Review: Tutto Italia Ristorante in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion

Nestled in Epcot’s Italy pavilion at Walt Disney World, Tutto Italia Ristorante is open for lunch and dinner. Welcome back DFB guest author Rebecca Dolan with a review!

Epcot’s Italy had long been one of our family’s favorite places to dine since we started visiting in the ‘80s. We were huge fans of the pavilion’s original restaurant L’Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante, and were admittedly a little crushed when we heard it was going to be closed and replaced with Tutto Italia. (Yes, this happened like seven years ago, but the wound is still fresh.)

We’ve been back to Tutto a few times since with mixed experiences, so we ventured back a few months ago to give it another go.

Atmosphere

You’ll find Tutto Italia off the Italy pavilion’s central piazza. Enter under the large black awning (that says Tutto Italia, of course). The understated lobby area is small, so be prepared to stand while waiting for a table if it’s crowded. The lobby also connects to the Tutto Gusto wine bar, which makes for a nice place to enjoy an early glass of wine if your wait is long.

Outside Tutto Italia

Outside Tutto Italia

Off the front of the building is a patio with some seating (how very Mediterranean of them) which is great for a balmy Florida evening, though probably less so for a scorching July afternoon. In fact, Tutto Italia is one of the few full-service restaurants along the world showcase to offer outside seating.

Enjoy the chance to dine full-service outside at Epcot

Enjoy the chance to dine full-service outside at Epcot

Inside, the dining room looks much like it did in this building’s previous incarnation as Alfredo’s. Murals still decorate the walls and giant crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling, otherwise it’s lots of dark wood and booths that make the room seem small and crowded.

Inside the no-frills dining room

Inside the no-frills dining room

Eats

The menu features a number of familiar Italian classics like fried calamari, antipasto, lasagne, ravioli, and risotto. For those not into carb-loading at lunch, there are a few meat and fish entrees as well.

Appetizers

Appetizers

Pasta Entrees

Pasta Entrees

Entrees and Children's Menu

Entrees and Children’s Menu

Each meal starts out with a plate of pillowy focaccia bread plus olive oil for dipping and whole green olives for munching. I’m a big fan of the olive oil here, which always seems to be more fruity and flavorful than what I can get in the store.

Focaccia and olives to eat while you look over the menu

Focaccia and olives to eat while you look over the menu

I also took this opportunity to order the “tropical blend” iced tea. I’m not sure how Italian that really is, but I’m a sucker for flavored iced teas and this fruity brew did not disappoint. A glass of sangria, however, had a little too much of some alcohol in the mix, which kept its fruitiness from coming out. We kept trying to ask exactly what was in it to no avail.

Being an Italian family, we can never visit Tutto Italia (or any Italian restaurant for that matter) without ordering the antipasto platter. The version here came piled with cured meats, cheeses, farro salad, artichoke hearts, eggplant caponata, marinated mushrooms, and sweet peppers. It was easily enough to feed four, and could be shared by more depending on your appetites.

The grande antipasto misto

The grande antipasto misto

We also ordered the Fior de Latte mozzarella, which was accompanied by roasted sweet peppers. It was indeed creamy and delicious, but both, as it turned out, were components of the antipasto platter. So, it was unnecessary repetition.

Fior de Latte mozzarella with roasted peppers

Fior de Latte mozzarella with roasted peppers

After finishing our appetizers we put in our entree orders. Curiously, the orders came out less than 10 minutes after we ordered. Sure pasta isn’t exactly time intensive, but the quick turn around made us wonder how much of the meal was pre-prepared. That might have accounted for the fact that much of it was cold. So, you may want to take a bite before your server walks away.

I went for the spaghetti, which came topped with beef and veal meatballs and pomodoro sauce. I rarely order spaghetti and meatballs out since they almost always fail to live up to expectations. And, while this was definitely not my grandmother’s spaghetti, it was better than most restaurant versions I’ve encountered. The sauce was thick and low on chunks (there are few things I hate more than chunky sauce) and the pasta was just firm enough. The meatballs were ok, if a little dense.

