Dining Details: Wall Murals at Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion

It just goes to show… you can visit Disney World a million and one times (and I’ve got to be coming up close to that number ;) ), and still notice something new every time.

I’m a fan of Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion. Not only does it serve the best pizza in Disney World; it’s become a tradition for us.

So how is it, then, that I only noticed this incredibly cool detail on my most recent visit? OK, at least I THINK it’s a cool detail. I might be totally making it up, but I could super see Disney Imagineers doing this on purpose.

Look at this orange tree as seen through one of the restaurant’s windows.

Orange Tree outside the window

Orange Tree outside the window

And now check out the fresco painting on the wall right next to it.

Wall mural next to the window

Wall mural next to the window

Hmmmm…. Looks similar, right?

I think this may be a continuation, bringing the [Read more…]

Review: Tutto Gusto in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion

It’s time once again to look in on one of my favorite “hidden” spots in Epcot — Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar!

Tutto Gusto, located on the left as you travel through the Italy Pavilion toward Via Napoli at the back, hasn’t been open for very long. But in the short span of three years, Tutto Gusto has become a part of the fabric of World Showcase.

With its commitment to offering small plates that feature authentic Italian cuisine, Tutto Gusto has continued to be a DFB favorite. But you know me — I’m never content to continue recommending a spot unless I know for sure that it still  deserves to be recommended!

So, in the name of research, a friend and I headed there to grab a light dinner during a recent visit to Walt Disney World. We tried some new things and revisited some favorites. Let’s check it out.

Atmosphere

Although the sign for Tutto Gusto is perched high and prominent, it’s still sort of easy to miss it if you aren’t looking for it. You may mistake it for another entrance to neighboring Tutto Italia, if you notice it at all.

Tutto Italia and Gusto Wine Cellar

Tutto Italia and Gusto Wine Cellar

The entrance sits back a little, but Cast Members are usually flanking the door, and you’ll also notice the menus posted outside. Pay attention and you’ll find it.

Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar

Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar

Walk in and (after your eyes adjust to the darkened area) you’ll notice that the bar is front and center, serving as the small venue’s main feature.

Gusto Bar

Gusto Bar

Wine is king here, but you’ll also find an increasingly interesting array of Italian craft beers. Tutto Gusto also offers a full liquor bar. Check out the Italian-inspired cocktail menu, or order your favorite. Whatever you’re looking for, they can make it.

Gusto Bar

Gusto Bar

Because this is a wine bar, however, much of the real estate is given over to vino. Amuse yourself as you wait by checking out the ever-changing variety of Italian wines that are available by the glass or bottle.

Wine Fridge

Wine Fridge

Wine Fridge

Wine Fridge

But Tutto Gusto has more to offer than just beverages. From the get go, I prized this spot for their amazing array of small plates. There’s a display of some of the offerings to whet your appetite.

Antipasti Showcase at Tutto Gusto

Antipasti Showcase at Tutto Gusto

As is usually the case when you’re dining anywhere in the Disney universe, be sure to look up! The details of a spot usually include some really cool lighting, and Gusto is no exception.

Wine Bottle Lighting

Wine Bottle Lighting

You will find that Tutto Gusto can reach capacity rather easily — hence those Cast Members stationed at the doors. There isn’t a ton of seating here, but what you do find is rustic, cozy, and fairly comfortable. It is a little “close”, however, so if you prize privacy or personal space, you may want to look at the couch options.

Gusto Table

Gusto Table

Speaking of…you’ll find more comfy seating flanking the fireplace, another nice focal point in the small space.

Gusto Fireplace Area

Gusto Fireplace Area

Tables and stools here are low and well padded. It’s a great place to relax and catch up with friends, or to just take a breather from the bright sunshine.

Fireplace Area Seating at Tutto Gusto

Fireplace Area Seating at Tutto Gusto

And it truly is a beautiful location. Personally, I think they hit the themeing out of the park. Don’t you love the brick ceiling?

Tutto Gusto Seating

Tutto Gusto Seating

Having shown you around, I’m ready to get down to the serious business of [Read more…]

What’s New Around Walt Disney World: December 11, 2014

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Disney World!! The season is rolling right along with festive treats and special events. And, as always, there’s plenty of other food news to go around: menu changes, new eats (did somebody say “Barbecued Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese?!”), completed refurbishments, ongoing Downtown Disney construction, and more. So join us on another trip around the World to see What’s New

EPCOT

Holidays Around the World is in full swing at Epcot! This annual festival shares holiday traditions from around the globe through story, music, and — our favorite! — FOOD!

