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Naples Review: Is This What We Can Expect from Epcot’s Via Napoli?

In Disneyland last week, I chose to have lunch at Naples, a restaurant/pizzeria located in Disneyland’s Downtown Disney area and run by the Patina Group — the same folks who will be running Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy!

As you know, Via Napoli will be opening as a Pizzeria in Fall 2010, just in time for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, and we’re all eager to determine whether this will be the opportunity to get some really great pizza in Walt Disney World.

We dined here primarily to see what we might be getting in Disney World this fall, but we had a wonderful experience that makes Naples one of our new favorite and must-do restaurants in Disneyland.

Atmosphere
The “focal point” of the open and airy Naples dining room is the huge, wood-fired pizza oven, presided over by a giant icon of a carnivale-masked chef.

Naples Pizza Oven

Pizzas in Naples Pizza Oven

Right in front of the oven, you’re welcome to watch chefs prepare pizzas with the freshest ingredients and toppings — and even watch your own little chefs prepare some pizza dough themselves!

Chefs Making Pizza

Fresh Pizza Toppings

Junior Chefs

The rest of the two-story dining room is filled with vibrant colors and ceramic tiles, casual dark-wood tables, and an impressive bar area. An elevator leads up to an outdoor dining and event space, and doors to your right lead to a very nice patio for dining.

Dining Room

Naples Table

Cans Flank the Kitchen

Eats
Naples offers an extensive menu of appetizers and salads, pastas, paninis, main entrees, and, of course, wood-oven baked pizza! We began the meal with some fresh bread and olive oil brought by our wonderful server, who happened to be from Transylvania, Romania, and who remembered us from Napa Rose the night before (he works there as well!).

Bread and Olive Oil

Personally, I’ve never met a risotto I didn’t like, so I had to order the Arancini — saffron risotto croquettes with roasted bell pepper dip. The croquettes were very good, and the saffron risotto hidden inside was light-tasting and creamy. However, I’m pretty sure my taste buds were expecting a creamy marinara sauce as accompaniment, so the red pepper dip tasted almost bitter at first bite. It was a different dish — surprising, but still within the realm of choice for a picky eater.

Naples Appetizers

Arancini

Cross Section of Arancini

We also sampled the Ceasar salad with olive oil croutons. It was a pretty typical salad — nothing too extraordinary about, but sometimes simple = delicious.

Caesar Salad

For our entrees, we ordered an individual-sized pepperoni pizza and the Penne con Pollo to share. Both were outstanding.

As many of you know, I lived for several years in New York City, where I learned to love wood-fired, thin-crusted pizza — my favorite being pepperoni pizza at Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Little Italy. Spongy, thick-crusted pizza just doesn’t do it for me, and I can’t abide by soggy, thin crusts, either. Luckily, this was neither of those.

Naples Pepperoni Pizza

The crust was crispy and well-done, the mozzarella was freshly laid on the pizza — this was no dried-out, “shredded” cheese, and the pepperoni was just starting to get crunchy when they pulled it out of the oven (me, I like my pepperoni a bit crunchier, but I can understand the average expectation). While the sauce didn’t have the “zing” of Lombardi’s, and I wasn’t given my favorite toy — a parmesan cheese shaker — to use with gusto, the pizza still ranks in the top 10 of those I’ve tried in my lifetime. If this pie was any indication, the Patina Group’s pizzeria will be a welcome and well-booked restaurant in Epcot’s World Showcase.

Naples Pepperoni Pizza

Pizzas on Naples Menu

Oh, and don’t forget, the water to create my pizza was special! It’s from a source that closely resembles the mineral constitution of water in Naples, Italy. (I didn’t notice exactly how that made things different, but my review still stands.)

Our second entree, the Penne con Pollo, sounds rather innocent, doesn’t it? The promise of creamy marinara won me over on the menu, and we had to order this fine dish. And, I have to tell you, it was phenomenal. The sauce was so good I could have eaten it as soup (and I’ll never admit that I, after we’d both eaten our fill of the dish, used the serving spoon to do just that), the penne was cooked perfectly (al dente), and the chicken — usually a “throw-in” item in dishes like this — actually had good flavor and texture. We were both excited to see learn later that this is one of the dishes on Naples’ delivery menu (!!!), available to Disneyland resort guests! Total bummer that we ate too much at our meals for the rest of the week to even think of ordering more food in our room; we’d have loved to try this dish again (fingers crossed it’s on the Via Napoli menu this Fall!).

Naples Penne con Pollo

Finally, we simply had to order a dessert. While we usually sample two, we weren’t wowed by the menu items, so decided to only try the cannoli. This was my husband’s choice, as I’ve never really had a cannoli that I enjoyed very much. I wasn’t expecting much, and figured it would just be another Italian restaurant dessert fail. I’m happy to say I was wrong. You know I give it to you straight, and even though we were full to the gills, we practically licked the plate on this one. The shells were cinnamon-y, and the filling was chock full of chocolate chips and had a sweeter taste than I’m used to from other cannoli dishes I’ve tried.

