Besides their effusive warmth, if there is one thing Italians are noted for it is great cuisine. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, this is one aspect of Italy which comes up short on Costa Atlantica. No single aspect stood out, and most passengers we talked to were less than overwhelmed.
The most frequent complaint we heard concerned Botticelli, the sprawling buffet restaurant on Deck 9. At breakfast, Botticelli serves from a large number of small buffet modules, though none offer unique choices. There is some variation between these areas -- one may serve mainly cereals, another the standard selection of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and the like -- but inadequate signage defeats the diner who wishes to go to that station directly. Very little is offered on a cooked-to-order basis. Bagels and white bread are pre-toasted and sit wrapped in napkins in a steam table tray. There was a very low-key omelet station -- again, not a stitch of guidance from signage -- on the fantail, in what becomes the sandwich/grill station at lunch.
At lunch the number of choices in Botticelli is equally lacking, though two stations offer daily changing themed cuisine. One of the breakfast buffet stations transforms into the Napoli Pizzeria from 11:00 a.m. through 2:30 a.m. Botticelli also serves a nightly alternative casual dinner.
The glittering two-deck Tiziano Restaurant is the ship's main dining venue, serving all three meals at traditional fixed sittings. The room is longer (fore to aft) than wide due to the placement of the galley along the side walls. Seating choices range from a handful of two- and four-tops to a number of large tables, including more tables for eight or more than is typical on American ships. Tables are placed close together, and with the room's hard surfaces, noise level can be prodigious.
Though passengers may choose their table at breakfast and lunch, and need not dine at their regular sitting time, the ship, curiously, still maintains formal seating times, closing the doors a half-hour or so after the beginning of first seating, and reopening them at the regular time for second seating. This schedule is maintained even on port days, when volume is minimal.
Breakfast food and service were competent. The lunch menu, in the continental tradition of making the noontime meal the largest of the day, is the most varied, with the most courses and the most choices per course. The typical full lunch menu includes appetizer, soup, pasta, deli or salad course, entree and dessert. Selected items from the main menu are grouped together to make five-course specialty menus, including the "Salute e Benessere" (Health & Wellness) menu as well as one for lacto-vegetarians.
Though the Tiziano did a credible job with lunches, dinners were a disappointment. Service, though fairly attentive, seemed rushed. While most seafood dishes were fresh-tasting, meats were often tough. Most courses came to the table closer to warm than piping hot, and, until they inexplicably improved in the last couple of days of the cruise, pasta courses were cooked way past al dente.
Costa Atlantica has joined the fine alternative dining revolution with the addition of Ristorante Club Atlantica, a 158-seat reservations-only eatery with a menu designed by Michelin three-star chef, Gualtiero Marchesi. Diners can choose between a "Tuscan Steakhouse" a la carte menu and a fixed "Tasting Menu." The room's atmosphere lacks the warmth and intimacy typical of these venues on other ships; nonetheless, the best meals on the ship can be found here. There is a $20 service charge plus a $3 gratuity. Since there are so few seats for a ship of Atlantica's size, making reservations early is essential. One major caveat: for some unfathomable reason, the balcony of the restaurant becomes the designated cigar smoking area of the ship at 10 p.m. each night; so, unless you enjoy having your coffee and dessert in a cloud of cigar smoke, make your reservation for early in the evening.
There is 24-hour complimentary room service from a limited menu (sandwiches, snacks, desserts, etc.), and complete breakfasts can be ordered between 7 and 10 a.m. Suite passengers may order from the regular dining room menus at appropriate times.