Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak, Gawker’s chief restaurant critics, recently ate, drank, and gasped their way through every international pavilion and theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. This is their review.
The Best Restaurant in the World
Rich: Via Napoli was wall-to-wall beautiful men holding pizzas. Disney is really good at constructing reality sometimes. This was like Italy in reverse: the guys are all hot and none of them make passes at you.
Caity: The workers at Via Napoli seemed to enjoy one another’s company more than the employees at any other Epcot restaurant.
Visually, Italy seemed like the country with the least amount of work put into it, and Via Napoli in particular looked a little cheap. Epcot Canada has a detailed small-scale replica of the Château Laurier. Epcot Mexico has a giant fake Mayan pyramid located inside an even bigger giant fake Mayan pyramid. Epcot Italy has: a Murano glass chandelier.
Rich: Epcot Italy was kind of a 3D rendering of a painting you might see on the side of a pizzeria at the Jersey shore. A facsimile of a facsimile.
Caity: I understood why, though. If I were designing a theme park of nations and had to cut corners, I would skimp on the Italian restaurants. People are going to go to them anyway, especially if they have pizza. In that sense, I respected Italy’s practicality.
Rich: Via Napoli, like the San Angel Inn Restaurante, felt like home. I can walk a few blocks out of my building in Brooklyn and eat the exact same meal that I had in “Italy.” New York City is the Epcot of the Northeast.
Caity: This reminded me more of an Italian restaurant I might encounter in Central PA, except chintzier. Was it as good as Gabriella Italian Restaurant in Harrisburg? No. And Gabriella recently had to close due to fire! It has since re-opened.
Rich: Rome rises again in Harrisburg.
Caity: Back in Epcot, our waitress, Anna, introduced herself as “Anna from Bergamo.”
Rich: “Bongiorno!” she said and even as a stupid American, I could recognize that she was saying “Hello!” Immediately I felt welcome.
Caity: And a Bon Jovi to you, Anna. Anna was one of the sweetest, smiliest people we encountered during our entire trip. I may not have been blown away by Italy, but you couldn’t meet a nicer signora.
Rich: Even though it (like everything else I did during this entire excursion) may seem gauche, I decided to get one of their Neapolitan pizzas to compare it to the pizza-wave pizzas of NYC. The twist: I ordered zucchini on it. I’ve never had zucchini on a pizza, but there it was, staring up at me (without eyes since it’s vegetarian), begging to be spread across my pizza. OK, great.
Caity: And I got...a pepperoni pizza.
To this, we added an order of fried calamari, to share. “Perfect!” squealed Anna, like she had never heard people at Epcot order pizza and calamari before, and was blown away by our thoughtful choices.
Rich: She had been waiting for this moment all of her Epcot life.
I also ordered the Lemon Drop: a plop of shaved ice with vodka and lemonade. It got me so tipsy that, about 20 minutes in, I ordered another one and then the Italian guys started looking really good.
Caity: “Gracias!” You said when they brought you the second. O.K., thanks for playing! I got Diet Coke.
The calamari was good, and tasted especially so when compared to our disappointing Chinese breakfast of soy sauce packets, ice cream, and drama. In what I assume was a move intended to make the dish more kid-friendly, they left out the miniature octopi. But you know what? That’s how I want it too!
Rich: Yeah, only pig anus rings! It was tender. As tender as my love for countries you can traverse the entirety of in minutes.
I thought the pizza was good. Was it as good as the best NYC Neapolitan? Nah. But I bet it’s better than like 90 percent of Epcot visitors have access to.
Caity: I disagree about pizza access; I think most people could get as good a pie at a mom & pop pizza shop. It was good, in the way that perfectly fine pizza is innately good because it is pizza.
I imagine that, to people traveling with picky child eaters, the best and most important quality of Via Napoli pizza is that it is very clearly recognizable as pizza. Not trying to be fancy or interesting. The pepperoni were crispy-crunchy, which is my favorite way to eat them, but I felt no strong compulsion to finish my individual portion. And I LOVE pizza. (When I came to Epcot as a kid, I almost certainly begged to just get a pizza. I have no specific memory of asking, but it’s something I did every single day of my life, until I left for college.)
Rich: I like my pizza like I like my men: dripping with green grease. This was a win for me.
We finished our meal with dessert: I wanted zeppoli, which is something else I can walk from my apartment to get, especially if it’s Italian street food season in Williamsburg. Anna also insisted we get the tiramisu.
Caity: I would say: Anna strongly recommended we get the tiramisu and then insisted we finish it.
“You cannot leave that last little bit,” she said. I really didn’t want to eat it, but I also didn’t want to upset Anna. I was willing to hide it in my hand and throw it in a bush on the way out, but you stepped up.
Rich: I’m a team player, and I was drunk, thus, open to suggestion.
Caity: I thought both the desserts were fine. Not the best tiramisu I’ve had in my life, nor the worst.
Rich: I thought the zeppoli were wonderful — fried to the point of being assertive with their taste, but never giving any hint that they were just submerged in oil.
Caity: To me, they were zeppoli of a quality you would find at a carnival, which is perfectly good. Regular zeppoli are good, just like regular pizza is good.
The most interesting thing we saw in Italy was two women who appeared to be some sort of Mennonite baby-sitters, looking after the child of a non-Mennonite couple, who were also eating pizza in our piazza. I didn’t notice them until a little girl zoomed by us and out into the sun, only to be returned to her table by two women in matching stiff blue dresses, and bun coverings.
Rich: I thought maybe they were Mormons from Epcot’s Utah Country, but what do I know?
Caity: I also briefly thought they might be two enthusiastic Walt Disney fans wearing bad Elsa from Frozen knock-off dresses.
Rich: At one point toward the end of our meal, I went to say something but ended up dribbling my drink all over the place (including on my bag on the floor, I think). I knew then it was time to go on more rides. Ciao.
Is Everything OK?
Questions About the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Caity: No. It reminded me too much of Teresa’s cash-bought mansion on the Real Housewives of New Jersey, and that makes me sad.
Rich: Yeah. I haven’t seen that much green grease since Gremlins, and I love Gremlins.
Is it a good first date spot?
Caity: It’s a good place for a first double-date in an Olsen Twins movie about the twins getting lost in Epcot and then meeting some cute boys who show them around.
Rich: Yeah, depending on your date’s reaction to Anna’s domineering personality, you’ll be able to see if he or she is more sub or dom and thus have a better indication of whether you two are a good fit.
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Caity: While the vibe is not exactly romantic, sex is in the air in this restaurant more than any other in Epcot.
Rich: I feel like this is the place where you’re most likely to have a bathroom quickie with an Epcot worker. If you wanna call that an affair, who am I to stop you?
Is it a good place to bring the cryogenically frozen corpse of Walt Disney?
Caity: Yes. A dead person really wouldn’t be missing out on anything at Via Napoli.
Rich: Yeah. Use him to do Lemon Drop body shots. They’ll stay cold and you’ll stay drunk.