Pizzafari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park closed for a lengthy refurbishment that began on August 24th and ended on November 28th, which was about a month later than originally anticipated. Like Flame Tree Barbecue’s closure, the refurbishment was not really about the restaurant itself, but rather about infrastructure for new additions. In Flame Tree’s case, you may remember that the closure was principally about electrical and drainage work necessary for Rivers of Light, in addition to the paint job and some extended awnings over the ordering area.
Here at Pizzafari, the closure was largely to begin construction on Tiffins, the new waterfront signature dining restaurant that’s going to be attached to the back of the pizza joint.
Otherwise, you may remember from last month’s Animal Kingdom update that Pizzafari now enjoys a muted color palette that better fits in with the other changes to Discovery Island.
In fact, the yellows and browns seen at Pizzafari are nearly identical to those found down the road at Riverside Depot, the new Disney Outfitters addition that opened on December 8th.
But there’s actually a much more significant change at Pizzafari that probably isn’t obvious from looking at the outdoor menu.
And it’s that the pizzas are completely different. Disney is no longer purchasing frozen personal pans by the thousands and instead makes them fresh in-house. You may notice the “hand-crafted pizzas” header above the pictures on the left.
The menus that they hand out to guests waiting in line explain the toppings in much more detail.
Otherwise, the only change is switching out the breadsticks for the garlic knots.
It’s a welcome change as the garlic knots are more flavorful than the basic breadsticks. The Kids’ size pizza is also a smaller version of the larger handmade version.
Otherwise, Pizzafari’s interior is largely the same with colorful murals everywhere you look.
One of the interior seating areas.
Across from the ordering area.
One downside of the space is that it gets super loud.
If the weather’s decent, I suggest heading outside. The tables closer to the Tiffins/Avatar construction are typically less crowded.
Speaking of seating, there’s less of it inside due to construction. I’m not sure how much, if any, Pizzafari seating that they’ll end up losing. It could be a temporary thing to keep people eating away from the noise.
In the interim, you’ll find these cards on every table. My assumption is that Disney will be enforcing the “you have to have your food before anyone in your party can sit down” rule when crowds are heavier, like they will be next week.
On to the new pizzas. I ordered the $10.49 Mediterranean Pizza Served with Antipasto Salad and topped with Alfredo Sauce, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Pesto, Roasted Tomato, Roasted Red Pepper, Kalamata Olive, Arugula, and Red Onion.
I had not read over the extended explanation on the menu handout until after my meal and I’m surprised it leads with the alfredo sauce component because there was really none of that to speak of. The flavor was mostly underlined by pesto, which is what you would expect from a Mediterranean-style pizza. The ingredients were otherwise high quality and the toppings were numerous. It looks like mostly arugula and red onion here, but underneath there was a ton of roasted tomatoes, red peppers, and kalamata olives.
The crust is much thinner than the previous DiGiorno-style pizzas that Disney used to serve property-wide. You may remember that Pinocchio Village Haus switched to flatbread pizzas a few years ago now and the various resorts serve “big pizza slices” instead of the frozen individual size pies.
If I was going to complain about something, and if you’ve ever visited this website before, you know it’s coming, it’s that the pizzas aren’t cut into slices and the weight of the toppings tends to make it collapse in the middle as you try to pick it up. You could go after it with a plastic fork and knife, but your toppings would be sliding off left and right in what will probably end up being a losing battle. I ended up picking the pizza up the best I could and tearing off pieces as necessary. The toppings were so good that I ate what did fall off with a fork. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m excited to revisit Pizzafari to try the Meat Lover’s Pizza. What a time to be alive.
This used to be the vegetarian option. Way too much bread and way too little cheese and toppings. It’s just a few tiny specks of tomato, onion, and pepper.
Pizzas here are now served with a small cup of antipasto salad instead of the side Caesar that was served for years. I think the flavors would contrast a lot better with the other pizzas topped with the spicy marinara. The flavor profile of the salad was very similar to the Mediterranean pizza itself with the kalamata olives, red onion, and roasted peppers dominating the flavor profile. I do not recommend clicking this image of the half eaten cup, but if I was going to whine about something again, it would be that the salad was very watery with too much dressing that all pooled at the bottom, making for a somewhat soggy affair if you didn’t shake each bite off a little bit. Since the Pasta is served with a side salad, you may be able to request a side Caesar if you prefer.
I really like the Heart of Romaine Salad served here as well. The only problem on that end is the wedge itself, which can be a chore to cut up with a plastic fork and knife.
I’m less high on the Baked Pasta Bolognese, which is basically Marie-Callender’s-frozen-entree-quality. If you’re really not in the mood for pizza, then it might satisfy if your expectations are low enough, but I don’t think it’s a standout.
Overall, Pizzafari is another in a long line of quick service improvements throughout the Parks. A stop here is a completely viable option, particularly when it’s hot or in inclement weather, thanks to the air-conditioning. Just consider bringing earplugs.
A lot more on Animal Kingdom incoming.