Dining at the famous Italy cave restaurant was something beyond a “bucket list” item for me; it was more like a far-off dream that seemed totally unattainable, like playing golf with the Dalai Lama or getting a full eight hours of sleep.
But in reality, it actually is attainable. Grotta Palazzese Restaurant isn’t on the planet Mars after all; it’s in Italy—a country I visit often. And it isn’t A-list only; I can now confirmed they’ll let just about anyone in who’s willing to sacrifice a month’s car payment to eat there.
If you’re curious what it’s like to actually have dinner at Italy’s famous cave restaurant, or you’ve already decided to do so but need all the details (and fine print), I’m your girl! Read on for all you need to know about dining at Grotta Palazzese, the famous cave restaurant in Italy.
I assure you this post is not sponsored. Trust me when I say I paid for every bit of this experience out of my now very empty pockets.
Dining at the famous Italy cave restaurant
One random night a picture of Italy’s famous sea cave restaurant (I didn’t even know the name) came across my Instagram feed and something clicked. With a trip to Italy planned for May but not a thing on my itinerary, so I decided to just make a reservation and figure it out later.
I knew it was going to be a splurge to say the least, and I actually had pretty low expectations all the way leading up to my dinner there. I mean, come on, this is the kind of place where you pay for the view and the bucket-list check-off, right? Not the food and service?
Regardless, I committed to it and am so glad I did! My dinner at Grotta Palazzese cave restaurant was the indisputable highlight of my entire trip and probably the most unique dinner experience I’ve ever had. And I once ate at a poop-themed restaurant, so that’s saying something.
Read on for all the details of my dining experience at Grotta Palazzese, the famous cave restaurant in Italy. (This place is a restaurant built inside a natural cave that has been hosting diners at parties and banquets since the 1700s!)
Grotta Palazzese Restaurant and hotel
The famous Italy cave restaurant is actually part of the Grotta Palazzese Hotel, but you don’t need to be a guest of the hotel in order to eat at the restaurant.
Hotel Grotta Palazzese is a 5-star luxury hotel on the same gorgeous Apulian cliffside overlooking those impossibly turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea. (Apulia, or Puglia, is the name of this region of Italy.) The name Grotta Palazzese actually comes from its former distinction as the Grotta di Palazzo – the “Palace Grotto.” Rates here start at just over $1,000 per night and work their way up.
And while I’m sure this place is a dream, the private little B&B I stayed at down the street (for much less) was just as dreamy.
However, guests of Grotta Palazzese hotel do get some benefits when it comes to dining at Grotta Palazzese Restaurant. For starters, they get guaranteed priority seating, which means they get one of those choice tables overlooking the water. If this is something you absolutely have to have, check out their current rates here on Booking.com or here on Expedia.
Grotta Palazzese location
So where even is the famous Italy cave restaurant? Grotta Palazzese Ristorante is located in the town of Polignano a Mare in Italy’s Puglia region (or Apulia as it’s also known). Polignano a Mare is a small beach town in southern Italy down near the heel of Italy’s boot. The nearest major city is Bari which is about a 30-minute drive north.
Polignano a Mare is pronounced like Po-lee-nya-no ah mar-ay. And no, you’ll almost never get it right. But head here to see all the best things to do in Polignano a Mare (besides eat at Grotta Palazzese).
How to get to Grotta Palazzese Restaurant
To get to Grotta Palazzese Restaurant you can either walk there or drive in and take their free shuttle.
This famous cave restaurant in Italy is located smack in the middle of Polignano a Mare and is easily reached on foot. It’s literally minutes from all the major spots in town and the main door opens right to the street.
If you’re staying in another town and will be driving to Polignano a Mare for dinner, Grotta Palazzese Restaurant has a private parking lot and offers a free shuttle from there to the restaurant.
Where to park for Grotta Palazzese
Grotta Palazzese Restaurant’s parking lot is not actually near the hotel/restaurant but is about a 15-minute walk away, hence the shuttle service.
The address for the Grotta Palazzese parking lot is Via Madonna D’Altomare 70044, Polignano a Mare. You can find it on Google Maps under the name “Parcheggio Grotta Palazzese.”
Otherwise, you can certainly park within the city closer to the restaurant and walk to the entrance. Just be aware of parking charges and tiny streets that are already full of cars.
Take this super fun boat tour to see the famous cave restaurant without having to dine there!
Grotta Palazzese menu
The menu at Grotta Palazzese Restaurant is based mainly around Apulian cuisine, but like, a super creative interpretation of it. You can expect fresh seafood, Italian classics, and one hell of a presentation.
As of May 2023, they currently offer five menu selections which each include multiple courses. You can see all of their current menu offerings here.
