New faces and old places at Disney's California Adventure
Published: May 12, 2009 at 9:39 PM
The big news at DCA this month is the opening of Mickey's Fun Wheel, a retheming of the park's former "Sun Wheel" Ferris Wheel.
Mickey's Fun Wheel, with construction work for the World of Color lagoon show continuing, in the foreground.
Essentially, all that's changed on the ride is the replacement of the Sun face with an old-school Mickey face. It still offers the same ride, with a mix of stationary and sliding gondola cars.
But Disney's slapped a big red "NEW" next to it on the guidemap, so the ride posted a mid-day 45 minute wait, when the wait on days like today before the rehab rarely topped 15 minutes. (Like most Ferris Wheels, this is a sloooow loader, with low capacity.)
Like on our earlier trip to Disneyland, our main goal for the visit was culinary. Today, we planned a lunch at the Wine Country Trattoria, the last remaining non-character table service restaurant in California Adventure.
For a restaurant smack in the middle of the park, this place is a bit hard to find. It lies above the street level, in the old Mondavi complex, next to the Blue Sky Cellar attraction preview exhibit. I walked right by it on my first attempt.
When the park first opened, Wine Country Trattoria was the mid-range alternative to the fine dining Vineyard Room, now a special events lounge upstairs from the Trattoria. Today, the Trattoria offers salads, panini, lasagna and desserts, with most entrees in the $10-15 range.
The restaurant offers both indoor and patio seating, though the look of the interior is noting spectacular. It's a trattoria, after all; it's supposed to be more relaxed than a formal restaurant. The seating here reflects that tone, with dark metal chairs and travertine tables that one might find on any Orange Coast family's patio.
We were among the first seated in the restaurant when we arrived at quarter 'til noon (no reservations needed). California Adventure's running its annual Food and Wine Festival this month, but no events interfered with getting a table immediately at the Trattoria. Within two minutes of seating, a waiter brought us a basket of breadsticks.
At first glance, I anticipated something crusty and hot from the oven, with an open, airy crumb, accompanied by what looked like a roasted pepper spread. Instead, we found room-temperature bread, with no crust worth noting and the same dense crumb one would find from store-shelf bread. And a non-descript sun-dried tomato spread, to boot. We didn't finish a single stick.
Pushing the breadsticks aside, Laurie started her meal with a house salad.
She reported it fine, nothing spectacular. The speed with which is appeared, plus the temperature and taste, suggested that it had been plated well in advance, and kept in the fridge until ordering.
For our main course, I opted for the chicken panini, with provolone, spinach, artichoke hearts and roma tomatoes. It came with an olive-dressed pasta salad and grapes, with a stone-ground mustard on the side.
Laurie selected the chicken alfredo lasagna, layered with poached chicken, spinach, alfredo sauce and loads and loads of cheese.
While we both liked the taste of the lasagna, we agreed that the portion size was simply too much for such a rich entree. We both preferred the fresh taste and mix of texture in the panini. If we were to order the lasagna again, we agreed that one of us would order a salad as well and we'd simply share the two. (The Trattoria charges for split plates, but the charge is easily avoided if everyone orders one thing and shares.) But we'd probably split the panini and try a soup, instead.
For dessert, we took our server's suggestion and opted for the panna cotta, topped with fresh berries and honey.
We loved the choice, and plowed through the berries before I could snap a decent photo.
In all, we spent about $40 for one salad, one Coke, two entrees and a dessert. By Southern California standards, that's quite reasonable for a sit-down restaurant lunch. And by theme park standards, the Wine Country Trattoria beats anything else in California Adventure by a wine country mile. Still, the heavy hand with the cheese, the prefab house salad and the modest atmosphere place this in the middle of that country road: Good, but not great.