PizzeRizzo is the name of the quick service eatery that replaces Toy Story Pizza Planet across from Muppet Vision 3D in the Muppets Courtyard section of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you really don’t want to read a review about this place and find yourself familiar with its predecessor, then I will level with you: The pizzas and meatball sub are exactly the same as Pizza Planet and the Antipasto Salad is a similar idea. The interior of the restaurant is more practical, but may be disappointing to anyone expecting an experience similar to the Muppet Vision 3D preshow.
Here’s the menu:
The Kids’ Meals are also the same. The two desserts are new.
On the beverage front, the Moretti Blond and Wildberry-Basil Limoncello Lemonade are noteworthy additions.
While the official opening date for PizzeRizzo is Friday November 18th, the website received a piece of intelligence that indicated that it would soft open at 2pm on the 17th. (The story surrounding the acquisition of said tip is what Rogue Two: Not A Star Wars Story will be about next holiday season.) So I called in some reserve troops, namely The Toms, and we headed out to give it a try.
The exterior of the restaurant is a lot of fun with the brick work and fake(?) fire escape plus the forced perspective on the windows and upper floors. The sign that reads “The best PIZZA on the PLANET” is sure to elicit a tear from the party faithful while the neon pizza sign should attract many a wandering tourist. And all the while it looks like Santa is angling for a better view of what’s inside as he peers across at the Heckler brand red tomato water tower. We’ll pull into the Tomato Loading Zone ourselves.
My favorite gag is that after dark, only the “RAT” in “RATED” lights up, so the sign reads, “The City’s Top Rat Pizza.” That may be our first clue of what’s to come.
Inside, there are a couple of keys to understanding what’s going on with the theming, and each is subtle enough that they’re going to be lost on most visitors.
The first is that PizzeRizzo is not…and I repeat NOT…a New York City Pizzeria. It is a Downtown Los Angeles Pizzeria pretending to be a New York City Pizzeria. The ZARAT SURVEY…get it…za rat…the rat…….nevermind…Anyway, it’s kind of hard to read but it says:
PizzeRizzo 7th & Grand Ave., RA 7-4996
Don’t be fooled by the hole-in-the-wall atmosphere and the questionable kitchen staff at this Grand Avenue pizzeria. The excellent menu selection and Rizzo’s Deluxe Supreme Banquet Hall makes this family pizzeria – as the owner would say – “a real classy joint!”
In fact, this bulletin board is probably home to the majority of the funniest parts of PizzeRizzo. “We put the RAT in celebrate!” – Interspecies Weddings, Retirements, and Wakes. Talk about covering your bases.
100% Authentic New Yorkish Pizza! Clue #2.
First runner up…I suppose that’s true if we’re talking about the pizza choices in just Muppets Courtyard.
A couple more from the other side:
Double your business. Double your fun.
You might remember that “Gonzo’s Royal Flush” is the name of the restrooms attached to Rizzo – the second largest retailer of salvaged toilets and urinals in the tri-county area.
PizzeRizzo, which is a classic family pizzeria operated by everyone’s favorite culinary rat not-named-Ratatouille, is otherwise a popular hangout for Muppets and humans alike.
That’s me in the back doing some taste testing.
A few more downstairs:
With the caricatures adorning the walls, you might be able to convince yourself that you’re at Hollywood Brown Derby if you can use what’s around you to give yourself a bad enough concussion.
The downstairs seating area is large, open, and sanitized.
I’ll admit that going in, I was hoping for a situation similar to the pre-show area for Muppet Vision 3D.
There, you’ll find a ton of clever and colorful gags, props, jokes, and assorted paraphernalia.
This is a panorama from two separate shots, which is why it looks a little wonky, but it captures the vast majority of the downstairs seating area. It’s pretty obvious that Disney was trying to take advantage of as much space as possible for tables and chairs, which makes a lot of operational sense.
One issue with Pizza Planet was that the arcade games took up so much space, in turn reducing the number of available tables and pushing a lot of people to eat outside or upstairs.
That’s now less of a problem.
But one thing to keep in mind is that this is supposed to be themed to an actual pizzeria rather than some kind of Muppets gag reel. The aesthetic doesn’t really work on this large of a scale – the tile floors, booths, chairs, and tables would be much more at home in a significantly smaller space. This is anything but a “hole in the wall.”
Upstairs, the seating area has a little more character with the tabletops that look like green and red tablecloths.
At most Disney quick services, upstairs seating is sort of a “secret” in that people are either unaware of its existence or too lazy to head up, which is often the case at Columbia Harbour House or Electric Umbrella.
I wonder what happens with the upstairs seating when it offers a more vibrant, interesting experience. And whether anyone downstairs will realize that.