Classic spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce

Classic spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce

The penne caprese, topped with tomato sauce and cubes of mozzarella, is similar to the spaghetti. The big difference (aside from the pasta shape, of course) is the sauce that’s lighter tasting and flecked with bits of cherry tomato and basil. Nothing mind blowing, but nothing to complain about.

A heaping plate of penne

A heaping plate of penne

The lasagna was pretty standard, with layers of pasta, chunky meat ragu, and creamy bechamel sauce. Carnivores will appreciate the generous amount of meat tucked between those pasta sheets, but as a cheese lover, I was disappointed that the ricotta and mozzarella cheese I’m used to weren’t there. The flavor was fine, even without the cheese, but between the too-soft pasta and too-much bechamel, the texture was mushy.

Hearty lasagna al forno

Hearty lasagna al forno

The Polenta Valsugana was a big [Read more…]

Guest Review: Tony’s Town Square Restaurant in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Tony’s Town Square Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom tends to get mixed reviews. Today, guest author Rebecca Elliott shares her family’s first-time experience at this Disney World restaurant.

Like most families, my husband, daughter, and I have favorite restaurants in Disney World that we like to visit again and again. On our most recent trip, we decided to break out of the box and dine only in restaurants we haven’t tried before.

Tony’s Town Square Restaurant hasn’t been on our list mostly because I grew up in New Jersey and regularly prepare Italian-American dishes at home. Also, reviews for this spot have been mixed at best, so we weren’t sure we wanted to risk our meal plan credits. But, we were committed to our plan and chose to give Tony’s a shot. Besides, who can say no to a Lady & the Tramp theme?

Tony’s Tony Square Restaurant

Tony’s Tony Square Restaurant

Atmosphere

The restaurant space on Main Street that houses Tony’s has been around since the park opened in 1971. Unlike the incredible theming of Disney restaurants today, previous dining venues in this space were sponsored by Oscar Meyer and Hormel. In 1989, Disney completely remodeled the restaurant and incorporated a Lady & the Tramp motif. Since the movie takes place in a Victorian-era American city, Main Street is the perfect backdrop.

The restaurant in the movie is famously Italian, and the atmosphere of Tony’s reflects this. From the black and white tiled floors to the dark wood banquettes, Disney does its best to deliver on this point.

Tony’s Main Dining Room

Tony’s Main Dining Room

The Restaurant is Regularly Busy

The Restaurant is Regularly Busy

The walls are decked with the artwork of Ducky Williams, a senior character artist at Walt Disney World. They are all original paintings.

Images of Lady & the Tramp Are on Display Throughout the Restaurant

Images of Lady & the Tramp Are on Display Throughout the Restaurant

There was a nice effect by our table – a painting of Lady & the Tramp appears behind a faux window, giving you the impression they are outside, about to kiss.

Lady and the Tramp About to Kiss Outside the Window

Lady and the Tramp About to Kiss Outside the Window

The centerpiece of the main dining room is a sweet fountain featuring Lady & the Tramp. It’s lovely to see older Disney movies and characters celebrated in this way.

This Darling Fountain Sits in the Center of the Dining Room

This Darling Fountain Sits in the Center of the Dining Room

There is a beautiful sunroom off the main dining room with lots of natural light that offers fantastic views of Main Street. I can see how this would be a terrific viewing spot for parades. Be sure to request this area if you plan on eating a meal during parade times.

The Sunroom Has a Nice View of Town Square

The Sunroom Has a Nice View of Town Square

As with all Disney restaurants, when you enter, you must first check in at the host stand. It is easy to see and well staffed. There is a small waiting area that loops the movie Lady & the Tramp on a TV to keep anxious children occupied if you have to wait. There was also a cast member with a Tony puppet entertaining would-be diners. We arrived a little early for our Advanced Dining Reservation, and they happily sat us.

The Check In Desk

The Check In Desk

A Cast Member Entertains Eager Diners

A Cast Member Entertains Eager Diners

We were led to a table that had two seats on a banquette and two chairs. When my husband sat on the banquette, we were disappointed to find that it was too low to comfortably enjoy his meal. The server quickly brought him a chair, and the problem was resolved.

