Review: Via Napoli grand opening at Walt Disney World’s Epcot offers authentic Italian pizza with bold flavors

in Disney, Epcot, Events, Food, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

Disney’s newest Italian restaurant, Via Napoli, opened yesterday morning at Epcot in Walt Disney World. Located in the back of the theme park’s Italy pavilion, this new table service eatery features an array of Italian tastes, focusing on pizzas cooked in unique volcano-themed ovens.

The opening ceremony featured a pair of boisterous Italian women stomping grapes, Mickey and Minnie Mouse arriving in grand style via horse-drawn carriage, and a few words spoken by vice president of Epcot Dan Cockerell as well as CEO of the Patina Restaurant Group, Nick Valenti. After the ribbon cutting, all in attendance were invited to wander the indoor restaurant, sample the food, and marvel at the unique ovens that command patrons’ attention.

Before we get to a review of the food, here’s a video featuring highlights of the grand opening, including a tour of the restaurant, interviews with Cockerell, Valenti, and executive chef Charlie Restivo, and (of course) a glimpse at Via Napoli’s food:

Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria

Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria grand opening

Executive chef Charlie Restivo
Via Napoli executive chef Charlie Restivo prepares pizzas.

The restaurant’s operators from the Patina Restaurant Group are quick to say the secret to achieving the authentic Neapolitan flavor in the pizza is the water they’re using, inspired by that found in Naples, Italy and taken from two special wells within the United States. When asked what it so special about the water, Valenti told me, “The water in Naples has a high alkaline content which works its magic on the flour and […] when cooked properly in these ovens that we have behind us, it causes the dough to be crispy and chewy at the same time, which is a texture that is very hard to to reproduce.” So it appears it wasn’t just an excuse when my dad (of Italian heritage) used to blame the Florida water for his traditional meals not tasting quite how he remembered them when his grandmother used to make them.

So does the food live up to the hype? As a fourth-generation Italian and highly-picky eater when it comes to Italian food, I can honestly say yes. The focus of the menu is on pizza and for good reason. I sampled the Margherita (tomato mozzarella, basil), Pepperoni (pepperoni, tomato, mozzarella), Quattro Formaggi (mozzarella, parmesan, fontina, provolone), and Carciofi (Artichoke, pecorino, mozzarella, truffle oil). Of these four, the Margherita was easily my favorite, as I’m always drawn to the simple red, white, and green Italian flag colors evoked by the ingredients. The basil and mozzarella are fresh and when combined with the thin crispy dough and subtle, but flavorful tomato sauce, the result is a nearly-perfect pizza.

Via Napoli wood-fired ovens

Mickey-shaped pizza
A Mickey Mouse-shaped Margherita pizza was on display for the Via Napoli grand opening.

Via Napoli food and drink
My first sample plate was filled with Margherita and Carciofi pizzas and Zeppole, alongside some Calamari and a glass of Sangria.

My least favorite of the four I tried, surprisingly, was the Quattro Formaggi, or four cheese. Ordinarily, I am a cheese lover. But when it comes to pizza, I like my cheese to be thin and complimentary to the other flavors. This pizza, however, had a thick topping of cheese, due to the four different cheeses present. The flavors underneath the cheese (no tomato sauce, just olive oil and what tasted to me like a hint of garlic) were fantastic and I actually enjoyed this pizza more after I removed the cheese. It may have just been too much of a good thing.

In addition to the four I sampled, there are five more pizza flavors to choose from at Via Napoli. The remaining five include spicy sausage, calamari, eggplant, prosciutto, canteloupe, and other vegetables. From what I hear, the Prosciutto e Melone is one of the best.

Pizza at Via Napoli

Prosciutto e Melone pizza

Arancini being served
Arancini (fried risotto balls) being served at Via Napoli.

While the pizza is Via Napoli’s main focus, the restaurant does offer plenty of additional Italian fare, including parmigiana dishes (chicken, eggplant), antipasti (appetizers), salads, and desserts. In the world of appetizers, the Arancini (fried rosotto balls filled with mozzarella and meat ragu) are dangerously addictive. I only had one at the grand opening, but not by choice. Had a tray of them come around a second time, I likely would have grabbed a handful or more. If you’re a fan of mozzarella sticks (one of my favorite foods) and/or risotto, you will fall in love with these. The Calamari Fritti are a bit fishy for my tastes, but then again, I’m not a seafood eater. For those who enjoy calamari regularly, the light and crispy outside texture of these will not disappoint.