You may have noticed a variety of references to the Deluxe Supreme Banquet Hall and here we are with the wedding reception already in progress.
Yes, this is the banquet hall section of the upstairs seating area at PizzeRizzo.
Chandeliers provide the light that the colorful spotlights don’t as upbeat music blasts over the top of conversations. I like the drapes over the “windows.”
It’s extremely cheesy, which makes it incredibly authentic, if not a bit annoying after a short while. Granted I am not the sort of person that anyone would mistake for “fun,” but lunch is often an opportunity to get away from all of the loud and bright stimuli that surround the theme parks. And stepping into the Banquet Hall is very much an extension of that noise. But there is certainly something to say for options and if eating cardboard pizza while “Happy” plays on repeat is your idea of a pleasant lunch then by all means. The website won’t stop you.
Those of you that enjoy a bit of fresh air have three seating options, including the balcony upstairs with scenic views of the courtyard down below. You can also opt for expanded patio seating downstairs or a table with a red umbrella overhead across the way.
You might notice the counter seating straight ahead that faces the courtyard – perfect if you are a solo blogger or otherwise would prefer not to face whoever you are eating with. Sometimes those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.
An elevator is available on the same side as where you order food.
Speaking of ordering, the area is wide open and much more spread out now with twice as many ordering kiosks as Pizza Planet.
This is what the cramped space used to look like.
It’s a huge improvement.
“If you don’t see it on the menu, neither will we.” So if we close our eyes that means they can’t serve us?
While the printed menus handed out have pictures, the digital menus above the registers do not, ostensibly to make sure we temporarily forget what the entrees look like and make us more likely to order something.
Just as a reminder, here are the entrees that were available at Pizza Planet prior to closing:
The PizzeRizzo menu is so similar that it actually reuses the same pictures. Check it:
At least the pricing on the pizzas and sub is exactly the same as it was back in the middle of last year. The Antipasto Salad is up $2, but now features mozzarella balls and instead of Italian dressing, a balsamic. We’ll see how that goes.
Even though we knew we were going to receive the exact same thing as before, we still ordered a couple pizzas. This is the Cheese version served with a side Caesar Salad for $9.49.
And it is exactly the same.
To perhaps offer an idea about sizing, here is Bricker’s $10.69 Meat Lovers Pizza along two of the side Caesar Salads up top. Not to bring Universal and the Simpsons into this, but this looks much more like an “I’m okay with meat if it’s forced upon me” pizza. That does not quite have the same ring to it.
As before, these pizzas arrive frozen and are reheated in the “open” kitchen.
Nation Pizza and Foods out of Chicago is the supplier Disney uses.
Everyone has their own opinion on Disney pizza. Mine is that they’re “okay,” not unlike a Digiorno you’d buy at the grocery store. The pizzas have a pretty thick, bready crust and a mildly sweet marinara sauce with little evidence that there are any actual tomatoes involved. A thin layer of cheese typically covers each pie and the toppings are as paltry as they are in the pictures on the menu. And if anything, the Meat Lovers actually has six or seven pieces of sausage rather than the four pictured. So it’s hard to justify one of these as being a tremendous amount of value for the money, but they should satisfy if your standards are low enough. Expect a reheated frozen pizza that is $5 overpriced and your expectations will be met in turn.
Corless and his $9.69 Meatball Sub are also present with the $4.99 Cannoli and side Caesar Salad behind. This is the same as it’s always been too with three large, mildly spicy meatballs topped with a thick layer of melted provolone in between a lightly toasted roll. This is another entree that is not going to be on the receiving end of any awards outside of the second best(?) meatball sub at Hollywood Studios, but it gets the job done for the most part. I wouldn’t go out of my way to order it, but the kids are probably going to want to eat here and it might be a bit more interesting than the frozen pizza.
The Caesar Salads are small and straightforward – some romaine, a couple croutons, and some Ken’s Caesar. It does offer a bit of crisp freshness against the pizzas.
This is the Toy Story Pizza Planet version of the Antipasto Salad – note that it’s just a few shreds of cheese.
The new version of the $10.49 Antipasto Salad – Ham, Salami, Pepperoni, Kalamata Olives, Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Chopped Romaine and Balsamic. Like its predecessor, I thought this impressed. There’s at least 15 mozzarella balls, more than a half dozen tomatoes, and several slices of pepperoni, ham, and salami on top of the colorful, crisp greens.
And there’s a lot more underneath – probably 25 slices of pepperoni all told, in addition to what is predominantly salami mixed in. The balsamic vinaigrette worked really nicely too, offering a complex, sweet flavor with a bit of acidic tang and a velvety texture against the saltiness of the pork. With all the stuff, it was incredibly filling and one of the best salads that I’ve enjoyed in recent memory.
