Yesterday (August 5, 2010) Disney held grand opening ceremonies for its newest Epcot restaurant, Via Napoli. I was on hand to capture the festivities and sample the food. Yea!
Located in the Italy Pavilion, this restaurant is operated by Nick Valenti, Restaurateur and CEO, Patina Restaurant Group and will be the first authentic Italian pizzeria to ever open in the park. The Patina Restaurant Group currently has over 50 restaurants in California, New York and Las Vegas.
The company was formed by combining two organizations: the public restaurants of Restaurant Associates in New York and the Patina Group in California. The company was established as Restaurant Associates / Patina in 1999 under the leadership of CEO Nick Valenti. In 2006, Valenti and his partner Patina Group Founder Joachim Splichal bought the company and named it the Patina Restaurant Group. The Shidax Corporation of Japan is also an investor.
Pictured here are Nick Valenti on the left and Joachim Splichal on the right.
As with every grand opening at Walt Disney World, the occasion was marked with a big celebration. The morning began with two hilarious Italian women clowning around and stomping a few grapes. This was followed by Disney Ambassador Clay Shoemaker welcoming us to the event. Next came Epcot Vice President Dan Cockerell and Nick Valenti sharing their excitement about the opening of this new venue. And of course no celebration would be complete without Mickey and Minnie joining in. Instead of a traditional ribbon cutting, a grape vine was cut to officially open Via Napoli.
If you’d like to see the festivities for yourself, check out this seven minute video.
The Italy Pavilion is the smallest of the World Showcase pavilions. To me, it always had an incomplete feel about it when you entered the back areas. But with the addition of Via Napoli, this area takes on new life. The architecture and design is based on a mix of traditional Italian styles. Florentine architect Stefano Nardini (of Magris & Partners) working in conjunction with Rick Swisher Architect created a stunning addition to the World Showcase landscape.
The interior of the restaurant is very spacious (9,760 square feet) 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. The dominate feature in the dining room is the extremely long table. It was never explained whether this table would be used for very large parties or shared by numerous groups. Via Napoli can seat 250 inside and 50 on the outside, covered patio.
Via Napoli also 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 Stromboli. Each oven was given a face reflecting the gods whose mythology surrounds each volcano’s history.
For a better idea of what the restaurant is like, check out my two minute video which shows the exterior and interior seating areas and the kitchen.
Before we sat down to eat, I spent a few minutes talking with Epcot VP Dan Cockerell. I asked him why Disney was adding more restaurants to World Showcase. I figured that there were already enough eateries to satisfy everyone. But apparently I was wrong. Dan told me that there is enough interest and demand, especially at dinner, to justify more restaurants. Epcot has become known for a place to find a unique dining experience and reservations go quickly at some of their more popular spots.
The full name of the restaurant is “Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria.” So as you might expect, pizza is the main focus of this establishment. But for those of you who would like something else, other Italian fare is available like lasagna, chicken, and pasta dishes. To see the complete menu, click here.
My experience at Via Napoli yesterday is not what you’ll enjoy when you eat here. Since I was an invited guest to a press event, I did not order off of the menu. Instead, servers wandered the restaurant passing out samples of some of the offerings.
The first item I tried was the Fritto Misto. This is an assortment of just-fried seasonal vegetables, calamari, and cheese. This appetizer sells for $24 and is meant to be shared by the table. For me, the best item here was the corn-crusted asparagus. It was great. Please note, for the most part I cannot attest to the portion size that you’ll be receiving since we were being served “all you can eat” samples.
Next I tried the Arancini. Cheese lovers rejoice. Here you get four fresh risotto balls filled with mozzarella and a side of meat ragÃº dipping sauce. I thought these were delicious and so did everyone else, but I think $10 is a little steep for only four.
We were not offered any non-pizza entrees, but we were provided with a good quantity of pizza to sample.
Overall, I’m a fan of thick-crust pizza but this thinner-crust pizza was excellent. And the variety is wonderful. This is not what you’ll 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. We were told that one of the reasons the crust is so wonderful is because the water is calibrated specifically to the pH found in Naples.
