the quality of food onboard is surprisingly high for this price point, even in the complimentary venues. Dishes tend to be uncomplicated but flavorful and reflect local Italian and Spanish tastes. That means paella, fish, meats, and lots of freshly made pasta. It isn't haute cuisine, but it will leave you satisfied.
Room service is available at a nominal charge.
La Maremma (Deck 6); L'Oliveto (Deck 5); Il Vigneto Osteria (Deck 7): Costa Toscana's three main dining rooms differ only in terms of décor, but share the same menu. On busier cruises, the La Sagra Dei Sapori buffet area on Deck 8 is also used as a main dining venue. Menus change each day, with different offerings for lunch and dinner, and a largely-set breakfast menu of favorites. We found the décor in L'Oliveto to be the most elegant, though La Maremma on Deck 6 has floor to ceiling windows. Sit-down breakfast and lunch are provided in at least one restaurant, depending on itinerary.
L'Argentario Restaurant (Deck 6): This venue offers up breakfast, lunch and dinner for Gold and Platinum members of Costa's C|Club Past Passenger program. Passengers are treated to a much more intimate and relaxed setting than the ship's often-busy main dining rooms, though menus served are identical to those found in the main dining room.
Bellavista Restaurant (Deck 8): This exclusive venue is for Costa Toscana's suite and elite-level passengers. In addition to dining in an intimate setting reminiscent of interior designer Adam D. Tihany's creations for upscale sister-brand Seabourn, breakfast, lunch and dinner here are made a' la minute -- cooked to order from a menu that offers different gourmet selections alongside the menu served in the main dining rooms. Service is impeccable, and approaches luxury-level familiarity.
La Sagra Dei Sapori (Deck 8): This buffet venue serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner in a thoroughly attractive setting that spans both port and starboard sides of the ship. Dishes like pasta and eggs are cooked to order, while the variety of fish, meats, cold cuts and desserts is excellent. Buffet staples North Americans won't find: burgers, hot dogs, or pizza. They just aren't here, so try something else, instead.
Squok Restaurant (Deck 16): Situated right outside the Squok Club & Baby Squok kids clubs, this family-friendly restaurant is designed just for those with little ones, offering up simple meals that are sure to please. Kids can choose from dishes like vegetable soup, spaghetti with tomato sauce, Tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce, pork Milanese, chicken and beef burgers, wurstel, and more. For those that prefer to dine elsewhere, the Squok Kid's menu is available in most complimentary dining venues.
Green Healthy Food (Deck 18), $: If you're watching the calories, the tasty wraps, salads and fruits served at this outdoor eatery will likely satisfy. A word of warning: those expecting the kinds of wraps that are bulging at the seams found in North America will need to reset their expectations: our sparsely-filled chicken wrap was about the circumference of a tube of toothpaste, and inexplicably took over 10 minutes to prepare.
KikiPoke (Deck 17), $: Poke bowls are the name of the game at this sheltered, pool deck eatery. You pick your rice, your protein and veggies, and the chefs do the rest. For 3 Euro for a small bowl, or 4 Euro for a large, this is one of the best values onboard.
Pummid'Oro Pizzeria (Deck 8), $: Italy's most synonymous food is on offer here, complete with traditional dough made with "00" flour, or a "gluten-reduced" crust that may or may not be suitable for those with gluten allergies. A classic Margherita pizza runs 9 Euros here (6.75 for members of Costa's past-passenger program), while more exotic pizzas (like the Guanicale e Stracciatella, with its pork jowl, basil oil, Stracciatella cheese, orange zest and tomato powder) will cost 15 Euros. The quality is comparable to land-based restaurants in Italy, and the venue is immensely popular with families with kids that need to eat earlier.
Sushino at Costa (Deck 7), $-$$: Situated next to the Campari Bar on Deck 7 (there's even a discount for those who purchase a drink at Campari and want to pair it with some sushi), Sushino at Costa offers up sushi, sashimi, and takeaway boxes. All you can eat lunch and dinner start at 21 Euros, and a'la carte prices for sushi and sashimi run from 8 to 11 Euros.
Ferrari Spazio Bollicine (Deck 8), $$-$$$$: Light bites and tasting menus are offered here, paired with a number of Ferrari (no relation to the automotive manufacturer) vintages of sparkling, rose, white and red wines. Food tasting menus start around 20 Euros, but the price can really start to run away once you pair some of the more expensive wine selections with the food. A definitely upscale experience.
Heineken Star Club & Bistro (Deck 7), $-$$$: Half pub, half steak house, the Heineken Star Club & Bistro offers everything from French fries with mayo and ketchup to full-blown steaks. Unlike North American ships, the steakhouse here is a casual experience, served up in a separate Heineken-branded area adjacent to the main bar and musical stage. Reservations aren't required for the pub but are needed for the steakhouse component, which showcases beef from Italy's famed Piedmont region.
Teppanyaki Restaurant (Deck 8), $$$: Vegetarian, Classic and Deluxe menus are offered at this classic shipboard Teppanyaki experience. The jokes and entertainment from the hibachi chefs are the same as those found on North American ships, but the quality of the food and the level of service do not disappoint. Strangely, there is no dedicated beer or cocktail menu for this venue -- only the standard list of Italian wines found throughout the ship, though other drinks can be made upon request.
Archipelago (Deck 7), $$$$: Featuring menus created by noted European chefs paired with décor that reflects the sea (including pieces culled from beaches during Costa's Crociere Foundation cleanup projects), this restaurant is the premier dining experience aboard Costa Toscana. But those with allergies or intolerances will be disappointed to learn the restaurant can't -- or won't -- make any accommodations for either. (Allergies and intolerances are, however, well cared for in the ship's other venues).
The Salty Beach Street Food (Deck 16), $: Basic poolside burgers and fries are on offer here, along with Focaccia creations, for under four Euros apiece. Combo's can be had for about five Euros.
Nutella at Costa (Deck 17), $: Nutella creations of all kinds are on offer poolside here including -- what else? Nutella crepes.
Gelateria Amarillo (Deck 17 and Deck 8), $: There are two locations of Gelateria Amarillo aboard Costa Toscana: one on Deck 17 in the indoor pool area, and one on Deck 8 forward. Both offer true, honest-to-goodness classic Italian gelato that rivals the stuff on land. Take a seat, soft serve: gelato is on duty on this ship.
Room Service, $: Always available by scanning the QR code on your bedside table in your cabin.
The Pummid'Oro Pizzeria is a must-try aboard Costa Toscana, particularly for North American cruisers who may be starved for authentic Italian pizza. And, for those without intolerances or allergies, we hear Archipelago does not disappoint (though admittedly we couldn't test this ourselves).
With the exception of Archipelago, which makes no concessions for allergies or intolerances, we found both were well taken care of in other dining venues aboard Costa Toscana. As with any land or sea-based restaurant, it always makes sense to pay attention to what you're ordering, and always ask staff members when in doubt. Our servers in the Bellavista restaurant were incredibly pro-active, substituting smoked salmon when the requested salmon tartare had nuts in it, showing that waiters are checking every order.
Vegetarian options are present in all restaurants, though those with gluten intolerances will need to be very, very careful due to the nature of a lot of cuisine in Italy being fairly gluten-heavy. A small "gluten free" selection of breads is available in the ship's buffet restaurants.