Prepping the outdoor portion of the photo shoot.
Rizzo does not offer a lot of options to spice up your food.
Crushed Red Pepper and Grated Parmesan Cheese are available though. Costco would sell you 500 of the crushed red pepper packets for $7.33 or 1.47 cents each. So if you can stuff 100 in your pants and bring them home you would have $1.47 worth. Do that 66 times and you’d have your 1-day ticket paid off. If you consider Hollywood Studios to otherwise be worth $10 then you’d have less work to do to break even.
Tiramisu has popped up on quick service dessert menus before, but this looked to be a new presentation. I don’t think we’ve seen a fast food cannoli outside of Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival.
This is PizzeRizzo’s version of Tiramisu, which comes in at $4.59.
It already appears better than what Pizzafari serves for similar money. Over there, it’s just a creamy mousse in a small cup.
This still isn’t going to pass for “real” tiramisu if there is such a thing as a ladyfingers purist, but we really enjoyed it. A fluffy, light, whipped layer of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese surrounds the sponge cake inside with a dusting of mildly sweet cocoa on top. It’s perhaps worth noting that like most Disney quick service desserts, these are defrosted and served. But I actually appreciated the fact that the center was still a little frozen because it made for a refreshing, creamy bite, not unlike when ice crystals form on the top of an ice cream container and you get a really acute sweetness when you scrape them off. If anybody else does that? Your money is perhaps still better spent at Sweet Spells on Sunset Boulevard, where you’ll have 30 or more options for around the same money, but this is my favorite quick service dessert in some time and one of few that I would gladly spring to purchase again. The four of us were impressed.
Your other dessert option is the $4.99 Cannoli. This had a very crispy exterior that was sweetened up a bit by a sprinkling of sugar before giving way to a pretty bland, mildly sweet, potentially-ricotta cheese filling. I thought the shell was a lot more crunchy than it was flaky and things didn’t get much better from there. It remains an interesting dessert and if for some reason you have to order one, you might consider it, but I think most people will prefer the soft, fluffy sweetness of the Italian cake.
On the beverage front, the Wildberry-Basil Limoncello Lemonade is new.
This is similar to a lot of the alcoholic beverages Disney offers at its quick services – very sweet, premade, light on the alcohol, and heavy on the ice. The basil and limoncello do offer some more interesting flavors than usual, but I would have preferred a cocktail that was tempered a lot more with lemon or lime. It’s the sort of drink where you can feel the sugar on your teeth with each sip.
But in the grand scheme of things, it’s not terrible, and I’d recommend this over the sangria if you were debating between the two. It’s not like there’s a spot to pick up a 2.5 ounce snifter of Stagg Jr.
And there’s something to say for the view.
If you’ve ever read any of my Food/Wine/Flower/Garden reviews of the Italy kiosk, you’ve probably seen me systematically dismantle Birra Moretti due to the fact that Disney charges $5 for a 6-ounce cup. But that makes the $9 price for a 20-ounce draft seem like a bargain in comparison and it’s certainly worth the $1.75 upgrade over Bud Light on flavor and uniqueness. Disney on the long con. It’s not a bad price at all. And after three, you might be more willing to sit through that third run of Disney. Jr Live on Stage.
So where does that leave us with PizzeRizzo? Is it the quick service of the month?
Has it done enough to defeat the other fast food outlets in the quest to be crowned best worst quick service at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?
Compared to Toy Story Pizza Planet, PizzeRizzo is somewhere between a lateral move and a slight improvement on a bar that is already pretty low. On the pizza and meatball sub front, there is literally no improvement in the food, despite major kitchen upgrades and modifications. It’s the exact same stuff. The Antipasto Salad is better, but one of those is going to go out for every ten of the other entrees, if that. The desserts are an improvement, but that money can probably be better spent on a Mickey Ice Cream Bar later in the day.
Atmosphere wise, the downstairs seating area is on the drab side. But it’s functional. And the ordering process should be a lot more pleasant with so much more space, in addition to doubling the number of registers. Being able to easily find a table and have your food in your hands in a couple of minutes can go a long way to enjoying a meal, even if the food is the same as it was at Pizza Planet five years ago and junior is bugging you about where he can play Mario Kart. Those looking for a more energetic atmosphere have the option to head upstairs to the Banquet Hall and there’s no doubt that the balcony seating is pleasant this time of year with highs that still typically peak in the high 70s.
But those of you that love Disney frozen pizza are in luck as is anyone that wished Pizza Planet was a little quieter.
And there are more quick service updates to get to as Fairfax Fare added the three entrees you see above just last week. And the Chicken & Ribs Combo moved to ABC Commissary.
We’ll get to all of that as well as keep an eye on how things progress at PizzeRizzo.