Our waiter, who proudly announced to us that he was primarily a bartender and fluent in Tagalog, Russian, and Italian, said that the restaurant was planning to expand out into the neighboring shop area and would be huge, with a large bar along one wall. â€œAnd I will be bartender!â€
While we ran late for our ADR (45 minutes to rent a car at MCO! Donâ€™t askâ€¦) they seemed to have many available tables and seated us immediately after we arrived. They have both an inside and outside dining area from which you can vaguely see the higher Illumination fireworks. The inside dining area is a little more boisterous than I remember the old Alfredoâ€™s being, even without the singing waiters that used to circulate around.
The menu, which was created by Celebrity Chef Joachim Splichal, founder of the Patina Group, is weighted slightly towards the appetizers â€“which show an admirable variety. The selections decrease a little as you move through the pasta options towards the â€œPesce E Carneâ€ section, which has the same inclusions as virtually every menu at Walt Disney World by nowâ€”the white fish, the salmon, the pork chop, the chicken breast, and the steak. As with most things however, the details are what make them distinctive.
For my entrÃ©e, I had the Fish Filet “all’acqua pazza” with clams, tomato, capers and olives. The title means â€œin crazy water,â€ which is generally a sauce of garlic, herbs, tomato, and salt. The fish was bass and was cooked just right, without being dried out or surrounded by tough clams. While the sauce can sometimes be a little spicy, this one was notâ€¦which was fine by me, being a total spice wimp, but which might have rendered it a little bland to the more capsaicin-tolerant.
My mother tried out the Tagliata di Manzo with fennel and arugula salad, which is basically sliced, seared beef. Iâ€™m not sure what cut the meat was, but she said it was very tasty and tender. The potatoes on the other hand, were a little overdone and hard as roasted potatoes can get, but that was made up for by the salad, of which she was abnormally fond for someone who doesnâ€™t even like arugula.
Although relatively full, we came at last to our favorite part of any mealâ€”dessert! Oh Dining Plan, you are a harsh mistress!
On the advice of our waiter, I tried the Profiteroles, which were essentially cream puffs with vanilla gelato inside and chocolate syrup outside. They were very good, but honestlyâ€”when youâ€™re talking about cream puffs, gelato, and chocolate syrup, there really isnâ€™t any â€œbad.â€
The Mocha Tiramisu on the other hand, was absolutely wonderful and transcended the sad little ubiquitous tiramisus you see on menus everywhere like King Arthurâ€™s Carousel transcends those coin-op dime-store ponies located outside grocery stores. The savoiardi were fresh and the coffee taste not drowned out by the rum that some restaurants apply over-liberally.
On the whole, the dinner was very enjoyable on the Dining Plan, but I think my enjoyment might have been tempered a little if I had been paying the >$100 tab out of pocket. Itâ€™s a good restaurant but the pricing is, I think, a little out-of-line with what youâ€™re getting–$24 for spaghetti? Of all the restaurants I tried this trip, this one was the most expensive per credit, including the signature dining.
If you donâ€™t mind the prices, or the fact that your authentic Italian dining experience is coming to you courtesy of a restaurant group based in California, give it a try. You might want to hurry thoughâ€”it doesnâ€™t sound like itâ€™s going to be around for long.
Location: Italy, in EPCOT.
Ambience: A little loud and a trifle rowdy, as youâ€™d expect at a restaurant in a theme park.
Service: A little rough around the edges, but very personable.
Prices: Appetizers around $12-16, Entrees around $24-36, Desserts around $9-14
Best dishes: Tiramisu
Best table: Close to the window or outside for an obstructed view of the Illumination fireworks.