With sadness and despair in our eyes, it’s time that we return to Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, the “Italian” eatery that you’ll find just inside the entrance to Magic Kingdom on the right. As long as you head in through any of the doors into Town Square Theater, you’ll eventually make your way down to the restaurant’s check-in area, so long as you continue moving through the building, which is also shared with the Mickey Mouse and Tinker Bell Meet and Greets, among other things. For some time, Tony’s actually bribed diners by offering FASTPASSes for Tinker Bell to use after their meal. Potentially, if the first vacation picture that you show your friends is of you standing there looking sickly, every other picture that you present will have you looking more vibrant. It’s the oldest trick in the book.
This review continues our reexamination of the various Magic Kingdom eateries, which began with Liberty Tree Tavern in this review, which covers just about everything on the menu. We also visited Skipper Canteen in this review. And while it’s not a sit-down restaurant for lunch, we also stopped by Be Our Guest Restaurant to check out some new menu items there too, since you may have it on your list of potential midday stops. We took a short break from continuing through the Magic Kingdom restaurants, in large part due to my recovery time after eating at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, but we’ll also revisit Plaza Restaurant and perhaps Crystal Palace and Cinderella’s Royal Table, depending on what else is going on. A resort or tower or something might have opened recently. It’s stipulated in my contract that I provide that information to you within 16 weeks.
Tony’s Town Square Restaurant does not have the world’s greatest reputation. This may have something to do with the fact that the above is what they used to serve. For $32. It may be in part due to the fact that I ate it, and in turn took what I’m guessing is 15 years off my life, but I can actually “feel” my arteries clogging as I look at what may or may not be legitimate Alfredo Sauce on top of that heaping pile of dry pasta. I don’t even know what’s in that bowl, but I don’t think it should be in there or look like that. On the plus side, I was able to have my usual 37 glasses of red wine throughout the meal and for once, everyone at the restaurant understood exactly why. The picture above is from November 2017.
Fortunately(?), Tony’s underwent some pretty significant menu changes back in May of 2018 under the guidance of a new culinary team. Below is what you’ll currently find:
It’s usually not a good sign when “da-ouse-a specialties” are marked with what appears to be hair. But I’m not sure what Tony’s could do to reassure me that everything is going to be okay.
I’ve actually had some reasonable luck at Tony’s over the years, particularly 5+ years ago when they used to serve this less expensive lunch menu:
Seeing things like $12.49 Meatball Sliders is almost unbelievable given the fact that the average entree price is now $27.33, at least if you’re ordering Shrimp with your pasta in place of Chicken. Heck, the average appetizer price, at $12.38, is just 11 cents shy of our tasty, tasty Slider entree of yesteryear (2016).
Served with Chips, they were actually pretty good too and a nice alternative to quick service food for not a whole lot of money. Of course, the past is the past no matter how much we wish we could rewind five years and change our plans to open only a portion of Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland in June.
Rewinding a bit ourselves, Tony’s Town Square is based on the restaurant where Lady and the Tramp had their first kiss in the movie…The Lady and the Tramp.
You’ll find the movie playing on a loop in the lobby. After seeing Ratatouille, the food may well taste better if you let the dogs make it. Perhaps we’ll see that turned into a live action sequel.
As Disney describes it:
Step inside this charming turn-of-the-century trattoria on Main Street, U.S.A., with its whitewashed balustrades, French doors and expansive front porch, which offers a fantastic view of evening parades. Take in the classic 1955 film Lady and the Tramp playing in the lobby and pictures of the 2 pooches gracing the wall.
Hopeless romantics are bound to gush over the central fountain depicting the cute canine couple, and more characters and scenes from the movie get you in the mood for food, friends, fun times and perhaps even amore!
Tony’s offers a variety of seating areas. The inside restaurant seating is perhaps the most whimsical with stained glass and plenty of paintings tying back to the movie. There’s actually a live action version of Lady and the Tramp coming out this November, which hopefully won’t overshadow the opening of The Lion King, which arrives in theaters on July 19th, 2019.
Outdoor patio seating is comfortable in cooler temperatures and offers a bit of a strained view of the various parades if you time your meal to begin about 45 minutes before said parade steps off.
Tony’s offers a VIP Dining Package for the Festival of Fantasy Parade with the viewing section near the Flag Pole, where the ride line is indicating. It’s arguably the best possible view with the Parade heading down Main Street right towards the reserved viewing location. The area in green offers a much less direct view, but it tends to fill up later than you’d expect as people are more likely to crowd along the main walkway leading to and from Cinderella Castle.
