16 May 2018

Pamper Your Palate

Palo, the Northern Italian fine dining experience, can be found onboard all four of the Disney Cruise Line ships. Its name is derived from the long poles used by gondoliers as they ply the waterways of Venice, and all the elegance Venice has to offer is captured in the sumptuous surroundings, art, chandelier, vistas, and service. Dinner is a nightly affair, where the tiramisu and chocolate soufflé reign supreme, but brunch is undoubtedly the true star. Copious amounts of desserts, meats, seafood, cheese, breads, pastries, and even caviar are just the start. A full menu of pastas, pizzas, and Northern Italian specialties await. While there was a lot to sample and love, the one dish that blew me away was their Lasagna Bolognese.

I’m going to start by saying this dish was recommended by our server, who was simply wonderful from beginning to end, but it took some convincing. Lasagna and I are not on the best of terms, and haven’t been for most of my life. I believe it stems from my distaste for ricotta cheese, which I understand can be heresy, but something about it just never sat right with my palate and my stomach. I was presently surprised when I was told that this was a more traditional recipe that utilized béchamel, not ricotta. For those not in the know, béchamel is a white sauce comprised of flour, milk, and butter and while it sounds easy to make with just three ingredients, it is not. It has been a specialty of Southern France and Northern Italy for centuries and is considered one of the mother sauces. My grandmother, who grew up in Marseille, raised me on her family recipe. From the moment I heard that béchamel was utilized in Palo’s Lasagna Bolognese, I was sold.

Speaking from experience, whatever your preconceived notions are about lasagna, you can throw them out the window before ever taking a bite of this dish. For starters, the layers of lasagna noodles are tender, but not soggy. They will not break apart and crumble from the rest of the ingredients and the time it takes for them all to cook up together, they are firm and hold the layers together wonderfully. The Bolognese is more meat than sauce. The base is a blend of ground veal, pork, and beef, with great seasonings and a little bit of tomato thrown in for good measure. Don’t worry, there is plenty of marinara spread around the plate for those who need a nice balance. The aforementioned béchamel is the warm blanket that covers each piece of Lasagna Bolognese as it leaves the kitchen. It is rich, extremely so, but smooth and full of buttery goodness. Some final touches of fresh chopped basil and parmesan grated tableside and you have yourself a plate that is almost too beautiful to eat.

Don’t you worry though, I cleaned my plate and thoroughly enjoyed every bite. Since I am on the record as not being a big fan of lasagna, telling you that this is my favorite lasagna ever seems to be ring a bit hollow. So, let me put it this way, Palo’s Lasagna Bolognese is arguably the best pasta dish I’ve ever put in my mouth, save for only a meal or two I had in Florence or Venice years ago. It took me right back to my grandmother’s kitchen, which is more than I could ever ask of a single dish, but there you have it. It made our server very happy that I ordered his recommendation, but I think of the two of us I came out much further ahead in the long run.

If you have an upcoming cruise, or even if a cruise is further down the line for you, I cannot recommend the brunch at Palo enough. If you are able to secure a brunch reservation, please take this piece of advice and order the Lasagna Bolognese. I would be shocked if you were disappointed, because I am still having dreams about that lasagna all these months later.

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