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Far More than Fettuccine:
The Alfredo's Review
by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor
This article appeared in the May 13, 2003 Issue #190 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
EDITOR'S NOTE: L'Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante closed in 2010. It was replaced by Tutto Italia.
Recently we surveyed readers as to which restaurants you would like the ALL EARS® Team to review. A few weeks ago, we visited the top three responses: 'Ohana at the Polynesian, Cinderella's Royal Table Character Breakfast; and the Hollywood Brown Derby at the Disney-MGM Studios. This week, we review one of the runners-up in that survey, L'Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante in Epcot's Italy pavilion.
It was time.
You know how it is. There's always so much to do and see at Walt Disney World, that there's that one place that you never quite get to. And then folks tell you it's not that great, you're not missing much -- so you figure, why bother, when there's so much else that's wonderful in the World?
But, after having visited Walt Disney World nearly two dozen times, and having dined at nearly every restaurant in Epcot's World Showcase, I figured it was time. Time to see for myself, despite the mixed reviews I'd heard from so many others. Time for me to finally try *L'Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante* in the Italy pavilion.
What was I letting myself in for?
One of the best meals I've ever had at Walt Disney World, as it turned out!
From the moment I stepped in to the darkened restaurant, I felt as though I was in for a special treat. The decor reminded me of many of the trattorias I'd dined in in Rome, Florence, and Naples, with faux marble arches and columns, mirrors, walls adorned with trompe l'oeil paintings, and boisterous patrons clearly (and loudly) enjoying their food and drink.
After negotiating our way past a slightly snobby Cast Member who refused to seat our party until I returned from the ladies' room, we were shown to our table. Perhaps it was situated a little too closely to our neighboring diners, but from the noise level of the room it was obvious this was not the place for an intimate meal or conversation anyway.
Crusty homemade rolls were brought to our table at once, and they burst with steam when broken open. We swirled the seasoned olive stationed at the table onto our bread plates and eagerly dipped the rolls in as we perused the menu.
Alberto, our charming waiter from Milan, bustled amongst the tables, joking with everyone, but never becoming intrusive with his service. After efficiently describing the day's specials (one a risotto with squid, mussels and other seafood), he left to fetch our beverages. When he returned, he also brought ice water with a slice of lemon, an unexpected touch.
Legend has it that *Fettuccine Alfredo* was created by restaurateur Alfredo Di Lilio in 1914 because his pregnant wife had lost her appetite. He went into his kitchen, mixed together parmesan cheese and butter, tossed the mixture with egg noodles and history was made! So, when you go to Alfredo's you obviously *must* try the eponymous fettuccine. None of the diners in my party wanted the dish as a main course, so we opted for it as an appetizer. The huge portion ($9.50) could have easily been dinner for one alone -- even shared among three as an appetizer, it was more than enough. But I'm forgetting to tell you how it tasted. It was almost indescribable -- in the words of one member of our party, "to die for." I don't think that was hyperbole. I've tried many different recipes for Fettuccine Alfredo, made it myself several times, but none compared with the buttery creaminess of this dish. It certainly lived up to its reputation.
The other appetizers we tried could have paled in comparison, but they, too, were met with enthusiasm. The *Misto Di Insalate dell'Orto *(mixed salad with grape tomatoes, $4.75) was fresh and crisp, although with maybe a tad too much of the house vinaigrette. The *Mozzarella alla Caprese con Funghi Di Bosco* (red and yellow tomatoes stacked with slices of fresh Bufala mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil and fresh basil, with marinated wild mushrooms on the side, $9.75) burst with fresh flavor -- as good as when I assemble this salad, inspired by the isle of Capri, at home in the summertime with my own garden tomatoes.
After eating every morsel of our first courses, we wondered how we might manage our entrees. Fortunately, despite the hustle and bustle of the restaurant around us, our courses were evenly paced -- enough so that we had time to converse with our neighbors, who were celebrating the 8th birthday of their son. When Alberto finally brought our main dishes, we felt we just might be ready.
And oh, what dishes they were! The *Gnocchi al Gorgonzola* ($17.50) came with both white and green little potato dumplings, served with a creamy sauce of sharp Italian blue cheese (the gorgonzola), arugula and crunchy walnuts that served as an interesting texture counterpoint. We deemed it "gorgeous."
The *Fettuccine ai Gamberoni fra Diavolo* ($24.95) was made with the same firm, homemade flat noodles as the Alfredo, but this time they were twirled with a mildly spicy sauce of tomatoes and seafood bisque. Accented with 10 decent-sized shrimp, this dish, too, was pronounced a winner.
My entree made the most dramatic presentation -- *Ossobucco Di Maiale in Gremolata* ($26.95), a gigantic shank of pork, slow-roasted in a sauce of demiglace, porcini mushrooms, Barbera red wine, tomatoes and gremolata (a blend of orange and lemon rinds, garlic and salt and pepper), garnished with a tall sprig of rosemary. The meat, so tender it fell away from the bone, was as flavorful as pork always is, making this version of the classic Italian dish possibly even better than the veal shank it is ordinarily prepared with. The accompanying gorgonzola polenta was rich and creamy with a hint of red bell pepper, while the colorful peperonata (fried green and yellow peppers and onions) was a savory surprise.
When our server Alberto returned, he found us all nearly licking our plates, and he laughed at our joke that we were displeased and wished to send everything back. Did we have room for dessert? We groaned, but knew we had to at least try. We ordered coffee (which turned out to be a good, strong dark brew), hoping that would give our stomachs time to settle.
Then Alberto waved the dessert tray under our noses. The *Tiramisu* was tempting, but the *Cannoli *($5.50) called out to my fellow diners. The crisp, non-greasy, cannoli shell was lightly sweetened, and stuffed with a whipped mascarpone cheese that had a hint of lemon and was dotted with miniature chocolate chips. Presented attractively on the plate with a pretty cocoa fork and knife stencil, the cannoli was as much a treat for the eyes as for the tummy.
Although I eyed the several chocolate choices on the dessert tray, I opted instead for the lighter (I hoped!) *Coppa Fragola* ($6), a large dish of fresh red strawberries garnished with mint and an orange slice, with a scoop of homemade lemon-basil sorbet. You read that right -- lemon BASIL. What sounds as though it might be an awful combination was actually a most unusual marriage of flavors, the tartness of the lemon perfectly complemented by the spiciness of the basil. When combined with a mouthful of sweet, juicy strawberries? It was just wonderful!
Appetizers, entrees, desserts, coffee... what more could we want? The dinner had been delightful -- in fact, meraviglioso, to quote my Italian ancestors. Had we hit Alfredo's on a rare good night? Judging from the quality of the food, and the crowd, I didn't really think so. The opinion of those folks who had warned me away from Alfredo's for so long slipped a few dozen notches in my mind.
And then came the check.
It was $120-plus for the three of us -- and I was the only one who'd had a glass of wine. Ouch. Such a great dining experience does not come cheaply in Walt Disney World. And I guess that's one of the reasons people had told me to stay away from the restaurant -- it definitely was a pretty pricey place, for a theme park, and many don't want to spend that much for dinner when they're walking around in shorts and tee shirts. I can understand that, although, in my opinion, Alfredo's was definitely worth the splurge.
Then again, there are folks who swear that Palio, in the WDW Swan Hotel, serves up even better Italian cucina for the money.
I've never been to Palio. Guess that's where I'll have to try next.
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*L'Originale Alfredo Di Roma Ristorante* is open for lunch and dinner in Epcot's Italy pavilion.
For recent menus, please visit: http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm#epc
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.