The Italy Marketplace has basically ruined my credit, my health, and my life. When I moved to Florida, I was young, 165 pounds, and could walk up stairs without falling to the ground out of exhaustion, while cursing the under-cooked lasagna of Flower and Garden 2016 and the below average chicken parmesan from Food and Wine 2k15. If you need any further proof that my life is truly cursed, look no further than the fact that Italy has actually ADDED another food item to this year’s Festival menu. No other Marketplace in the history of Epcot Festivals has served more than four food items. Italy sports five. Because they hate me. But things could improve this year. With all of the money they’ve made serving chicken fingers and reheated asparagus for nine thousand dollars over the years, they may finally have invested in some new microwave technology. Maybe NASA will sponsor them. I can’t wait to spend $29.75 to find out.
The good news is that Italy now prepares the majority of its dishes inside its waterfront home. That means your chicken fingers are going to be served fresh and disappointing out of the fryer, rather than someone being in charge of carting over the sadness once every couple of hours from backstage kitchens. Imagine the responsibility of pushing 36 small portions of pasta, with a street value of $47,500, in between the spiraling drunks, brain-dead vloggers, and those of us just trying to stop and be judgmental for five seconds of our lives. They say the success of Disney’s earnings reports are based solely on how many of those trays spill over in transit. If they hadn’t lost four pasta shipments back in 2006, I don’t think Disney would have bought Pixar to try to pad their bottom line. This is serious business.
Since nobody ever orders anything from Italy twice, we’re burdened with at least four new items this year. Even the Cannoli is potentially different, as Italy leads with “Traditional Sicilian” in front of the name. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it’s probably not that.
- Ravioli Carbonara: Parmesan and Pecorino Ravioli, Egg Yolk, Cream, and Bacon – $7.25
- Costine di Maiale: Balsamic-glazed and Oven-roasted Pork Ribs – $8
- Pollo: Crispy Chicken with Marinara Sauce – $6
- Traditional Sicilian Cannoli: – $4.25
- Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake – $4.25
- Italian Margarita with Limoncello and Tequila – $10
Ravioli Carbonara: Parmesan and Pecorino Ravioli, Egg Yolk, Cream, and Bacon – $7.25
As far as Italian Festival pasta goes, this was above average. That may sort of be like saying, “As far as gas station egg rolls go, the 7-11’s on Kirkman Avenue are above average.” Each raviolo was at times gummy, at times hard, at times crusty, at times chewy, at times plump, and at times pretty tasty. But it was always something that I didn’t want in my mouth. The sauce was more watery than creamy – you can see it sliding off the slippery noodles and pooling on the bottom of the carton. Your pasta will also most likely be served cold. That may be a play out of the Frothy Ramen playbook, though. The fact that this is $7.25 for four below average lumps of pasta, filled with bland cheese, and topped some time ago with bacon and herbs, makes this a pretty easy skip. With that out of the way, the dish may be the best item at the Italy booth this year.
Costine di Maiale: Balsamic-glazed and Oven-roasted Pork Ribs – $8
Italy has done ribs a couple of times now.
For this year’s Festival of the Arts, we got these, which were also Balsamic-glazed. During that review, I said this:
The succulent meat is tender and plentiful with a complex sauce that marries the tang from the balsamic vinegar with the sweetness of honey and brown sugar. The best part is the thin layer of crispiness that runs along the top of the rib before it gives way to the juicy meat below. On the downside, the ribs are a messy proposition that’s a little harder to share than most other dishes. Fortunately, the meat is easy to cut off the bone if you want to go in that direction.
For Food and Wine, the ribs are meaty with plenty of pork clinging to the bone, along with a considerable amount of gristly fat. The Oven-roasted quality is much more prevalent this time around, with a nice blend of spices that included thyme, rosemary, and coriander blended with olive oil. But the pork was closer to mushy than tender and with all of the fat, the mouthfeel was unpleasant. The Balsamic glaze is disappointingly under-represented. On the Festival of the Arts plate, you can see the sauce shining bright in the sunlight. For Food and Wine, the lights are definitely out and it’s dark and cold.