Naples Cannoli

Overall
As you can see, the eats here are simple, understated, and — you’ll have to take my word for it — well worth the visit. Judging from our experience, just about everything on the menu is well-done (we enjoyed it more than our visit to Tutto Italia in Epcot).

This brings us to the matter of price. When we first reported about the pizzeria in Epcot’s Italy and posted links to the menus for similar restaurants run by the Patina Group, folks were shocked at the price for a pizza. ($45 for a large pizza is a bit outrageous by anyone’s standards.) We paid around $17 for our individual-sized pepperoni pie, and my husband and I have deliberated about whether or not we think the price is fair.

Our conclusion?: maybe.

If you’re particular (read: snobby) about your pizza (as we are), the $17 was a fair price to pay for the individual-sized pizza, which could have fed both of us as an entree. I’m not sure I’d be able to part with $45 for a large version of the same, but, I imagine that $45 pizza would feed an army. So, split the price amongst a family of 5 (or more), and you’ve probably got a pretty economical meal.

Have you dined at Naples? Are you eager to sample Epcot’s Via Napoli? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

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24 Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    I am loving your reviews from the West Coast. I’ve been to the Food and Wine Festival at DCA before, and it was okay; but the real highlight were the wine tastings, especially being able to sample some local California wines and hear from the vintners

    Glad to hear you like Naples! I haven’t been there in a while, but I like it the best of the Downtown Disney Restaurants. Reading your review make me definitely want to head back and eat there again. Maybe when I go to DLR in May.

    I am definitely looking forward to your Napa Rose review. It is my favorite restaurant there, so I hope you liked it too! Have fun!

  2. Anderson says:

    As a side note on the pizza, I’m in Arizona now, and we have some great pizza here. Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix is amazing (and worth the long wait). If you are ever in Phoenix, definitely try it.

  3. Kelly says:

    I knew I could trust your reviews…thin crust pizza (“New York Style”…it’s the same kind in Philly) is the best. Kinda bummed we skipped this one!

  4. Sarah says:

    I’m definitely looking forward to try Via Napoli when it opens at Epcot, as I too am a pizza snob (being a Long Island native and frequent visitor back there, I get spoiled by good pizza!) . Maybe we’ll give Naples a try when we’re in Anaheim in September. $17 for an individual pizza which is large enough for the two of us to split as an entree is a good deal, considering pricing for individual entrees at table service locations. And to be able to get good pizza at Disney?! I can’t wait!

  5. Gray says:

    The food looks outstanding, but I’m a little concerned about pricing for a solo diner with no one to share with. $16 for a personal pizza seems a bit steep to me. Since there are less expensive options on the menu, though, I’d still try eating here.

  6. I love the idea of good pizza coming to Epcot but the price point is ridiculous. Food like pizza is so ubiquitous in the United States today that it’s hard to justify spending that much money for pizza. I’m looking forward to seeing what we end up getting over here but the price point gives me pause.

  7. Adam says:

    To be honest, I’d be willing to pay quite a bit to aviod the Pizza Hut style pies that permeate the Disney dining landscape. Some honestly good pizza would be worth $16, considering the average lunch I eat in the parks on vacation is well over that. Another native Long Islander here as well hoping the pizzeria opens soon!

  8. Elisabeth says:

    After sitting in the quick service side of this restaurant in California, I can’t wait to see what comes of this restaurant at Walt Disney World. I love walking into a pizzeria and smelling home. Can’t be beat. I am impatiently being patient for this restaurant at Epcot so I can make reservations. Great review AJ!

  9. AJ says:

    Anderson — Thanks for the recommendation in Phoenix! I’ve never been there, but hopefully we’ll be able to make some road trips sometime soon. Yes, please head back to Naples in May. It was a great experience — fresh ingredients and tasty food. Some of the other table-service spots in DL — which are touted by many — didn’t feel nearly as “fresh” and exciting as Naples did for us.

    Kelly — Going back to DLR anytime soon? :-)

    Sarah — I’m really intrigued to see what we get in Epcot this Fall now that I’ve eaten at Naples. I fear that if the menu is the same, we won’t be able to tear ourselves away from the two dishes we ordered in DLR!

    Gray — I’m hoping the cost is lowered a bit in Florida. We found everything to be quite expensive in DLR. But, as you said, there are some lower-priced items on the Naples menu (which I imagine are just as good!), and $16 is pretty standard for an entree at the moderately-priced table-service restaurants in WDW (I’m thinking about places like 50′s Prime Time Cafe).

    Matt — Where do you get your pizza in the Orlando area these days? Would love to hear some more alternatives…

    Adam — Me, too. We’re really looking forward to pizza we can really *anticipate*, you know?

    Elisabeth — How’d you like Napolini?! I walked through and thought it looked really great. Seems like you can get the same pizza, too!

  10. Adam says:

    I know they say the restaurant will be a combo table.counter service, but I hope there is at least a window that stays open at nice for the per slice crowd….THAT would do well after Illuminations!

  11. Elisabeth says:

    AJ – It looked like the exact same pizza. I liked that you could get sandwiches and salads. Their asparagus salad was amazing. I found all pricing to be higher at DLR. It seemed they didn’t have as many food choices as WDW either. I missed WDW.

