On my last trip my friends and I got the opportunity to check out Walt Disney World’s newest addition to its line up of restaurants.Via Napoli has opened in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion to act as a companion to the already existing Tutto Italia. Guests will find this eatery at the rear of the pavilion with a facade that looks like several store fronts. The words “pizzeria” and “ristorante” let guests know what can be found in this new location. Via Napoli seems to blend right into the elements which were already existing throughout the pavilion. Since the eatery has only recently opened they were not taking advanced dining reservations (ADRs) yet so we were able to easy walk up with a large group at the opening and be seated fairly quickly. If at all possible, I’d try to get into eat here before word gets out about this place!
The decor is really lovely. There is a lot of natural sunlight and the space features high ceilings with wood accents. The colors are vibrant without being overbearing and really shine in the afternoon pouring through the windows. Walls have been painted to look like peeling frescos on stucco walls. It feels cozy but modern all at the same time. There are large tables where multiple parties could sit (a la Biergarten) as well as smaller, more intimate set ups. Our group took up a good part of one of those large central tables! But our locations gave us a great view of the he focal point of the room. There are three wood-burning pizza ovens meant to represent the three volcanoes of Italy: Mount Etna, Mount Vesuvius, and Mount Stromboli. Each of these have sculpted faces surrounding the oven as if the chefs are putting pizza into the mouths of the sculptures. The kitchen is also open so guests can watch their pizza being made while they wait.
Before I discuss the food at Via Napoli let me make one thing clear: I was prepared to hate it. Now before you get upset let me explain why. Within minutes of meeting me I will probably tell you I am from New Jersey. I love my homeland (and my accent) and although I am not Italian I am surrounded by Italian folks and their food and culture. I have been to many Italian Sunday dinners at friends’ houses and Italian street fairs and been able to taste true Italian cuisine on a regular basis. So you see, I am a harsh critic because I am used to the real deal at home. I also have to point out that I have dined at Tutto Italia, also located in World Showcase, and did not care for it. I thought it was too expensive for low quality food and I do not plan on returning any time soon. This bad experience only made me more apprehensive to try Via Napoli. However, a lot of my friends were really excited to try it out based on reading the menus online and hearing what other people had to say about the restaurant.
Some of the group decided they wanted to try one of the selections of aqua fresca (blends of fruit juices). The blood orange, lemonade, and strawberry drinks are stored in huge glass containers in the middle of the restaurant enticing diners to try them. While these drinks looked tasty and refreshing on a hot summer day, they were pricey and did not include any refills so I decided to pass. However, I couldn’t pass on trying on of the appetizers. My friend Doug and I decided to split the arancini since we both wanted to try them, but wanted to have plenty of room left for pizza. Arancini are balls of risotto with a bit of meat in the middle with have been deep fried and served with a ragu (red sauce). When these are done properly they are pretty close to heaven. The arancini here at Via Napoli were tasty, but I’ve had better. My friend who shared the dish with me said he liked them, but the sauce was a bit sweet for his taste. My fellow Touring Plans blogger, Todd, tried the Sicilian Eggplant appetizer and seemed to enjoy it as well. There are a few other selections available for diners to try. If you have eaten any of them please let me know what you thought!
After the appetizers it was time for the star of the show here at Via Napoli: the pizza! Pizza comes in several varieties in three sizes including a 10 inch personal pie, a 20 inch to share, or a 1/2 meter for a group. Some of the options include the classic margherita with fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomato; quattro formaggi with four different kinds of cheese; and prosciutto e melone with a few kinds of cheese, prosciutto, and slices of cantaloupe. I went for the ortolano which included mozzarella, tomato, and a variety of veggies. First, we need to discuss the crust of this lovely pizza. The crust is wonderfully thin and reportedly made with flour and water imported from Italy. On top of that my 10 inch pie was topped with a healthy dose of cheese, the right amount of sauce, and a nice helping of veggies. The vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms were cooked nicely and still had a bit of crunch. I really liked this pizza! I also traded a slice of my pie for a slice of his margherita pizza with a friend. I liked the margherita as well and would recommend it without a doubt. Some of my posse split a 1/2 meter four cheese pizza which they all loved. There was mixed reaction to the prosciutto and melon pie;
some loved it and some didn’t care for it. I’m excited to go back to try another of their menu’s offerings. There are also pasta dishes as well as salads and items like chicken parmigiana available, but all of our crew was there for the pizza so I cannot report back on any of those meals. Please let me know if you have tried some of them!
We were all so stuffed from our pizza we all passed on having dessert at Via Napoli. Items like tiramisu and gelato are available for guests to end their meal with a sweet treat. If I have room for dessert the next time I dine here I would love to try the zeppoles. They are described as zeppole di catarina: ricotta filled fritters served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. This doesn’t sound like the zeppoles I am used to getting on the boardwalk, but they sound delicious.
Before I wrap things up I want to take a second to warn folks who have food allergies and special dietary needs that they may want to steer clear of Via Napoli, at least for now. One of the members of our group cannot eat gluten and was very disappointed in her options here. It had been reported at there would be gluten free options for our dietary restricted friends, but it turns out they did not have much to offer. Perhaps this will improve with time, but at the moment I would think twice about heading here if you have certain issues. You should absolutely call ahead to discuss any concerns you may have and make the best decision for your situation from there.
So what did the skeptic think of Via Napoli? I liked it quite a bit and I’ll be sure to return. While I doubt I’d order the arancini again there are plenty of other options to try on my next visit. The pizza was really great and I can’t wait to try one of their other varieties on the menu. While I think the pizza may be a bit pricey, its Disney and I have come to expect that. It is also a high quality product and not exactly what you’d get at the corner pizzeria. It is worth the extra money to me to share some great food with great friends an a very pretty atmosphere. I’m also happy to report that almost all of the twenty people I dined with that day really enjoyed their meals. It is clear to see the pizza here is the best on property. I’m also glad to finally see a decent representation of Italian food at World Showcase since I was not impressed by Tutto Italia. Via Napoli has certainly been added to my list of enjoyable restaurants in Walt Disney World. It may not be something I’ll need to do on every visit, but I look forward to dining here again in the near future.
Have you been to Via Napoli yet? What did you think of the newest dining option in Walt Disney World? Please let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Next week I’ll be taking a week off to enjoy the Labor Day weekend with friends and family. I hope everyone has a wonderful long weekend!