The pizzas come in three sizes, Individual $16, Large $27, and Â½ Meter to Share $36. I felt these prices were a little high, but I spoke with some friends who ate here a few days earlier at a “soft opening” and they said the pizzas are large. They got the Â½ Meter for four people and were stuffed by the time they were done. $36 divided by 4 is $9 so that’s not too bad.
We sampled several desserts but I have to say, the Tiramisu, was to die for. $8 Once again, this is a sample size shown here. I had seconds of this taste treat.
The Gelato Frizzante is billed as Ice Cream Soda “Italian Style”. It’s made with San Pellegrino’s “Aranciata” and vanilla gelato. $9 I liked this dessert. It had a sparkling quality about it. It was almost “fun” to eat/drink (it’s served with a spoon and straw).
I was disappointed with one dessert, but I think that’s because they only served us half of it. The Zeppole id Caterina $10 consists of ricotta cheese fritters served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Unfortunately, they only offered us the fritters. This item really needs the dipping sauces to be experienced correctly.
A gluten-free dessert is also available. This is chocolate cake with whipped cream. If they hadn’t told me it was gluten-free, I never would have known. It was wonderful.
If you like sangria, then give Via Napoli’s a try. I enjoyed the one glass that I sampled, but unfortunately, couldn’t find a waiter with a second glass. Darn. I had to make do with a glass of sparkling wine instead. Shucks.
Also offered are Acqua Fresca. These are Via Napoli’s signature house-made seasonal fruit juice coolers. Please note, a glass costs $5 for 14 oz. and there are no refills. I tried the Limonata. To me, it tasted like lemonade – and $5 is a lot to pay for ONE glass of lemonade. One of my dining companions tried the Strawberry flavor and was treated to real bits of strawberries in the glass. This helped justify the price.
Overall, my impression of Via Napoli is very good. I like the atmosphere and the food was outstanding. I have heard complaints that the pizza is too expensive. But others tell me the portions are large. The rest of the prices are typical of all Disney restaurants. If you’re looking for a bargain, then look for a restaurant off property. But if you’re looking for a unique Disney experience, then give Via Napoli a try. I certainly intend to go back and dine here as a regular guest.
Via Napoli, will begin taking reservations August 6th for September 10th arrivals and later. The restaurant will be in a “soft opening” walk-in phase with no reservations from August 5th through September 9th. This restaurant is part of the Disney Dining Plan and accepts Tables in Wonderland.
I want to draw your attention to one more thing. Allears reader John Kurowksi’s experienced this restaurant a few days earlier and wrote a great report. He covers a few things I have not. Click here to read it.
Here’s a picture of me and a Mickey Mouse pizza that was made specifically for the press event.
36 Replies to “Via Napoli”
Hey all you fans of real Italian pizza. I heard a rumor that this restaurant is working on their certification that is held by only a handful in the United States to be certified, “Vera Pizza Napoletana” which means true pizza of Naples. I’m really excited about this because I know it will hopefully introduce more Americans to real pizza! Check out more info on this certification and find other restaurants in your area that are certed at http://www.pizzanapoletana.org/shownaz_eng.php?n=Usa So yummy. I’m in Denver and eat at Marco’s every chance that I get!
We visited yesterday (in the pouring rain, no less!) and wound up visiting Via Napoli not for the food, but for the sangria. At $18 for a pitcher, we were able to have three nice-sized glasses each (split between two). The service was nice and the place was relatively empty (again, the rain). Being pretty thrifty, and more willing to spend money on alcohol rather than food, we ate at the French pastry counter-service establishment. Everything here looked delicious though.
Just wanted to add high praise for the Via Napoli..we had the good fortune to eat there on our trip the first week of August and LOVED it! Our server couldn’t have been nicer and the pizza was amazing. We got the 1/2 meter four cheese pizza for our family (2 adults and 2 kids) and had a couple of slices left over. Our kids loved the restaurant – especially the pizza ovens. We are headed back in November with extended family and we are looking forward to enjoying it again!