The Dining Package will set you back $54/adult and $19/child and includes any appetizer, entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage. The most expensive meal an adult could put together would be the $16 Calamari, $36 Steak, $10 Chocolate Cake, and $5 Soda, which comes out to $67, or $13 more than the Dining Package cost. Of course, that also means that you’re eating three courses at Tony’s Town Square. But the Dining Package is by far the easiest way to see the Festival of Fantasy Parade and it also benefits from being one of the best views. As we move through the review and some items stand out as being pretty good, you may want to consider the Dining Package if you’re a little wary about having to stake out Festival of Fantasy spots 30 to 60 minutes before the Parade steps off, only for a vlogger to sneak in uncomfortably next to you at the last possible moment. We all have to feed our families somehow. You may just not want to do that at Tony’s Town Square.
Seating is also available in the solarium, which is bright and airy when the sun is up. Even in July, this room was well air-conditioned to the point where we were a bit chilly.
If you have a seating preference, request it at check-in. My recommendation is the main dining room for a bit more of a Lady and the Tramp vibe, but you may prefer a window looking outside or the patio prior to a parade or on a nicer day.
Tony’s is also home to Cruella’s Halloween Hide-A-Way during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Tony’s Most Merriest Town Square Party during the Very Merry Christmas Party. I review the latter here. There are a number of key components there, including bottomless wine and beer, a reserved spot for the Parade, and the event continuing for an extra thirty minutes after the Party otherwise concludes.
Against my better judgment, we’ll move on to the Antipasti, with eight selections available, including the traditional Italian appetizer, Chicken Wings.
Tony’s does have one thing going for it in that it’s the only Magic Kingdom table service restaurant offering complimentary bread with lunch and dinner. Liberty Tree Tavern brings rolls with the Bill of Fare, but Skipper Canteen now offers Brazilian Cheese Bread for $12 and the only bread you’ll find at Plaza arrives with the various sandwiches.
Like just about everything at the restaurant, the bread has improved. It’s soft and doughy with a light sprinkling of salt and a drop or two of olive oil. Even more olive oil for dipping will be poured tableside by your server on top of a sprinkle of herbs. Sort of like a horror movie, it would make a lot of sense to get out now while we’re still ahead, but I’m the idiot fumbling around with a ouija board laughing about the preposterousness of Walt’s frozen head sitting on top of a mantle inside Cinderella Castle. Oh, but it is real my friends. It is real.
Back to the Antipasti, we have the $14 “Garlic-Parmesan Wings – Garlic-rubbed Chicken Wings finished with Parmesan, Shaved Celery, and Creamy Italian Dipping Sauce.”
Your fourteen dollars buys you just five wings, which is certainly on the expensive side of things.
Fortunately, at least a couple of them were on the meaty side, but they tasted almost identical to the Willow Brook Oven Roasted Wings that I buy frozen from Sam’s Club in 64-ounce bags. And it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s exactly what they are, perhaps with a light dusting of Parmesan before they’re placed in the oven.
I wasn’t able to differentiate the “Creamy Italian Dipping Sauce” from your run-of-the-mill grocery store brand Italian Vinaigrette Salad Dressing. It was thin, pungent, and a pretty big departure from what you’d typically be served alongside Chicken Wings. It’s possible that these are an addition to the menu to cater to those who are stopping by table service restaurants for a couple of beers or glasses of wine along with a couple of appetizers, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily a clientele that Disney should try to cater to. On the other hand, they do fill seats and the profit margin on a $9 beer or $13 glass of wine is even higher than on these wings, which is probably $1.50 worth of food, if that.
Potentially, you could start your Dining Package meal with these, but there’s not much value here otherwise. You do get the Celery shreds though.
The $11 Caprese is about what you would expect – at least if you were going to try to make this at home with little effort and only the ingredients you could find at the third best grocery store in your immediate area. The Balsamic carries the required tang, but I’d like to see Disney use more flavorful tomatoes and sturdier Mozzarella. You could certainly do worse and it’s a nice and light way to get going with your meal. There’s nothing special here, though.
I’ll actually miss the Zucchini Fries appetizer, which was a menu mainstay for years. Granted, they were just as defrosted as the Wings, but they were at least a little more unique, crunchy, and with a nice snap to each bite. They were absolutely delicious when dipped into that creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing. Maybe we can resurrect them during our séance.
We’ll start on the low end of the menu, price-wise, and work our way up, beginning with the $21 “Tony’s Pizza Pie with Pepperoni or Sausage or Garden Vegetables.” In this instance, we have half Pepperoni and half Garden Vegetables. It’s also available with just Cheese for two dollars less.
