Pasta is one of those dishes that feels like it should be impossible to mess up — and yet I haven’t met a person who hasn’t had a horrible pasta dish in their life. My standards for a decent pasta meal at Disney aren’t all that high. I’d be satisfied with Olive Garden quality. Given that Olive Garden is able to mass produce decent enough food consistently around the country (including in Grand Forks, ND), I would expect that Disney could provide comparable quality.
And so, we sent our intrepid reviewer Chrissy to try out Tony’s Town Square at Magic Kingdom.
Before I go further, I want in writing — Chrissy, I’m so sorry.
In my view, Tony’s Town Square is one of the greatest lost opportunities at Walt Disney World. The location is fantastic–right on Main Street. In months when outdoor seating is a viable option in Florida, the porch area offers a wonderful view of people going by and the current character cavalcades that pass by frequently. Inside, the Lady and the Tramp theme isn’t so over the top that it is gaudy. The service there is excellent. But good service can only get you so far. The food has to be at least good. I’m not looking for a five-diamond restaurant. I’m looking for Olive Garden in a theme park.
Our readers give Tony’s Town Square a 74% thumbs up, placing it at 92 of 105 sit-down restaurants, or the bottom 13% of places to get a sit-down meal at Walt Disney World. (We’ve received 66 ratings since Walt Disney World has reopened, and that has put it at 82% thumbs up, compared with the 74% from more than 800 ratings over the past two years, showing that it isn’t a case of being able to say the experience was poor because of some sort of 2020 syndrome.)
The menu selections are what you’d expect: spaghetti, fettuccine, pizza. You can find the information you need about this, and any other restaurant at Walt Disney World, in the TouringPlans Lines app.
For her meal, Chrissy ordered the garden salad and the chicken parmesan.
One positive of Tony’s Town Square is that it is one of few places at Walt Disney World that serves free bread with the meal. The bread was fine–crunchy and enough to take the edge off while you wait for your food.
Likewise the garden salad (mixed greens, balsamic dressing, olive medley, marinated artichokes, tomato, and shaved rainbow carrots, $12.00) was good. The vegetables were fresh and the dressing was delicious.
At $12, it felt a bit overpriced, but if they sold the dressing, we’d pay $12 to take a bottle home. By far, the salad dressing was the best part of the meal.
But then there’s the main dish — the chicken parmesan at $26.
The presentation was lovely, and although I had concerns from the photos about the spaghetti underneath, Chrissy assured me that it was “fine”. That said, the chicken itself was so salty that she wasn’t able to eat much of it. Although we went in with low expectations and would have been satisfied with Olive Garden, this wasn’t good at all. It was, in her words “bad, bad”. In other words, it couldn’t even meet the low standards we had for it.
In the past, sponsorship agreements have limited what could be done with the quality of food at Tony’s Town Square, but without sponsorship agreements in place, I don’t think it is unrealistic to say that Disney should be able to mass produce Italian food at the same quality as Olive Garden. The fact that they consistently have challenges producing that same quality — and still have a $10 for the entree plus the lack of a free salad — puts Tony’s Town Square squarely in the category of a restaurant to skip.
To leave this on a happy note, however, earlier in the week Chrissy was at the Contemporary Resort and ordered the turkey pasta marinara off the kids’ menu at Contempo Cafe. For $7.49, this meal also comes with two kids sides (a Danimals smoothie, grapes, apple slices, etc.) and a bottle of water or a milk.
The pasta was cooked perfectly, the sauce was flavorful and full of ground turkey, and the portion size was very filling for such a reasonable price.
In short, if Disney can make a solid dish like this on the kids’ menu at a quick-service restaurant, there is no reason why Tony’s can’t produce similar quality. We’re hopeful that someday this will be the case, but until then, I guess it will be my karma to try it again the next time we need a review.
What are your thoughts on Tony’s Town Square? Was this review too harsh? Not harsh enough? Let us know what you think in the comments.