  12. James (Disneynorth) says:

    The one photo that stood for me…. was of the wine storage units!! Wowza!

    AJ, are we able to book the restaurant yet?

  13. chris says:

    I’m picky about my pizza and this sounds like it’s worth every penny.

    Any ideas as to when you might be able to make ADRs for Via Napoli or when they’ll have an opening date? I really want to try it in October.

  14. My wife likes Flippers pizza (Crossroads area) but I’m not a fan. Like you AJ, I prefer the “real pizza” one can get in the New York area (along with bagels, but I digress…). There’s some decent pizza in downtown Orlando but I’d be joking if I said any of it could compare to NY pizza.

  15. Courtney says:

    I love going to Naples in DTD. The last time I was there (December) I had the butternut squash ravioli and a salad….I wanted to eat my sauce like soup as well, but since it was brown butter with sage, my sister would not let me :( I sopped it up with my bread though and found that other people at my table kept nibbling from my plate. Definitely the best restaurant at Disneyland’s DTD….hmmm maybe I’ll go this weekend!

  16. Todd says:

    I grew up in New Jersey on pizza from ma n’ pa pizza joints. No pizza is worth $17 for an “individual” let alone $45 for a large, no matter how authentic the ingredients are! I have trouble paying much more than $10-12 for a 16″ New York style pizza, over $10 for basic pasta, or $7-10 for a sandwich. Maybe I’d eat here on an expense account, but I’d never spend this much on basic Italian-American fare. For $20 or more an entree, I’ll go to a good steak house like Le Cellier or a more exotic eatery with a menu of items that I can’t get back home like Jiko.

  17. [...] Disney Food Blog asks: Naples Review: Is This What We Can Expect from Epcot's Napoli [...]

  18. Elaine says:

    They have a Napolini where you can get individual pizza slices for much cheaper than going into the restaurant. I’ve only been to Napolini, never the proper Naples restaurant. I’m too cheap to spend that much money on pizza when I’d rather go into the park and have some pasta at Plaza Inn or Red Rockett’s.

  19. robin says:

    thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this review, AJ! i am looking forward to trying this place out next time i’m in DTD! i am seriously drooling over your pics right now.

  20. Watch Me Eat says:

    I did some pizza math. For a large Margherita pizza, costing $37.50, cut into the standard eight slices, that works out to $4.69/slice. Getting one of the pies with toppings at $45.50, say Prosciutto, it comes to $5.69/slice.

    Personally, that is far too much to spend on a pizza. I didn’t see anywhere what the diameter is of a large pizza, but I’m hoping it’s at least 18″. I know it’s a theme park and they have a captive audience with people that don’t want to leave the property and venture into the dirty, unsanitized world outside of the Disney fence, but that’s part of the fun of traveling. Being as prevalent as Italian restaurants are, and being Disneyland isn’t exactly in the middle of nowhere, I bet you could find some really awesome pizzas for a fraction of the cost within a 10-mile radius of Disneyland. Go on an adventure, leave Disney property, and stop encouraging them to charge the obscene price for a pizza!

  21. AJ says:

    Adam — Great point. That line would go on forever after Illuminations, to be sure. They do have the slice window over on the Boardwalk, but one in Italy would be really convenient….

    Elisabeth — I found pricing to be higher, too. When we asked about it, we were told that the high sales tax has something to do with it. Thanks for the recommendation on the asparagus salad!

    James — I don’t think it’s available for booking yet :-( I have a day set aside to go, so I hope they open it for booking soon!

    Chris — I’m pretty sure they’ll have it open in October — don’t want to miss out on the F&W crowds, I bet. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

    Matt — Thanks for the suggestions. Agreed, though, I’ve been spoiled for good pizza.

    Courtney — That’s not fair!! Don’t dangle the ability to go there in front of my Dallas-based face! ;-) The ravioli sounds amazing…

    Todd — Thanks for your comment and reasoning. The price point definitely wouldn’t fit into a tight food budget, to be sure. I’m hoping the counter-service combined with table-service structure they’re playing with for Be Our Guest and the Cantina will translate to Via Napoli as well. Paying for a slice might be worth it.

    Elaine — I had some great pasta at Pizza Port! I was amazed!

    Robin — So glad I could add a restaurant to your list! Let me know what you think of it!

    WME — You’re awesome to do the pizza math! ;-) Again, here’s hoping there’s a counter service or window option where you can get a less expensive slice. I agree that there’s probably some great pizza very close to Disneyland — I’ll have to go on an adventure next time ;-)

  22. Shayne says:

    Ok, I’m late chiming in here (getting caught up on my DFB reading!), but I’m so happy to read this review! This is now also on our list of places to eat in September. It all looks delicious and I love cannoli, so I can’t wait to try that!

  23. AJ says:

    Shayne — Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Naples. When’s your Sept trip? We’ll have to dish all about it at our upcoming Chef’s Table dinner!! :-)

  24. [...] thoughts on what the pizza and other Italian offerings might be like based on the menu over at Naples in Disneyland, a restaurant run by the same off-site company that will be running Via Napoli — The Patina [...]

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