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Epcot Food and Wine Festival Review: Italian Food and Beer Pairing Lunch at Via Napoli

We are less than one month from the start of the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival and it will be here before you know it!

food and wine festival logo

Today, we are anticipating some of our favorite¬†Special Events. While we love the Marketplace Booths and Low-Cost Demonstrations and Seminars, it’s fun to splurge once in a while on a few of the Special Events, culinary experiences that take place throughout the festival.

Much is made of wine — after all, this is a food and wine festival. But in recent years, Epcot has expanded its offerings to lovers of cocktails and beer as well.

The opportunity to try craft beers and brews from all around the globe is especially exciting. So let’s take a closer look today at one of the events that is especially geared toward beer lovers — The Italian Food and Beer Pairing Lunch.

Italian Food and Beer Pairing Lunch at Epcot’s Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria

I attended this event during its inaugural year. While the food was delicious and the beer servings were generous, we were disappointed by the event format. It was basically a luncheon with none of the presentation or explanation that we’ve come to expect with these types of events.

We were anxious to try again though, and last year I was able to attend the event again.

Italian Beers and Bottles

Italian Beers and Bottles

We arrived at Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria a little early for the event. That’s always a good idea so that you can scope out the venue — especially at a place that is still functioning as a regular restaurant while the event is going on. It’s not always easy to find the registration desk for the event versus the regular check-in line for the restaurant!

While I’ve had trouble with this particular distinction at Via Napoli before (they usually have people check in for the Food and Wine events at the regular check-in desk), on this visit they had the registration desk separate.

Arriving for the Event

Arriving for the Event

That said, the sign was a little confusing. Apparently, it’s doing double-duty for both the Beer Pairings and the Wine Pairings. Our event included only beer; there isn’t a combo event, for those of you who are wondering. :-)

We were greeted by one of the managers, who showed us to the area where the event would take place.

Presenter Guy

Via Napoli’s Manager Greeted Guests

We found our tables set with all of the glassware that we’d need for four courses. There was also fresh Bread with Olive Oil for dipping to get us started. Note that seating seemed to be assigned at this event. I’ve found that to be the case at more and more food and wine events these days.

The Table is Set

The Table is Set

Individual menus made for handy references throughout the meal and great souvenirs after it was complete.

Place Setting

Place Setting

Before we got started, I had a few moments to acquaint myself with the other guests seated at my table (another good reason to arrive a bit early!). I also had a chance to look over the menu.

Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Menu — Click to Enlarge

It seems that the Italy Culinary team have gotten the memo; our event included a presenter (from the Italian beer distributor) who spoke knowledgeably about each course and the beers that were chosen for the luncheon. We talked specifically about the fact that wine is far more popular in Italy, but that the craft beer market is definitely emerging there. The cool part? Italians invest as much love and passion into creating beer as they do wine!

Presenter

Presenter

Speaking of beer, we were poured small glasses for each course. The bottles were larger, a liter or so, rather than the 12-ounce bottles we saw at the event the last time — so we didn’t all get our own bottles. However, refills were available.

Pouring the First Beer

Pouring the First Beer

We began with the Birrificio del Ducato’s Nuova Mattina. The fresh ale is created with the addition of chamomile and ginger, rendering a crisp, citrusy, herbal flavor. It was a good way to begin our journey.

Birrificio del Ducato Nuova Mattina

Birrificio del Ducato’s Nuova Mattina

It was a little light when paired with the hearty Minestra Maritata, a Vegetable Soup with Sausage and Beans. I thought it stood best alone, sort of like a beer aperitif. Still, I enjoyed it.

Minestra Maritata

Minestra Maritata — Sausage and Vegetable Soup

Our next beer was My Antonia. Named for the Willa Cather novel, this imperial pilsner was born from a joint venture between Dogfish Head Brewery (yep, American) with Italian brewer Leonardo DiVencenzo of Birra del Borgo at a beer festival in Italy.

After that experience, the guys from Dogfish Head returned home and created My Antonia for distribution in America. But here’s where it gets a little confusing; there is an American version (with a white label) and this version, which is brewed in Italy. It’s special because it’s fairly rare to find this one in the US. So how awesome that we had the chance to try it!

So I guess we call this one Italian-collaborative. A little heavier than the preceding beer, it was golden in the glass with the pronounced flavor of hops and a slightly sweet taste.

Pouring My Antonia

Pouring Birra del Borgo’s My Antonia

It complemented our next course, the Pizza Margherita with Buffalo Mozzarella, perfectly! But then, you have to work pretty hard to mess up beer and pizza, I think.

Pizza Margherita con Bufala DOC -- Wood Fired Neapolitan Style Pizza with Buffalo Mozzarella

Pizza Margherita con Bufala DOC

So far, I’m learning that Italian beer has a lot to do with aromatics. It’s pretty common to have beers brewed with various herbs, fruit rinds, and other additives to enhance the aroma and flavor.

Our next selection was Birrificio L’Olmaia, PVK. This beer hails from Montepulciano and is brewed in the style of a Belgian White, or Witbier. The crisp, hazy beer recalled the flavors of citrus fruit.

Birrificio L'Olmaia, PVK

Birrificio L’Olmaia, PVK

I found this to be an excellent choice paired with the Pesce allo Tiano, a Fish Stew with Clams, Tomatoes, Olives, and Capers. So pretty!

