I’ve dined at La Cucina, one of two Italian specialty restaurants on NCL (the other is Onda – you can read my review of Onda HERE), twice in the past month. And the only reason I’m not going back for a third time is because I’m taking a short break from cruising to take full advantage of the Never Ending Pasta Bowl at Olive Garden, which is finally back post pandemic and only comes around once a year. My plan is to arrive as soon as they open for lunch and state my case to the manager come closing time: “Yes, I understand you have a long commute home and a child to put to bed and that what you’re being paid as manager of a chain restaurant in Kirkland isn’t enough to deal with obstinate carb addicts, but I’d just like to point out that it says, Never Ending. My blood is only 90% marinara (I was going for 100%) and this feels like an ending!”
In any case, having dined there twice in short succession, once solo and once with my mom, and having nothing to do while sitting in jail (I’m using this post to raise bail money, so please click on lots of advertisements!), this felt like a good time to review NCL’s La Cucina. First…
Which NCL Ships have La Cucina?
You’ll find La Cucina on the following ships: Bliss, Breakaway, Dawn, Epic, Escape, Gem, Getaway, Jade, Jewel, Joy, Pearl, Pride of America, Star, and Sun. My experiences referenced in this post were both on the Sun.
La Cucina Menu on NCL
And here’s the La Cucina menu with current pricing followed by some food pics. If you have the dining package or are taking advantage of a Platinum meal, you can order one appetizer course (zuppa/antipasti/insalate), one entree (pizza, pasta/risotto, or secondi), and one dessert (dolci).
La Cucina Complimentary Bread
La Cucina Appetizer Pics
La Cucina Entree Pics
La Cucina Dessert Pics
My Review of La Cucina on NCL
I could probably sum up this review with a single photo and sentence:
“It’s even better than Olive Garden.” But brevity isn’t my strong suit, so let me elaborate.
You should know about a time, in my former life as a college professor, when I halted my Statistics class just as a limited number of coveted Olive Garden Never Ending Pasta Passes went on sale online and I had all my students take to their laptops with an offer of extra credit to anyone who scored me one (as if a break from calculating standard deviations by hand wasn’t enough of an incentive).
None were successful, but later that day I arrived home to a surprise from Mr. Cruise (I guess he had everyone in his law office trying for me too – who knew that lawyers have exceedingly nimble fingers and, when not being earth scum, they use them for good)!
And after approximately 900 visits to Olive Garden in a month, my arms and legs turned into breadsticks, my hair into fettuccine noodles, and there was enough salt coming out of my pores to handle a winter’s worth of snow removal in both Utah and Colorado.
I offer that story as further proof of my love for OG. But as much as I love it, when it comes to an objective rating of Italian food, OG is like a very good high school performance of Kinky Boots, whereas La Cucina is like the much better NCL production of said feel-good musical (probably now banned in Florida). But neither is quite up to par with the Broadway version or likely to be featured on Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.
So, La Cucina. My mom and I both enjoyed everything we ate there (pictured above) and my husband, son, and in-laws also reported liking it on a sailing earlier in the summer.
For vegetarians I’d recommend the Burrata Caprese as an appetizer course and the Gnocchi for an entree (I liked it better than the Risotto al Funghi). For non-vegetarians and fish lovers, mom loved the salmon. But honestly I think she ordered it mostly so she could show off the five semesters of Italian she took in college 50+ years ago: Salmone Grigliato Con Creme Di Cannellini E Croccantino Di Proscuitto. All the desserts were too small (you’ll have room to run up to the buffet for a crepe later, #silverlining), but delicious. I especially enjoyed the Cannoli and the Panna Cotta.
La Cucina: Would I Dine There Again?
I did! Just a few weeks later! And would again! That is, as long as the price was right, at zero dollars (as a Platinum perk). Would I pay the à la carte prices on top of what I’d already paid for meals as part of my cruise fare? Probably not. But almost nobody pays the à la carte price for specialty dining on NCL anymore. Really my only complaint was the response I received when I asked for a refill on my Gnocchi: “Ma’am, if you aren’t fully satiated following a three-course meal with potato and heavy cream as the most prominent ingredients, please walk your hollow legs up to the buffet on deck 11.” However, my waiter did bring me more complimentary bread so I could lap up every last drop of creamy basil pesto sauce without continuing to use my tongue (which, I learned from an 8-year-old at the bus stop last week, is the strongest muscle in the human body): “Wait! Stop! This isn’t Carnival ma’am (I kid, I kid)! I’ll bring you some bread!” And with that…
Homework (10 points): What’s your favorite speciality dining venue on NCL and why? Share your answer to the comments. Then check out these additional NCL Menus.
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