*This gluten free dining experience took place in October 2018. It includes notes about dairy free options too.
Dinner at Palo
Palo is an adults-only restaurant located on all of the Disney Cruise Line ships. This is a restaurant that is not one of the main rotational dining options on the ships and must be reserved in advance to dine at. It also has an additional per person fee to dine there (currently $30). Palo offers both brunch and dinner. And, on our October 2018 3-day cruise on the Disney Dream, we decided to have dinner there on our final night of the cruise. Both Brandon and I loved Palo brunch, so we were looking forward to dinner on this cruise.
Palo is a restaurant that serves Northern Italian inspired food. And, the theme of the restaurant is inspired by Venice, Italy. Palo means “pole” in Italian, so you’ll find nods to Venice’s beautiful waterfront and gondolas throughout the restaurant.
We dined at Palo for dinner. And, I’m absolutely amazed at how this restaurant transforms from day to night. We noticed a huge difference in the atmosphere during brunch versus dinner. The evening was nice, as we arrived before sunset and got to experience the restaurant shift from day to night.
As you can see, the Venice theme is throughout the restaurant, from the artwork to the tables.
On this trip, we also noticed there was some outdoor seating, as well. I’m not sure if this is only offered during brunch or at night too. You can see a lot more photos of the restaurant’s interior in our brunch review.
Our table was located at the “front” of the restaurant with a lovely view of the ocean. We absolutely adored the ocean view throughout our meal.
Prior to our dinner at Palo, we met up with blog readers Sue and Joe, which was an absolute treat. Joe also has celiac disease, and we got a chance to chat about the options on the cruise. Sue and Joe had dined at Palo the evening before we did, and they recommended that we request Mircea to be our server, as they had rave reviews about him. We were able to make that request. And we knew we were in for a treat when we met Mircea who was very lovely throughout our meal.
Unlike the main rotational dining restaurants on the ship, Palo does not note if an item is gluten free or dairy free on the menu. That is because Palo operates like a traditional restaurant on land. They will prepare your food and customize it as you order it, instead of preparing it in a catering kitchen. This means that you may have more options and customization at your meal both at Palo and Remy, the other adults-only restaurant on the Disney Dream.
Prior to our meal, we met up with readers Sue and Joe at Meridian, which is a lounge located in between Palo and Remy. Meridian is a must visit lounge for me, as they have a gin and tonic cart, where you can make customized gin and tonics.
Though I’ve mentioned it before, most distilled alcohol, like gin, are gluten free due to the distillation process, despite being made with gluten-filled grains. According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease and peer-reviewed scientific research, “As for pure spirits, (vodka, gin, scotch), the distillation process makes these beverages safe because the protein is removed. However, flavored spirits may contain malt, and should be avoided.” If a certain type of distilled alcohol does not agree with you, always be sure to trust your gut and avoid. For instance, I can’t tolerate vodka well — enough those that are potato based and do not contain gluten prior to distillation — but gin is fine with me.
With that in mind, I ended up with a dry London gin and some aromatic spices. It was very refreshing and earthy tasting. Definitely one I’d get again.
One of my most favorite things about Palo is their iced tea. That’s because they used iced tea ice cubes instead of regular ice cubes. This helps ensure that your tea never gets diluted with water and retains its flavor and concentration. It’s the little things in life that make me happy. And, iced tea ice cubes is one of those things!
Before our meal, the antipasti cart came to our table. The manager actually prepared our antipasti plate and was super friendly every time we spoke with him throughout the evening. The antipasti cart items are naturally gluten free and include a variety of meats, vegetables, and Parmesan cheese. You can make it dairy free by omitting the cheese. In 2014, my mom and I had dinner here while I was still dairy free and enjoyed the antipasti plate minus the cheese.
Here’s a close-up of the plate that Brandon and I shared. We both loved the prosciutto and Parmesan cheese with balsamic vinegar on it. He also enjoyed some of the other meats, while I loved the marinated artichokes and olives.
While we were enjoying our antipasti plate, we were both brought bread to enjoy. I received a basket of Udi’s Gluten Free Pizza Crust cut into wedges and toasted with extra virgin olive oil, basil, and other herbs. This is both gluten free and dairy free. It’s so good and ranks at the top of my favorite bread services of all time. And, this photo shows food and drink duo that makes me so happy — the bread service and iced tea.
Here you can see the bread service, up close. You can tell there’s lots of garlic and herbs on this bread, which makes it oh so tasty.
For my starter, I asked in advance during embarkation at the dining session offered if I could get the calamari and shrimp appetizer served at Palo gluten free. I learned is a possibility with advance notice from my friend Alexis at Alexis’s Gluten Free Adventures. As the manager and chef told me on this visit, if you do not pre-order and arrive at the restaurant early, your chances of getting it deep-fried is pretty slim. That’s because the restaurant does not have a dedicated fryer and needs to fry the gluten free calamari and shrimp before they begin using the fryer for the night. I was so thankful that they were able to make this happen for me on our visit.
