Italy Pavilion – Part Two of Two

Yesterday, I began my description of the Italy Pavilion. Today, I’ll complete the tour.

L’Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante was the original (and only) restaurant at the Italy Pavilion for 25 years. It was operated by Alfredo’s of Rome and was one of the most successful and profitable restaurants at Epcot. So it came as a surprise to many when their contract expired and it was not renewed. Disney rarely releases details in cases like these, which left speculation as to the “whys and wherefores” regarding the closure. L’Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante served its last meal on August 31, 2007.

L'Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante

Knowing that they would not be renewing the contract with Alfredo’s, Disney announced in April, 2007 that the Patina Restaurant Group would be taking over the vacated space. It’s interesting to note, the Patina Restaurant Group already sponsored three eateries at Disneyland’s Downtown Disney. Although the restaurant at the Italy Pavilion never closed, the Patina Restaurant Group didn’t hold their official opening until September 22, 2007, as it took them a couple of weeks to change signage and make other alterations. The new restaurant was named Tutto Italia, which translates to “All Italy”.

Tutto Italia Exterior

Tutto Italia Exterior

Tutto Italia Exterior

As the name implies, the menu offers a variety of Italian cuisines from all over the country. Chef Joachim Splichal created the menu which includes such items as Risotto Ai Gamberi E Aragosta (Creamy Arborio Rice, lobster, shrimp, herbs, butter, parmesan cheese), Cannelloni al Forno (baked with spinach, ricotta, bechamel and parmesan cheese), and Brasato Di Manzo Al Vino Rosso (red wine braised short ribs, mashed potatoes, and vegetables).

The exterior and interior of Tutto Italia was based on the Florentine style of architecture and design, giving it an elegant and formal appearance. This sophistication is apparent as you enter the lobby. Rich carpeting and ornate furnishings transport you to a bygone age of pomp and ceremony. In the dining room, beautiful crystal chandeliers illuminate a large chamber of dark woods and vivid colors. But perhaps the most stunning feature of this room is the wall paintings. Called trompe l’Å”il (French for “deceive the eye”), this form of artistry uses extremely realistic imagery to create the illusion that the objects appear three dimensional. When creating the murals, the Imagineers duplicated the style of Paolo Veronese (1528 – 1588) a Venetian painter of the Renaissance.

Tutto Italia Interior

Tutto Italia Interior

Tutto Italia Interior

Tutto Italia Murals

Tutto Italia Murals

Outdoor seating is also available at Tutto Italia. When the weather is nice, it becomes a difficult choice to choose between the formal, indoor setting or the casual, sidewalk café atmosphere. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Tutto Italia Outdoor Seating

For many years, the Italy Pavilion had an unfinished look. A pleasant enough stone wall and cypress trees marked the back of the pavilion, but I always felt more could be and should be added beyond this barrier. Well it turns out I was right in my assessment. Original plans called for a gondola dark ride and a Roman ruins walk-through to be built at the back of the pavilion. I have no idea how far these concepts ever progressed, but you can rest assured it was a lack of funding that prevented these attractions.

Today, this unfinished look is gone as a new restaurant, Via Napoli, was built in the back portions of the Italy Pavilion. Officially opening on August 5, 2010, this eatery is also part of the Patina Restaurant Group which operates Tutto Italia. The architecture and design of the restaurant is based on a mix of traditional Italian styles. Florentine architect Stefano Nardini, working in conjunction with architect Rick Swisher, created a stunning building that employs the “draw concept” to lure guests to the far reaches of the pavilion.

Via Napoli Exterior

The interior of the restaurant is light, airy, and very spacious and the tables are spaced a good distance from one another. I like this as I hate to be seated so close to another party that I can overhear every word they say. Via Napoli features a show kitchen that invites guests to walk up and watch the chefs create their magic. Architect Nardini brought some whimsy to the kitchen by creating three wood-burning ovens and named them after the active volcanoes in Italy, Mount Etna, Mount Vesuvius, and Mount Stromboli. Each oven was given a face reflecting the gods whose mythology surrounds each volcano’s history. The long communal table in the center of the room was built in Florence and features hand painted tiles depicting iconic monuments in Italy.

Via Napoli Interior

Via Napoli Interior

Via Napoli Interior

Via Napoli can seat 250 inside and 50 on the outside, covered patio. When the restaurant first opened, the patio was open air. However, doors have been added that can be opened or closed depending on the weather.

Via Napoli Patio Seating

Via Napoli specializes in pizza. This is not like what you’d take home from Dominoes. This is gourmet, Neapolitan style pizza with toppings like calamari, artichoke, eggplant, prosciutto, and arugula. Of course, traditional toppings like pepperoni and mushrooms are also available. In an effort to recreate Neapolitan pizza as closely as possible, the flour is imported from Italy and the water calibrated to match the pH found in Naples.

Pizza

I was on hand for the grand opening of Via Napoli. If you’d like to read the blog I wrote at that time, click here.

