In order to tell my Via Napoli story, it’s important I start with the end. After the meal, our waiter returned with the check, but instead of the check inside there was a slip of paper with “Compliments of Eric” written inside. For those of you who don’t know, Eric Bandauski is the mastermind behind the Italy pavilion beer programs, including the Italy pavilion’s Flower and Garden and Food and Wine Festival offerings. He’s done an excellent job in making the Italy pavilion a place to find good beer.
The last thing I was expecting when I booked Via Napoli (which happened to be the same day Jenn and Pat’s Italy beer article was posted) was a free meal. My mind had been made up long before that check came. Below are my honest opinions about Via Napoli, but it’s important you know that the meal was complimentary.
Now, after that overly long introduction and disclaimer, back to the beginning…
We arrived at the Italy pavilion fairly early and were just in time to see Sergio, the Italian mime and juggler. He puts on a great show just in front of St. Mark’s Campanile (the bell tower). It’s a one man show featuring Sergio, a whistle, a bunch of small soccer balls, a net, and the audience. We watched his whole routine just before going to the back of the Italy pavilion to check in at Via Napoli.
After waiting just a few minutes, we were seated at a large table near the front just on the other side of the wall from the reception area. The Via Napoli menu isn’t huge, but it’s tough to make a decision. Looking at the menu, it’s obvious Via Napoli’s specialty is pizza. With eight specialty pizzas plus the option to build your own, it’s a tough choice to narrow it down to one.
Not long after we were seated Eric came out and gave us a rundown of the beer and wine. I settled on Birra del Borgo’s Caos, a beer/wine hybrid; meanwhile my wife decided to try a white merlot by Foffani (which may show up on Pleasure Wineland soon).
Caos was quite good; it was served in a pilsner-style glass with just a bit of a head on top (it had dissipated by the time I got the picture below). Thankfully, the glass wasn’t frozen, so we’re already off to a good start with the way it was served. It has a light grape, wine-like scent and the taste is very similar, but also has a nice wheat backbone to it. It reminded me a bit of another hybrid I really enjoyed, Dogfish Head Noble Rot. Caos was nice and bubbly with a golden color and a lighter but refreshing body.
Appetizer platters were first on the menu; we had a platter of fried foods including calamari, arancini (fried risotto balls filled with mozzarella and meat ragu), vegetables, and fried cheese. Also, we tried the antipasti platter that included prosciutto, other Italian meats, shrimp, cheeses, and olives. Both were quite good; personally, I really enjoyed the calamari and the prosciutto.
After a while the entrées started arriving. Let’s start with the kids. Each ordered a kid’s sized cheese pizza. Not a whole lot else to say here, but it’s definitely an improvement over the standard Disney child’s pizza.
Let’s see if I’m getting all this straight; my sister ordered the eggplant parmesan, which came with a side of potatoes.
My sister’s soon-to-be (at the time) fiancée ordered the Tortellini in Brodo (beef tortellini in broth).
My parents shared a large pizza; if I remember correctly they built their own with artichoke. They ended up taking some of this back to the room as it was too much for them to finish at the restaurant.
Finally, my wife and I ordered the individual sized Ortolano pizza, which is a vegetable-only pizza. We’re not vegetarians by any means, but it sounded good especially after the somewhat heavy appetizers. An individual pizza is still fairly big, about a foot in diameter and cut into four slices.
Everyone was pleased with the meal. A couple of things to note; the sauce Via Napoli uses is a true Italian sauce and is thinner than the sauces most pizza and pasta places in the United States use. Also, and you can especially see this on the individual-sized pizza, the crust was a bit dark a little overcooked for my taste.
At some point while we were eating Eric came back and asked if we were interested in drinking anything else. I decided to have a tasting glass portion of Birrificio del Ducato’s Nuova Mattina. Eric also let me know that they’re planning to start a beer flight program; choose three beers and have them served in these slightly smaller glasses. As for Nuova Mattina, it’s a saison and may be even better than the Caos. It’s a cloudy golden color with a small white head. The scent here is light and fresh, and it starts with a bit of a spicy taste but is quickly followed with slightly sour fruit. The peppery taste lingers a bit. Another refreshing beer from Via Napoli!
Overall, I really enjoyed Via Napoli! It’s a nice location that draws you into the Italy pavilion, plus the food is quite good. It’s also fairly casual, which makes it a good place to go without feeling like you need to get dressed up. The service is also sharp and attentive, and it didn’t feel like the restaurant was packed even at dinner time.