To give you an idea of what you can eat at the famous Italy cave restaurant, I ordered the “Istinto” menu which included 4 amazing courses:
- Scallops with guacamole, yogurt, and macadamia nuts
- Cacio e pepe ravioli with prawns and caviar (which I’m still having inappropriate dreams about)
- Sea bass with turnip tops and chard
- Espresso martini tiramisu for dessert (which had literal gold flakes sprinkled on it)
My husband ordered the “Abbraccio” which also included 4 courses:
- Fassona beef with lamb’s lettuce, carrot, and dry apricot
- Pacchero with yellow tomato, capocollo and crusco sweet pepper
- Lamb with leeks, sweet cherry, and red beet
- Double baba with citrus fruit and Barbados Rhapsody Rhum 2005 & 2007
For some of the courses you have a choice between two items, and with others you don’t. The menu is mostly fixed but there are enough great options that you’ll surely leave fat and happy.
We also received a platter of different breads with olive oil when we sat down that was FREE.
Grotta Palazzese menu – drinks
They also have an extensive wine and drink menu. I only browsed a small portion of it but ended up ordering a bottle of Rosso di Montalcino because it’s one of my favorites. And because I had no idea what all the other ones were.
They also sell wine by the glass (white, red, rosé, champagne, and dessert wine), a full bar of liquor and spirits, classic cocktails, sake, and beer.
I also slept in a cave hotel during this trip to Italy! Check out what that was like in my post on how to spend one day in Matera.
Grotta Palazzese restaurant prices
Yes, finally, we get to the good stuff. *rubs her hands together maniacally* There’s a reason that dining at the Italy cave restaurant always felt unattainable—and that’s because ain’t no way I was prepared to drop half a grand on dinner. And yet, YOLO.
Grotta Palazzese Restaurant remains a bucket list item for many for a reason—it’s incredibly expensive to dine here. And while “expensive” is certainly subjective, I think any reasonable human being out there would argue that spending $500+ on a single meal is a wee bit cuckoo.
So yes, dining at Italy’s famous cave restaurant doesn’t come cheap, but few of the best experiences of your life ever do, no? Eating here is what one would call “a splurge” or an experience reserved for special occasions.
Or, if you’re like me and constantly, dreadfully aware of how short and precarious life is, just being alive on a Friday night in Italy with the love of my life and a disposable income is enough reason to celebrate. CAN I GET AN AMEN?
Read also: McDonald’s in Paris Sells Macarons and They’re Better than Ladurée – I said what I said.
How much I spent on dinner at Italy’s cave restaurant
Anyway, here’s how much my husband and I spent on dinner at Grotta Palazzese Restaurant on a Friday night in May of 2023:
- Both my 4-course Istinto menu and my husband’s 4-course Abbraccio menu cost €195 each.
- We also drank two bottles of water at €10 each. (The first one we asked for; the second one just appeared.)
- And we drank one bottle of red wine at €75.
- Cash tip is up to you. (There wasn’t a line to leave one on my credit card slip.)
Our total bill for the night was €485 (which my credit card bill is rudely showing me equals $526 US). Other than my wedding, this is the most money I’ve ever spent on a single dinner.
This feels like a real accomplishment actually. I saved the big fancy bill so I can frame it and hang it up in my house where it’ll serve as a beautiful reminder that it’s OK to splurge because LIFE IS SHORT. Besides, I get 3x the credit card points at restaurants.
I’d say this is a pretty standard (i.e., conservative) amount to expect to pay for dinner here. But here’s a breakdown of all the prices to give you a better idea of what it’s like to dine at the famous Italy cave restaurant…
Grotta Palazzese prices – food
Grotta Palazzese currently offers five different fixed price menu options that range from €195 to €495. That’s each or per person. So even if you dine alone, the lowest you’re getting out of there for is around $200 US. And that’s if you don’t drink anything at all, because even water costs €10.
Their menu also states that you can order dishes à la carte. You can choose 3 dishes for €195, 4 dishes for €235, or 5 dishes for €275. This isn’t exactly the most economical choice since you actually get 4 courses for €195 if you just choose one of the tasting menus. But I guess if you really want to mix and match dishes, then this is a great option for you. Go nuts.
Grotta Palazzese prices – drinks
At Grotta Palazzese, you can choose from a pretty big menu of wine and other beverages. I didn’t read through the entire wine menu, but the bottles I did see ranged from €65 to more than €1,000. For a single bottle of wine. Holy cannoli. I chose a €75 bottle that was one step up from the cheapest one on the menu so as to not appear like a cheapskate. (Do you think it worked?)
You can also order wine by the glass, all of them between €20 to €35 per glass. That goes for all types—white, red, pink, and bubbly.
Most liquors on the menu fall somewhere between €15 and €35 (excluding the €335 Hennessy). Their cocktail list is pretty standard stuff (Aperol Spritz, gin & tonic, Cosmopolitan, Old Fashioned, etc.) and they each cost €25.