Pesce allo Tiano -- Stewed Fish, Clams, Tomatoes, Olives, and Capers

Pesce allo Tiano

Our final beer was Birrificio Montegioco’s Runa Bianca, another Belgian White. In the glass, it looked nearly identical to the previous beer.

The flavor of orange peel was more pronounced in this one, though. But there are also other fruit flavors, which paired especially well with our final course.

Pouring Italian Beer

Pouring Birrificio Montegioco’s Runa Bianca

What? You don’t drink beer with your dessert?? You should give it a try! :-)

But seriously — I thought this was a fun pairing. Because essentially, the Mele Fritte were very similar to Apple-Stuffed Doughnuts. The crisp beer cut the richness of the dessert really well. I thought it was a great choice, and a nice change from a dessert wine or cordial.

Mele Fritte Beer

Mele Fritte — Fried Apple Beignets with Rum

As is just about always the case, we wrapped up yet another delicious meal at Via Napoli, ready to head out and enjoy the rest of our day in Epcot.

Italian Beer

Italian Beer

I love these Special Events for their ability to delve a little deeper into the cuisine of a country, and to give you an authentic look at food and beverages from those areas. Having said that, they are pricey. It pays to choose your experiences carefully. But if you’re interested in learning more about a craft beer movement that’s still in the early stages, I think you’ll like the Food and Beer Pairing Lunch in Italy.

Want More Details About the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival?

We work hard to bring you all of the latest news and updates on the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival right here, so stay tuned for details and check out all of the info below!

Be sure to join our Disney Food Blog Newsletter for the latest information and details. And keep an eye on our 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Page for updates.

2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Index

2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Booth and Menu Index — and FOOD PHOTOS!
2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Special Events
2014 Epcot Food & Wine Festival Low-Cost/Free Seminars and Activities
2014 Eat to the Beat Concert Schedule and Dining Package Information
Epcot Food and Wine Festival Fans Facebook Page
2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Gluten Free Items
2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend Events
2014 Tower of Terror 10-miler Events
2014 Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic: Menus, Booking Info available!
2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Menus and FOOD PHOTOS
2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Reviews, and 2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Reviews

How to Book Epcot Food & Wine Festival Events

To book all special events and demonstrations, call 407-WDW-FEST (939-3378) starting July 31 at 7AM ET. Culinary Demonstrations, Beverage Seminars, Mixology Seminars, and general admission for some special events will be bookable online at www.epcotfoodfestival.com.

Tables in Wonderland members, Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, and Golden Oak Residents are eligible for a $2 discount (per person, per event) for beverage and mixology seminars and culinary demos taking place Mon-Thurs during the festival. Discounts are by phone at 407-WDW-FEST (939-3378). Stay tuned to DisneyFoodBlog.com and the Disney Food Blog Newsletter for details.

News! The DFB Guide to the 2014 Epcot Food & Wine Festival e-Book is now available!

Start planning NOW for your trip with our expert advice, plus information on all of the Special Events, Low Cost Seminars and Demonstrations in a handy take-along format.

Use code prefoodwine at check-out for a $3 discount!

Return to the Main 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Page.

Have you had a chance to enjoy a Food and Beer Pairing in the Italy Pavilion? Tell us what you think in comments!

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8 Comments

  1. DebC says:

    We did the beer pairing at Le Cellier last year for F&W. It was excellent. And we loved the Unibroue beers. So much that we just returned from a trip to New England and to Montreal with our son and his friend. We came home with a few bottles of our favorite Unibroue’s. Unibroue’s brewery is in Chambly, Quebec, just outside of Montreal.

  2. Mike Steel says:

    I was actually at this exact event with you. My wife and I saw someone (you) taking pictures of the food, but I had no idea it was DisneyFoodBlog! I wish I had gotten a chance to meet you. In any case, this was a great event, but I would have preferred that they had the event in a private room, as Via Napoli was a bit loud, making it hard to hear the presenter.

    Also, just for clarity, the My Antonia beer was the Italian version. The Dogfish Head version tastes slightly different. This is significant, since the version brewed in Italy is really hard to come by, and it was a great chance to try it.

  3. Looking forward to attending this event in the first weeks of the festival

  4. AJ says:

    Mike — Thanks so much for the information! We’ve updated the post to clarify that the beer served at the event was the version made in Italy and imported. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to meet in the future!

  5. Nicole says:

    I would love to attend these types of events during the F&W Festival but as a vegetarian I’m not sure it would be worth the cost as the events are typically pretty meat and fish focused. Any word on whether they’d offer an alternative menu if I called ahead? Seems unlikely since the pairings are well thought out and switching ingredients would impact that.

  6. Brian says:

    I talked to the manager at Via Napoli and he told me that they will accommodate all types of dietary restrictions and food allergies. We are vegetarians as well, he said to tell him when we check in and he will inform the chef, we are attending on Sept. 23.

  7. John says:

    We did the Beer pairing at Via Napoli last year and loved it. The “desert” item the chef prepared – something he said he had never done before at the restaurant – was a dish comprised of super-thin sauteed slices of eggplant in a Nutella / Chocolate sauce. I’m not an eggplant fan and I thought I would hate it but it seriously might have been the best desert I ever had – everyone at the table loved it.

    The regional lunch wine pairing at Tutto Gusto was a better deal, IMHO, but if you’re a beer lover or just like fun at Via Napoli (and who doesn’t), this was a really fun event.

  8. Sean says:

    Nicole – I have been to events where they make special menus for people with allergies, so I have to think there’s a good possibility a special meal could be made for you.

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