For dessert, I tried the Tiramisu, Gelato Frizzante (ice cream soda “Italian style”), and Zeppole di Caterina. I still enjoyed the Tiramisu (despite not being a coffee fan) as well as the Gelato Frizzante, but the star here is definitely the Zeppole. Often called Italian doughnuts, these “ricotta cheese fritters,” as Via Napoli’s menu describes them, are served in a traditional paper wrapping, topped with a dusting of powdered sugar, and will disappear from your table in seconds. Hot from the fryer, they’re soft and delightful.

Gelato Frizzante, Zeppole di Caterina & Tiramisu

To pair with meals, Via Napoli offers a wide range of apertifs, signature drinks, and wine. I don’t normally drink alcoholic beverages, but the Sangria that I was served was crisp, refreshing, and quite enjoyable. But for those wanting to avoid alcohol, Via Napoli offers Acqua Fresca, a trio of “house-made, seasonal fruit juice coolers” that should not be passed up. Currently available in strawberry, blood orange, and limonata (lemonade) flavors, each provides the ultimate refreshment to fight the blazing Florida heat outside. They’re cold, very sweet, and definitely shareable.

Acqua Fresca

Acqua Fresca

The high recommendation I give for Via Napoli also comes with a bit of a high price. An “individual” pizza costs $16, though when paired with an appetizer ($8-14) can easily be enough food for two. A large pizza is $27 and the “1/2 meter to share” is $36, but both are likely to leave you with leftovers unless you’re with a big group. Some prices are more appropriate than others. At $10, the Arancini (risotto balls) are a great value. But at $5 per glass, the Acqua Fresca will become a once-in-a-while treat for me, rather than an every-visit refreshment. You can view the full Via Napoli menu here, complete with prices (subject to change, of course).

Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria menu

The restaurant itself is surprisingly large for a “pizza place.” The decor and seating have a casual feel and the staff is both friendly and attractive – they are Italian after all. One long table stretches nearly the entire width of the restaurant opposite the three pizza ovens while smaller tables surround the walls. Outdoor seating is available as well.

Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria interior

Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria seating

Cozy seating

Despite Via Napoli holding its grand opening yesterday, it won’t be “officially” open for another month. You can make reservations now, but only for dates after September 10. Until then, the restaurant is open for walk-up patrons only in a “soft opening” phase. And as you heard Valenti say in the video interview above, the restaurant is table service only – for now. Hopes are high among many who look forward to one day grabbing a slice to go of Via Napoli’s truly authentic Neapolitan pizza tastes, but in the meantime, there’s ample seating and friendly service to ensure comfort and satisfaction to all who want to sample a new taste of Italy while at Epcot.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse at the Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria grand opening

More photos from the grand opening of Via Napoli at Epcot:
All photos by Katherine McElroy


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    My family ate at Via Napoli in August 11th. WOW – what a disappointment. We ditched our ressies at Tutto Italia to try the ‘new kid in town’. The spaghetti and meatballs were awful, with a sauce that tasted akin to something that would come out of a Ragu jar. The bread and olive oil were absolutely inedible. The strawberry fresca was okay. The ONLY thing that saved this meal from being a complete disaster was the tiramisu, which was surprisingly good.

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      Ricky Brigante

      I’m sorry to hear that. I didn’t try any of their pasta dishes, but I’m not entirely surprised. The pizza is really great – and is their main focus. That is what I would recommend anyone orders from there. And now I know to steer clear of the spaghetti!

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      So tell me Susanne do you just go from web site to web bad mouth new places? Every one is entitled to an opinion, but come on how many web site do you need to post it on.

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        No – not bad mouthing at all. Just warning everyone about my bad experience. Take it or leave it but I firmly believe it was not good or worth the money. The tiramisu was awesome, though:)

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      Susanne, What a coincidence you were the first post and negative.

      I have enjoyed at least 5 meals over the last year at Via Napoli and would have to attest that the Food, Service and Hospitality are at the Top for Epcot restaurants!

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    I agree with Susanne. It was the worst Italian food I have ever tasted. There was no flavor to the sauce on the pizza or pasta. I might as well have been eating Chef Boyardee. This tasted nothing like real Italian what so ever. The only thing that saved this horrible experience was the table service, which was excellent, and the dessert. Overall I would give this restaurant only two thumbs up. (Please note that this is just my opinion and I do NOT want to fight with anyone.)

