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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Polenta Valsugana was a big letdown. The polenta (think Italian grits) was too thin and watery with little seasoning, and since it came out cold, the cheese on top had congealed into one lump. The meatball, again, was a bit dense, while the short ribs were fatty and the sausage was spongy.
We’d expected good things from this dish since we’ve had it (or a similar one) here in the past and it was delicious. Hopefully we just hit it on an off afternoon and the recipe hasn’t changed.
Bypassing the more common cannoli and tiramisu, we settled on the lemon ricotta cheesecake for dessert.
Since it’s made with ricotta (and maybe some mascarpone?) it’s less smooth and more dry than a typical American cheesecake, but is no less creamy. I appreciated that it was just a hint sweet, so I didn’t feel like I was going to collapse into a sugar coma afterward. And, extra points for a crunchy graham cracker crust — there’s nothing worse than a crust that’s gone soft.
Had this been my first trip to Tutto Italia, I probably would have given it a solid “meh” and moved on to other Epcot options. But, like I noted before, we’ve had good meals here too, though mostly at dinner. So, while inconsistent, I know it has potential.
My guess is that this is a restaurant that’s at its best during a busy dinner service, rather than on an afternoon when it’s only partially full. The constant turning out of dishes during a busy meal may help to keep the food fresh and warm, whereas components of ours may have been sitting waiting to be ordered due to slower demand.
If you’re an Italian food fan, give Tutto Italia a chance. But try not to go in with exceptionally high expectations, just in case. As for me, the jury is still out.
What’s your thoughts on Tutto Italia? Do you have a favorite dish? Share in the comments below!