I’m generally of the mind that even bad pizza tastes pretty good and that may be the nicest way to describe Tony’s attempt. The crust was thin and undercooked with a grainy, gritty texture from too much cornmeal and it was topped with a thin layer of gelatinous, generic mozzarella cheese. The toppings were on the generous side, though there’s an awful lot of green herbs and vegetables on the half of pizza that we requested be pepperoni. We didn’t much care, but anyone adverse to vegetables probably wants to order their own or make it clear that you’d like the “chef” to do their best to mitigate cross-contamination. I’m also not sure how you manage to slice a pizza and then have six or seven pepperonis standing up straight in the crevice. It’s pretty obvious that there is no dedicated pizza oven back in the kitchen as the overall taste was similar to something that you’d pull out of your own oven after using pre-made dough from the grocery store and then using whatever toppings you had on hand.
With all of that negativity out of the way, it certainly is edible and on the sizable side of things, meaning you could feasibly share one at a cost of about $11 per person. Honestly, I might prefer the flatbreads at Pinocchio Village Haus for similar money, which is not a thought that you’d want to invite into a conversation when you’re talking table service pizza at 2x the cost. So while I would not recommend one of these things, it’s not a tremendous amount of money to leave reasonably satisfied. Tony’s is going to be a lot more comfortable than the Village Haus most of the time.
For the same $21, you could order up this “House-made Gnocchi Primavera – Potato Gnocchi, Garden Vegetables, Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, and Romano Cheese.” It’s also available with Chicken for $26 or with Shrimp for $28. Adding either is probably smart as this is largely a bowl of vegetables mixed in with a very green, very oily, very garlicky sauce. If you really like those three things, then you’re in luck, but there weren’t nearly enough of the potato pillows to soak up the sauce and what happened to be there was mushier than you’d probably hope. It looks better than what we’ve seen so far, though, which is probably good. People say this is a negative site, but I really don’t see it.
Next up, we’ve got the $30 “Ravioli with Grilled Jumbo Shrimp – Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli, Heirloom Tomatoes, Wilted Chard, Hazelnut, and Lemon-Parmesan Crema.” It’s also available as a vegetarian entree for $22 or with Chicken for $27. Without the Shrimp, this would be a pretty sad plate with just five of the ravioli. We liked the Crema, which there was just enough of to coat the major ingredients in a rich, cheesy cream-based sauce. Whether the Ravioli were undercooked is perhaps in the eye of the beholder – I usually like my pasta on the tender side, but can appreciate when more of an al dente firmness is better, but these seemed to be cooked a minute or two short of even that, with an almost raw texture to the noodle before giving way to what was legitimately a pretty tasty mixture of Spinach and Ricotta. It’s finished with an unadvertised swirl of tangy Balsamic, which helped bring out the flavors of the juicy Tomatoes more than anything, with the little bit of Hazelnut adding some texture along with a mild earthiness, and the bitter Wilted Chard offering a nice contrast to the richness of the sauce. For eight dollars more than the vegetarian version, the addition of four large tail-on shrimp is probably fair. They were grilled well with a nice snap to each bite. Overall, it’s probably the best-tasting dish I’ve enjoyed at Tony’s in some time, but the $30 price “feels” a bit on the expensive side.
Next up, we have the current plating of the $32 “Italian Trio – Three classic favorites on one dish! Chicken Parmigiana, Fettuccine Alfredo, and Spaghetti with Pork-Beef Meatball.” When they say “three classic favorites,” I am guessing that they are talking about a restaurant other than Tony’s Town Square, but we do have an “opportunity” to try three major menu mainstays.
As an individual entree, the Spaghetti is described as “Choice of Hand-rolled Pork-Beef Meatballs or Italian Sausage with Freshly Made Thin Spaghetti and Tony’s Marinara Sauce.” Somewhat suspiciously, I inquired about whether or not the pasta was actually made at the restaurant, since I had always assumed that the kitchen looked more like a showroom for General Electric Microwaves than Osteria Francescana. But our server assured us that there was actually a pasta-making apparatus “downstairs” and that the noodles would be “like nothing we had ever tried before.”
Typically, when a server says something like this, it’s reason for some amount of excitement. If I was at Yachtsman and the server told us that the Bone Marrow Butter accompaniment was “out of this world,” then I could be fairly certain that it’s going to be delicious rather than something that they actually found on Mars. If I was at Victoria & Albert’s and the server assured us that the Honey Lacquered Rohan Duck was going to be like no duck we had ever tried, then I would be similarly enthused. However, Tony’s telling me that their spaghetti was going to be like nothing we had preciously eaten seemed more like a threat than anything. It is just noodles after all, how wild could it be?
