Trattoria al Forno Review at Disney’s BoardWalk – 2/18/15

Trattoria al Forno opened in the old Kouzzina by Cat Cora space on the BoardWalk back in December. It becomes the fourth Italian restaurant in the vicinity – there’s Tutto Italia and Via Napoli at Epcot and Il Mulino at the Swan/Dolphin. All of those are operated by third parties, making this the first “Disney” Italian restaurant outside of Tony’s Town Square, which serves primarily frozen food.

The BoardWalk area is relatively convenient from Epcot. You’re only a five-ish minute walk away from the International Gateway entrance/exit in between the United Kingdom and France Pavilions. It’s about 20 minutes from Hollywood Studios either walking or via boat. The area is also convenient for those staying at the BoardWalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan, or Dolphin.

I like Tutto Italia and Via Napoli a lot. The website’s last Italia review from this past December is half way through this post.

The website’s thoughts on Via Napoli are here.

There are a ton of options in the area and in my estimation, Trattoria al Forno is going to have to do something pretty special to get our business.

Reservations have been relatively easy to secure for next-day bookings so far. I didn’t have any problem getting an 8:10pm reservation for February 18th on the afternoon of the 17th. Not a lot has changed in how the space is used since the Kouzzina days. The lobby is still large and kind of awkward with only a bench and four chairs to accommodate guests waiting for their tables to be ready.

There is a #story of course (consider skipping it):

“In true Disney fashion, we spent too much money making up a lie about why this is an Italian restaurant now” is perhaps a bit too honest.

After waiting for a few minutes, we were seated right inside the door, maybe ten steps from the check-in podium where the tables for two are incredibly close together. This is San-Angel-Inn-level closeness, though the restaurant here isn’t so dark that you can’t see your neighbor whose food you could literally eat from your own seat. It was so awkward that Lisa had to text me how awkward it was because they would have been able to hear us say it out loud.

Not all of the tables are that close together. My recommendation would be to request a table further inside the restaurant with a little more privacy.

Despite our lousy placement, the restaurant’s atmosphere is pleasant enough, regardless of whether it’s made up.

Drinks:

The Amacord beers are a smart buy – bottle pricing at Total Wine is $12, making the markup a mere 41.67%. Compare that to the Moretti, with a markup of 428%.

Amacord is usually available on draft at Tutto Gusto in the Italy Pavilion. Good stuff.

More drinks:










The restaurant makes a pretty big deal about the fact that their wine is all Italian:







It seems more like a competition to have the longest, most unpronounceable name as anything else.

I tried to order the “Italian Manhattan,” but they were out of the Amaro Nonino liqueur and couldn’t make it. HAHAHAHA YOUR RESTAURANT GETS ZERO STARS. THIS REVIEW IS OVER. YOU LOSE. GOOD DAY SIR. I SAID, GOOD DAY! So I ordered the $10.95 Negroni – Beefeater Gin, Campari, and Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth – a well mixed cocktail.

Lisa ordered the $11.25 Molto Bello – A Margarita with an Italian twist, made with Patrón Silver Tequila, Caravello Limoncello, fresh Lime Juice and Agave Nectar. It’s a little sweeter than most classic margaritas with the limoncello and not particularly strong in this case.

The $9.25 Rossini – Ruffino Prosecco with Italian Wild Strawberry Liqueur was a big miss with far too much liqueur added to the drink. And instead of a strawberry, there were a bunch of tiny frozen raspberries floating around.

Finally, I thought the $10.25 Sicilian Iced Tea – Amaro Averna Liqueur, Caravella Orangecello, Iced Tea, Agave Nectar, and fresh Lemon Juice was far too generically sweet.

The food:

Just about everything you would expect to be here is here – calamari, caprese, pizza, lasagna, steak, chicken parmesan.

