I’ve got a little secret, and it’s something you probably know if you’ve been reading the Disney Food Blog for a while. I have some serious favorites among Disney restaurants.
But when it comes time to discuss great dining spots at Epcot, the competition suddenly grows fierce. Still, relative newcomer Via Napoli has won out as tops on my list since it opened a few years ago.
There are lots of reasons for that. The restaurant boasts the best pizza in all of Walt Disney World in my opinion — it comes closest to ideal than anything I’ve tasted since I moved from NYC a few years back. (Sigh. I still miss a Lombardi’s slice now and then.)
And truth be told, we visit Via Napoli pretty much every time I set foot within those Big Purple Gates. But we are creatures of habit, so I try not to report TOO much on dishes that you’ve seen before. Recently though, we visited and ordered some new things! So it’s high time to share with you the story of our latest visit.
Via Napoli is a study in contrasts. From the outside, the restaurant, which anchors the back of the Italy Pavilion, is stately and grand, with an imposing, almost temple-like facade.
But inside, the space is one part grandiose, and one part whimsy, with just a sliver of chic thrown in for good measure. The feel here is that someone with a wonderfully modern aesthetic decided to open a restaurant in an ancient building. They kept the best of the old, and overlaid a feeling of modern and new.
Huge, floor-to-ceiling arched windows separate the waiting area from the dining room, and you begin to catch a glimpse of the action from here. Look up in the foyer to see this gorgeous, colorful chandelier that puts me a little in mind of Mardi Gras.
The main dining room is one huge, cavernous space (and LOUD!!!), but it’s broken up a bit by the ceiling of all things! Seriously — look up. There is a soaring atrium in the center, allowing for plenty of natural light. But you also have vaults supported by columns, which rescue the space from feeling like one large warehouse-type room.
The actual walls of the restaurant are covered in frescoes that have been chipped at to convey a sense of age. The blue and green backgrounds of the paintings contrast nicely with warm colors on the floor and ceiling.
Seating is mixed, featuring both banquettes and chairs.
While the building appears to be ancient, wall art also conveys a look at the past — the more recent past, though. You’ll find lots of interesting Italian travel posters throughout the restaurant.
Once you’re in the main dining room, you’ll spy a long, beautifully appointed communal table dominating the center of the room. Guests can choose to be seated here, regardless of the size of their party.
You’ll notice that table settings are sort of grouped in fours, making it feel a little less like you’re sharing a table with strangers. Then again, you may sit down and meet your new best friends! Who knows?
As with lots of other Disney restaurants like Tutto Italia and Les Chefs de France, what was once an outside seating area has been glassed in to accommodate more indoor (read: air-conditioned) space. It’s sad that you can’t replicate European outdoor dining in Florida during the busy-and-hot summer season. But the tradeoff is gorgeous weather year-around, so I suppose it’s worth it.
Although the communal table is an option, if you prefer a little privacy, be sure to request an individual table.
You’ll see different finishes on tables and chairs, lending a mismatched, casual feel to the place.
Pizza is the name of the game here — since it’s the dish that Naples is most famous for, of course — so wood-fired pizza ovens figure prominently into the set up of the on-stage kitchen. But with true Italian-meets-Disney flair, these are more than just ovens. They’re characters.
The wide-mouthed ovens have faces! And are named after active Italian volcanoes! Would you like your pizza to come out of the mouth of Stromboli, Vesuvio, or Etna?
Of course, part of the fun of dining at Via Napoli is watching the staff put together those amazing pies.
Checking out the cast member’s handiwork definitely had me thinking of the menu and what to order. Let’s grab a seat and make some selections. And with a big crew of us dining together, you’ll get to see LOTS of pics from this visit!
Via Napoli is owned by the Patina Group, the same company that runs the other restaurants within the Italy Pavilion. So the same emphasis on providing authentic Italian options at Tutto Italia and Tutto Gusto are also going on here.
One thing that you’re sure to encounter are some really interesting Italian Wines and Beers. You’ll find plaques on each table outlining some of the more notable selections, as well as information on some fun Wine Flight options. I’m gonna try that Bubbles Flight one of these days!
If you think that pizza and beer is a match made in heaven, you’ll definitely be interesting in ordering either a Beer Flight, or one of the other Italian beer offerings here. The limited offerings come in bottles large enough to share. Since wine overshadows beer consumption in Italy, the latter hasn’t been as popular, but its appeal is growing steadily. Check out this post on the Craft Beer Program at Via Napoli for more info!
Because many of the craft beers are truly made in small batches, these really are constantly changing! Be sure to note the selections that you enjoy, because they will most likely be completely different during your next visit!
Beyond beer and wine, however, there are some additional interesting drink options here. Acqua Fresca, colorful fruit water coolers, are a signature item, and are so refreshing. Especially on a hot day! And Italian Sodas in Orange and Lemon flavors are also options. (Sigh…I love you Limonata.)
