Mangia With The Mouse: Disney's Top Italian Options

By Michelle Spitzer, Orlando Local Expert

With the exception of the obvious (that being the Italy Pavilion of the EPCOT World Showcase), Walt Disney World historically has not been overwrought with options for Italian dining, but recent additions have added more and another (catch you soon, Terralina!) is on the way. That said, there are enough scattered around the resort area to allow for ample satisfaction of errant yearnings for pizza, gelato and the like.

Via Napoli, a beautiful, soaring eatery, is perhaps best-known for its pizza which many Disney aficionados say is the park's best by far. Tutto Italia offers what could be described as a more intimate fine-dining experience. Its sister establishment, the Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar, is a wonderful stop on your EPCOT journey for its small plates and shareable dishes, and the Italian wine flights don't hurt, either. At Disney's Hollywood Studios, Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano is a venerable favorite – and a must-stop for novelty dessert lovers. It's signature "On Top of Spaghetti" cupcake is a sweet hat-tip to "Lady & the Tramp" and a foodie photo-op if ever there was.

10. Tony's Town Square

Bright and sunny and awash with the romance of the Disney classic "Lady and the Tramp," Tony's Town Square is a wonderfully casual eatery in the heart of the Magic Kingdom. Themed in part on the romance of that ubiquitous scene where Tramp and Lady share a romantic spaghetti dinner in the alley, diners here enjoy pizza, Panini and myriad Italian classics from scampi to cannelloni. Tony's serves some rich desserts, as well. Favorites include the pistachio crem Brulee and tiramisu. Outdoor seating is available at Tony's and a phenomenal perch for people watching as you enjoy your meal. Try the zucchini fries!

9. Il Mulino New York Trattoria
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin

This Orlando venture, located inside the Walt Disney World Swan hotel, is an off-shoot of the famed New York restaurant which dominated critics' lists for decades. The menu here pulls from the Abruzzi region and is complemented by a dining room rich with rustic colors imparted via contemporary design, a melding of Old World and new. Family-style dishes –" select appetizers and entrees are offered-- are a nice touch, available for parties of four or more and priced per person. It's an option that adds to the warmth of the venue. Large groups are welcome here (contact the restaurant in advance). Heading elsewhere for dinner? Visit the Il Mulino lounge for a cocktail or enjoy an app or two before visiting your final destination.

8. Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

You can love Disney for a zillion things, of course, but they do have a Ph.D. in "back story." Mama Melrose, you see, was a would-be starlet who came to Hollywood (ahem, Studios) to pursue fame on the silver screen. Turned out, though, that being a restaurateur was her raison d'etre â€" and so she opened an eatery lauded by movie stars and regular folk alike. Mama Melrose's is a Disney-does-Little Italy affair with a cozy, family-joint vibe. And it really does feel like a place you can bring the kids. Food is hearty and the menu is loaded down with Italian classics, many of which you'll recognize.

7. Vivoli il Gelato
Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson

When this family-run gelato shop that's been a favorite in Florence for some 85 years finally decided to open a second location, they went seriously big. Bringing their brand of gelati, sorbetti and other wonderful treats to Disney Springs is a bonus for visitors; few things help beat the Florida heat like a creamy serving of gelato. Flavor selections may vary when you visit, but you're sure to find a pleaser, whether that's nutty pistachio, smooth stracciatella or heavenly Bacio, with its incredibly pairing of chocolate and hazelnut. Gelato and sorbet floats and other treats (how about some biscotti with your espresso?) are available, as well.

6. Trattoria al Forno
Photo courtesy of Disney/Kent Phillips

This beautifully appointed restaurant on Disney's BoardWalk showcases cuisine from a host of Italian regions along with more than 70 bottles of imported wines, 25 of which are available by the glass. Begin your meal with a bottle or a quartino for sharing and sampling and take in the sights, sounds and smells of the venue's open-kitchen layout as chef's prepare everything from antipasti to pizza al Forno to the delightful dolci. Guests of Disney's BoardWalk Inn & Resort may want to pop in at the beginning of the day, as well, when Trattoria al Forno serves a traditional breakfast.

5. Tutto Italia Ristorante
Photo courtesy of Disney

Benvenuto in Italia! Tutto Italia welcomes you to the nation by way of the Italy Pavilion in the EPCOT World Showcase, of course, but like Via Napoli, it makes a great show of its authentic touches. First and foremost, that comes in the form of an all-Italian staff. Showcasing classic Italian dishes chosen from all across Italy, fans of rich tomato or cream sauces will find as much to savor as those more inclined to order lighter or more protein-rich options, roast chicken and grilled salmon among them. A vast selection of Italian wines is on-hand, as well. Staffers will be happy to make suggestions. It's an elegant option for a Disney date night, whether dining inside or al fresco.

4. Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar
Photo courtesy of Diana Zalucky/Disney

Located adjacent to Tutto Italia in the Italy portion of EPCOT's World Showcase, Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar is an intimate eatery offering small plates, hundreds of wines by the bottle or glass and an array of other refreshing beverages, as well. The space here is inviting, comfortable and rustic. Although primarily a wine venue, those with a preference for beer or cocktails will feel right at home. Tutto Gusto features a small-plate menu consisting of meats, cheese, pasta, Panini and dessert, making it an excellent choice for sampling the Italian offerings at EPCOT. Some dishes are even made for sharing.

3. Enzo's Hideaway
Photo courtesy of Enzo's Hideaway

Upstairs, Maria & Enzo's sweeping Italian eatery rules the roost, but down at Enzo's Hideaway, a clandestine lounge and restaurant themed on Florida's rum-running history, Prohibition Era cocktails wet the whistle and, if you're hungry, hearty Italian fare sates the belly. Salumi and cheese make for a great starter, as do classic meatballs served with polenta. Larger entrees include a hefty lasagna (meat ragu AND bechamel make it extra rich) and Nonna's Pasta, similarly loaded down with meats, cheeses and cream. Steak, chicken and seafood plates are also available and if you're planning on dessert, check with your (likely Italian) server. Portions are hefty, you may want to share!

2. Ravello

In the morning, Ravello plays host to breakfast for guests at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort (character breakfasts, even!); but come evening the menu gets the boot. And by boot, we mean it heads straight to Italy. Appetizers like calamari, bruschetta and delightful polpettine (meatballs) arrayed with rich cheese and salty meats - don't come here on diet day! - tempt diners in a family-friendlier venue than this posh property's other options. Pasta, meat-based entrees and pizza round out the menu in a lively, open atmosphere just off the Four Season's lobby. Start your meal off with a glass of wine or a craft cocktail from the restaurant's ample menu.

1. Via Napoli
Photo courtesy of Disney

Visitors to EPCOT expect, rightfully, to get authentic cuisine in the various international pavilions around the park. Located in "Italy," Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria delivers the sauce for certain, but its thin-crust pizza, which bakes in record time in the gaping maws of ovens so hot they're named for the nation's most famous volcanoes â€" Etna, Vesuvius and Stromboli â€" is a crispy, chewy, gooey delight for the taste buds. In fact, they take the art so seriously, Via Napoli brings in water sourced from a domestic spring similar to Italy's Campania region. With the crust well covered, diners are welcome to source the toppings themselves for an array of meats, cheese and vegetables. Not in the mood for pizza? It's the house specialty, but fear not: an array of other Italian dishes await.