posted at the Official Disney Parks blog on August 6th, 2010 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer
Cue a horse-drawn carriage with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in festive Italian attire … a comical Italian grape-stomping … a fanciful ribbon cutting … Thursday’s celebration made for fun to officially open the doors of Via Napoli, the newest Epcot restaurant located in the Italy Pavilion.
On hand were Dan Cockerell, vice president of Epcot; Nick Valenti, CEO of Patina Restaurant Group (PRG), which operates Via Napoli; and Chef Joachim Splichal, founder of PRG and one of the most talented chefs on the American culinary scene. Among guests we sighted Paul Bocuse, the legendary French chef who opened Les Chefs de France at the Epcot France Pavilion. Architects, designers and others who created the light-filled restaurant were celebrating en masse.
You can make reservations calling (407-WDW-DINE).
Pizzas were flying as news cameras roamed the restaurant to record the happy occasion. Here are some photos shot by our own Disney crew:
posted on August 3rd, 2010 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer
The lively, 300-seat restaurant that is operated by Patina Restaurant Group is full of energy with an open kitchen and three wood-burning pizza ovens that represent Italy’s three active volcanoes (Etna, Vesuvius and Stromboli). Those ovens were cranked up to 700°F with oak wood, and we got a kick out of the Disney touch: each of the ovens is ornamented with an open-mouthed face, waiting to “swallow” the mouth-watering pizzas.
Elizabetta, our young server from Terni, Italy, walked us through the menu while we sipped Acqua Frescas, the house-made seasonal fruit juice coolers (the blood orange trumped the limonata). If you’re hungry or have at least four gathered for lunch or dinner, try the fritto misto, an enormous platter of fried mozzarella, calamari, eggplant, asparagus, zucchini, artichoke hearts and arancini (rice balls) – delicioso! dipped in the spicy red sauce. We also shared the beautiful insalata del contadino (farmer salad), a colorful plate of greens, fennel, radish and tomatoes in a light vinaigrette that was one of my favorite tastes.
Four of us each tried a different entrée: the tortino di melanzane (baked eggplant with Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses); the lasagna verde with spinach, Parmesan, béchamel sauce and a generous flourish of nutmeg; mafaldine Amatriciana (ribbon pasta with guanciale pork, a light tomato sauce and pecorino cheese); and, of course, a wood-fired margherita pizza. Every dish was well prepared and we debated what tasted best (I think the rich eggplant and pizza tied).
Oh, those pies. Via Napoli Executive Chef Charlie Restivo shared the secret combo: the oven, the mixer and the ingredients. The mozzarella is flown in from Italy, the water from a source in the U.S. that is similar to the alkaline of the water in Naples, and San Marzano tomatoes – absolutely no substitutions for a “certified” Vera Pizza Napolitana, with specific rules, including hand stretching the dough. The crust is blistered and slightly charred to seal in the flavors, says Chef Restivo. The gargantuan “1/2 meter” to share is rolled to the table on a stainless steel cart.
Sweet endings are not an afterthought. We indulged with the hot, crisp zeppole di Catarina, ricotta cheese fritters with chocolate sauce and whipped cream; traditional tiramisù; pistachio gelato; and the over-the-top coppa di brutti ma buoni, a vanilla gelato with Amarena cherries and “ugly but good” cookies. Worth an extra lap around World Showcase.