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Where to eat: Dinner at Tony's Town Square Restaurant in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom - the Sequel!

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Published: October 9, 2013 at 4:57 PM

I stirred up a hornet's nest with my last review of Tony's Town Square Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. Not only did I cause others to relive times of horror, but I myself received some rather angry emails about my own conduct. I will go ahead and apologize for not doing what everyone said, like letting management know right then. I can only say that I am not a confrontational person but I shall strive to do better in the future. I'm only human. I appreciate feedback from my fellow TPI's and take their comments very seriously. Having said that, please allow me to tell you something else that happened after my first review of Tony's.

Two days after Robert posted my review, I received a phone call. The caller id showed a 407 area code. Since we were leaving in a few weeks for Walt Disney World, I assumed that the call was in reference to one of our reservations. Imagine my surprise when I was told that the gentleman on the line was the manager of Tony's Town Square Restaurant and wished to talk to me about my last experience with their establishment. He had read my review and was very upset by my experience. Not only was I in shock, but also a little fearful. Had I angered Disney to the point of being denied entrance into the parks? No. I hadn't. I had got their attention.

Mr. Anderson, the manager of Tony's, and I had a long conversation about what happened. He agreed with me about the angry pizza dough lady. Her job was to interact with the children and not air her grievances. He also was apologetic about the food and server. He became the manager shortly after my first experience and assured me that this was not what he wanted Tony's to be known for. He had taken the opportunity to see that I was returning Sept.26-Oct.4th and asked if I would allow the staff at Tony's to show the type of experiences that makes them a place to eat. He was so kind and understanding. He showed many of the characteristics that I appreciate in Disney cast members. As much as I was fearful, I knew it was only fair to try Tony's one more time.

Mr. Anderson made the reservation for Friday Sept. 27. This was a Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party night that we had tickets for. Our dinner was for six in the evening. This year my sons wanted Chuck and I to dress up for the party with them. All my guys were superheroes. They wanted me to dress as Black Widow. There is not enough CGI in the world to make me dress in a skin-tight black body suit. Most girl hero costumes are not meant for a mother of two, or a family theme park for that matter. So to keep some cool points with my boys, I dressed as a pirate. The four of us, all dressed up, entered Tony's.

While I was checking us in, Chuck and the boys sat in the waiting area. There were two cast members in the lobby who went around and engaged the children with a chef puppet and fake pizza dough. The one with the puppet went up to my sons and engaged them in conversation and had them laughing in delight. My sons are six and nine years of age. My youngest really enjoyed the puppet asking him about his Flash costume. We were soon called back to be seated. This time we were seated in a booth by the beautiful Lady and the Tramp fountain. I have to say here that Lady and the Tramp was my favorite movie as a child. I'm thirty-three years old. I had brown hair as a child that darkened as I got older. There were no brown haired princesses until I was a teenager. There was only one character with brown hair, or ears...Lady. As a little girl, I would ask my mom to put my hair in doggy ears, just like Lady. With that little back story, being close to the beautifully lit statue was a lovely gift.

Lady and the Tramp

Mr. Anderson came by our table and he explained that they were going to show us some of the special things that Tony's can do for those who visit and are planning special occasions. Chuck went ahead and ordered the tomato and mozzarella salad. I didn't know what to order, so I passed on the appetizer portion. One of the staff though, came out and brought me their signature Pezzi Parmesan Bread to try. Oh my. This bread looks like a giant muffin and comes with two dipping sauces, a Crème Sauce and Marinara. This was soft and easy to tear. It was some of the best tasting bread I have ever eaten. I loved it in both sauces and could have most likely made a meal out of this.

Pezzi Parmesan Bread
Pezzi Parmesan Bread ($7.49)

I had to stop, because I decided to try the Chicken Parmigiana. Chuck decided on the Shrimp Scampi, while both boys went for the cheese pizza. When my chicken parmigiana arrived, I knew I was in trouble. It was a huge portion, and lets face it...pirate corsets should not be worn with plates full of food that smell good. I had to stop Chuck from eating just to get a decent picture. He said that he had never had shrimp scampi taste this good. He was concerned at first because of the sun-dried tomatoes and asparagus tossed in. He found that these really added a new and pleasant taste to the scampi. Chuck was thrilled and only unhappy when our boys needed to visit the restroom and needed his help with their costumes. This took precious time away from devouring his shrimp and linguini.