Happy Holidays from EPCOT!

Happy Holidays from EPCOT!

Epcot Christmas tree ornaments

Epcot Christmas tree ornaments

Holiday Storyteller in Japan

Holiday Storyteller in Japan

France decoration

France decoration

Remember, this is the only time of year to grab such treats as Happy Face Fried Cakes at the Joy of Tea in China, Gingerbread Ice Cream at L’artisan des Glaces in France, and Panettone sweet bread at Italy’s Gelato Stand.

Happy Face Fried Cakes

Happy Face Fried Cakes

Gingerbread Ice Cream

Gingerbread Ice Cream

Panettone Sweet Bread display

Panettone Sweet Bread display

But there’s plenty of non-holiday food news as well… Starting in Morocco, Spice Road Table has not only started taking Advance Dining Reservations — they’re also now accepting the Disney Dining Plan.

To offer guests the ability to maximize their one Table Service plan credit, this tapas-based restaurant is now also serving full-sized entrees, including Coriander Crusted Rack of Lamb, Roasted Chicken, and a Mediterranean Vegetable Platter, among others.

Spice Road Table

Spice Road Table

Spice Road Table menu

Spice Road Table menu

Staying in Morocco, Tangierine Cafe debuted new entrees as well: a Meatball Platter and Saffron Rotisserie Chicken.

Tangierine Cafe menu

Tangierine Cafe menu

Tangierine Cafe entree display

Tangierine Cafe entree display

At the United Kingdom’s Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room, the [Read more…]

Review: Tiramisu at the Gelato Stand in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion

Could it be true? We’re stopping by the Gelato Stand in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion and not having gelato?!

If you’re not familiar with this understated kiosk, the main draw here is, obviously, gelato ;) . You can have your choice of flavor served in a cup or cone, or enjoy one of the “Gelato Creations” like the Coppa Delizia or the Espresso Gelato Affogato. There’s also the gelato sandwiches, made with chocolate chip cookies. And a selection of wine and beer is also available, along with a few specialty coffee beverages and Italian sodas.

But there are a couple of sweet concoctions here that tend to fly under the radar against all that gelato goodness, so we thought we’d shine a light on one of those today: the Tiramisu.

Italy's Gelato Stand

Italy’s Gelato Stand

Alongside the Cannoli also found at this spot, Tiramisu is a well-known Italian dessert featuring layers of mascarpone cream and Savoiardi biscuits (ladyfingers) dipped in espresso and dusted with cocoa.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

This tiramisu is light and creamy, but packed with flavor thanks to the espresso and the layer of cocoa on top.

Side view of Tiramisu

Side view of Tiramisu

I don’t think there’s [Read more…]

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 [Read more…]

Review: Espresso Gelato “Affogato” in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion

We’re in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion, and that means it’s GELATO TIME!!!

Unless, of course, it’s pizza time, but for now we’re just going to focus on the sweet stuff :).

Italy’s simple Gelato Stand is located just before you enter the Pavilion coming from Germany.

Gelato Stand

Gelato Stand

We’ve enjoyed grabbing Gelato Ice Cream Sandwiches during a stroll or two around World Showcase, and you can always get a scoop of your choice of gelato in a cone or cup.

Gelato Selections

Gelato Selections

But there are some additional items on the menu as well. For instance, the Coppa Delizia pretty much rocked our world. Given that bit of awesomeness, we were curious to try one of the other “Gelato Creations” (designated as such on the menu): the Espresso Gelato “Affogato.”

Gelato Stand menu

Gelato Stand menu

I’m going to steal the description directly from the menu: this creation is “Italian Espresso poured over Fior di Latte Gelato topped with chocolate coffee beans.” And here’s what it looks like:

Espresso Gelato Affogato

Espresso Gelato Affogato

You’re getting a few treats in one here: a scoop of vanilla gelato, a shot of espresso, and several accompaniments: two simple cookies, chocolate coffee beans, and a wafer “straw”. By the way, am I right that the cookies stuck just so into the scoop of gelato make a Mickey?

Mickey?

Is that you, Mickey?

Affogato means “drowned,” and that pretty much sums up the consistency of this gelato creation. The weird thing is, even though [Read more…]

Disney Food Pics of the Week: Pizza!

