by Brady Aymond
Where can I get good pizza in Disney World? If you’ve been to Disney World often, or you’re someone who helps family members and friends plan trips to the place where dreams come true, you’ve probably heard that question. Or possibly even muttered it at some point. And for a while, it was a trick question, because the answer was “Nowhere.” Truth be told, pizza at Disney is pretty generic. At least until Via Napoli came along. Boasting authentic Neopolitan wood-fire pizzas, Via Napoli definitely raised the standard of Disney pizzas. My family and I recently had a chance to see what the fuss was all about first-hand, as we dined at the eatery in the Italian Pavilion in Epcot. And today, I’ll offer a review of our experience:
Located in the back of the Italy pavilion, the building is richly decorated and inviting. The lobby area features a beautiful chandelier decorated with colorful clusters of ceramic grape. From the lobby, you can see the main dining room, as well as the three brick ovens – named after three volcanoes in Italy (Strumboli, Vesuvia and Etna).
The main dining room is huge and offers a picturesque mural wrapping the entire dining area. We were seated in the main dining room, but I accidentally went into the secondary dining area when I was looking for the restrooms. The secondary dining area appears to be formerly an outdoor dining area that has been enclosed in a sunroom. The décor there is a deep orange color. The layout of the main dining area is a little confusing, with a huge main table in the middle surrounded by smaller tables. Other than that, the area is warm and festive.
Upon being seated, we were greeted by our waitress, who I could barely understand because of her broken English. Very nice girl, though, and was always attentive. The one interesting thing I noticed (and maybe this is Italian custom) but every waitress had a male server assisting her. She’d take the order, but the male server would bring it. My oldest asked her for a refill and tried to hand her the drink, but she said ‘I’ll get Marco’ and left. Marco came right over and got the refill for my son. As far as I remember, she never actually handled any of our plates. Marco was the one that brought us our drinks/food/etc. It may have just been our table, but it was unique.
Had I known I was going to end up writing a review for the restaurant, I would have ordered more food, just to get a good sampling of the menu. As it was, we settled on what Via Napoli is known for – the pizza. We had some concerns going in because we had friends that had eaten there that told us how expensive it was for them. To be honest, I can see how it could get expensive, especially if you order an appetizer, salad, drink and pizza. Luckily, we weren’t super hungry, so we just got the salad and a mezzo metro pizza. For those not familiar with the menu, the pizza sizes at Via Napoli are individual ($16-18), large ($28-30) and mezzo metro ($39-41). The lower prices are for the margherita pizza, which is just tomato, mozzarella and basil. For each additional topping, it’s $3.50. Again, I can see how you could run up quite the bill here. There are eight signature pies, and those are the higher prices. Since we were set on the mezzo metro, we asked to have half the pizza Quattro Formaggi and the other half pepperoni. I was also reluctant about the size of the mezzo metro, even though the menu says it feeds 3-5 people. I can sometimes eat for 3-5 people, so I was worried it wouldn’t be enough for my family of four (two boys, ages 8 and 5). To hedge our bets, we ordered a house salad, which I should mention is served exclusively with pizzas and comes at a price of $6 per person. So, if you’re at a table with four people eating salad, yeah, do the math.
I’m not a big salad eater. Well, I’m not a salad eater at all. Like the whole notion of eating grassy things freaks me out, but I decided to partake in the salad, because it’s a two-person minimum and I didn’t want my $6 to go to waste. I have to admit, for me not liking salad, it was pretty good. It had a red wine vinaigrette that was pretty good. My wife thought it was a bit oily, but who am I to judge a salad?
Our pizza arrived pretty quickly after our order (I guess those volcanic ovens work fast). It was huge. I’ve included a picture to show the exact scale of the monstrous pie. Let me say my fears were quickly diminished. We ate the entire thing, but only because it was that good. And we certainly didn’t leave the place hungry. As for the pizza itself, it’s hands-down some of the best pizza I’ve had. I tried both sides, and the flavors were tremendous. The Quattro Formaggi was everything a four-cheese pizza should be. It had a little crispiness on the top, and the cheese wasn’t overpowering. The pepperoni side was my favorite, though. I don’t quite know what it is about wood-fire brick oven pizza, but it just has this flavor that you don’t find elsewhere. Judging by the tables around us, the pizza is the popular choice there, and I didn’t see a lot of people leaving full trays.
As far as the rest of the menu, I was only able to window-shop (maybe boss man will sponsor an extensive dining review trip one day). Our neighbors next to us ordered the Arancini appetizer (risotto balls filled with mozzerella and meat ragu) and gave it high marks. They also had the Blood Orange acqua frescas to drink and said they were quite refreshing. Next time I go, I’m going to make it a point to try the risotto balls and acqua frescas.
I should also note that Via Napoli offers a wide assortment of alcoholic drinks, from domestic and Italian beers to wine and signature drinks. The Sangria shows up twice on the menu, so I’m guessing it’s something they’re quite proud of, and I’ve heard other reviewers rave about it.
We didn’t order dessert this time, but the dessert menu is rather small. My guess is they figure you’ll be full of pizza and won’t have room for dessert. Either way, they have the traditional tiramisu, zeppoles and an apple tart to go with various gelato flavors.
I approached Via Napoli with excited apprehension. It’s been on my must-try list since it opened, and at the same time I was worried it wouldn’t live up to high expectations. Let’s just say it exceeded any expectations I had. The pizza was the best I’ve had on Disney property, and it’s not even close. The price wasn’t bad, considering how much pizza we got. The atmosphere was very festive and authentic. It seems to be quickly becoming a go-to spot in Epcot as word spreads. I would definitely do Via Napoli again, and to go a step further, I think it actually is going to replace one of our favorite restaurants we keep in rotation for every trip.