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      Ricky Brigante

      It’s so bizarre that I’ve heard so many bad things about Via Napoli since its opening. The food was fantastic on opening day. I worry that what they prepared for the invited media does not match their daily offerings. I’ll have to return to reevaluate it soon.

      One question though, Avgar. “Only” two thumbs up? How many thumbs do you have? 😉

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      I agree. We just ate there Friday afternoon. It was the worst pizza I have ever eaten. The crust was black and taste burnt. The sauce was watery with no flavor. It had very little cheese and very little meat. We paid almost $40 just for the pizza. We were extremely disappointed. We didn’t bother with dessert—-maybe we should have.

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    My husband and I and our 2 teenage sons thoroughly enjoyed the pepperoni pizza. There wasn’t a crumb left, and we had the BIG one! Hated we didn’t have room for dessert!

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    Debra K

    OMG! Via Napoli changed my life! The best thing I have ever eaten. No other pizza can compare to this place. We went to WDW in January and we changed our French reservation for the next night to VN after the first bite. Both nights everything was devine! The pizza was perfect; and the desserts…WOW…I would go there everyday!!! My entire family was awed!

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    My wife, 2 kids and in laws went and had their (can’t think of the Italian name on the menu) peperoni and sausage pizza…..I understand what people are saying about not a lot of ingredients which is how they eat it in Italy. I do have to say…..the best pizza I have ever eaten!!! If you are reading any of the negative comments above….go see for yourself it was worth the price, the wine was terrific, and the food was awesome! We ate there for lunch and tried to go back for dinner but couldn’t get in!!!!

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      Jeff Lynch

      It really sounds like the negativity aimed at this place is coming from people who expected the pizza to be like Pappa John’s or Dominos back home, or some local restaurant they like. Maybe they should stay home and keep eating those same things if everything else in life so spectacularly fails in comparison.

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        I was thinking the same thing. I think it’s a case of people not understanding what Neopolitan pizza is like. I can’t wait to try it when we go this year. We have a place near us that makes this kind of pizza in the brick oven so we know what to expect. If you want pizza that’s like what you get at home you should go to Pizza Planet.

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    My daughter and I had the itallian sausage and mozzarella pizza and added mushrooms. OMG … the best pizza I think I’ve eaten. Would love to know how to make this pizza so we could enjoy at home.

    I’m one of those people who are hard-pressed to try anything but the pizza made at our local central Illinois pizza place. However, this pizza at Via Napoli was the best ever and well worth standing in line for 45 minutes. We also had the family style salad which was also the best.

    I highly recommend trying their pizza and will go back there next time.

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    We visited the Via Napoli a few weeks ago and I have to say I was a bit dissapointed with my pizza. I found no crispness at all! The taste off the pizza was ok but the quality of the dough/bottom for me can make or break a pizza! (We go on holiday to Italy every year so we can compare a little bit)

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    Awesome Pizza but seen better.

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      Jeff Lynch


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    We just ate at Via Napoli on March 30, 2012. It was by far our worst meal at Disney. We were on the dining plan, so we each got a pizza and dessert. My husband and I also ordered salad with our pizza, which we never got. Our server took our order, but then wasn’t seen again until after we got our pizzas brought to the table. Once he came, we told him we never got our salads and to just remove then, since we didn’t want them once our pizza arrived. My pizza had eggplant, artichokes, and mushrooms. I had to remove the eggplant because it was sliced very thick and was spongy and bitter. The pizza was burnt and that is all I could taste was the char. The sauce was absolutley flavorless. My daughter got pepperoni pizza which was also burnt. My son’s pepperoni pizza wasn’t burnt, but he commented on the lack of flavor. My husband got the pizza margaritta and said it was completely bland. The desserts were good. We had the tiramisu, gelato frizzante, and zeppole. A manager stopped by our table and ask how everything was. We told him about our burnt pizza and lack of salad. He said we should have told our server so it could have been corrected. The problem was, we only saw our server to take our order, right after our pizzas were delivered and then to get our dessert orders. We hadn’t even tasted our pizzas when he stopped by the second time and just wanted told him we didn’t like the pizza when he came for our dessert order. The manager offered to comp us a coffee drink. I think he should have removed two of the table services from our bill. It was terrible!