Eats

The menu features loads of Italian-American favorites. We each chose to try something different. Since my life’s mission is to find the perfect meatball, I went with the meatball sliders. I was expecting smallish bland sandwiches with a little sauce. Boy was I wrong!

Meatball Sliders Topped with Provolone & Arugula

Meatball Sliders Topped with Provolone & Arugula

Instead, I got three medium-to-large sandwiches and a heaping portion of potato chips. The meatballs were a balanced combination of meat (beef and sausage), breadcrumbs, cheese, and herbs with no single component overwhelming the others. They were topped with house-made marina, provolone cheese (melted just enough to make it soft but not gooey), and a little arugula (for a spicy kick). All this on focaccia rolls that didn’t get mushy or fall apart, even with loads of sauce on them.

My daughter ordered the spaghetti and meatballs – an Italian-American classic. A very large portion of pasta arrived, with the same marina and meatballs as my dish, only with smaller meatballs. I’ve read in many sources that people wished the dish came with [Read more…]

Guest Review: Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch BBQ

Let’s give a welcoming “Howdy” to guest author Victoria Kabakian. Today, she is sharing a review of Big Thunder Ranch BBQ in Disneyland. Now, let’s get to the grub!

There’s only one place that can marry an unequivocal love for Disneyland with the perfect bucket of stick-to-your-ribs, you’ll-need-to-floss-afterwards barbecue, and that’s none other than Big Thunder Ranch BBQ.

During a recent visit to the park, we had to take an unplanned detour through Fantasyland to get here, due to the current refurbishment at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Even with the added obstacle, it was worth the frantic pace required to make it in time for our advance dining reservation.

Entrance to Big Thunder Ranch

Atmosphere

Perhaps it’s because nearby Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was closed at the time, but our visit to Big Thunder Ranch BBQ was a quiet escape from the typical crowds at Disneyland.

The moment we saw the wooden archway welcoming us to Big Thunder Mountain Ranch, “Home of the Happiest Horses on Earth,” we felt like we had entered another world.

Rows of Picnic Tables

We had a somewhat late afternoon reservation at 1:30PM, and the space wasn’t overly crowded at that time. When we checked in for our ADR, we were asked if we minded sharing a table with others or if we preferred our own table. Since they had the space to accommodate us, we opted for our own table and were then handed a buzzer to alert us when the table was ready.

Picnic Tables Surrounding the Stage

Wooden picnic tables covered with red-white-and-blue plastic tablecloths and shaded with canopies are lined up in concentric semi-circles around the focal point of an elevated stage featuring live entertainment.

Live Entertainment

With short sets and frequent breaks in between songs, a piano player, acoustic guitarist, and singer take the stage with down-home ranch-style entertainment. This is just a sliver of the fun that is to be had during a meal at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ.

Fun Sign Near the Restrooms

Even a trip to the bathroom feels like an adventure in time and space (especially when you get lost following simple directions) with playful signs for “100% Splinter Free” bath tissue, and Cowboys and Cowgirls entrances for his and hers facilities.

“Cowgirls” Sign for the Ladies Restroom

Once we finished our *ahem* business and headed to our own private picnic table (no sharing required, thank you very much), the laid back country vibe of the space continued with a stack of bright Mickey Mouse-red dishes and a bucket of utensils, napkins, and wet-wipes for inevitably sticky fingers.

Help Yourselves!

Eats

The menu at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ differs only slightly [Read more…]

News! Lava Lounge Opens at Rainforest Café in Disney World’s Downtown Disney

Woo!! After a lengthy renovation, the Lava Lounge recently opened in the Rainforest Café in Disney World! Here’s another great “no-reservation-needed” location to pick up a full meal in the World…

Lava Lounge

The big draw here is the possibility of having NO wait to dine. While it’s truly a jungle in the dining room, the Lava Lounge is equally appealing.

Lava Lounge underneath the erupting volcano!

With waterfront views, a quieter ambiance, and a family-friendly atmosphere, it’s a place for the whole family to unwind outdoors. In fact, it might just be the place for your family if you have kids that are timid about the simulated thunderstorms and loud animals inside the dining room.

