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Review: Il Mulino New York Trattoria

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!

Atmosphere

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.

Olive Oil Decor

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.

Lounge

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.

Open Kitchen

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.

Eats

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…

Amuse Bouche

Breads

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.

Testarossa

Cocktail Menu -- Click for larger image

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!

Polpette al Forno

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!

Tortellini in Brodo

Salad

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!

Half Order of 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.

Half Order of Spaghetti Carbonara

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.

Half Order of Gnocchi

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!

Torta

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.

Italian cheesecake

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.

Serving Limoncello

Limoncello

Overall

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!

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20 Comments

  1. Carolyn says:

    It’s good to read about restaurants to try ‘next time’. My ADRs are made already but WDW ’12 something new to try. It sounds delicious! Thank you for the review

  2. Brenda says:

    We have dined at Il Mulino several times and have always been on the receiving end of great food and service. I’d like to put in a good word for the lounge as well, which we ate dinner in one night a few weeks ago – the service was just as good there as in the dining room and we were still able to order from the full dinner menu. As for drinks … next time order the Spring Thyme – it was the best, most refreshing drink of our entire 12-night stay. Dangerously easy to drink!

  3. AJ says:

    Carolyn — I’m always glad to help (and do the research, too!) :-) Thanks for all of your great comments!

    Brenda — I’m jealous of your fun lounge visit; everyone seemed to be having a blast there when we visited! Hopefully we’ll be able to meet up there someday!

  4. OK, definitely adding this to my list of places to try now! AJ you’re making my list slightly long! :) This looks amazing!

  5. Rich T. says:

    I miss real, NY-style Italian food. This sounds and looks pretty decent. Plus, 3 Philosophers and Brooklyn Pennant Ale are some quality NY beer selections.

  6. Gray says:

    My God, those are wonderful photos! I am so hungry just looking at them. I love that they let you order half sizes of pasta. Good for us light eaters.

  7. I may need to try it when I am at the Swan next month. :)

  8. NT3 says:

    Haha, Rich: I was just about to comment on the awesome beer selection. I LOVE Southhampton Double White and I just tried Brooklyn Pennant Ale for the first time two days ago and loved it. Very cool.

  9. Mark D. says:

    I am still trying to figure out how to fit this one into our schedule for our next trip. This blog made me even more determined to do so.

  10. Nate says:

    What a beautiful logo.

    That food looks delicious, too. ;)

  11. Sally says:

    We have been dining at Il Mulino since its opening and even before that when it was Palio’s. Our favorite appetizer, in the dining room or at the bar, is the Carpaccio di Carne, thinly sliced Tuscan-styled beef. They stock some of the best Italian wines available. If desired, your server will help you select a wine that pairs well with your food selection and in your price range. The previous manager, Kristian LaPlante, insisted that his servers know the wines. We enjoy everything about Il Mulino New York Trattoria!

  12. AJ says:

    Jenn — Trust me, my list got equally long when I started writing this blog! Until then, I knew I loved Disney food, but hadn’t had the impetus to try so many fantastic places!

    Rich — Agreed! In fact, I believe the original Il Mulino in New York has been voted best Italian in New York by Zagat for several years. Anyway, it reminded me of Don Giovanni’s, a wonderful Italian place on 9th Avenue in Manhattan. :-)

    Gray — Yep; I was pretty excited about the half-portions (of course, for different reasons than you were!)

    Hedy — It’s definitely worth a trip down. If you don’t want to go to the restaurant itself, have a dish in the lounge like Brenda did.

    Sally — It’s always so good to hear from a long-time fan!! Thank you so much for the info!
    NT3 — Thanks for the corroboration!

    Mark — Good luck! I hope you get to try it out!

    Nate — I like the logo, too; I have many, many photos of it ;-)

  13. Keith says:

    AJ – Great review, love the picts. Il Mulino has been on my list of things to try the last few trips, I just never make it that far out of the parks. How would you compare it to your favorite Disney signature places?

  14. AJ says:

    Keith — Thanks! Il Mulino isn’t THAT far from the parks, and I’d say it really does compare on par with other signature places on property, and better than some. Definitely worth a try — especially if you love Italian.

  15. MouseMisers says:

    I know it isn’t that far, but it means walking by both Flying Fish and Kouzzina to get there, which I just can’t do. Maybe I will have to try an approach from the South.

  16. Alan says:

    This probably is the only Italian eatery my wife and I have not tried at WDW due to the DDP. I know we will pass on the plan next trip. Everything looks delicious and the cocktails and beers look great. I’m sure the wine list is superior. Once again, the Swan and Dolphin are at the cutting edge of food and drink.

  17. AJ says:

    Keith — Ha! Let me know how the approach from the south works! Are you local in Orlando?

    Alan — I can’t wait to hear your take on Il Mulino!

  18. Josh says:

    Well at least the Limoncello can’t be too strong because the server isn’t wearing a mask. If he was then that’ll tell you it’s real good. My guess is that they have to get use to the stuff though.

    It looks like a great variety of food on the menu, my two favourites: Calamari and Linguine!

    The only real reason that I remember where the Swan & Dolphin resort is because it’s only a walk away from Epcot! :D

  19. Sandra says:

    We will be at the Swan in December and are trying to figure out meals. How do they handle picky adult eaters or special dietary needs? Noise level? Special seating requests? My son, who has autism, would probably eat the pizza with pepperoni, and the chocolate cake, but I don’t know what else beyond that. And my husband is diabetic, although he is dying to try their carbonara. Thank heaven for half portions!

  20. Nicole says:

    Are the half portions the same price as the regular portions? Wondering if we should get 2 half portions and try different things or just one regular portion and split?

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