I suspect that only Cinderella Castle is used more as a photo backdrop than the statue of Neptune at the Italy Pavilion. This fountain often has a line of people waiting to take their turn getting a picture with this Roman god in the background. The fountain is based on two sculptures, the original Neptune Fountain in Florence by Bartolomeo Ammannatin and Trevi Fountain located in Rome by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Italy Pavilion Neptune Fountain

Florence Neptune Fountain

Trevi Fountain

The Greeks called their “God of the Sea” Poseidon and he was usually accompanied by his trident and one or more dolphins, who were his messengers. When Rome adopted the Greek gods as their own, they often changed little more than their names. This statue is a good example depicting Neptune with his trident and two messenger dolphins.

Legend has it that if you toss a coin into Trevi Fountain, it will ensure a return visit to Rome. Perhaps a similar legend is true here and a return trip to Walt Disney World could be in your future. But remember, the legend also states that coins tossed in Trevi Fountain must be done with your back to the water and the coin tossed over your shoulder.

Next to the Neptune Fountain is a long, stone wall. Planted here are grape vines. This, of course, represents Italy’s wine industry. Italy produces approximately one-fifth of the world’s wine, making it the largest producer in the world. Italy cultivates grapes in virtually every region of the country and has thousands of vineyards. Italians also lead the world in wine consumption. Per capita, they drink 18½ gallons a year as compared to 6½ gallons in the U.S.

Grape Vines

In architecture, a capital is the decorative piece that sits atop a column and receives the weight placed upon it, broadening the column’s supporting surface. In the Italy Pavilion, homage is paid to a variety of renaissance-style capitals.

Capitals

Capitals

Angels were a common theme in art during the Holy Roman Empire and no depiction of Italy would be complete without a statue of one of these spiritual beings. Here we see the Archangel Gabriel. An observant eye might notice that this angel is an exact copy of the one perched atop the campanile.

Archangel Gabriel

Archangel Gabriel

Completing our circle around the Italy Pavilion, we come to a building with a red tile roof. The structure is reminiscent of a market-square city hall found in Northern Italian communities like Tuscany or Bergamo in the 15th or 16th century. If you look closely, you can see the stucco has fallen from the walls in a number of places.

Market-Square Building

Market-Square Building

Market-Square Building

Market-Square Building

Missing Stucco

A Kidcot station can be found in this building’s wing. Here, a cast member will be happy to stamp your child’s Epcot Passport and teach him or her a few words in Italian.

Kidcot Station

In the front half of the main building is the Enoteca Castello (Castle Wine Cellar) shop. As you might guess, this spot carries a large selection of Italian red and white wines. Wine by the glass is also sold and there are plenty of tables and chairs outside to sit with friends and enjoy your vino.

Enoteca Castello

Enoteca Castello

Outdoor Seating

With the 2011 Food & Wine Festival, came two new vintages to this store. Sogno d’Italia (Dream of Italy) is bottled exclusively for Disney Parks by Placido and imported by Banfi Vintners.

The Chianti (red wine) is predominately made with the region’s native Sangiovese grape and has a fresh and bright fruit character. The Pinot Grigio (white wine) has a fragrant bouquet, crisp fruit freshness, and lingering finish. If you want to buy your friends back home a unique Disney gift, this just might be the ticket.

Sogno d'Italia

Sogno d'Italia

In the back half of this building is La Bottega Italiana (The Italian Boutique). Here you’ll find a potpourri of Italian goodies. Candies, cookies, pasta, olive oil, spices, cooking accessories, clothing, and a lot more can be found on the shelves here. This shop deserves more than just a cursory glance.

La Bottega Italiana

La Bottega Italiana

La Bottega Italiana

But I think my favorite item for sale at La Bottega Italiana is the hand-blown glass Mr. Potato Head inserts. These aren’t your standard Hasbro pieces, but unique animal parts that are inserted into real potatoes or other vegetables.

Mr. Potato Head

Another site seen around the Italy Pavilion is the Sicilian cart and donkey. Ornately decorated carts like this one were introduced to Sicily by the ancient Greeks and reached their peak in popularity in the 1920’s when thousands could be seen traversing the island. Horses were used primarily in urban areas where roads were readily available. Donkeys were used in the country where rough terrain was often encountered. The carts were used for hauling miscellaneous light loads, such as produce, wood, wine, and people. They were also put into service at weddings and festivals.

Donkey & Cart

Although the Italy Pavilion has no rides, it does have live performances. Currently, a juggler and comic known as Sergio and a zany group called the Ziti Sisters perform at various times each day. Performances are presented in front of the campanile, not on the raised platform found in the middle of the piazza. Check your Times Guide for more information.

Sergio

Ziti Sisters

Do you know why Italians call Mickey Mouse, Topolino?

Topolino

In 1932, Italian newspaper editor Mario Nerbini decided to create a new weekly for children with stories about Mickey Mouse. The first edition was published on December 31, 1932 and featured Mickey Mouse being chased by an elephant. Unfortunately, Nerbini had not properly secured the publication rights and Disney complained. So in subsequent editions, Nerbini changed the name of the weekly to Topo Lino (the little mouse) and swapped out Mickey with another mouse, also to be called Topo Lino. Eventually, Nerbini secured the rights to Mickey. With issue number 7, Mickey returned and the weekly’s name was changed again, this time to Topolino (the space between Topo and Lino was removed). But by then, the damage was done and Mickey became known as Topolino in Italy.