Great review and videos. Going next week and I cannot wait..Hmmm one of those very funny ladies looks alot like Deevy from Welcome Wednesdays!Cannot mistake that voice!Love her..
We have eaten at Via Napoli with our group of 15 people during the week of Aug. 2nd. Among us, three pizzas were ordered. The pizza is absolutely delicioso. My family had ordered a broccoli rabe and sausage pizza. The others ordered a calamari pizza and just a plain pizza. I have to say the mozzarella was mild in taste and to die for. This was the best pizza I have ever had…ever. When ordering the largest you are allowed to choose whatever topping you want at no extra charge. This could be why the prices are on the higher side. The largest pie was more than enough to feed our family of four, one forever hungry male, two teenage girls and myself. We had four leftover slices that we brought back to our hotel for the next day. The service was a little slow but I guess that is to be expected since was opening week. I was surprised to see that the waitress who took our order had to clean up the tables as well. It’s no wonder she looked a little weary. I am used to seeing a busboy do this task. It seems that it is one man’s job to wheel pizzas out to the tables. The only negative thing I can say is that although all of the pizzas we ordered were the same price, one of the families pies was much smaller. This is something the chefs should be wary of.
An interesting review! Sadly I still miss the awesome Fettucini Alfredo at the restaurant which was replaced by Via Napoli. I loved watching them make homemade noodles through the window! I am also hugely disappointed in their almost total lack of options for vegetarians! I am used to Disney offering vegetarian options (although sometimes only a single vegetarian option), but I think they could have done way better for vegetarians, especially since many italian dishes are in fact vegetarian.
Please excuse me if you already know this… Most of the Disney World restaurants are more than happy to work with guests who have special dietary needs. This includes vegetarian meals. If you don’t see something on the menu to your liking, ask to speak to the chef. It’s very possible they can create something to please you.
The food looks and sounds (by your description) fantastic.
Loved the music on the video. Reminds of my days in Italy (Italy Pavilion that is. I’ve never been to Italy the Country).
Thanks for all your hard work of having to try all the food at the Via Napoli.
I know its hard work, but someone has to do it.
I was able to make dining reservations using the online dining system for our trip in September. Can’t wait to try it- Italian food is my favorite!
Holy wow, and wow again. Your photos and description really make me want to go there. I mean, really. The restaurant is beautiful, those ovens just crack me up. This is going to draw people into Italy in absolute droves. I bet they’ll be booked solid for awhile.
Thanks so much, Jack. I was hoping you’d review this place.
Great review Jack!!!!! My wife is so exciting to visit Disneyworld for two things: itÂ´s our son firts visit to Orlando and to eat at Via Napoli!!! We already have reservations for January 2011 and weÂ´ll be looking forward to eat at least two times in EpcotÂ´s great restaurants. I have two questions to ask you, the firts one is what is your personal opinion of the disney dining plan, we have never tried it, and we donÂ´t know if itÂ´s right for us, the second one it may sound silly, but we are planning to visit the world in early January 2011, do you know if Disney changes the products they sell as souvenirs as to note that you are already in 2011, or they keep selling the ones of 2010? Thanks and, again, great review!
Overall, I think the Disney Dining Plan is a good deal — especially if you like to eat. If you were to purchase all of the food you’re allowed to order on the plan individually, it would cost you more than the plan. So if you like to eat, the Dining Plan is a good deal. But if you’re a lite eater, then you’d be better off without it.
Disney will start selling 2011 branded merchandise sometime in late December. By “branded” I mean, items that have the date written on them. Shortly after the end of the year, all of the 2010 branded merchandise will be pulled from the shelves and sold backstage to cast members at a greatly reduced price. But items that do not have a date will be sold year after year.