They also offer three kinds of sake, all €45 each for 720ml. And they offer just three kinds of beer, all costing €45 for a 750ml serving. One of which was a beer I had earlier that day for €5. At least drinking wine feels fancy so it doesn’t hurt as much when you’re being grossly overcharged.
At the bottom of their current menu (here), you can scan the QR code to see the drink menu for all the details.
I’m not sure how much something like a soft drink or coffee costs because I didn’t order any and their menu doesn’t show it, but I paid €10 for a standard glass bottle of still table water. I imagine the other soft drinks probably cost the same.
Grotta Palazzese dress code
It should go without saying that when you spend at least $500 on dinner that it’s probably going to be at a place where you should dress nice. Duh. They even remind you of this in your confirmation email and explicitly say “no shorts or sandals for men.”
And yet, there were still people who showed up in jeans, raggedy old t-shirts, and dirty sneakers. (see also: people who have so much money that this is not actually a special occasion for them but just another place to grab a meal on vacation)
They have a dress code, yes, but they do not enforce it. But still; don’t be a dummy. When you dress like a slob at a place like this, it cheapens the experience for everyone.
To my $500 dinner I wore this pair of pants from Amazon and this workout bra top from Old Navy. I also just used a Capital Grille steak knife to cut my Hot Pocket, so I think you have all you need to know about me now.
Grotta Palazzese reservations
The famous Italy cave restaurant operates on a reservation-only model. (I did see them turn away people who tried to just walk-up and get a table.) You can make a reservation here.
I made my reservation for the end of May back in January and there were plenty of reservations available. There are actually still reservations available for even this week, but only the later times. So, it’s not impossible to get a reservation here. It’s an attainable dream, I tell ya!
Making a reservation at Grotta Palazzese is super easy and it’s all done online. (bless!) You even get a couple of confirmation emails with all the details. It really couldn’t be easier.
Grotta Palazzese hours and seatings
Grotta Palazzese is open for both lunch and dinner. There is just one seating at lunch (from 12:30-2pm) but five seatings for dinner (at 6:00, 7:00, 8:30, 9:30, and 10:30pm). And it’s only open from mid-March to mid-November.
They say you only have two hours to dine and dash, but our time still ran over and everything was super chill. (Lunch is the same menu and price as dinner, so don’t choose lunch expecting matinee prices.)
Is Grotta Palazzese worth it?
So, now you’re wondering if the whole experience was worth all that money, right? And to that I say, HELL YES ABSOLUTELY. Everything about this experience was perfect; I’m not kidding. It far far far exceeded my expectations (which were actually shockingly low).
What I loved about dining at the Italy cave restaurant
This whole experience goes down as one of my top travel experiences for many reasons. And when you think about it, $500 for one of the best experiences ever is a freaking steal. Here’s what I loved about my dining experience at Grotta Palazzese:
I’m just going to go ahead and get this out of the way since it’s what we all came for anyway. The setting of this world-renowned restaurant is so incredibly unique that I can almost guarantee you’ve never experienced anything like it.
The cave is open on both sides and is such a cool venue. The view from the cave is amazing and the views of the cave are amazing. And the whole atmosphere of the cave changes as the sun goes down.
Beyond that, the whole atmosphere is perfection—relaxing jazz music with a live saxophonist, birds soaring through the cave, the soft lighting and blue of the sky as the sun set, the crashing of the waves… it was surreal.
I chose the earliest dinner seating (6pm) because I wanted to experience it both during daylight and after sunset. I chose wisely.
The food at Grotta Palazzese cave restaurant really took me by surprise. I’d read a lot of reviews that said the food was mediocre at best since people really come here for the views and the experience, so I had pretty low expectations.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. Not everything we ate was the stuff dreams are made of, but some of it definitely was. (Cacio e pepe ravioli, be still my heart!) I tasted everything we both ordered and it was all very good and obviously crafted with care. I don’t know what the bad reviewers were expecting, but the food at Italy’s cave restaurant gets an A+ from me.
Likewise, I’d read that the service at Grotta Palazzese restaurant was terrible, rushed, and even rude. But what I experienced could not have been farther off.
The service at the Italy cave restaurant was the best I’ve experienced in Italy (and most other countries actually). Our servers were incredibly friendly and professional; they anticipated our needs; and not once did they rush us or seem even the least bit rude.
They accommodated my food allergy without hesitation; they scraped the crumbs off our table; and they re-folded my napkin every time I got out of my seat to take photos. Everything was timed perfectly—from the removal of empty plates to the presentation of new ones, the refills of wine and water, the presentation of the bill, everything.
The check-in hostess was lovely and, after many people started lining up, she remembered I was the first to arrive and made sure to check us in first. Honestly, my dinner at Grotta Palazzese was some of the best service I’ve ever had.
