Princess Cruises’ famed Italian eatery Sabatini’s – a staple on the line’s larger vessels such as Golden Princess and Diamond Princess – is one of the most popular speciality restaurants you’ll find afloat anywhere.

The $39 per person cover charge does nothing to deter swarms of guests who book their tables for the traditional trattoria even prior to leaving home, many via the line’s “Cruise Personaliser” online check-in system. However for those deciding on a whim that they would like to try it and haven’t pre-booked, a small number of tables are reserved for those wishing to secure a table after they board the ship.

Sabatini’s serves a maximum of 92-guests each evening, meaning these few remaining tables quickly book out. It is common to find the venue filled to capacity on shorter sailings as more people clamour for fewer tables. Longer sailings typically ensure a quieter ambience each night as the crowd spreads out their dining experiences over the voyage.

Sabatini's is always an elegantly decorated venue, such as this one on Diamond Princess.
Sabatini’s is always an elegantly decorated venue, such as this one on Diamond Princess.

The decor is charmingly Italian with beautiful hand-painted murals harmoniously working in collaboration with striking architectural elements such as Roman columns and grandiose ceiling work. Reminiscent of many traditional Italian eateries you would find in places such as Venice or Rome, an open kitchen adds a modern element which plays well into the room.

Scents and aromas of lobster, steak and fresh produce waft into the dining area thanks to this open kitchen, with the smells teasing your taste buds for the culinary journey ahead.

Exquisite place settings greet guests, with hand crafted charger plates setting the tone for a stylish, yet relaxed evening. A wide selection of breads, olives, cold pressed olive oils and balsamic vinegar act as the intermezzo prior to the first course. On top of that, both the bread and olives are so moreish, you find you have devoured a whole basket worth before you know it. We recommend fighting the urge to indulge to save room for your mains.

The cow's milk and tomato carpaccio served in Sabitini's.
The cow’s milk and tomato carpaccio served in Sabitini’s.

Instead, restrain yourself for the series of Antipasti (Italian for entree). We enjoyed the Burrata all Panna con Carpaccio di Pomodori (the rough translation is Carpaccio of Tomato with Cows Milk Cheese), which is served as a giant ball of cow’s milk cheese with a creamy centre which practically implodes on penetration by your teeth.

Complimented by carpaccio tomato, this is a great light start to a meal which can be extremely heavy and weigh you down. The cheese was a light start, so we decided to splurge and partake in a second entree – for research purposes only, we promise!

Slightly heavier, yet perfectly fluffy and enjoyable was a twice-baked artichoke soufflé served with a delightful cheese sauce and infused with truffle. The soufflé was significantly more decadent than the salad yet was a great dish to graduate to, preparing your stomach for the forthcoming culinary onslaught later in the meal.

The double baked artichoke soufflé.
The double baked artichoke soufflé.

True to traditional Italian dining, guests can choose to enjoy a pasta course between their entree and main, with three option to select from. We chose the Penne con Brasato di Manzo, a penne dish served with braised short rib and aged padano cheese.

The pasta was perfectly cooked with the short rib so succulent and tender that it lubricated the pasta perfectly, adding its own texture and flavour. The aged padano was so good we asked for additional cheese to enjoy separately from the pasta!

The Braised Short Rib Penne Pasta.
The Braised Short Rib Penne Pasta.

At this point, it’s common to be feeling full and you haven’t even reached the mains yet. It’s at this point a waiter appears, asking if we would like to delay the arrival of our mains – a gesture which is more than welcome. Without much of a consultation, we agreed it would be wise to hold off. Having previously experienced Sabatini’s, I exhale in relief, knowing that the upcoming mains will most likely present with a more than generous portion size.

After some great conversation with our wait staff – the ratio of waiters to guests is higher than the main dining room – we finally agree it’s time for the mains. Once again Sabatini’s impresses with a plate of Lobster Three Ways appearing magically in-front of me. My dining companions receive their impeccable strip steaks and chicken supreme, with looks of glee on their faces as they marvel at the masterpieces in front of them.

The 10-ounce strip steak on offer in Sabatini's.
The 10-ounce strip steak on offer in Sabatini’s.

The lobster tail has been served with not a hint it had been frozen since leaving Sydney three days earlier, perfectly cooked with no blemishes on the texture – sadly all too common with cruise ship lobster.

Served with a lobster bisque sauce, this compliments the seafood tones in the meat while also adding a level of complexity. Whilst the portion is large, it is perfectly manageable, especially if unlike our table, you don’t overindulge in the early part of the meal.

Sabatini's Lobster Three Ways was perfectly prepared and served.
Sabatini’s Lobster Three Ways was perfectly prepared and served.

Now on the verge of bursting, our wait staff has the hide to present a dessert menu in front of our noses along with a strong recommendation that we indulge. They assure us we won’t regret the decision. Faced with the guilt of disappointing our flawless servers, we order a cheese plate to share, with a selection of Italian recipes presented on a board for us to choose. The ceremony attached to cutting the cheese is magnificent and flawlessly executed.

We roll out the front doors of Sabatini’s almost three hours after we strode in, now feeling as if we need stretchy pants but very satisfied with the dishes we experienced.

Sabatini’s is available on many Princess Cruises ships around the world. In Australia you can find it on Diamond Princess and Golden Princess. Unfortunately Sabatini’s is currently not featured aboard Sun Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess or Sea Princess.