In the Mediterranean Harbor section of Tokyo DisneySea, Topolino is honored with signage.

Tokyo Disney Sea Signage

That’s it for my blog about the Italy Pavilion. As always, I have created a video for your pleasure. It is twelve minutes in length. Enjoy.

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15 Replies to “Italy Pavilion – Part Two of Two”

  1. hi Jack!!! being an Italian who lives in Rome and honeymooned at WDW five years ago, I liked “our” pavillion a lot and I am sorry that it does not have an attraction. Thank you for the kind words to my country, its history, art, food and good nature and the good memories of an unforgettable trip.
    ciao
    Gabriella

  2. Hi Jack,

    I’m catching up on your blogs this week…you’ve been busy!

    What a wonderful job you did with the Italian pavilion. The amount of research you do to provide all the facts and background is amazing.

    I need to print out your blogs of World Showcase to bring with us when we go in February.

    thanks,
    Wendy

  3. Another great example of all of the hidden treasures that can be found at WDW. Last year we found ourselves in need of a break and at the piazza- it was a lovely break to walk around and try to notice all the subtle nuances. The details in this blog bring back wonderful memories- we’re going back this summer and I will visit Italy again – this time armed with all the wonderful “backdrop” of info from this blog (and several others) that you’ve written. This is just one more reminder to “slow down and smell the roses” when visiting WDW.

  4. Good blog!
    A couple of points:
    1)Do you know if there was a specific reason as to why Disney did not renew their contract with Alfredo’s? I read a rumor in the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World a few years ago that it had something to do with guests keeling over because of the alfredo dishes but I don’t know if that is true.
    2)I really wish Disney could have put in some sort of attraction in the undeveloped part of the pavilion rather than Via Napoli. I understand why they did it, but the reason why I’m not big on World Showcase, despite the great theming, is because there is too much emphasis on restaurants-the area needs more attractions imo. Also, being from Long Island, I can get decent pizza anytime.

    Jack’s Comment:

    I have a real problem believing that Disney did not renew Alfredo’s contract due to food problems and people getting sick. That simply doesn’t make sense. If people were really getting sick, the newspapers and health department would have been involved.

    It was never made clear which side decided not to renew, Disney or Alfredo’s. I suspect it had more to do with Patina Restaurant Group wanting to expand into this spot and since Disney already had contracts with them at Disneyland, they were agreeable to the idea.

    It takes sponsors and money to build rides and attractions. Unfortunately, they’re both in short supply right now.

  5. Hi Jack, As usual you latest blogs about Italy and Japan were fantastic. I know you thought about hanging up your keyboard a few months ago, but we are lucky you changed your mind. Please continue to expand our knowledge by sharing yours and have a safe and merry christmas.

  6. Jack,

    I always love reading your articles and Italy was no exception!

    My husband and I have a tradition of taking our picture in front of King Neptune, but only on our last trip did we have to wait. And wow, did we wait! But grabbing a glass of wine first made the wait enjoyable!

    Thanks,
    Sarah

  7. Add me to the chorus of praise for Via Napoli’s pizza. Going in I was skeptical about the use of water with the specific pH (kind of like how New York City pizza is supposed difficult to recreate or top because of unique traits of NYC water) but darn it all if that wasn’t some of the best pizza I’ve ever had. So there might be something to the whole water thing. Great stuff.

  8. Jack,
    As always fantastic. The Ziti sisters are one of my kids favorite shows in EPCOT. They are fantastic and should not be missed. I will for sure be looking for those glass potato head pieces later in the month when I visit. Thanks

  9. I ate at Via Napoli this past summer and the pizza was excellent! As much as I enjoyed the new restaurant I can’t help but mourn the lost idea of a dark gondola ride as only Disney could do it… bummer.

  10. Excellent blog as always! Can’t wait to see Italy in person next week!! Maybe we’ll see you lurking around. LOL. I would love to relax around Enoteca with a glass of vino on the patio, however, I don’t think my 3 little ones and husband in tow will allow it!

  11. Jack,

    A terrific in-depth review of another Epcot Showcase Pavilion. If you ever decide to publish all your reviews, in one booklet, I’m sure I would not be alone in purchasing one. Thanks!

  12. hey jack
    loved part 2 of the blog as well as the video. the italy pavillion is one that i visit from time to time but now i will make sure to spend a little bit more time pointing out all of the things i am learning next time i visit, hopefully in june. can’t wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

  13. Great write-up, but I believe you have the wines backwards – Chianti is a red wine, Pinot Grigio is a white wine. I do my best to keep the US wine per capita up near the Italian standard!

    Jack’s Comment:

    I guess I was drinking a little too much vino as I was writing my blog. LOL You are absolutely correct. I mixed the two up. The descriptions are correct for the wines, only the “red” and “white” were reversed. I have correctly my blog.

    Thanks for letting me know.