Restaurant: Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria – Epcot – Disney World
It was Epcot Day! YAY! I love Epcot Day. I don’t know why…because so much of it features the World Showcase…which during the Food & Wine Festival…features foods from all over the world. Even the regular pavilions that are standard in the showcase don’t offer much for a gluten-free vegetarian. But I still love Epcot Day.
Since we were in Epcot, on our final night, we wanted to go somewhere in the park for dinner. It took a little bit of back and forth, but we finally decided on Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria. It had gluten-free pasta on the menu, so we were good. Something I could eat. Which, definitely was important on Epcot Day…as our morning actually started at the Magic Kingdom…where we at Dole Whip for breakfast. Pictures were taken for proof. I am not ashamed.
But…let’s fast forward.
The entire day was spent doing a few rides and exploring the World Showcase. My friend, Jenn, was having a difficult time on the last day. Her feet…her poor feet…had blisters in places I didn’t know one could get blisters. It was a slower moving day, but I was fine with that. Take in the showcase. Stop and watch the new Lumberjack Show. I miss Off Kilter though…I’m not going to lie. Cathy snagged a lunch in Morocco (she had to have her lamb shawarma!), while Jenn and I toddled over to Brazil for the (naturally gluten-free) Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread). I later had one of my protein bars and half of a clementine (Jenn had the other half) because dinner reservations weren’t until 7:45 p.m. Late.
But, we made use of our time…checking out different things along the way, resting when Jenn needed to get off her feet, exploring the different countries, and shopping. Of course. We got in line for the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros at the Mexican Pavilion…and that sort of ate up (see what I did there?) the rest of the evening down time before food. It was a bit of a stroll back to Italy in Epcot…but Jenn was a trooper…and she got there.
I went up to the hostess desk in the very crowded lobby and let her know we were there for our reservation. She asked me some questions, it was hard to hear her over the din of the lobby. But we got it worked out. And, of course, my food allergy thing. So, there was a short wait…but after about 5 or so minutes, the lobby was emptying and we were up next. The really nice hostess took us all the way to the back for a table with a bench and two chairs. Cathy and I sidled up on the bench. Jenn took the chair this time.
We. Were. Starving.
I perused the menu and noted that, yes, gluten-free pasta was the only option for me. The downside…none of the listed pasta dishes on the menu were vegetarian. Yikes. As I was just starting to look at the menu, the customer liaison came over to speak to me about my food allergy. He noted the gluten-free and pointed out that they do not have gluten-free pizza but any of the pasta can be done gluten-free. And then he was off.
Which left our poor waiter to be the one who would have to seriously help me out. Not that he minded. And as I am the tricky one…I ordered first. And my first statement was…
“Well, I am a gluten-free vegetarian…so…”
He came over to my side of the table to look at the pasta dishes. “Gluten-free…it’s easy,” he said. “The vegetarian…” He looked at all the pasta options again and finally said, “I tell you what…we will have the chef prepare some mushrooms and vegetables with our marinara sauce.”
Works for me. Order in.
Jenn opted for the Lasagne Verde, which is a white lasagna that is stuffed with spinach, parmesan, ricotta, and a besciamella sauce ($22.00). Cathy went for her go-to when we first go to an Italian restaurant…the Spaghetti e Polpettine, which contained hand-crafted veal meatballs in a tomato sauce ($21.00). I have to say, I usually giggle a little when Jenn orders something with cooked spinach or vegetables in it…because most of those veggies get tossed to the side of the plate. But…she is Italian…and she knows her Italian food.
We waited for a bit…no gluten-free rolls or any bread at all at the table. We watched a woman at the table next to us devour an entire pizza on her own, while her dining companions watched her. And as she was taking her last few bites, their food arrived. It was weird. We couldn’t figure out if they were just there to watch her eat (like some crazy Disney World food challenge or something)…but…who knows. She then got to watch all of them eat so…turn around is fair play…or something?
But, soon our attention turned to our own food as our dishes arrived and were delivered before us.
I have to say, my bowl of pasta was beautiful. A good helping of marinara sauce (which would have been awesome with a gluten-free bread product of some type!) with a variety of vegetables cooked in. I spotted zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms immediately. And the gluten-free pasta was fusilli…so twisty and perfect for capturing delicious sauce. I will call this dish…”Pasta for the strange gluten-free vegetarian at the table in the back.” Or…more simply…Pasta and Veggies in Red Sauce ($22.00).
Now, this is the second Italian restaurant I have visited at Disney World. Normally we just head over to Hollywood Studios and enjoy our food (complete with gluten-free dinner rolls and gluten-free dessert!) at Mama Melrose’s. But since were were in Epcot…we figured it would be easier to eat there than park hop.
I sort of wish we park hopped…
It’s not that Via Napoli was bad. It wasn’t. The food was actually quite good. It was just…average though. The pasta in my dish was actually cooked to perfection. A lot of gluten-free pastas, especially when crafted from rice flours, tend to get gummy and fall apart. These were a perfect al dente and held up to the marinara and the vegetables. But…there was a lot of pasta in that dish and I ended up picking out the veggies at the end and leaving the noodles alone. I ate about 3/4 of the dish…and that was it. I was done. The marinara had a lot of flavor to it. And the vegetables were a nice touch and I appreciate the chef at Via Napoli for doing that to accommodate my dietary needs. I just…had better. Elsewhere.
Jenn enjoyed her lasagna…after she picked out most of the spinach. And Cathy made sure to eat all of her meatballs. They were much smaller than what she normally gets in a spaghetti and meatball dish, so she appreciated that too. But she too had to soldier on and leave some of her pasta noodles behind.
No dessert here for us…we had plans. Cathy wanted her chocolate cannoli from one of the gelato carts in the World Showcase, and I headed to France to get some Salted Caramel Gelato from an ice cream shop there. Yummy!
So, as it stands, Via Napoli put out good food. I can’t think of anywhere at Disney where I have had bad food. It’s just…Mama Melrose’s had more options for me…and a bit more to offer. So next time…I think I’ll return to Mama Melrose’s. But, thank you, Via Napoli, for the fine cuisine. A little taste of Italy never goes wrong with me.