Shrimp Scampi
Shrimp Scampi ($17.99)

My chicken pamigiana was another pleasant surprise. It was lightly breaded with crisp gently seasoned bread crumbs, melted mozzarella, drizzled with just enough marinara sauce, and perfectly cooked spaghetti. I was overjoyed by my first taste to find that the first experience here was not to be repeated. It was seasoned well and nothing was overpowered. My only complaint was that I was unable to remotely come close to finishing it. If it had not been for the Halloween party, I would have asked for a to go box.


Chicken Parmigiana ($20.99)

The boys enjoyed their pizza. Sam, my eldest dressed as Wolverine, made sure we took a photo of his pizza pulled apart like an, "X", for X-Men.


Kids' cheese pizza ($8.59)

While we ate, we were treated to the many ways that Tony's make one's evening special. When our entrees were delivered, a cast member came to our table. He said he had heard that Lady and the Tramp was my favorite movie and since we were at Tony's...he then began to sing, "Bella Notte". After the song, he explained that he goes around to the tables and any that are celebrating, or are a couple enjoying a romantic meal, he then sings for them. He had a very nice voice and with the Italian food, candle lit in the old chianti bottle (another special touch for those celebrating), the soft glow from the fountain, and my entourage of superheroes; I was feeling that Disney magic. After the song, a Disney photographer came over to our table and took what would become my favorite photo from our vacation. Mr. Anderson had it developed and framed as a thank you gift for trying Tony's again. With the photo, song, and beautiful fountain, this could be a great place for a proposal if you are unable to get reservations at Cinderella's Royal Table.

Amanda and her family

No dinner is complete though until desserts are brought forth. The boys were each given a special Halloween cupcake in an ice cream cone. They loved it. I ordered the pumpkin cheesecake. I am a sucker for anything pumpkin flavored and when I heard this was on the menu, I immediately asked for it. It was creamy and had just the right balance of pumpkin and cinnamon. I may have had to loosen the pirate corset, but it was worth it just to finish the dessert. Chuck was too full and had to pass on dessert, though I did catch him sneaking some bites of the boys Halloween cupcakes.

Halloween cupcake

Pumpkin cheesecake
Pumpkin cheesecake ($5.49)

Mr. Anderson and his staff really did a fantastic job of making up for our first disastrous visit. The waiters were really wonderful in answering questions about the food, interacting with my children about their costumes, and giving tips not only for what to order but also about the Halloween party. The food had improved beyond what I had hoped for. I may just have to make another quick trip back before the end of fall for a meal of just Pezzi bread and pumpkin cheesecake. As the saying goes, "to err is human, to forgive, divine," and it can be rather tasty.

Readers' Opinions

From Janice Brady on October 9, 2013 at 5:15 PM
I'm glad you had a better second experience. I ate at Tony's on 9/30/13 and it was horrible! Our server was horrible. The food was horrible. I will most likely never go again!
From Mark Hollamon on October 9, 2013 at 5:26 PM
It doesn't surprise me that Mr. Anderson contacted you personally and I am confident it wasn't for the write up. As I stated in your original post my wife and I are Passholders and usually eat there a couple times a year and have never had a bad experience on any level.

Thank you for your followup post.

From 70.215.69.126 on October 9, 2013 at 5:32 PM
The last time my wife and I visited Tony's for lunch I attempted to order the meatball sliders.....I say attempt because as I was ordering the waitress interupted me and said "don't order them, these are horrible....the staff always feels bad and laughs when these are ordered because they are so bad". Needless to say, I was shocked and ordered something else. This is not a place I would want to eat again given their professionalism especially when there are so many other places to try.
From 70.118.33.35 on October 9, 2013 at 5:40 PM
I had a horrendous experience 5 years ago and have never returned. Maybe I'll give it another chance.
From Amanda Jenkins on October 9, 2013 at 7:17 PM
If I had not had such a long discussion with the manager before hand, I doubt I would have returned. He really is trying to make Tony's a unique and better dining experience. It is scary to order something and have the servers tell you to stay away from it. I really appreciated though that they wanted to redeem themselves. So often, restaurants continue on and disregard reviews and comments. Dining out is a gamble regardless of the place.
From 69.174.58.116 on October 9, 2013 at 7:31 PM
I had a less than Disney quality experience back in 2010 and I complained and wished I hadn't. It was the only blemish on an otherwise great vacation. I do not understand why Disney cannot get this place up to par.
From 24.73.197.194 on October 10, 2013 at 10:52 AM
What a nice article. (And probably the nicest pirate photo I've seen!)