There are so many “bucket list” experiences that are in remote locales or places you would never visit, but the Italy cave restaurant is so accessible! It’s not in Antarctica or Mongolia; it’s in Italy. And it’s not on some remote island; it’s in the center of an established tourist-friendly town.
But beyond that, its location within Polignano a Mare is perfect. It’s centrally located in the most beautiful part of the town and super easy to get to. You can walk right up to the entrance and there’s even free parking with a free shuttle.
The whole process
From the moment you decide to dine at the cave restaurant in Italy, the whole process is simple and straightforward. (Take note, rest of Italy.) You can make a reservation online through their simple form and get almost all of your questions answered right there.
They send you two confirmation emails with all the necessary details. You check in for your dinner right there at the entrance, and they walk you straight to your table. Nothing about the entire process is confusing, inefficient, or, dare I say it, Italian.
Beyond these major points, here are some other random things I loved about dining at Grotta Palazzese Restaurant:
- My absurd yet hilarious wine glass
- The fact that I consumed actual gold
- The free breads and olive oil
- The sight and sound of the birds zooming through the cave all night
- The way our server presented the wine and the fun thing he did with the cork
- I thought this place was going to be full-on congested with wannabe Instagram models, but it wasn’t!
- And these two adorable couples who coordinated their outfits
What I did not like about dining at the cave restaurant in Italy
While I still stick to my declaration that the whole evening was perfection, there were a couple of things that annoyed me…
The fact that they allow children
Say what you want about me as a human being, but this really bothered me. A family’s decision to take their children to a fancy restaurant like this not only affects their experience, but also the experiences of everyone else in the room. Especially when they do very little to control them.
There was only one family there that night with two children, and it went exactly as you’d imagine. The kids (something like ages 5 and 8?) were wearing raggedy clothes and dirty sneakers, running around the place like it was a playground, and spent half the night walking around the tables with blankets on their heads. No idea what the parents were doing.
When people go to what has been dubbed “the most romantic restaurant in the world” to spend a month’s grocery budget on dinner, they don’t want to feel like they’re at Applebee’s on a Friday night. There’s a reason I don’t have children of my own and why I avoid places like Applebee’s on Friday nights, after all.
I see now that they only allow children at the first dinner seating, which of course was the one I was at. So at least they do regulate it a little, but it should really be lunch only or not at all. (And in case you’re curious, there is just one menu option for children and it’s still €100 no matter what.)
“This place is for double cappuccinos, not double strollers.”Samantha Jones, totally agreeing with me
The drink menu
The food menu you get is a standard paper menu; the drink menu is a QR code. I’m gonna level with you here—besides just being a pain in the ass to use, it also makes it hard to find which bottle of wine is the cheapest.
Grotta Palazzese review
Overall, I would give my dining experience at Grotta Palazzese cave restaurant a 9.5/10 (half a point taken off for the annoying kids-in-blankets).
The food was delicious and well-presented, the service was top-notch, and the atmosphere was phenomenal. Even though it was the most expensive meal I’ve had, when you take the entire experience into consideration, $526 is an absolute bargain and I would not hesitate to dine here again. Getting to eat at the famous Italy cave restaurant and ticking off a huge bucket list item is priceless.
Pro tips and things you need to know
If you plan to dine at the Italy cave restaurant, here are a few pro tips and some other things you should know.
Tables are allocated on a first-come basis, i.e. you cannot choose a table. So if you really want one of the coveted tables next to the water, be sure to book the first seating at 6:00pm and arrive early.
But honestly, I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house. I walked around a bit, and there’s literally a uniquely awesome view from all the tables.
You can get great photos of the restaurant by sticking your camera through the bars in the bathroom windows.
You’ll need to submit a credit card when you make your reservation. If you don’t cancel your reservation within their window, you’ll pay a €75 per person no-show charge. Just FYI.
How to see the Italy cave restaurant without dining there
If you really just want to see the Italy cave restaurant without spending lots of money to eat there, that’s possible. Mostly.
From the lookout points
You can see into Grotta Palazzese from the lookout point outside the entrance to the hotel/restaurant. On Google Maps, look for “Mirador Blue” at Via Narciso 50. (Where the street dead-ends into the ocean just outside Grotta Palazzese’s entrance.)
From the water
But to get the best views of Grotta Palazzese Restaurant you can take a boat tour. We did this on the morning of our dinner and it was THE BEST! We took this 1.5-hour boat tour which goes around to all the awesome cliffs and caves in Polignano a Mare.
Our small group spent some time hanging out outside the cave restaurant (and toasting with some prosecco), and even went back inside the cave to see the restaurant from the other side. It was such a cool experience (and so cheap)!
If you can’t tell, I highly recommend the splurge of dining at Grotta Palazzese, the famous Italy cave restaurant. Are you considering a dinner there? Let me know below in the comments!
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