We’re back with more Disney Food Photo fun today, thanks to our awesome contributors on Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza — our Flickr page!

While there aren’t many, we have found a few excellent spots to grab a Pizza at Walt Disney World. And it looks like you have, too! So today, let’s take a look at some of your mouth-watering pizza shots. Get ready to crave. :-)

Pizza Carciofi from Via Napoli

Photographer: Janet Sala

The very last time I was at Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion, one of my friends tried Pizza Carciofi and gave it rave reviews. The vegetarian white pizza features Fontina cheese, truffle oil, and artichokes for a fantastic flavor punch.

Pizza Carciofi from Via Napoli

Pizza Carciofi from Via Napoli

Meatball Pizza from Wolfgang Puck Express

Photographer: Kelly Tressler

Before Via Napoli appeared on the Epcot horizon a few years back, [Read more…]

The Best (and the Worst!) Pizza in Disney World

Ahhhh…Pizza. Most of us love the stuff, whether it’s high end, low end, or homemade.

bestandworstpizzaindisneyworld

But one thing’s for sure — you and I both know that not all pizza is created equal — and this is definitely true when it comes to Disney.

Today, we’re awarding some Pizza Pie Superlatives. From Best to Worst and Everything In Between, let’s take a look at a few.

And when we’re finished with the awards, I’ve love to hear if you agree! Leave us a comment with your best and worst!

Best All-Around Pizza in Disney World

If you’ve been reading Disney Food Blog for any amount of time, the winner in this category will come as no shock to you. The hands-down best pizza in all of Disney World are the pies you find at Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion.

With authentic ingredients right down to the flour, tomatoes, and water they use, these are some serious pies that come closest to the real deal from Naples, Italy. They also taste the most like my favorite New York Style pizza (Lombardi’s!!!!) — the gold standard, as far as I’m concerned!

Quattro Fromaggi Pizza from Via Napoli

Quattro Fromaggi Pizza from Via Napoli

You can’t go wrong with any of the pizzas you order here, whether you’re getting a personal size, or you’re sharing with the table.

Build Your Own Pizza with Prosciutto

Build Your Own Pizza with Prosciutto (and/or Other Ingredients…Whatever)

We give high marks to the Quattro Formaggi White Pizza, as well as the Build Your Own with Prosciutto. But really, there are no wrong choices here!

Worst Disney World Pizza

When it comes to pizza that you can safely — no, you definitely should — skip, we’ll chalk this up to… [Read more…]

Review: Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion

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.)

Via Napoli Window

Via Napoli Window

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.

Atmosphere

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.

Via Napoli outside

Via Napoli — Outside

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.

Entryway Chandelier

Entryway Chandelier

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.

Dining Room with Vaulted Ceilings and Arches

Dining Room with Vaulted Ceilings and Arches

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.

Via Napoli Seating and Frescoes

Via Napoli Seating and Frescoes

Floor Tiles

Hand-Painted Floor Tiles Contrast Warm and Cool Colors

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.

Italian Travel Art

Ah…Napoli

Once you’re in the main dining room, you’ll spy [Read more…]

Carnevale di Venezia at Tutto Italia

We recently had the chance to visit Tutto Italia during its Carnevale celebration!

Tutto Italia

Click for Larger Image: Carnevale Menu and Info at Tutto Italia

Click for Larger Image: Carnevale Menu and Info at Tutto Italia

This celebration in Epcot’s Italy pavilion took place from February 8th through February 16th, and featured a special menu (click on the image above) and the wearing of masks by the cast members in the restaurant.

History of the REAL Carnevale di Venezia
The famous Carnevale di Venezia happens every year in Venice, Italy, during the weeks just before lent. Mask-wearing at social events during Carnevale was first recorded in the 11th century, and soon became a customary way for noblemen and dignitaries to conduct “business” — including gambling — incognito.

The tradition has had a rocky history, being regulated and also banned several times as Venice fell in and out of the hands of many different governors. Today, the celebration is more of a tourist event than anything else, but the art of mask-making is still alive. Just head into Epcot’s Italy to see a mask artist — and his many stunning creations — from time to time.

Atmosphere
Tutto Italia, which recently took over for Alfredo’s Ristorante (of New York City Alfredo’s fame), is a cloth-napkins kind of place. With crystal chandeliers and rich murals of the Italian countryside covering the walls, the restaurant — and its pricing — are a bit [Read more…]