Thanks for another great article Jack. The music on your video was very appropriate and well chosen as well (as usual!). It appears from your picture of the chef making the “large” pizza above (vianapoli12.jpg) may not be normal size for a 1/2 meter pizza — in John Kurowksi’s earlier article, he indicated the 1/2 meter was about 12″ x 18″ (about 216 square inches), whereas the one in your picture seems less wide — probably due to special circumstances of the press event, as you mentioned. Just wondering if you could identify the actual pizza sizes. Just guessing that the individual might be 10″ in diameter (about 78 square inches), the large 14″ in diameter (about 154 square inches), and the 1/2 meter 12″ x 18″ (according to John — which would be about 216 square inches). Also, any idea if you can add and/or switch toppings on the pizzas (or build your own), or if you are restricted to exact pizzas on the menu?
Since I was at a press event, I’m sure nothing presented to us was “standard.” I can’t begin to tell you what size pizza you’ll receive when you eat here.
I have never known a Disney restaurant that isn’t willing to make substitutions. I don’t know if you can “build your own,” but I have to believe you could substitute topping “A” for topping “B.”
Thanks for the review. Can’t wait till April 2011 for our next trip to try it.
any idea what size pizza would be included in the dining plan? or the kids dining plan?
Sorry. But I have no idea — and I never thought to ask. But if I had to guess, I would think the small, individual pizza as this is considered large enough to be a meal for one person.
Do you know if they are offering a children’s menu? I didn’t see anything on the menu page. I was hoping they had something for picky eaters!
Every Disney restaurant offers a children’s menu. However, one was not provided to us at the press event and I never thought to ask. I’m sure they will have one, if not today, very soon. You aren’t the only parents with picky eaters. And as soon as Allears lays their hands on one, we’ll post it.
Great review! I really can’t wait to try it out next year! And the prices don’t seem too high – comparable to the “nicer” Italian places here in Atlanta, a little less expensive than one of my favorite brick-oven pizzerias in midtown…if that makes anyone feel any better.
Regarding Dan Cockerell’s comment about the demand for dinner reservations, he’s not kidding. I had a heck of a time landing reservations for lunch or dinner for my trip last year and I logged on the day I was able to make ADRs. Lots of 10pm meals that week.
Thanks for keeping us so well informed!
Thanks for the review…sure looks liek a place to try!
Always thought Tutto Italia was a little overpriced for Italian food but that goes with the territory.
Still wish they offered some type of counter / grab and go option…any reason this is not?
We are due to be in Disney 14 says !! Is there a chance of getting a reservation for 9 people?? We all love Italian food . We are willing to cancel another reservation for this one !!
Disney is not accepting reservations for Via Napoli until early September. Right now they only accept “walk-ins.” I would suggest showing up at 11:30 or noon for your best chance.
We are looking foward to eating at the Napoli Restaurante Pizzera
Thanks for the great coverage on Via Napoli; it sure sounds like a “must see”. My family and I have always loved the Italy pavilion at Epcot but, like you, felt it needed to offer just a little more. We are planning a family trip to WDW early in 2011 and will certainly include lunch or dinner at Via Napoli. From your exterior shots, it looks like the restaurant is in the area where the fountain used to be. Did they move it or eliminate that wonderful photo spot? We always snap a group photo there and would love to continue the tradition!
Via Napoli is beyond the fountain. There is a courtyard in front of the restaurant. This is all new area in the pavilion.
Thanks for the great review! We’re heading to WDW in less than 2 weeks 😀 and were thinking about trying Via Napoli. You’ve convinced us it’s worth a visit.
I knew it wouldn’t be long till we got a report from you Jack. We are heading to The World in March 2011, and this one is on our to do list. Seems to be getting good reviews on everyone’s sites. Thanks again for a great post.
What a fantastic blog! I can’t wait to eat there!
The video of the restaurant made me a bit teary eyed (don’t ask me why. I could almost smell the woodburning ovens.
Thanks again for a wonderful job.
Thanks for the great write-up on Via Napoli!
You mentioned the gluten-free dessert. Do they also offer gluten-free pizza? If so, my husband will definitely want to go there on our next visit. WDW restaurants usually do a very good job on accomodating his gluten-free diet.
