Alrighty, folks, settle in — this is gonna be a long one! I very happily stuffed my face at Via Napoli twice on my last Orlando trip, and I’m pleased to share all the news on what has become one of my favorite restaurants in Walt Disney World!
Located in Epcot’s Italy pavilion (walk straight to the back; you can’t miss it), this massive, airplane-hanger-of-a-room is cavernous, but beautiful and filled with light, hustle, bustle, and the most amazing smells.
Artisan tiles dot the floor; whimsical chandeliers hang like ornaments throughout the restaurant; chipping frescoes give depth to the walls; and old-fashioned travel-themed artwork reminds you of all the places in Italy you haven’t been. The warm, neutral colors with pops of red, blue, green, and yellow give a bright, cheery feel to the restaurant.
Clearly this is a casual place (though the prices don’t necessarily scream casual…); while booths and tables are scattered around the restaurant, a huge table runs the length of the dining room — right down the middle — and is used for large parties, or for multiple small parties. If you’d rather avoid being seated next to a stranger, request to be seated at your own individual table. There is also a bit of seating outside. Many of us were hoping this would be turned into a take-out or counter-service area, but so far, it’s table service as well.
And the focal point of the restaurant are the three massive pizza ovens — Stromboli, Vesuvio, and Etna — named for the active volcanoes that haunt Italy today.
As you decide on your meal and wait for your food, take a gander over at the show kitchen. It’s fun to watch everyone creating the masterpieces you’re about to enjoy (super fun for kiddos, too!). Just be careful not to get in the way — everyone moves very quickly in this place!
I’m hoping Via Napoli institutes a kids’ program like its sister restaurant — Naples in Disneyland — has. Kids are given a bit of pizza dough and are able to stretch out their own pizzas there. You can see my review of Naples here.
Now, let’s get down to some serious deliciousness! Folks have been bemoaning the lack of decent pizza in Walt Disney World for years, and when Via Napoli was announced — with its focus on wood-fired, thin-crust pizzas — hope sprung eternal. Today, I am grateful to say — on behalf of Disney food fans everywhere — that our day has come! The pizza here is exquisite, and while it doesn’t quite rival my favorite shops in NYC, it is delicious in its own right.
But before I show you the pizza, let’s take a look at the menu and grab some appetizers — you know I love my apps.
We chose the arancini (this was before we got arancini’d out) and the salami e Provolone. Both appetizers were very good.
I missed the spicy ragu from Naples’ arancini in Disneyland, but this version’s sweet, simple sauce was acceptable. The huge fried risotto balls filled with meat ragu and mozzarella were perfectly cooked and tasted slightly bland, but the creamy texture made it a delight to eat.
The salami e provolone was a true hit. The cured salami was salty, but had incredible flavorful; and the provolone…oh my goodness! I am a cheese-lover, and to have a truly strong provolone is a treat!!
With the appetizers, we sampled a few of Via Napoli’s signature drinks: the blood orange and lemon acqua frescas, an Italian Margarita, and the signature beer — La Rossa — an “amber-colored double malt Italian lager.”
The acqua fresca is pretty much impossible to ignore when you walk into the restaurant. The containers for the drinks are situated right in the middle of the restaurant — almost as an art piece, they’re so beautiful! And when the bright yellow, orange, and red (strawberry) liquids have sun streaming through them from the windows at the top of the walls, they really do look like stained glass windows in an Italian cathedral
The blood orange was good, but the lemon was great! You know me and my penchant for sour drinks — that lemon aqua fresca hit the spot! Later on in the week I dined at Via Napoli with friends and had the chance to take a sip of the strawberry as well. While others at the table raved, I hold true to my love of lemon!
Speaking of sour drinks — my friends, that Italian Margarita has become one of my favorite margaritas on property. Tart and sweet at the same time, the combination of frozen limoncello and grappa was absolutely heavenly. I know many of you agree with me!
The La Rossa was a bitter, strong concoction that wasn’t a favorite of my husband’s. While it didn’t make it into the “don’t recommend” category, he’ll probably skip it next time.
Now on to the main event! My husband and I couldn’t pull ourselves away from the pizzas, so we ordered one each to share: Quattro Formaggi — a mix of mozzarella, parmesan, fontina, and provolone cheeses as topping — and standard Pepperoni.
The Pepperoni pizza was wonderful — thin crusted with light, flavorful sauce and just-right pepperoni. “Just-right” means that the tops of the pepperoni slices are crisp and the oil is bubbly in the little pepperoni dip. The only problem with this one: we’d have loved more cheese. You actually cannot order extra cheese! Can you believe that? Our server (service was excellent by the way) told us that you can take things off the pizza, but you can’t put more on the pizza. Sigh.
So clearly the Quattro Formaggi is where it’s at! There’s plenty of cheese to start with — and it’s good, flavorful, doesn’t-get-bland-in-the-oven cheese; the pie has an incredible richness and depth to its flavor that I didn’t find in any of the other pizzas I sampled; and it’s just plain heavenly to eat. When I returned later in the week, I ordered it again. I couldn’t help myself. There. I said it.
With the pizza we also got this gorgeous salad!
And here I have some pics of what my table-mates ordered — and enjoyed!
For dessert, I was eager to try the Zeppole di Caterina (ricotta cheese fritters served with chocolate sauce and whipped cream) I’d been hearing so much about! We also tried the other signature dessert — Torta di “Mamma Rosaria” — an apple cake with almond sorbetto.
The Zeppole were fine; they aren’t what I’m used to from the San Gennaro Festival in New York’s Little Italy, but the addition of smooth, melted chocolate and real whipped cream made the taste profile much stronger.
The torta fell into the sad category of “why we don’t order dessert in Italian restaurants.” It was bland, rather tasteless, and too small to be worth $8…by far!
Later in the week, I tried the Gelato Frizzante (“Frizzante!” say it with me…”Frizzante!”) — which is described as “Ice Cream Soda ‘Italian Style'” and made with San Pellegrino Aranciata and vanilla gelato. True to the raves I’d been hearing about this dessert, it was delicious. If you don’t need something you can chew for dessert (hey, some of us do), this is a great choice.
And, although I didn’t try it, I snapped a pic of the Tiramisu for those of you who love it!
And, because we were celebrating my birthday, we were treated to a special dessert and a song!
Everything about it was great…except for the munchkin sized Madeleine they called “dessert.” I know the free Disney desserts have been getting smaller and smaller at a lot of restaurants, and have disappeared completely from others, but this was…disappointing.
Alas, the happy-clappy song made me joyful, and that’s definitely a plus in my book!
Want to see some other food pics from Via Napoli? Check out our Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza Flickr page! Disney fans have been posting their Via Napoli pics over there, too! Also, check out our past guest reviews of Via Napoli here and here.
An incredible experience: good food, good service, good atmosphere. Please, please, please let it stay that way! (Yes, the pizza’s expensive. Yes, it’s worth it.) While Tutto Italia remains next door, I’m pretty sure I’d go to Via Napoli any chance I got.
Have you eaten at Via Napoli or are you planning to eat there on your next trip? I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions in our comments section below!