As you choose your beverage, you can also begin to check out the Pizza options. Select from Signature Pies, or opt to Build Your Own.
I sort of skipped over the top of the menu in order to keep all of the beverages together! But there’s also a variety of Small Plates and Appetizers available as starters, as well as the shareable Fritto Misto. A few pasta dishes, salads, and other dishes round out the Entree Menu.
One of the most striking visuals as you enter the main dining room is the display of Acqua Fresca. Isn’t it cool that when food and drink actually becomes part of the decor?
After spying those gorgeous colors, I couldn’t resist indulging. I skipped two of my normal favorites, San Pellegrino Limonata and the Italian Margarita, in favor of Blood Orange Acqua Fresca. It was the perfect balance of sweet, tart, and bitter — just like the fruit it’s named for.
One of my friends decided to indulge in a Strawberry Margarita.
Another pal took one for the team as he tried the Gusto Coffee Porter, which was commissioned specifically for neighboring Tutto Gusto. My friend said that, although it was somewhat light-bodied for a porter, it had a rich and delicious coffee flavor that he enjoyed.
We decided to order a couple of starters and share. To begin, we chose the Fritto Misto. This combo platter comes with a variety of fried bites, including Calamari, Arancini, and Mozzarella, in addition to battered and fried veggies like Asparagus, Eggplant, Zucchini, Artichoke, and Mushrooms.
So, basically — everything that you can get fried above in the appetizer section is combined into one handy sampler. Sounds good to me!
All of the selections are delicious, and the batter is so, so light. The risk you always take with deep-fried options like this is an over abundance of breading and oil. But I don’t ever find that to be the case here. And the mozzarella comes in the shape of these little nuggets, rather than the sticks you might be accustomed to seeing. It’s served with a fresh Tomato Sauce.
Now, here’s a DFB TIP!!!!! I lurved the fried Mozzarella here…it really reminded me of the old curd version of Tavern Fried Cheese at Liberty Tree Tavern (those who have had that version — now, sadly gone — will be totally with me!). So, SO flavorful!
So…I asked if they could bring me a WHOLE PLATE OF THE MOZZ NUGGETS! And they DID!
The cheese is beautiful, creamy, and rich, not tough like pre-packaged frozen cheese sticks can sometimes be. Take it from me…DO NOT SHARE THESE.
We were split around the table in our votes for entrees. Some of us couldn’t pass up pizza, while others had a pasta craving to satisfy. In the end, we decided to get a variety individual pizzas and share! This was a fun way to try lots of different things.
One friend ordered the Pizza Carciofi! This White Pizza (so named because of the absence of regular, red pizza sauce) features one of my favorite cheeses — Fontina! There’s also Mozzarella to add some additional richness. To the cheese, they add Artichokes and Truffle Oil for the most luxurious vegetarian dish you will ever eat.
I, of course, couldn’t resist the siren song of my Quattro Formaggi Pizza. This totally fabulous white pizza is covered with a mixture of Mozzarella, Parmesan, Fontina, and Provolone, and is worth every. single. calorie.
My husband was so smitten by the Build Your Own Pizza topped with Prosciutto during a recent visit that he decided to go that route again.
We had a couple of tablemates who weren’t in the mood for pizza, and decided to go the pasta route.
First up was the Mezzi Rigatoni alla Crema con Pollo — the Rigatoni with Chicken and Peas in Cream Sauce.
I love the short, fat rigatoni noodles that you get here, and how it’s different than what you can buy at your local grocery store. However, this wasn’t the hit of the night. In fact, I don’t think I would order it myself.
Another guest decided to just Via Napoli on its ability to execute a classic! And so, it was Spaghetti e Polpettine for her. Fine Pasta with a fresh Tomato Sauce and Veal Meatballs was absolutely delicious!! This is a winner of a pasta here.
We opted not to get desserts during this visit, but we have gotten them on other occasions, and we’ve mostly really enjoyed their selections. Naples is known for its Gelato almost as well as for its pizza. So we love getting a serving of this Italian cousin to ice cream. Flavors vary seasonally, but the Pistachio is delicious.
But one dessert I rarely pass on is the Zeppole. Italy’s answer to doughnuts, these light and airy fried bites are made with a rich dough that includes Ricotta Cheese. They’re so delish dipped into the rich Chocolate Sauce and Whipped Cream served on the side.
And with that, another super fantastic happy awesome Via Napoli meal came to a close.
Via Napoli continues its run in my book as a reliably delicious stop on the Disney culinary trail. The food is always delicious and fresh here, and the service is reliably good to great mostly. These two factors guarantee that you’ll just about always find my name on their books when I visit the ‘World.
Sure, it’s a little pricey, which makes it feel like a step above casual dining, even if the food and ambiance do not. But I am willing to overlook that fact for the terrific quality experiences that I always have here.
Is Via Napoli one of your favorite Disney Dining Destinations? Leave a comment and tell us your thoughts!