Disney, Patina Group debut Via Napoli at Epcot's Italy pavilion
By Robert NilesLAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida - Walt Disney World and the Patina Restaurant Group officially opened Epcot's newest restaurant this morning, Via Napoli, the second restaurant in the theme park's Italy pavilion.
Published: August 5, 2010 at 2:01 PM
Via Napoli will be familiar to west-coast Disney fans, as it might be considered a sibling to the Anaheim Downtown Disney's Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria, also a production of Los Angeles' Patina Group. But Via Napoli occupies a much grander space, with a soaring wood ceiling and long communal table anchoring the room.
Executive Chef Charlie Restivo has developed a menu that showcases the work of the restaurant's trio of wooden-fired ovens. Pizza Napoletana is the focus of this table-service restaurant, which will also offer a selection of salads, pasta and appetizers.
Via Napoli Executive Chef Charlie Restivo
Don't expect typically Americanized pizza here. You won't be ordering a large, thick crust with pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms. You won't be selecting personalized toppings at all. Via Napoli offers nine selections of its thin-crust pizza:
A server shows off a large Margherita pizza.
I fear that misconceptions will sink this restaurant before many fans give it a chance. Neither the selections, nor the prices, are in line with what most Americans consider when thinking about a pizzeria. But if you accept Via Napoli on its own terms, as a fine-dining spin on authentic Italian pizza from Naples, then you'll find this a welcome new option in Epcot.
My advice? Share! The food was presented at this morning's media event by servers walking the room, carrying plates from which we could sample the various menu items. Frankly, that's the ideal way to enjoy this cuisine, which relies on fresh ingredients, presented simply, but with flawless cooking technique.
Patina Group master chef Joachim Splichal samples the artichoke-and-truffle-oil pizza.
Unfortunately, noshing at a reception won't be an option when you visit. So select a pizza or two, add a salad or the fritto misto, and share among all at the table. The "individual" pizzas run $16, but can serve two easily. A large ($27) would serve a family of four and the "'1/2 meter' to share" ($36) would best be "shared" by your entire softball team.
The worst mistake you could make here would be for each person in your family to order his or her own entree, and then attempt to eat just that. The simple flavors here will grow tedious by the time you get a third of the way through your entree, and no one will finish. Why waste food and money? Via Napoli, like the best Italian restaurants, is best experienced by a large group that's willing to pass their plates around the table.
A sample of the fritto misto, with asparagus and calamari
I'd recommend ordering the fritto misto ($24 - again, more than enough to share), a great test of a kitchen's technique. The heat of cooking can enhance a food's flavor, but not if much of that flavor is lost to the cooking medium, as often happens in boiling or sauteing. Fritto misto, by protecting each vegetable in a light batter, allows the vegetable to be heated without losing its flavor to the oil, or losing its moisture to the heat of an oven.
Done well, as it is here, asparagus becomes a revelation, with the fresh taste of the spear enhanced by a slight bite of saltiness. Done poorly, however, as it is most other places I've tried fritto misto, you end up with a veggie in lost in a greasy batter. The fritto misto at Via Napoli includes an assortment of asparagus, zucchini and artichokes, as well as calamari and Arancini (fried balls of risotto, mozzerella and meat ragu).
For dessert, Via Napoli offers tiramisu ($8), a gelato soda ($9), a gelato sundae ($10) and sorbet ($7). The speciality (which I didn't see available to sample) is Zeppole di Caterina ($10), ricotta cheese fritters served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.
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