Walt Disney World Restaurant Review – Via Napoli
BY MIKE WARING – OCTOBER 2010
Via Napoli is another new restaurant that has sprung up in Epcot. Apparently it’s going for that “authentic Neapolitan pizza joint” vibe. Well, we’ve been to what we were told was the best pizza place in Naples, and we can state categorically that it looked nothing like Via Napoli. The Epcot restaurant is much, much nicer than the real thing. If they’d like to make Via Napoli more authentic, they should hang a picture of former President Clinton on the wall. Also there should be linoleum topped tables. And cheap Italian beer. But then again, I think all restaurants should offer cheap beer. And by cheap, I mean inexpensive, not poor quality.
Disney’s non-cheap-beer-selling pizza restaurant consists of two main spaces. The larger indoor space is cavernous, with high ceilings and lots of seating. The smaller outdoor area is well, smaller, or more intimate, if that’s your thing. It’s also covered, so it’s pretty safe from rain, but it’s open on the sides. So I imagine on summer evenings it might be a challenge to finish eating your pizza before the bugs finish eating you.
There is one significant advantage to the semi-outdoor seating: it is significantly quieter. Compared to the main room, outside is so much calmer as to make combating bugs and steam-bath-like conditions almost agreeable. Continuing with a trend we noticed with many of Walt Disney World’s moderate and higher end restaurants, the noise level inside Via Napoli is astounding. Hard surfaces, large open spaces with no breaks, and high ceilings make this a place for a quick meal and no lingering. It is almost impossible to have a normal conversation in this restaurant at peak times. Don’t even try.
So the food, well, it’s not bad. Not bad at all. I’m sure everyone has a favorite pizza joint or Italian restaurant they frequent, where the food is better than Via Napoli. We do too. However, compared to the other Italian restaurant (Tutto Italia) in the World Showcase, Via Napoli represents a significant improvement.
There’s nothing radical about the appetizers, which are pretty standard stuff, with the single exception of the Sicilian Pickled Eggplant, which Mary tried and didn’t like because it was too sweet. That’s kind of a strange issue, but the Pickled Eggplant does have raisins in it. I had a special of Fritto Verdure, which was battered and fried veggies. The Italian version of tempura. Or is tempura the Japanese version of fritto everything? So confusing. I liked my appetizer, but only tepidly.
The main course salads looked pretty meh. The pasta dishes include all the Southern Italian standards, all with tomato sauce, all pretty boring. We skipped those. If you’re looking for a chance to re-enact the Italian dinner scene from Lady and the Tramp – well, they have spaghetti and meatballs. So go to it, and roll that meatball across to your beloved. With your nose.
The real reason to go here, besides the fact that the place offers nothing that will shock, amaze, or upset delicate digestions, is the wood fired pizza. Baked, they say, in real wood fired pizza ovens. I took them at their word. The pizzas are good. Like California Pizza Kitchen quality, which is to say, not necessarily authentic, but a decent pie, all in all. Most of the pizzas will not seem too unusual to dedicated consumers of the pie. There is one with fried calamari on top, which I think is a little out there, but that’s because Mary tells me that deep fried stuff should never be piled on top of anything else, especially a big piece of starch. I chafe a bit at these restrictions, but have agreed to follow her guidelines for the sake of our marriage and eternal love. It does mean I’ll never have a chance to try that fish and chips pizza I’ve always had my heart set on, but it’s all good.
Both of our pizzas were acceptable. Mary had the Margherita pizza and thought it just made the grade as adequate. I had the Carciofi pizza with artichoke hearts and truffle oil, and it was considerably better. But then, sprinkling a little truffle oil on pretty much anything, even say a Big Mac, will make it seem luscious and delectable. Or do I go too far? Anyway, the toppings were better than adequate, the dough was fair, and the sauce, well, Mary though it could have used a little more body. Perhaps a little less pureeing of the San Marzano tomatoes.
Mary completed her meal with the Coppa Di Brutti Ma Buoni (literally “ugly but good” sundae), which is supposed to be an Amarena cherry and vanilla gelato sundae with cookies. Her main complaint was that there were only about two cherries on her ice cream. Me, I went with the Zeppole di Catarina, or ricotta cheese fritters with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. This completed a personal goal I set myself, to eat fried dough desserts every night for a week. Well, it wasn’t quite a week, more like four days, so most of a week. If you’re wondering what effect having the equivalent of three or four doughnuts every night for dinner would be, it is that you’ll swear off eating anything deep fried or made of dough for a long, long time. Kids, don’t try this at home. I can do it because I’m a rank amateur, and I have a decent medical plan.
- Appetizers run $8-$14, with a family size platter of fritto misto for $24.
- Entrée salads are $17-$19.
- Pasta entrees are $16-$22, or you could go with a variety of Parmigianas (eggplant, chicken, or veal) for $18-$26.
- Pizzas range from $15-$17 for an individual size, $25-$29 for a medium size, and $34-$36 for a large family size.
- Desserts are $8-$10.
So the prices are high, as you’d expect at Disney World, and the food is decent if not stellar. If you want to actually talk to your tablemates, I’d recommend the outdoor seating area. If you’re a fan of demolition derbies or a life long head banger, then by all means sit in the main dining room. You can’t hear anything anyway.
On additional comment. I realize the restaurant is fairly new, so the staff is probably all still pretty green. Even so, and I’m a pretty patient guy (I did after all sit through the entirety of Lost, Season One before saying ‘the heck with that’), but the waitering was abysmal. Or really bad. We got dishes we didn’t order, our neighbor’s check (which would have been fine except there were five of them and only two of us), and getting refills on drinks was a lost cause. So if you want to dine there, do it only if you have access to a suitable tension reducer. I recommend alcohol.