This is a great reminder that every restaurant can have days when things are running less than optimal. However, when Disney charges a steep premium for admission to its parks and its food vendors (both fast and sit-down), we have much higher expectations than what is often actually delivered.

Other bloggers have pointed out Disney's decline by degrees when it comes to its Orlando parks, from peeling paint, burned out light bulbs and non-functioning audio animatronics to sub-par food choices: Disney lays eggs, too. And the only way they will change for the better is when tourists decide to spend their hard-earned dollars at establishments that do not take them largely for granted, but work hard each day to earn their trust and deliver value to their guests.

For too many years, Disney's Orlando operations have coasted on past glories rather than kept the resorts up to the standards established by company namesake, Walt Disney. Although it's good to see from this report that a single manager is working to address a lousy guest experience, this manager seems to be the exception rather than the rule when it comes to Disney's Orlando operations. Why? Because the WDW parks are still huge moneymakers for Disney. Until and unless that changes, expect more of the same old same old, with an occasional exception from a diligent manager or two.

- Brian

From Russell Meyer on October 10, 2013 at 12:52 PM
I find it interesting to see Disney react to something from the internet media. Perhaps they're waking up to the 21st Century, as they have been known for only considering dead-tree and television people media.

To me, this is what any good restaurant should do, and it's a bit of a shame you did not let the host or manager know about your displeasure immediately. Most restaurants rely heavily on word of mouth, especially in areas where there are tons of other choices, like theme parks. Obviously, guests who consistantly send items back looking for freebies, or finish a meal and then say they thought it was terrible dilute honest complaints about restaurants. Real problems and complaints can also be diluted by servers, so if you do note something that is not to your satisfaction and don't receive a followup visit from a manager or host, you should always be skeptical that it was actually lodged.

It's really nice to know that Disney is beginning to respond to internet media.

From James Rao on October 10, 2013 at 3:46 PM
Great write up, Amanda, and great job of Disney to redeem themselves in such a fashion. Personally I have never had a bad Disney dining experience, but I am, like you, very selective and have not had Tony's on my list to try because of its overall low rating. Your review may make me reconsider that stance!
From Mike Gallagher on October 10, 2013 at 5:35 PM
The cheese on your chicken parm ain't exactly the Wicked Witch of the West after the water splash ...if you catch my drift.
From 75.64.40.38 on October 10, 2013 at 6:19 PM
I agree every business has bad days or even bad weeks, months or years. But it is the way a business responds that shows if it cares about the customers. A manager, or any cast member making that extra effort is what keeps me coming back to Disney World.
From Annette Forrest on October 10, 2013 at 6:33 PM
HOORAY!!! Another Amanda Jenkins column!!! I was so excited to see this posted. I actually saved this column to read until I knew I would have time to enjoy it. I made myself a nice cup of tea and I was munching on homeemade garlic bread when I read this. I waited until tonight because my boys have Scouts and my husband is with them and I could just relax at home. Amanda Jenkins' columns are my absolute favorite on any Disney site.

This one had me ROLLING and nodding my head because something about the way Amanda writes makes me feel like I am there with her. I am glad I was eating the garlic bread because I felt like I was at Tony's.

I am so beyond happy that Disney reached out to you Amanda. And you have such a gorgeous family and I loved your costumes. Please write more columns. Every time you post is a gem and it makes me fell like I am back at Disney even though my family does not go often.

From Amanda Jenkins on October 10, 2013 at 7:36 PM
@Mike, it was underneath all that extra shredded cheese ;)

@Annette, thank you so much! That was a lovely compliment you have given me!!!

Thanks to everyone else for their remarks. It is a great bunch of TPI's on this site. Keep sharing the experiences so we can all be better informed when planning our vacations to the theme parks. I know I will be paying even more attention to Universal Studios Orlando reviews these next few months. The boys are ready to go.