A freshly baked ciabatta loaf is presented shortly after ordering. Oil is already on the table, but it’s pretty bland without salt, pepper, or other spices to help liven it up. The bread is fine, but not something that you’d likely remember after the fact. Water works similar to California Grill here – it’s filtered and served in small glasses without ice. Your server will leave a pitcher at the table for refills.

Lisa ordered the Caprese Salad with House-made Mozzarella – $9.99. It arrived with a sizable hunk of freshly made cheese surrounded by fresh slices of tomato and a circle of balasmic, topped with olive oil, basil, and red onion. The red onion was a little unexpected – I think the flavor and astringency tends to overpower other more subtle flavors. While the rings can easily be set aside, the onion-y flavor had already permeated the cheese and tomato. That’s a somewhat minor quibble, but when the presentation gets in the way of the flavor of the dish, you might have a problem.

Anyway, the yellow tomatoes in particular were fresh and paired well with the mild saltiness of the cheese. You might just want to ask “if it still comes with red onion on top.”

I had some trouble deciding on a pizza, but ended up choosing the $19 Fennel Sausage, Salame Piccante, and House-pickled Peppers.

The size is somewhere in between your typical chain small and medium and consists of six slices with a very thin crust that had a nice char to it. Toppings were generous with plenty of sausage, salame, and peppers to get a little of everything in each bite, at least if the cheese didn’t cause them to slip around whenever a slice was held anywhere other than perfectly horizontal. Our server recommended the pizza to share, probably to lock in 20 bucks in appetizers, in addition to two entrees. Pizzas here would work well as an appetizer split between two or three people or as an entree – a lot of people, including the woman sitting less than six inches away from me, ordered one as an entree, which is just fine too. I enjoyed two slices in anticipation of the entree , which was just enough considering the vinegary quality of the peppers and the saltiness of the meat and cheese. I think if I could have done it again I would go with the truffle cream, which the server initially recommended. Overall, pizzas at Via Napoli get the edge from me, particularly if you can convince other people to share a larger size to save considerably on per-person prices.

Lisa ordered the Campanelle with Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes, and Genovese Pesto – $19.

The genovese pesto gave the dish a pretty color and a rich basil flavor, while the crispy green beans provided some crunch and freshened the dish up. The potatoes are largely absent, but what’s there helps soak up whatever pesto sauce and other flavors that the ruffled edges of the pasta were unable to contain, in addition to adding some heft to the vegetarian dish. Lisa’s only complaint was the abundance of oil, which you can see pooling underneath the pasta. Overall, very good.

I ordered the $27 Slow-cooked Lamb Shank with soft Polenta.

Fork tender, the lamb shank arrived with a sizable hunk of meat attached in a robust, slightly sweet red wine sauce. My only complaint is I would have liked more of the creamy polenta underneath. The quality, size, and presentation made this a good value.

Dessert:


I’m not usually a dessert person, but thought I would give something a whirl to round out the review, and decided on the $4.99 “spoonful of gelato.”

The “spoonful of” introduction should give you an idea about how much you’re going to get – there are four or five bites involved.

While it’s billed as “pistachio-stracciatella,” there was no chocolate-y component. In fact, I would bet the website’s lifetime advertising revenue on the fact that it’s exactly what’s served at the Landscape of Flavors food court at the Art of Animation Resort. It is reliably rich and decadent with an authentic, nutty pistachio flavor. I’d say the serving is just right for one considering how creamy it is.

Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Trattoria al Forno. I’m not sure it does anything to distinguish itself in a sea of other options, though. It’s hard to say anything negative about having choices, but there are more than 25 sit-down restaurants within a 15 minute walk of the entrance to al Forno, not including anything at Hollywood Studios. The atmosphere is pleasant, but forgettable. The menu is reasonably priced for Disney with a nice variety of pastas, meats, pizzas, and other dishes, but nothing was particularly wow-worthy. Service was what you would expect – friendly but impersonal. We are all tourists after all.

