Stepping from the cobbled walkway of Epcot’s Italy pavilion into Via Napoli, one is immediately greeted by two things: the fragrant, familiar aroma of wood-burning ovens and dozens of smiling cast members all offering a warm and enthusiastic “Buona Sera.” Via Napoli, one of Epcot’s newer restaurants having opened in August 2010, is exquisite to behold. Authentic Italian craftsmanship and ornate details greatly enhance the wonderful Mediterranean feeling and adds to its Old World flair. The restaurant, though massive, is not void of charm and distinctive personality. The centerpiece of Via Napoli are the three whimsical wood-burning ovens named after three of Italy’s most famous active volcanoes: Stromboli, Etna and Vesuvius. Dozens of pizzas flow out of the ovens at a steady pace. Our waitress, Giulia, was friendly and upbeat and seemed to enjoy, if not appreciate, our knowledge of her native tongue. Although she had many tables to tend to, she spent the entire meal being attentive and cordial, and her smile never wavered.
We started the meal with an order of Fritto Verdura and Minestrone. The Fritto Verdura ($6) is a healthy portion of battered and fried seasonal vegetables accompanied by a lovely marinara sauce for dipping. While the vegetables were cooked to perfection, the coating was rather bland and tasteless. They would have been better without any batter at all as they were tasty enough on their own. The marinara was delightful – light and flavorful with just the right amount of seasoning. The Minestrone ($8) smelled wondrous. The broth was not as heavy as some Minestrones I have sampled , and this was a welcome change. Again, though, the soup lacked enough flavor. Basil, oregano or simple seasoning could have enhanced it greatly and helped it overcome the very obvious blandness. For our main course we ordered two individual-sized pizzas, the specialties of the house.
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The Carciofi pizza ($18) is a white pizza garnished with artichoke. This was a splendid choice, and the highlight of the meal. The blend of cheeses was delicious, and everything tasted incredibly fresh. Each bite was beyond delectable. A definite must try! The wood-firing helped make the crust perfection. This pizza is traditional, authentic Italian pizza from the thinness of the crust to the absence of heavy oils. The Piccante pizza ($18) is a combination of traditional red sauce, mozzarella and sausage. Again, the wood-firing added to its delicious taste. While not as good as the Carciofi, it still was bursting with flavorful goodness bite after bite. While we were rather full already, we had to sample one of the eye-catching desserts. We opted for the Torta Momma Rosara ($8), an apple torte garnished with almond sorbet. What a disappointment. While I tend to love European desserts as I find them not as sweet and heavy as their American counterparts, I found the cake to be dry and tasteless. It actually crumbled into pieces because it lacked any hint of moistness. The apple pieces tasted like candied fruit, reminiscent of those found in holiday cakes. The sorbet was light and refreshing and would have been better served alone. The restaurant is worth a visit for the architectural style, the overall ambience and the specialty pizzas. There is tons of charm and warmth despite how large the dining area is. One thing I did notice was the lack of traditional Italian music which would have been a lovely accompaniment to our dinner. There was some intermittent music playing almost inaudibly at times, but the tunes were so low they were unrecognizable. The addition of some kind of background music or strolling musicians would have greatly added to the experience. But on the positive side, the overall volume level of the restaurant, despite its size and bustle, is surprisingly low, which does allow diners to have pleasant and uninterrupted dinner conversation. _____________________________ FAST Review Food: Try the house specialties – pizzas!! They won’t let you down. Atmosphere: Warm and welcoming with the right hint of charm Service: A+ all the way Tips: If you have a large party, ask for the family style table near the wood-burning ovens. Looks like a fun place to gather. Make a reservation for early in the evening if you can. Our reservation was at 4:30 and thank goodness for that. We had no trouble being seated but upon leaving, found the entrance to be packed and people waiting for quite some time, reservation or not. ChistineD