Saturday, October 9, 2010

Restaurant Review: Via Napoli.

If you're a longtime Disney World fan, you've probably heard the jokes about Disney pizza.  Well, Disney must have heard those jokes too, because they set out to change our perception and have done so in a very big way. Via Napoli may just be my favorite restaurant on site. It's certainly one of the top restaurants in Disney World.

Located in the back of the Italy pavilion in Epcot, Via Napoli features a wide, open space with a large communal table in the middle that would be perfect for larger parties, say up to twenty-five people.  We saw the waiters seat several groups at once there on our visit; none seemed to mind sharing the table.  The walls are covered in cream and rust-colored paint and punctuated by pretty frescoes. 


Light fixtures feature brightly colored blown glass or iron accents. 


It's the type of restaurant where you'll feel comfortable bringing the kids, but the food and surroundings make it special enough that it would be perfect for a casual date night as well.  The dining room has very high ceilings, but even in a crowded restaurant I didn't find it to be overly loud; children or adults with sensory issues should be fine.  There's also ample seating outside in a covered patio area.  During cooler times of the year, this area will be a prime location for people watching and leisurely meals.

The open kitchen in the back has three wood-fired ovens which feature faces used to represent the main volcanoes of Italy:  Mount Vesuvius, Mount Stromboli and Mount Etna.




You can also watch pizzas being prepped, slipped onto a wooden paddle, and then slid into the extremely hot ovens, where it takes only minutes to bake.



Over the course of three different meals, we tried four appetizers: The salad, made for sharing, had a spicy vinaigrette; the fritto misto, which features fried seasonal vegetables; the arancini, fried saffron risotto balls with sausage served with a red sauce for dipping; and a tomato and fresh mozzarella salad drizzled with a nice olive oil.  Of the four, the only disappointment was the arancini, which was heavy and starchy with almost no flavor. Both the arancini and the fritto misto came with a standout marinara that was just about perfect.  Don't hesitate to try the fritto misto because you're worried about it being greasy;  the flavor of the vegetables shines through the crispy coating. In fact, the kitchen seems to have a knack for frying, as everything fried that we tried was non-greasy and perfectly crisp.



Via Napoli serves the usual pasta dishes like spaghetti and meatballs and chicken Parmesan, but the real star here is of course the pizza. Individual pizzas start at $16 and are enough for two people with lighter appetites.  Made from imported Caputo flour, considered by many to be the best for making pizza, and water similar to that found in Italy, the crust is thin and flavorful, but not so overpowering that you don't enjoy the exemplary toppings.  There's something satisfying about biting into this type of crust, slightly chewy but softer in the middle.  Most pizzas are topped with a light smear of the marinara mentioned above, in addition to fresh mozzarella and various meats, vegetables, and even cantaloupe.  I loved the pepperoni, which was smaller and more spicy than what you'd find at your neighborhood take-out restaurant.  In fact, I liked it so much I had it twice on this trip.


You can find some of the best desserts on property in the World Showcase and Via Napoli is no exception. Of the two we tried, the fun ricotta fritters served in a paper cone (you get about eight small fritters, enough for two people) with chocolate sauce and fresh whipped cream was my favorite.  The fritters tasted fresh and light, like perfect little donut holes. Some chocolate sauces taste more like sugar than chocolate, either because the chef has a heavy hand with sugar or they're covering up cheap chocolate, but this one was just sweet enough to let the flavor shine through.  We also tried the tiramisu. I'm not a coffee fan, but I would order it again, it was that good.  It's a large piece, so two can share, although it's good enough that you might not want to.


Like all Disney restaurants, Via Napoli has friendly, excellent service. I didn't see any of the new restaurant jitters that you might expect and we received everything we asked for fairly quickly.  Our waiters, all of whom hail from Italy, were mainly easy-going but efficient college students.

It only took a short weekend trip for Via Napoli to become one of my favorite Disney World restaurants. With Via Napoli, Disney set out to make good pizza. Luckily for us, what they came up with is better than that. It's simply exemplary pizza that just happens to be served in one of the best theme parks in the world. Give it a try next time you visit Disney World.

Via Napoli is operated in conjunction with the Patina Restaurant Group.   The restaurant, which seats 250 people inside and an additional 50 outdoors, is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. If you're on the Disney Dining Plan, it's one table service credit; this is one place you'll want to use the included dessert.  As of right now,walk-ups are surprisingly easy to get, but if you really want to eat at Via Napoli, do as you would with any Disney restaurant and make your reservations (407-WDW-DINE) as far out as possible, up to 180-days in advance.  If you have allergies or specific food requests, make sure you make note of them when making your reservation.  There is currently no take-out option.

If you'd like to hear more about Via Napoli, we reviewed it on this week's Mouse Chat podcast.

1 comment:

Khara said...

Yum! Thanks for this very informative review. We have a dining reservation here for our trip this summer. Now I'm even more excited!