The Fritto di Calamari e Gamberi is a mixture of gluten free fried shrimp and calamari, sweet peppers, fresh herbs, and lemon served with two sauces — a lemon-garlic mayonnaise and marinara sauce. The seafood is fried in corn flour and the batter was very light. This worked perfectly with the delicate seafood. Never a big fan of marinara sauce, I preferred the lemon-garlic mayonnaise for both the shrimp and calamari. Although I know it takes some advance notice to get, I think it was worth the effort.
Up next, Mircea suggested we get either pasta or seafood. Brandon opted for pasta because he’s allergic to fish and shellfish. And, I took Mircea’s recommendation and ordered the Sea Scallops with Celery Root Puree, Baby Vegetables, and Crispy Leeks served with a Prosecco and Black Truffle Sauce. This is gluten free but does contain dairy.
Overall, I really enjoyed this seafood dish and thought the scallops were cooked perfectly. The celery root puree was also really tasty. While I liked the prosecco and black truffle sauce, I thought it was a bit too rich for the delicate scallops. But, it added some nice flavor in small doses. If you’re dairy free, I might recommend the tuna if you’re interested in a fish course, as this seemed to be the most dairy free friendly.
In between this course and our main entree, we were served lemon sorbet with blueberries. This is both gluten free and dairy free and makes for a nice palate cleanser in between courses.
For our entree, both Brandon and I ordered the Grilled Prime Beef Tenderloin with Pancetta Potato, Sauteed Spinach, Barolo Chinato Wine Sauce, and Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce. This is gluten free and fish/shellfish free but does contain dairy. I think this dish could be easily modified to be dairy free too.
Wow. Both of us thought this dish was super decadent. We both really enjoyed our steaks, and we both agreed that mixing the sauces together was actually the tastiest combination. I really enjoyed the potatoes and spinach too. I have to admit, that I probably should have ordered something a bit less rich than the scallops as my second course and next time I would get a caprese salad or soup instead. That’s because I couldn’t finish this due to the richness. Thankfully, it did not go to waste as Brandon happily enjoyed the remainder of my steak.
For our dessert course, I ended up debating but ultimately ordered the gluten free version of the Chocolate Souffle with Vanilla Bean Gelato and Vanilla and Chocolate Sauce. This has lots of dairy in it, so if you’re dairy free, I would order another dessert instead, as it won’t be able to be modified. But, if you can have dairy, I highly recommend this dessert.
I can’t say that I’ve ever had a gluten free souffle out at a restaurant, so this was a real treat. The souffle itself was super chocolatey and very tasty. I skipped the vanilla bean gelato but did enjoy the vanilla and chocolate sauces on top of my souffle. If you’re gluten free, you can order this dessert without advance notice too, which is great. Brandon and I both agreed we would get this dessert again.
Funnily enough, I had forgotten about Brandon’s birthday notification. Our cruise was originally slated a few weeks after Brandon’s birthday, so we had noted his birthday. Because we switched the cruise dates last minute, the birthday notification was still on the reservation. Mircea sweetly brought a lovely plate with early birthday wishes for Brandon, which was very thoughtful.
Mircea had also heard me debating desserts, as I had ordered the Warm Orange Almond Cake with Orange Fennel Salad with Rhubarb Puree and Lemon Cream on the cruise I took in 2014. The cake itself is gluten free and dairy free. And, the dish can be entirely dairy free by omitting the lemon cream.
After I choice the souffle, Mircea offered to have room service bring me the orange almond cake to our stateroom so that I could enjoy it later. That was such a thoughtful touch, and I was so pleased that they could let us enjoy this outside of the restaurant. I have been told that Palo is pretty strict about taking any food out of the restaurant, so I’m lucky that we were able to get this delivered to our stateroom that evening.
Though I’m glad I had the souffle in the restaurant, this is definitely a great gluten free dessert option that I can highly recommend too. It’s a little dense but the flavors are very light. And, the dish isn’t too sweet. So, if sweets aren’t your thing, this might be a good option for you too.
We enjoyed a very lovely and delicious meal at Palo. Both of us agreed that the food was very good and definitely decadent. My favorites of the night had to be the calamari and the chocolate souffle. But, everything was really delicious and well-cooked. After dinner, we both agreed that we prefer brunch over dinner just a bit more mostly because we liked the meal offerings at brunch better overall. But, both brunch and dinner at Palo are excellent and a great option for any adults sailing on the Disney Cruise Line.
Have you been to Palo? What do you prefer, brunch or dinner?