As always, I should have known better, but somehow never seem to learn my lesson. The spaghetti was more like thin shoelace-size strings of paste than pasta, melting instantaneously in the mouth into an oozing amalgamation of adhesive and slime. The wretched union coated my throat, languidly sliding further and further down my gullet like an angry worm finally being set free from the bondage of this earth. Like most things at Tony’s, that wasn’t even the worst part of the dish, as the Meatball tasted like chemical afterburn, as if you were to mix Penicillin with the Oregano in that 18-spice sampler that you forgot you had in the back of the cupboard and then stuck the concoction in the oven for an indeterminate amount of time. I can only hope that it was medicine intended to ease the pain of the Spaghetti. Without it, I may not be alive to write this review today.
The herbs were a bit heavy handed on our “Chicken Parmigiana – Lightly-breaded Chicken Breast with Provolone and Tony’s Marinara Sauce” with tough, chewy chicken and the lingering flavor of old garlic. Even bad Chicken Parmesan is pretty good, and that may be the case here, but I would have preferred a pile of Disney Chicken Nuggets topped with Marinara Sauce over the thick breading and dry chicken served here.
The Fettuccine Alfredo, available with Chicken for $22 or Shrimp for $24 was the best part, probably because the noodles either weren’t made in-house or sourced from whoever the guy in the back is that purports to have a pasta-making machine somewhere. The noodles are still inundated with sauce, but it was creamy and cheesy with a simple, satisfying flavor.
Your server will very quickly arrive with a large vat of shredded Parmesan to sprinkle over just about everything on the table. It does help.
Next up, we have the $36 “Roman-style Steak – Balsamic-glazed Beef Tenderloin Medallions topped with Bacon Marmalade, Local Vegetables, and Mashed Potatoes.” This was actually pretty good, there was quite a bit of steak and the Balsamic Glaze added a little bit of a sweet tang to the Beef Medallions that were flavorful and nicely seasoned. The Bacon Marmalade brought even more salt and zest with a little bit of sugar. The Mashed Potatoes were indulgent – creamy, buttery, and smooth and also doing a nice job of soaking up the flavors from the Beef and its accompaniments. $36 is about what you would pay for a steak at a standard Disney restaurant. While this might not be the best available, I wasn’t mad about it.
A short beer and wine list is available:
Prices continue to rise.
Here’s a look at a $24 Quartino of Luce delle Vite ‘Lucente’ Super Tuscan. It tasted like wine.
We didn’t have much luck with the $10 “Wine Cocktail – Bellini by Canella with Prosecco, Peach Juice, and Drops of Wild Raspberry.” It’s actually served pre-mixed from a bottle that you can buy at the store and comes in at 5% ABV, which is lower than the 5.1% ABV of the Peroni Beer. I’m not sure if it was the addition of the “Drops of Wild Raspberry” that gave it the chemical flavor, because it should theoretically be a refreshing, summery drink.
Here’s what’s on the menu for the kids:
I probably would have had better luck going that route with some Apple Slices and a Gelato Sundae.
If for some reason you’d like to extend your meal, or if you’re “taking advantage” of the Festival of Fantasy Dining Package, then several desserts are available:
You’d think that they would have some amount of difficulty screwing up Vanilla Gelato, but you never know, Cap’n Jack’s at Downtown Disney failed to get Diet Coke right and they had something like 20 years to do it.
A couple of “classic favorites,” at least if we were at any other Italian restaurant in the world, round out the selections.
Overall, Tony’s Town Square would not be my first choice for a sit-down meal at Magic Kingdom, though some guests may find value in sharing some of the larger entrees versus visiting a quick service. The Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package may also be “worth it” if you really come to eat and bring really low expectations. Even the Italian Trio, which I largely panned, is a tremendous amount of food for $32, even if you ignore the Spaghetti completely. The good news is that the restaurant legitimately seems to be trying. On the other hand, just because you rarely make the same mistake twice doesn’t mean you’re necessarily getting any closer to succeeding.
With enough Italian options, including Via Napoli and Tutto Italia at Epcot, Mama Melrose at Hollywood Studios, Trattoria Al Forno at the BoardWalk, and Il Mulino at the Swan, in addition to Maria & Enzo’s, Enzo’s Hideaway, Terralina Crafted Italian, and probably a couple of others that I’m forgetting, at Disney Springs, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to make Tony’s your single foray into Italian dining at Walt Disney World. At Magic Kingdom, I’d suggest Skipper Canteen or Liberty Tree Tavern first, followed by Plaza Restaurant.
I’m sure we’ll be back here sooner than I’d like to give it another whirl. Until then, we’ll see what Mama Melrose has to offer.