If you’re staying at a Crescent Lake resort and don’t want to deal with the crowds and drunks in Epcot, this would be a good family-friendly choice, particularly if nothing on the Captain’s Grille menu jumps out at you. It would also serve as a low key, less expensive date night spot for those that don’t want to be fussed over at Flying Fish, Yachtsman, or similarly expensive restaurants.

Overall, I think you’ll be pleased with the experience, but it’s not a restaurant most people are going to be in a hurry to return to.

Dave over at yourfirstvisit.net ran a nice review last week and came to similar conclusions. You should check it out for a second opinion.

Comments

  1. Dorliss Chambers says

    Had a very nice meal there a couple of weeks ago. I’ll be getting the lamb shank next trip.
    Oh, and the Italian Manhattan was very good.

  2. Ocalla says

    Went there in December, about 2 weeks after opening. Wasn’t impressed. Food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I was hoping it would improve with time. Sounds like your meal was better than ours, so that’s a plus!!

    Thanks for the additional update!!!

  3. Jim says

    Hey Josh, on a completely unrelated side note: are the actual wait time listings on your waits page a thing of the past, or will they come back? I always found those incredibly useful. Or, am I just doing something wrong. Thank you for all you do!

  4. Carly says

    Thank you thank you thank you! I have been waiting to read some more reviews on this and yours was great to read. I am debating on choosing to eat here this coming May or stick w/my original choice of Raglan Road. I know – totally different cuisines – but I like to try new places and I love Italian food. So I am so glad to see this review. Makes me think I might want to try it. Josh – what would you choose?? – stay with Raglan Road (which I have been there before and enjoyed) or should I try this place? Thinking the calamari and pizza might be what I try.

  5. JayStemple says

    HAHAHA! “I said good day sir!”

    Love the Willy Wonka reference.

    Honestly, I only read this article for the sarcasm and snarkiness. I’ve no intentions of ever eating at any of the places on the boardwalk.

  6. Joy says

    We had an ADR at Trattoria for our February trip, but decided to cancel it and do Via Napoli instead, based on convenience. Glad to read this review-sounds like it would’ve been good, but not great, and Via Napoli is one of my favorites. Thanks, Josh!

  7. RebeccaMcK says

    I guess people “in the know” about that mozzarella appetizer (thanks to you) could request “no onions atop it” when ordering. That’s weird – I don’t think I’ve seen that cheese with onions atop it anywhere (granted, I’ve only ordered it at a couple of places, including Via Napoli). If enough people request it that way, maybe they’ll just save the onions and not serve it that way any more, lol. Thanks for the review.

  8. Jill Mac says

    We ate at Trattoria on Feb 4th and loved it. I don’t recall red onions being on the caprese, and we also ordered the cured meats platter for an appetizer. Our server was fantastic. In fact, my whole family declared that we’d rather eat there than Tutto Italia going forward. My only complaint was that the meal was at “theme-park” pace, where the entrees came before we had finished the appetizers. Outside of the parks, I prefer a slightly longer meal experience. Maybe others have a different experience? We had a toddler with us, and sometimes that causes servers to rush.

  9. dusty cheatham says

    I have a very dear Disney buddy that works at this eatery. we will see her in april . the capreese looks yummy as well as the lamb.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The website reviewed dinner positively last year, though it noted that the menu, atmosphere, and execution probably aren’t enough to get most people away from Tutto Italia or Via Napoli in the Italy Pavilion. Italia offers a more authentic experience in a more vibrant setting while Napoli is dirt cheap if you can convince three or four people to go in on a pizza together. […]

  2. […] It hasn’t been a while since we visited for breakfast. That review from August is available here: http://www.easywdw.com/easy/blog/trattoria-al-forno-breakfast-review-at-disneys-boardwalk/. Since that post discusses the logistics of visiting the BoardWalk area and offers a tour of the restaurant, I won’t waste your time by reiterating all of that here. My original dinner review is available here. […]

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