For years, I’ve been hearing from various sources that the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin’s Il Mulino New York Trattoria is the best Italian food on Disney World property, hands down, and I finally got the chance to try the restaurant on my recent trip to Orlando!
For those who haven’t been there, the Swan and Dolphin is located right between Disney’s Boardwalk Resort and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, and is within walking distance of Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios Theme Park. Open only for dinner, the higher-end restaurant’s prices range between $20-$45 for pastas and entrees, with pizzas priced at around $16.
You’ll enter the restaurant through the lounge area where bartenders (at least on my visit) are fun and clever, and the atmosphere is very jovial and boisterous. The lounge flows openly into the restaurant, where light and dark woods and modern decor complement the simple, contemporary Italian cuisine.
A huge open kitchen spans one entire wall of the restaurant, and while it’s blocked by a wall of stained glass, guests can still catch a glimpse of what’s happening behind the scenes.
The restaurant has just added live music on Friday and Saturday nights, giving the place an even greater feeling of relaxing in a high-end, New York Italian restaurant.
But don’t feel that your kids won’t be welcome here. We’re still on Disney property, and kids are definitely catered to. On our visit, families were just as common as groups or couples of adult diners.
Specializing in Italian cuisine from the Abruzzi region of Italy, the menu covers the basics — pastas, meat dishes, pizzas, risottos, and more. While browsing the menu, we were treated to a small appetizer — an eggplant dish with salami — compliments of the Chef. After leaving the restaurant and speaking about it with friends, I’ve heard that this particular amuse bouche is a huge winner for most guests! We also were given two types of bread, of which one was an olive oily focaccia sprinkled with chili flakes — absolutely incredible! I couldn’t stop eating the stuff…
I quickly ordered one of the restaurant’s signature drinks, the Testarossa (or Red Head), which included strawberries, fresh basil leaves, Ketel One Vodka, Grand Marnier, and cranberry juice. The drink was sweet and punchy; definitely something I’d order again, but there were so many other original cocktails that I’d have a hard time not trying something else.
We began with appetizers, and because we were pretty “arancini’d out” by this time (arancini seems to have become the new donut — or maybe we’re just eating a lot of Italian these days), we ordered meatballs — properly known as Polpette al Forno — along with a Cesar Salad and the Tortellini in Brodo (meat tortellini in chicken broth). (You can see the dinner menu here.)
The meatballs were…incredible. Just three meatballs in a tomato basil sauce, but it was heavenly! Very savory, not too sweet, and simply amazing. I probably could have downed about three orders of these and called it a night. Who knew? Meatballs!
Next came the soup — a deep, rich chicken broth with delicious meat tortellini. Again, another amazing, yet very simple, dish that knocked it out of the park. I can’t personally rave about the salad (it was my husband’s), he did enjoy it!
When we turned our attention to entrees it became practically impossible to make a decision. Between steaks, pastas, risottos — I love them all and wanted to try several, but the pasta was calling my name.
Luckily, pasta could be ordered by the half order…so I just ordered two: the Bucatini Amatriciana, with rendered pancetta and onions, finished with marinara; and the Spaghetti Carbonara, with pancetta, cheese, and eggs. My husband couldn’t pull himself away from the pasta either, and ordered the Gnocchi Bolognese.
Of the three, the Bucatini was the winner in my book! You see, ever since I realized that Bucatini is actually Beefaroni, I’ve had this strange desire to order it. I was addicted to Beefaroni when I was a kid, and the mouth-feel of Bucatini is oddly nostalgic for me now. Lucky for me that Bucatini is often served in a spicy/savory dish, and this one did not disappoint. Again, the dish was simple, but the flavors were perfectly married and the sauce worked very well with the Beefar…I mean Bucatini!
The Spaghetti Carbonara was highly recommend to me by friends. The creaminess of the sauce flavors mixed with the heady, rich taste of the pancetta and the strong bite of the onion was quite delicious. And while I did enjoy it, I would have liked the sauce to be a bit thicker and saltier. I know — my taste often falls on the salty side of normal, but I did need to add salt to this dish to fully enjoy it.
The Gnocchi Bolognese was deemed excellent by both my husband and myself. While we don’t order gnocchi often, we are pretty particular about it. This was firm, not mushy, and the sauce — which was packed with meat — had a wonderful wine flavor that held up well to the heavy pasta. This was my husband’s favorite dish of the night.
Getting quite filled by now, we of course had to sneak a peek at the dessert menu! Because I always envy my dining companions when they order flourless chocolate cakes, I decided quickly to go for the Torta di Cioccolati, served with whipped cream and zabaglione. My husband went for the Cheesecake Italiano.
The Torta was incredible. If any of you out there want serious chocolate, just order the flourless chocolate cake at almost any Disney property restaurant; they’re almost always delicious!
We found the Cheesecake Italiano very interesting — something we’d never tasted before! The cheesecake was definitely less dense than what we’re used to, and the flavor was light, but stronger than what you’d find in a typical American cheesecake. We really enjoyed it, and because it was something we weren’t used to, we really took the time to savor it.
Soon, our server came by with the final close to the evening — a complimentary dip of house-made limoncello that was so strong it could easily knock the wind out of the most experienced drinker! This stuff made my eyes water, but it certainly created a memorable close to the meal! Again, after talking to friends about the final “kiss goodnight” from Il Mulino, it’s very well-received by most guests at the restaurant and just shows one more thing Il Mulino is doing to “plus” the experience there.
The draw of Il Mulino is simple, fresh, flavorful food; great service; and a high-end, but casual atmosphere. You could easily schedule a business meeting here, but you could also bring a family reunion and have a great time. The great part is, it’s right on Disney property and you can make reservations through the Disney World dining system. Definitely worth a visit!
Have you been to Il Mulino, or are you considering it for a future meal? Let us know in the comments section below!