The following is a guest post by my good friend Daniel Wanderman of WanderDisney.com. WanderDisney is a website (and instagram account!) dedicated to building a database of Disney related locations across the world, categorizing them and putting them on a map to make it easy for you to visit the next time you’re traveling the world or looking to expand your Disney knowledge. Daniel has been a friend since the early days of DFB and I’d be grateful if you’d take a peek at his amazing site!
The Carnevale festival takes place every year on the streets and canals of Italy’s island city of Venice. Dating back to the 12th century, Carnevale celebrates a political victory of the Republic of Venice. Upon hearing news of the win, the citizens took to town squares (or piazzas) to celebrate with music and dancing.
The festivities became so popular that this turned in to an annual event for the few weeks leading up to Lent each year. During Carnevale, Venetians adorn intricately decorated masks in order to hide their identity in an effort to “cross classes”, as laws dictating the class system were suspended during this time.
Today, Venice still celebrates this Mardi Gras-like event with concerts, costumes, street entertainment, and of course, food and wine. Masks of all kinds are sold on the streets year-round in Venice, and some can even be found in Epcot’s La Gemma Elegante shop, where masks are sold along with other authentic souvenirs from Italy.
We stopped by for dinner on the first night to check out the unique festivities. The restaurant’s entrance, in addition to its usual hostess stand, had the added presence of entertainers and signs advertising the event. Jugglers and stilt-walkers, among other entertainers, rotated in and out of the restaurant, giving the crowd outside a sneak peek of what was going on inside the old (fictional) “Trans Global Airways” Terminal where Maria & Enzo opened their restaurant.
Usually, when entering the “Passenger Check-In” area and main room, you are greeted by “flight attendants” who take you to your table, making you feel like Frank Abagnale in “Catch Me If You Can.” Today, we entered the same way but with the slight twist of masked “flight attendants” in the true spirit of Carnivale.
As we entered the high-ceilinged dining room, the space was alive with music and dancing.
The dining room was decked out with moving lights across the ceiling, balloons, beads, and no shortage of masks decoratively hung about the room.
Streetmosphere-like performers “Mario” (also known as Tony of Tony’s Town Square) and “Carmella” were the masters of ceremony for the event, and the story goes that they have just arrived from Florence to entertain and sing for the crowd. Mario is a direct descendant of Maria and Enzo (their grandchild or great-great-grandchild, depending on who you ask…), and the two have been married for 25 years. In between leading the crowd in sing-alongs (think “That’s Amore”), the couple would walk the floor, taking time to meet-and-greet with guests at each table.
Other entertainers such as face-painters, dancers, stilt-walkers, balloon artists, and musicians wandered the restaurant, ensuring its patrons were kept amused.
Off to the side was a man painting masks, free of charge (first come, first served), and a masked woman walked around handing out beaded necklaces and cheap, plastic masks so everyone could participate in the revelry. We were happy to see that all of these “enhancements” were free-of-charge to diners.
Speaking of free, we found out that guests who make a reservation for dinner during the Carnevale event can receive a complimentary bottle of wine for every two entrees purchased. To participate, you must make your reservation in advance by calling (407) 560-8155 or emailing [email protected]. Free alcohol in Disney? As the Italians say, “a Carnevale ogni scherzo vale!” which means, “anything goes at Carnevale!”
The restaurant had a revamped menu for the special event, including a $45 “Feast of Carnevale”.
Due to our recent vegan awakening, options were limited to Minestrone Alla Siciliana (without cheese), Misticanza Salad (vegan as-is), and the Spaghetti alla Chitarra (substitute meatballs and cheese for sauteed veggies). We ordered all three, and our friend Pat ordered the Fettuccine Cacio e Pepe.
Complementary bread service and the (free) wine came out first. The wine was a Piccini Chianti, 2017. A quick Google search revealed its approximate retail price of $12. It was dry and dark, fine for us non-wine-snobs who appreciate a fine free adult beverage.
Next came the soup and salad. We were impressed by the soup as it was thick and hearty. Instead of pasta, a good amount of veggies and beans filled the bowl.
The salad was fresh, and the fennel was sliced thin, like prosciutto. We enjoyed the salad, too, as the dressing was light and refreshing.
When it was time for entrees, Pat’s Fettuccine came out first with a (surprise) poached egg on top. He enjoyed the dish, but mentioned that it was good but not amazing. “I’ve yet to have amazing cacio e pepe” were his exact words.
Our spaghetti was deconstructed per our request. The pasta was al dente, and we were surprised that the vegetable side was so good: string beans and regular and purple cauliflower. I guess we had low expectations for a modified dish like this, but these were definitely fresh and thoughtfully cooked veggies.
The service was a bit slow but staff apologized as it was their first night with a new menu, so we understood there might be some kinks to work out. Though the event was loud at times, we really enjoyed the high-energy atmosphere and appreciated the free extras thrown in. It’s a great experience for kids and those not able to make the trip across the Atlantic to experience the real Carnevale for themselves.
What would your favorite part of Maria & Enzo’s Carnevale be: the decor, the entertainment, or the eats? Let us know in the comments below!