Gorillas can get loud inside!

Of course, your crew will have to be somewhat adventurous as you’ll hear the volcanic “eruptions” that take place each evening.

Recent exterior renovations added an erupting volcano that puts on a mighty display in sync with a light and sound show. Don’t be surprised if your kids ask to dine here while wandering Downtown Disney! And without a reservation, you now know to head to the Lava Lounge!

Eats

And we love that not only can you order from the full restaurant menu, but the Lava Lounge also has some exclusive menu items! We can’t wait to try the Volcanic Sliders or Tectonic Tacos. And the Jungle Runner is one of the more popular adult beverages!

We already know that a meal at the Rainforest Café is made more memorable when ordering the Sparkling Volcano for dessert. (Seriously — this thing is awesome! You can see our [Read more…]

Guest Review: Fulton’s Crab House

Today, we’re welcoming Orlando native Matt Shealy with a guest review of Fulton’s Crab House in Downtown Disney. Matt shares a rave review of the seafood as well as the memorable ambiance of dining at Fulton’s at sunset.

My childhood memories of Disney include images of loveable characters like Mickey, Minnie and Pluto as well as care free roaming of the park’s lush grounds. Those memories were still vivid after an over ten year hiatus. Now that I am a proud father of a two year old girl, I made the 30 minute trek south of Orlando to that magical place called Disney. Other memories of Disney include long lines and Florida’s summer heat, so we headed to the park bright and early.

After a long day of rides and good times, it was time to grab some good food and relax. My wife and I are huge fans of seafood. After asking some of the cast members we settled on Fulton’s Crab House.

On our walk to Fulton's Crab House

Atmosphere

We arrived at Downtown Disney at dusk on a warm breezy Central Florida evening. As we strolled towards the larger than life riverboat style restaurant, the [Read more…]

Photo Tour and Review: The NEW Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar and Tutto Italia Restaurant

We’ve been anxiously awaiting the opening of the renovated Tutto Italia, along with the addition of the Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar at the Italy pavilion in Epcot!

This week, we shared Tutto Italia menus and exterior photos when the restaurant’s new entrance and patio were unveiled!

Now, we get to bring you inside! First up — the Ribbon Cutting at the Grand Opening of Tutto Gusto and Tutto Italia!

Ribbon Cutting

Mickey and Minnie showed up in their Italian costumes and celebrated along with Nick Valenti, CEO of Patina Restaurant Group; Joachim Splichal, Chef and founder of Patina; and Erin Youngs, VP of Epcot.

Chef Splichal and Nick Valenti with Epcot VP Erin Youngs

Tutto Gusto

Next, we went into Tutto Gusto — welcoming the cool atmosphere and air conditioning!

Gusto Atmosphere

As promised, Tutto Gusto — Italy’s new Wine Cellar — is themed like a wine cave inside. Large and small tables are set up around a long bar, and a wall of gorgeous wines punctuate the darkened room.

Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar

Gusto Bar

Gusto Bar

Gusto Tap

Mouth-watering meats, cheeses, and other antipasto ingredients are displayed in [Read more…]

Thanksgiving Meals at Fort Wilderness and Magic Kingdom’s Diamond Horseshoe

Fort Wilderness Restaurants

Howdy! Round up your crew for the annual Thanksgiving at the Fort! Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground will host countrified meals on Thursday November 24, 2011. And the Diamond Horseshoe will open its doors for table-service and counter-service meals on Turkey Day as well! Yee-haw!

Thanksgiving at the Fort

Mickey & Minnie (and some of their favorite friends) invite you to dine with them at the ranch. Look for Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Pocahontas, Meeko, Country Bears, and Chip & Dale. (Characters are subject to change.) At this hoe-down you’ll hoot ‘n holler with the live entertainment including a country band and Trevor the Trick Roper.

This outdoor event rolls out an all-you-can eat buffet of comfort foods in an outdoor, covered pavilion where you’ll be seated family-style with other guests. After you wrangle up some good grub, kick up your heels and dance away those calories!

Location
Fort Wilderness Pavilion (Home of Mickey’s Backyard BBQ)

Seating Times [Read more…]