Nothing was mentioned at the press event about gluten-free pizza nor is it mentioned on the menu. Sorry, but I don’t have an answer for you. But as you know, Disney tries very hard to accommodate guests with special dietary needs.
Again a great article to read and see!
What a blessing it is for you to go to these openings!
Very jealous! 🙂
Thanks for the great coverage of the opening event for Via Napoli. I won’t have an opportunity to visit until February so I was very glad to see that you covered the event for those of us who couldn’t make it. As always, your videos are superb and your reporting honest and fun to read.
I have a question for you regarding the pizza. You mention that the pizza is Neapolitan style. Do you know if it is 100% authentic Neapolitan pizza a la the Vera Pizza Napoletana Association? (I suppose it’s a nitpicky question to some, but it is a valid question for pizza lovers.)
As a member of the press I was given complete bios and descriptions for the chefs, owners, and restaurant. I did a search on every document provided looking for this award. All I could find was that in 2003, another of their restaurants, Naples 45, was awarded certification of “La Vera Pizza Napoletana” for authentic Neapolitan pizza.
Great review. Thanks for the great photos. I’ve got my reservation for October and can’t wait to get there!
Thanks for the great story. My husband and I are going in September (without the kids) and have one more dining credit left. This may be it, unless the new Mexican one opens.
We could see this being built when we where there in Jan, and could not wait to eat there! Looking forward to our next trip and a BIG glass of the sangria! Thanks Jack!
Hi Jack! I am seriously thinking about cancelling our reservation at Les Chefs de France to try Via Napoli instead, after reading your wonderful review. We are visiting the World again in November, and I am VERY torn now…
Have you eaten at Chefs de France on past trips? If yes, then you should try something new like Via Napoli. If no, then I can’t really recommend one restaurant over the other. It’s apples and oranges. Toss a coin.
Thank you so much for the excellent blog. Your videos are always a joy and a pleasure to watch.
We’ve been really looking forward to dining at Napoli this fall and your coverage of the grand opening has made us all the more anxious!
However, I’m very disappointed that they didn’t add the counter service (or, pizza window) that we had hoped for. I commented in your blog (the blog about the start of construction on Napoli) how I hoped & wished for a “pizza window” or at least a counter service area in addition to the main table service restaurant.
And if memory serves me, you responded to my comment saying you were hoping for it also? If I’m mistaken and it was someone else, please forgive me.
Did Dan Cockerell happen to mention anything about the possibility of one in the future?
Once again, thanks for the wonderful job. ~ Johnny.
I too am very disappointed that Disney didn’t add a counter service window for pizza. Italy could use a quick service food facility. Almost every other World Showcase pavilion has one. No mention was made if there are plans for a future addition.
Great report Jack! Do they have a walk-up window or is it just a sit-down restaurant?
Unfortunately, they do not have a walk-up window. I sure wish they did because Italy could use a counter service restaurant.
It looks like a beautiful restaurant with great food. I’m glad you were invited to the press event. That must be your reward for your great blogs!
Allears is one of the few websites that the Disney Company actually acknowledges. This is because we try to be accurate and fair and we don’t deal in rumors. Disney rewards our behavior by inviting us to press events. We take this responsibility very seriously.
So let me get this straight…
…you got to attend the opening of a brand new Disney restaurant where they brought you free food right to your table?
Holy guacamole, you are living the dream!
Great report, dazzling pics and video!
I especially loved the sweeping shots of the cast members. It really added a delightfully human touch to the video and made me feel welcomed.
Thanks for the great writeup. I wish they had some other entrees besides pizza on display for you all but at least there was a variety of desserts 🙂 I don’t know if I can wait for our November reservation to get here!
We have a reservation for Oct. 9th. My daughter has been anxiously awaiting this restaurant to open, and now having read your report, I’m pretty excited about going myself.
We have been waiting for this for months, and I absolutely can’t wait to try it out. Brick oven pizza is one of our favorite foods. It looks stunning.
Let’s just hope we can snag a walk-in spot some time this month!
Thanks for the writeup Jack.