Pollo: Crispy Chicken with Marinara Sauce – $6
Not a lot of people know this, but Tyson Foods was originally an Italian company known as Tysoni Alimenti, after its founder, Giovanni Tysoni. This is not true, but it may make you feel better about paying six dollars for three previously-frozen chicken fingers served in a brown tray alongside some thin marinara sauce placed precariously next to them in a plastic cup. While I might seem a little uppity, my personality is overcompensating for the fact that the majority of my meals are made up of microwaved chicken nuggets. So I am very familiar with these. As far as Kids’ meals go, these would be pretty good. The portion is actually on the larger side – it’s probably five ounces of chicken, which is more than we typically receive. But the flavors are so basic and it’s so obviously reheated chicken that you wonder what Italy was thinking. If you’re somehow hosed on four-ounce beers at this point, then you’ll probably appreciate being served something right off of the Buffalo Wild Wings kids’ menu. If you’re as regrettably sober as I was, you’ll wonder if Giovanni Tysoni is rolling over in his grave while giving Walt Disney a high-five.
Traditional Sicilian Cannoli: – $4.25
Crisp Pastry filled with Sweet Ricotta, Chocolate, and Candied Orange
Italy has tricked me into picking up the current version of what is technically a cannolo several times, despite the fact that it hasn’t really changed. There is a saying about being fooled one time and not feeling shame, but then feeling shame after being tricked a second, third, fourth, and in my case, fifth time. And let me tell you, shame is all I feel every time I visit the Italy Marketplace.
The filling remains richly sweet with a few pieces of candied fruit that help brighten the flavor profile, but it doesn’t suffer from the bitter chocolate flavor of the past or the brittle texture, where the whole thing seemed to crack into a million pieces upon the first bite. There are tastier desserts around and the Cannolo is on the small side, but it’s not the worst thing to add to an order.
Here’s last year’s, when it was apparently not authentic.
Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake – $4.25
Vanilla Cake and Chocolate-Hazelnut Mascarpone Cream dipped in Chocolate
It took us three attempts to get one of these, and not because every time they tried to hand me one, I instinctively pulled back my arm and ran away towards BaseLine Tap House. The first one they pulled out of the cooler, already dipped in chocolate some time ago, tipped over and shattered on the bottom of the tray as it was pulled out. On the second try, the cake fell off the stick and into the vat of melted chocolate during the dipping process. Finally on the third try, we were “successfully” served this. It could be a lot worse – it’s relatively hard to go wrong with cake dipped in chocolate, but Italy still manages to get close. The cake wasn’t fresh – dry, hard, and gritty, like it had been refrigerated for too long before being served. Any nuance from the Chocolate-Hazelnut Mascarpone Cream, which is also hardened in layers inside the cake, is eliminated by the generic richness of the Chocolate dip. The kids might enjoy this along with the Chicken Fingers.
Value: Not great, not terrible
Peroni Nastro Azzurro Pilsner — $5.50
I’ve railed against the Moretti Lager that’s been served here in six ounce cups for $5+ for years, so I’m glad to see something different pop up. Unfortunately, Peroni is even more common and even less expensive than Moretti and you’ve basically got the Budweiser of Italy at an absurd price.
Value: NOT GREAT BOB.
Italian Margarita with Limoncello and Tequila – $10
The Italian Margarita is refreshing and a good value for the money, even if the alcohol content may not be high. It’s a lot more drink for your money than the French Slushies and has a nice tart flavor. While it’s not at all Italian, it is tasty if you’re looking for something of this variety.
Last year, I made the mistake of saying that Italy was improving, even going so far as stating that, “the tourists should be slightly less disappointed.” I think that’s less true this year. The Ravioli and Canolli [sic] are your best bets, but at $11.50 for the two, you’re paying a quick service meal price for four below average envelopes of pasta and three bites of defrosted pastry.
At least we can continue to enjoy the poem that I wrote about the Marketplace: