Ah – the mini “date break” is over and we have finally resumed Dating Around World Showcase. Between having to get the college kid back to campus, the younger two ready for another year of academia and Hubby twisting his ankle something fierce, we had to take a step back and let things settle down before taking another jaunt over to Epcot together. Of course, it’s still hot out here in Florida, but we still had a “fantastico” evening meandering through the Italy Pavilion. So, who is curious to find out what we ate and explored? Did we find anyone interesting this trip? Come take a walk with us to find out!
Disclaimer #1 All expenses for this evening were paid by me. This post was not requested, nor compensated for its publication.
Percorrendo la strada per l’Italia
One of these days, I’m going to be smart and annotate the steps it takes to get from the entrance of World Showcase all the way over to the countries we visit. To the Italy Pavilion, we are talking a little bit of a hike now, but we’re good. We actually love it! It’s great exercise we can do together, right? Especially if we’re about to indulge in some authentic Italian cuisine (wink, wink). Of course, should you need one or just prefer to relax on your way across the “world,” there is a ferry boat that goes back and forth between the Canada and Morocco Pavilions (does it still go to the Germany Pavilion?). We just enjoy taking the time to walk together hand-in-hand along the Promenade and try to find something new that catches our eye each time.
I kid you not, though ~ it really is still hot out there. In fact, it was so hot that Hubby couldn’t wait to reach Italy for a cold drink. Instead, as soon as we crossed the “border” into Mexico, he was desperately craving a frozen margarita. Fortunately for him, his favorite margarita place was right there (Choza de Margarita), so we indulged early and purchased our one drink for the evening.
This time, Hubby had the straight lime margarita, while I had the Fiesta MINUS the lime (so it had mango and wild strawberry). Have you tried these? Which do you like better?
To be honest, this was a nice way to start the evening considering our day had already been one full of activity. Earlier that morning, we had attended another event that lasted a good five to six hours into the afternoon and was full of noise and energy. Needless to say, we were a little tired, but we really needed these few hours together.
Il Padiglione Italia
All right ~ so, let’s talk location! The Italy Pavilion is the fifth pavilion on the left when entering from the bridge connecting it to Future World. It is nearly halfway around the Promenade and nestled between the Germany Pavilion and The American Adventure. It is pretty much U-shaped, has a wide open courtyard and cannot (should not) be missed.
One of the things I personally love about the Italy Pavilion is the architecture (yes, the food, too…but we will get to that in a minute). The exhibit features exquisite Venetian, Florentine and Roman designs with nods to structures such as St. Mark’s Campanile (the 83 foot bell tower) the 14th Century Doge’s Palace (the La Gemma Elegante shop), the Columns of San Marco and San Teodoro, the Ponte della Paglia (a bridge in Venice), the Fountain of Neptune (reminiscent of Rome’s Trevi Fountain) and the exterior of the Sistine Chapel (seen with the Il Bel Cristallo shop). The entire exhibit itself not only provides the perfect setting for a romantic stroll through Romanesque arches and stoneways, but fabulous subject matter for students of all ages.
Nestled into each side of the pavilion are elegant shops, where Guests can browse and purchase anywhere from perfumes, handbags, t-shirts and Venetian paper maché masks to kitchen items, snacks and a bottle of fine Italian wine.
What we neglected to explore was the formal garden where Guests can walk among some of the olive trees, Mediterranean citrus, kumquat trees, cypress and pines. I guess we’ll have to fit that in another time.
È ora di mangiare!
As we walked into the courtyard and through the first shop, our stomachs (okay, I mean MY stomach) began to grumble just a little bit. Fortunately, when it comes to food, this pavilion hosts two of my favorite restaurants on the property, which always makes it difficult to choose where to dine. Of course, along with the two table service restaurants, there is also a wine cellar, a gelato booth and a cart with snacks.
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s available.
Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria
I can remember when I came for my very first solo birthday trip. I chose to dine here and it was a Cast Member named Símon who literally made the trip extra magical. When we took the family here in 2014 for the first time, we met Chef Joe Derrigo, who took care of our son with food allergies as if he was feeding his own nephew. Four years later, when we came to the restaurant for another family visit, we were so thrilled to see Chef Joe was still there! He stuck around and conversed with us quite a bit, sharing his adventure over the years.
Via Napoli (for short, no need to share the whole name) boasts Florentine architecture and authentic Neapolitan cuisine. Everyone loves the three wood burning ovens, which are sculpted in the shape of the face of the god for which their corresponding volcano is named ~ Etna, Vesuvio and Stromboli. When it comes to food, this place has THE BEST pizza around! And you have to order the Mezzo Metro if you’re taking the family. Sooo much pizza and, oh, sooooo good!
TIP: Did you know that the water they use to make the pizza dough is actually shipped in from Pennsylvania? Why, you ask? I was told the reason is because they want to simulate authentic Neapolitan dough.
Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar
This little venue is cozy and located right off the lobby of the Tutto Italia Ristorante. It only seats about 96 people and is open from 11:30 AM to 9 PM. Aside from their extensive drink menu featuring over 200 Italian wines, they also serve smaller plates such as various cheeses, mini panini sandwiches, pastas and seafood, among a few others.
Tutto Italia Ristorante
This place is one of my top three favorite restaurants on the resort property. Why? Because of its stellar customer service, delicious sangrias, amazing cuisine and gorgeous ambiance. Of course, it helps that the first words out of their mouth after “Buon giorno” and “Are you on the Disney Dining Plan?” is “Do you have any food allergies?”
The venue has two seating areas ~ an open patio, where we have dined in the past, and an air conditioned dining room, where they can accommodate larger families and dinner dates alike. The interior features darker woods, upholstered banquettes and detailed murals. There is exquisite art located around the dining room, as well. It truly is a gorgeous restaurant to gaze upon while dining on absolutely delectable cuisine.
With regard to the menu, it is the brainchild of award-winning chef and California restaurateur Joachim Splichal. It is packed from appetizer to dessert with authentic Italian options. In addition, Guests are always served a tray of fresh bread with a side of olive oil and olives for dipping.
Looking for something quick?
We noticed a cart within the courtyard that seemed to have traditional Disney snacks. There is also Gelati, a booth located just at the pavilion entrance on the Promenade closer to the Germany side. Here, Guests can indulge in two scoops of Italian gelato in a cone (cono), a cup (copetta) or sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies. They also serve fine Italian wine, espresso and more.
La nostra scelta per la serata
Okay ~ time to make our decision. Where were we going to “a mangiare?”
Since we already had something to drink, the Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar didn’t really seem to make much sense. We have a one drink limit. However, we did go in, but ended up walking out before even meeting our server. Sadly, Via Napoli was only taking those with reservations. Soooo – we decided to head back over to Tutto Italia Ristorante.
As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by the manager himself, a gentleman who was the perfect representation of an Italian grandfather or uncle. We were very lucky because, though Via Napoli semeed to be exceeding capacity that evening, there were seats for us here. To be honest, we were VERY lucky, because it filled up very quickly after we arrived.
The manager kindly passed us off to a beautiful hostess, who seated us in the larger dining room at a table for two, amid murals of ancient Rome and dazzling chandeliers.
We were instantaneously served a plate of fresh bread by Eduardo and our server, Giada, approached not too long after. She provided us with menus and began to ask the standard questions regarding dining plan and food allergies.
I love that – if Logan had been with us, I would have felt very comfortable with them taking care of him.
The Tutto Italia Ristorante menu offers a variety of platters ~ chicken, fish, handmade pasta, lasagna and more ~ to satisfy any palate. There is a full selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts, as well as a fine list of wines and other beverages. The first time we were there, I had the Italian Special Sangria…..it was literally the perfect drink! This evening, however, we stuck with water.
A little about our server
I know you guys love this part ~ meeting a Cast Member! Well, this visit was no different. We met another stunning young woman who is here with the college program. In fact, Giada only has two months to go until she graduates from it. At that point, she will spend a month or so traveling before heading back home to Italy see her family for the holidays.
Over the course of her year here, she has made so many friends in the program and has taken the time to travel a little with them. Her travels have taught her just how different each part of the country is and that Orlando is certainly in a world of its own.
As for family, she misses them very much and looks forward to seeing them soon, as she has not been able to travel back to Italy since starting her internship. Unfortunately, they have not been able to make the trip to see her either. I’m sure it is going to quite an amazing reunion!
Okay ~ Back to the food!
Since Hubby and I weren’t all that hungry – we shared another meal. Yup – that’s what we do. It’s our thing. It’s a money saver, a tummy saver and a little romantic – don’t you think?
We started off with an appetizer, which was the Arancini. These are shrimp and lobster fried risotto balls and, OH – EM – GOODNESS, soooo good. They serve three, fresh and hot, in a small bowl with a flavorful marinara and parmesan. As you bite into them, there are actual pieces of shrimp inside each!! It is one of my top appetizer choices on property.
For dinner, we ordered the Involtini di Melanzane alla Parmigiana to share ~ eggplant, ricotta, mushroom, parmesan and tomato sauce. They are pretty much eggplant roll-ups. Yes – I admit, we stuck with what we had last time, but it was just such a perfect combination of flavors. I can swear there is a burst of lemon in there that makes my mouth happy every time I taste it. Something else to love about this satisfying dish is that there is no pasta (not that I’m against pasta) and a fabulous combination of eggplant and mushrooms. So tender, so good. (PS ~ I’m so lucky to have a Hubby who lets me choose the meals half the time ~ thanks, Babe!)
What ~ no drink?
Like I said, we had our libation on the way to Italy, so we did stick with water this go round. But don’t forget about the Italian Special Sangria I had last visit….definitely worth a try!
No dessert either? What’s wrong ~ are you two feeling okay?
We’re fine! We just didn’t realize how much that margarita was going to fill each of us up (insert chuckle and a hiccup). However, during our first visit, we did indulge and very much enjoyed the Mocha Tiramisu (Mascarpone, Espresso, Savoiardi biscuits, Chocolate).
People ~ It is….To – Die – For!!! I cannot recommend it highly enough!
BONUS CAST MEMBER NOTE!!!
YES – we actually met another amazing cast member during our meal that I felt HAD to be mentioned. Katie, a Guest Experience Manager with Food & Beverage, just happened to approach our table during her rounds of the dining room. When she passed by, she complimented my camera strap (it has Mickey ears, gloves, shoes and shorts on it) and, from there, an amazing conversation ensued!!!
Within minutes, we realized we actually had just a FEW things in common. We are both from New England, are now practically neighbors, and both (I mean all ~ Hubby was there, too) love Disney…..just to name a few.
Katie had us completely captivated by her story. She is from the Boston area and is a college program grad. She just returned to Walt Disney World about two and a half years ago after completing the program and then completing school up north. After working with the new Enzo’s Hideaway at Disney Springs for a time, she was recently pulled back to Epcot (yes, she has been here before) to help get ready for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival ~ one of my favorite times of the year here at Walt Disney World!
During her stint with the college program, Katie met her handsome fiancé and they both now work here as full-time Cast Members. In fact ~ get this!!! They have their own YouTube channel and have been vlogging regularly ~ most recently including a video featuring their recent DISNEY PROPOSAL!!
Now, I know how much my dear Disney friends love to watch a magical proposal done on property, so I asked Katie if she would be comfortable if I shared their moment here. She was very gracious and willingly provided me the link to share.
To watch Katie and Dustin’s wedding proposal at Magic Kingdom, just click here!
Full and Satisfied!
The meal was “magnifico!” Everything was “delizioso” and “cotto perfettamente.” In fact, this must be said. We have now visited five World Showcase countries for this series. While we have had tremendous experiences in ALL the restaurants (and had GREAT chats with Cast Members in countries like Germany and Mexico), the all around service at Tutto Italia Ristorante has been exceptional ~ bar none. They help each other out, have smiles on their faces, check in often and are always eager to make sure you the Guest are comfortable ~ like family. It is one of the only restaurants we have been asked right from the get-go if there are food allergies at the table, too. That makes a food allergy momma feel good! They are courteous, understanding, patient and so hospitable. It makes me want to visit Italy so much (or be adopted as an adult-child into an Italian family)!
Torna al cortile
Once we were done with dinner, we headed back out to the courtyard. Here, I took opportunity to snap some photos of the intricate architecture. We even took opportunity to ask a few cultural questions of an on-site Cast Member, who actually had no clue how to answer despite bragging about his Italian ancestry (insert another chuckle because this was actually rather comical).
Just before calling it an evening, we walked through one more Italian shop, this one filled with kitchen items, Italian snacks and more Disney-related t-shirts. In one section of the store, Guests have an opportunity to both participate in a wine-tasting, as well as purchase a bottle of their favorite.
So – let’s talk entertainment for a moment. I believe there may have been a time Pinocchio would visit with Guests. However, I have never seen this personally in all the years we have visited and I can’t find information on it. So, I am not even 100% certain there is an actual character meet-and-greet in the Italy Pavilion. However, they DO have an Italian juggler and mime who comes out to engage the crowds with his old Italian piazza-style juggling show. We have seen Sergio several times over the years and he is extremely fun to watch. He has this unique, comedic and creative ability to connect with the Guests even though he only uses a whistle, facial expressions and body language to communicate.
È il momento di chiamare una notte
Once every shop was explored and enough photos were snapped, we decided it was time to call it a night. So, that means that, once again, we would not be watching Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Jokingly, Hubby said that the likelihood is that we would probably watch it the very last night of the series….lol! I guess that means no Epcot fireworks for at least…..what….six weeks?
Hmmm….that doesn’t sound very Disney-like.
So, Italy brought us an evening of tantalizing food, remarkable conversation, window shopping and exquisite architecture. We finally had that evening together we have been desperately needing for weeks (darn the kids, school shopping, an ankle injury, etc) and are back to looking forward to the next adventure. Ahhh, yes ~ The American Adventure!!
Have you been to the Italy Pavilion in World Showcase at Epcot? Which restaurant have you tried and what do you remember enjoying the most about your visit to that country’s exhibit? Have you been to the REAL Italy? Do you feel that Disney captured the essence of the old country?
**Don’t miss out! Catch up by reading the other Dating Around World Showcase posts!
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