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      Ricky Brigante

      It continues to baffle me how mixed the reviews are for this restaurant. Every time I’ve eaten there, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the food. I will say that the arancini were not nearly as good last time as on opening day, but they were still enjoyable. But the pizza has always been fantastic for me.

      I wonder if different people’s tastes in pizza is affecting the opinions. Marcia: Do you normally eat and enjoy thin crust New York-style pizza? Or do you prefer thicker slices, perhaps Chicago-style? When ordering pizza out, I always ask for my pizza well done, with a burnt bottom and crust, often with light sauce. It’s a particular style that suits some but not everyone. Via Napoli certainly doesn’t cook the same type of pizza you’d find at your typical take-out or even most restaurants.

      With that said, it’s entirely possible that they just aren’t consistent with their food. Others above have offered similar complaints you did.

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        Jeff Lynch

        There are all types of pizza, and some I like better than others. Sometimes I am in the mood for NY style, and sometimes I like really thin pizza. Sometimes I like oddball toppings like Hawaiian or BBQ. I’ve even had Pot Roast Pizza, and Thanksgiving Pizza with turkey and sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. When I’ve had pizza in Italian restaurants sometimes it’s really different than what I’d get at a Dominos, but that’s what makes things interesting. I think the people who complain about the pizza maybe are so used to their local Pappa John’s or Dominos that they don’t know things in life can taste different but still be good.

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    Jeff Lynch

    Whenever anyone talking about a restaurant says something was “inedible”, I just laugh. What snobbery! It’s amazing to me how much some people complain about food — and how oblivious they are to the fact that they are so blessed that they have a life where complaining about food is such a hobby instead of wondering when their next meal is coming. I don’t have a lot of money so going out to eat at a restaurant is a really special occasion for me. I might get to eat “out” every four or five months…and I might get to eat takeout every two or three months. It’s very rare for me to go somewhere and not enjoy myself, but I have visited restaurants I will never ever go to again because I feel like they are rip-offs or because the service was poor. Then there are places where the food is so good that I actually dream about it and nothing on Earth could make an experience there bad, no matter how poor the service or how loud the place is. I’ve been places where I didn’t like the bread or I didn’t think the entrees were worth the price, but I’ve never called anything “inedible” like “Suzanne” did in the first comment here. I feel very sorry for this woman…and probably more sorry for everyone who has to spend their lives surrounded by her.

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    After reading the commets, I feel like I should give some explaination.

    I am Italian, and I work in the restaurant so I see the food you are talking about everyday.

    The pizza you taste at Via Napoli is the REAL Italian pizza. Go to any italian pizzeria, and you’ll find something like that. However, this doesn’t mean you must like it.

    Although I’ve been living in Florida for only a month now, I could see that your pizza is totally different than ours. Actually, they are two completly different foods. If you expect a “better” American pizza when you walk into Via Napoli, you will be disappointed. The real pizza doesn’t have nearly as many flavours as yours: mozzarella only has dough (which is flour, dry yeast, salt, olive oil and water), tomato, mozzarella and oregano.

    This is why the reviews here are so different. Those of you who actually enjoy the real Italian food will love Via Napoli, because we cook real Italian food. Those who prefer American style of cooking should instead eat a turkey leg at the nearby American pavillion.

    I hope this will answer your questions. 🙂

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      I prefer Italian style cooking and I really don’t like american style pizza’s but as I said a few posts ago, the pizza they gave me wasn’t crusty at all so you tasted more dough than anything else.
      I think I can compare really well because I am a yearly Italy visitor (tuscany/garda lake).

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    Steve from Fort Worth

    One person in our party was served a pizza that had a thick (3/4 inch) black ring of burnt crust on top. The bottom of the pizza was the color of uncooked dough. The center had the consistency of soup and the dough was raw. When we brought this to the attention of our waiter, we received a lecture about “authentic Italian pizza.” Our other three entries (pasta dishes) were acceptable, but not exemplary at these prices. Desserts were fabulous, however. I’ve had wood-fired authentic Italian pizzas in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia: all were fabulous. None were like what we were served at Via Napoli. After consulting the manager, the waiter grudgingly refunded the cost of the pizza attributing our dispute to “differences in taste,” not a poorly cooked pizza.

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    We had the Pizza – tasted like poop!

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    I am genuinely happy to rread this blog posts which contains lots
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    the picture is very nice, and now i want to try make pizza. I think i can hehe

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