From Anon Mouse on October 11, 2013 at 11:31 AM
It sounds like a happy ending. I'm glad it worked out.
From Brian Daugherty on October 11, 2013 at 4:31 PM
It's nice that you gave them a second chance but the whole time I'm just saying "oh come on!" How in the world can you garner an unbiased opinion with the manager watching over your entire dining experience? Of course it was magical, of course the food was delightful, perfectly prepared and everything went smoothly with delightful touches thrown in. But you seriously didn't once mention how biased this return visit was? Right down to them scheduling it for you and greeting you after you arrived? Wow. Just wow. How about an anonymous second chance to really see if the overall experience was made better? You should have thanked him for calling and explaining their attempts to change and promised to review the place again but on your own terms at a date/time of your choosing and under a different name. Then presented the "sequel" after an unbiased visit. Honestly I can't use your latest visit as a gauge on whether or not to go back in the least. I'm glad you had a nice handheld visit but that's not the experience most guest will receive.
From Annette Forrest on October 11, 2013 at 6:05 PM
To: Brian Daugherty. I think you have kind of a nihilist take on things, where Amanda is kind of damned if she does and damned if she doesn't. OF COURSE when someone complains and speaks to a manager and the manager is watching over that guest's next experience it will be beyond perfect because the management is really wowing that person. But...you'd be surprised how many restaurants don't care when people complain and would never do what Disney did for Amanda. Some places just give a gift certificate for a return or maybe apologize and that's it. It's the real hallmark of a quality place in my opinion if they do the spectacular "wow you!!!" routine and really go above and beyond like they did for Amanda.

No, not every dining experience is going to be that great with a manager hovering over making sure it is perfect. I don't expect that. But I do love that if you report there was a problem on one visit that management cares enough to make sure that the next visit is just spectacular.

I had not planned on eating at Tony's on our next trip to Disney but after Amanda's column we're going to give it a try. AND I'm going to tell the manager we decided to eat there because one of my favorite writers talked about her experience there.

The comment that Brian made kind of made me think 'Well, if you do have a great experience after a bad one, don't even bother sharing it because it will just upset Brian'. I don't think Amanda made any claim that this extra-super-special night was typical of an experience at Tony's...and Disney sure does not want people to think that Amanda's first experience at Tony's (the bad one) is typical. I think a typical experience would fall somewhere in the middle, closer to Amanda's second experience I think (but without the manager hovering so much for every guest).

I feel really safe dining at Tony's because Amanda's story proved that if there is a problem that management will be all over it. That makes me feel good, and gives me the comfort of knowing that I can speak to a manager that cares in that restaurant. What a relief that is to me and I just loved that Amanda shared her wonderful story. We usually don't get to hear follow-ups like this.

From Amanda Jenkins on October 11, 2013 at 6:09 PM
Brian,
I agree with you that to have a completely honest evaluation, I would have to go back under a different name and time ans see how they handle it. The main point of my article though was to show that I was contacted by a manager to right a wrong. I am nobody special, yet the manager looked at TPI, saw that I had mentioned being a DVC member, contacted them to get my phone number, took a chance that I would agree to coming back, and that I would think well and write about it. The staff told me multiple times that they wanted to show a variety of experiences they offer so that I could in turn let others know. Was this a typical visit? Of course not! I am impressed though to see someone who takes pride in his job and wants to improve upon a an already damaged reputation.
From Brian Daugherty on October 12, 2013 at 4:41 AM
@Annette The only thing this experience proves is that if you write in a blog on a popular site, you may have your own personal complaints addressed. The typical person would get the standard expected non–response or minimal effort to appease the customer. This in no way indicates that they have improved for the overall dining public. It was a publicity stunt.
From Brian Daugherty on October 12, 2013 at 5:59 AM
@Amanda I am also flabbergasted that you are not at all creeped out by the way that they tracked down your home phone number. Sure DVC is a related company but when did you agree that anyone could call with your name and be given your personal contact information? It's one thing if he had pulled it from a previous reservation but that's obviously not what happened. And you found it flattering that they could so personally reach out to you in this manner? You don't think them contacting you through the TPI site would have been more appropriate? The way this whole thing went down should be a lesson on how things shouldn't be done, from the contact to the final published "review".
From Amanda Jenkins on October 12, 2013 at 10:05 AM
@Brian
LOL, I can tell that you are not satisfied with any of the two articles I wrote concerning Tony' s. I understand the points you are making and see that we will only be able to agree to disagree. I respect your opinion and wish you the best of experiences when visiting and dining at theme parks.
From Dave Hart on October 14, 2013 at 12:35 PM
It is always interesting to me how guests can attend the same restaurant and have such different experiences. As good as Disney is at processes and controls in their parks, they do seem to lack it in the restaurants. We too have eaten at Tony's Town Square and gotten very average food and service. Average enough that I didn't return. On the other hand we have been to Via Napoli at Epcot a dozen times and had a great experience every time. Yet when you read their reviews, some are very poor. Unfortunately it seems that luck and timing may play into it, which is a shame. I enjoy this author's reports, please keep it up!!

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