Ok, so Dean Martin said love was king, but he never tried the pizza at Via Napoli now did he? I was among those lucky enough to get a taste yesterday at the Via Napoli grand opening celebration and I can’t wait to return. Of course there has been a lot of buzz about Via Napoli online since it was first announced it would join the World Showcase family of restaurants. Fears swirled that adding a new element to an existing country pavilion would disrupt the look and flow of our beloved Italy, while others felt an expansion was necessary and eagerly awaited its arrival. Me? Well, I am used to Boston pizza, where Dominoes is a 4-letter word and places like Bertucci’s once took the pizza chain restaurant up to date and into the land of the brick oven. Knowing there would now finally be a place to get authentic Neapolitan pizza in Epcot, I was a fan before I even got there.

All images not watermarked are ©Disney

Now I know, everyone just wants to know how good the pizza is, but please indulge me as I discuss what makes Via Napoli such a satisfying experience…First of all, look at the picture above – how beautiful is that? So authentic-looking and inviting, isn’t it? Before we venture inside, lets take a look at the ribbon-cutting ceremony with Epcot Vice President Dan Cockerell, Patina Group CEO Nick Valenti, legendary chef and Patina Group and founder Joachim Splichal and of course, Mickey and Minnie, in their finest Italian couture!

Mickey and Minnie at Via Napoli

Via Napoli is open! Let’s go inside…

As you walk into the dining area, you are met with a huge expanse of space. A large table intersects the space, allowing single diners or those wishing to experience a more social meal a place to dine in the middle of the action. The table is covered with beautiful hand-painted tiles depicting historic Italian architecture and scenery. Colorful containers of olive oil and glassware complete the scene.

To the right, inviting fresco murals cover the walls in gorgeous shades of blue, while windows reveal lush landscaping, letting your mind forget you aren’t actually in Napoli. Vintage travel posters hang above the banquet seating and more windows let in natural light. It is so spacious and open (9760 square feet to  be exact), the illusion is truly set.

It’s hard to choose a single centerpiece at Via Napoli, but surely one of the most intriguing are the brick pizza ovens. Three of them, each named after an active volcano in Italy: Stromboli, Vesuvio and Etna, sit proudly at the far end of the restaurant, watching over all. It will be interesting to observe their mustaches darken and age over time with the smoke from the ovens inside.

There are other unique touches throughout the building which I’ll let you discover on your own, but kudos to the design team of Florentine architect Stefano Nardini (of Magris & Partners) working in conjunction with Rick Swisher Architect to achieve a simply amazing homage to Italian style and form. And now…the food!

At our opening event, we were given samples of appetizers, pizza, desserts and drinks but there is so much more at Via Napoli. Here are some dishes we saw and tried:

Mickey Pizza

A Mickey pizza was on display for us at the opening.

Arancini at Via Napoli

Arancini – fried risotto balls filled with mozzarella and meat ragu. These were light and perfectly cooked, but a bit bland without the dipping sauce. I would definitely order them again.

Fritto Misto at Via Napoli

We were also given samples of the Fritto Misto – an assortment of flash fried seasonal vegetables and fish. The calamari was perfection and some of the vegetables we were given were artichoke, eggplant and zucchini. Delicious! Other appetizers on the menu include Minestrone soup, eggplant salad and a salad with assorted greens, beans and fennel in a red wine vinaigrette. Next up, the pizza!

via napoli pizza

Margherita pizza Via Napoli

The Margherita pizza includes tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. Simple, wonderful.

Margherita pizza

Pepperoni pizza via napoli

Lovers of traditional Pepperoni pizza will not be left out – this one got thumbs up from a teenager at our table.

zanna pizza via napoli

Unfortunately I forgot to snag a pic of the delicious Quattro Formaggi (four cheese) pizza, but my blogging buddy Amanda caught me trying it out anyway! It was my favorite. The quattro formaggi has no tomato sauce for those that aren’t fans, the garlic and cheese was heavenly.

pizza toppings at Via Napoli

The pizza toppings on display. Other pizza choices include Quattro Stagioni (Four Seasons) which contains the vegetables eggplant, artichokes and mushrooms and parma cotto (cooked ham). Calamari, topped with fried calamari, arugula and fennel. Ortolano, tomato sauce, mozzarella and vegetables (I believe the mix was peppers, fennel and asparagus). Piccante comes topped with spicy sausage, broccoli-rabe, tomato sauce and mozzarella. Carciofi has artichoke, pecorino, mozzarella and truffle oil. Finally the Prosciutto e Melone mixes fontina, mozzarella and pecorino cheeses with prosciutto and cantaloupe.

I was asked to discover if there were any gluten-free dining options available at Via Napoli. A manager told me that yes, they did offer gluten-free entrees and desserts (we were shown the gluten-free brownie at the event). However, she cautioned that due to the nature of the open kitchen, with flour flying everywhere, anyone with severe or life-threatening allergies should definitely call ahead to plan a special meal, for fear of unintentional cross-contamination. They are more than happy to attempt to accommodate any dietary restrictions. Just call 407-WDW-DINE to ask. Edit: a Disney fan recently visited and was told they can do nothing special for gluten allergies aside from the pre-made dessert and a cold eggplant and pepper salad…this contradicts what we were told by management, so hopefully calling ahead will remedy this, or a solution will be reached in the future. Until then, have a plan B in place.

If you’d rather enjoy something other than pizza during your stay, there are quite a few choices. Traditional eggplant or chicken parmigiana, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna verde made with spinach, parmesan and besciamella sauce are among the pasta options.

Lasagna Via Napoli

Of course Via Napoli is not going to leave you without dessert! We were treated to miniature versions of their tiramisu

tiramisu at Via Napoli

Gelato Frizzante

A splendid creation called Gelato Frizzante which was like an Italian Creamsicle. Vanilla gelato floating on San Pellegrino’s Aranciata (orange) soda. Heavenly.

Zeppole via Napoli

Zeppole di Caterina are traditional fritters with ricotta-infused dough, served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. These were light and airy and wonderful.

This little taste is only a small portion of the Via Napoli experience. You can see the full menu on the Disney Food Blog as well. I cannot wait to get back, try other menu items and report back on them. They also had an amazing drink menu, the sangria, which I do not usually care for, was fabulous. There is a children’s menu as well, with appetizers, entrees, desserts and even a specialty drink. It’s a bit on the pricey side compared to most Disney restaurants, but the unique made-to-order choices will be worth it, I feel.

I hope you decide to venture down Via Napoli on your next visit to Epcot. I’d love to know what you tried and how you enjoyed it. Advanced Dining Reservations may be booked through 407-WDW-DINE or on www.DisneyWorld.com.

Buon Appetito!!

Check out Via Napoli Revisited for more menu item reviews.