By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Category — h. Where to Eat at Walt Disney World

Review: Trattoria al Forno on Disney World’s BoardWalk

Review Trattoria al Forno from yourfirstvisit.netTrattoria al Forno (Italian for “tavern baked”) opened on Disney World’s BoardWalk in December 2014, replacing Kouizzina. My sister, dad and I had dinner there at the end of January 2015.

Disney’s word on Trattoria la Forno is this:

“Showcasing traditional techniques and artisanal artistry, this convivial trattoria celebrates the diversity of Italian cuisine with authentic ingredients and recipes hailing from all over “The Boot,” from Milan to Rome. House-made-daily mozzarella atop Neapolitan-style pizzas, satisfying hand-rolled pastas, velvety risottos, and seasonal seafood and vegetables make this dining destination a must for anyone serious about fresh Mediterranean fare.”

…and we have a little more detail in our book, The easy Guide:

Trattoria al Forno from The easy Guide

Trattoria al Forno makes for four Italian restaurants in the area, but unlike the two in Epcot, requires no park tickets. The third option is also outside of Epcot—Il Mulino in the Swan—and Trattoria al Forno is a little more kid friendly, and largely lower priced, than Il Mulino.

Dining Room Trattoria al Forno from yourfirstvisit.net

Among the BoardWalk offerings it’s a pretty safe choice for families—while not nearly so fine as the dining at Flying Fish, it is also not nearly so expensive, and less of a niche offer than are the ESPN Club and the Big River Grille and Brewing Works.

Early reports revealed service issues, but other than a long delay in seating we didn’t see any—likely because Trattoria had been open more than 6 weeks at our visit, giving time for operations to become more stable.

Check In Trattoria al Forno from yourfirstvisit.net

We arrived a little early for our Friday evening 7.20p ADR and were told that seating was running about 15 minutes late, and were given an expected time to be seated of 7.35 to 7.40p. We were actually seated at around 7.45. The gathering area outside the main dining rooms was unexceptional, and had few seats.

(Up until recently, Disney’s page on Trattoria la Forno said it was only taking reservations through April 30. My guess is that among other things this was to give them the data to re-balance the reservations offered to how long guests were actually taking to dine. This message is now off, and reservations are available the usual 180 days out. I suspect waits will improve after April 30, based on new standard times for table occupancy.  )

Menu Trattoria al Forno from yourfirstvisit.net

Trattoria al Forno has a distinct, Italian-only wine list, and a brief menu (click to enlarge), though one with likely enough variety and different price points to intrigue most. Much pasta is house-made daily, as is the mozzarella.

Our server, Andrea, was terrific. My dad can be an active and engaged customer—and he was so even before he started wearing dual hearing aids. Andrea positioned herself perfectly so he could hear, understood his old style drink order (“Gin martini, no garbage, dirty ice”) and helped my sister select her wine.

Our meal started with bread, which was my biggest disappointment, as it was room temperature, rather than warm. Olive oil for it is at the table, and for barbarians, butter is available upon request.

Soup of the Day Trattoria al Forno from yourfirstvisit.net

Violating the precept that for a review one should order the stable and popular items on the menu, not ephemera, I had the soup of the day—similar in its broth to minestrone, and delightful.

Caprese Salad Trattoria al Forno from yourfirstvisit.net

My sister and I both had the Caprese salad. I loved everything about it, especially the presentation and homemade mozzarella, but my sister would have preferred much more basil and was a little thrown off by the onion.

I’m always glad to see an interesting variant on such a standard (so long as the tomatoes and mozzarella remain great!) but it’s also easy to see how perhaps if one orders a Caprese salad one ought to get tomatoes, mozzarella, and lotsa basil.

Thin Sliced Italian Cured Meats Trattoria al Forno from yourfirstvisit.net

My dad eats like a bird these days, so he ordered only the “Thin-Sliced Italian Cured Meats with House- Pickled Peppers, Olives and Caponata.” (This appetizer serves two.)

This is exactly as described except it also includes a slice of bread (which we liked better than the table bread) and is not your classic antipasti plate—no cheese is included, for example, and it’s thin on vegetables. Andrea asked without prompting if he wished to add mozzarella, and of course he did. He was less keen on the mozzarella than my sister and I were—perhaps because, unlike say some hunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano, mozarella is not strongly flavored enough to stand up to the meats, pickled veggies, etc.

My dad—a bit of a connoisseur of Italian meats—thought it overall so-so, but he did take what he didn’t eat home in a doggie bag for later!

Polpetta Gigante Trattoria al Forno from yourfirstvisit.net

My sister ordered the “Polpetta Gigante”—“Giant Meatball with Ricotta Canelloni and Marinara” (I would have ordered it if she hadn’t—I could never turn down a “giant meatball”) and loved it. The meatball was indeed giant, but evenly cooked, gently spiced and delightful, as was the cannelloni.

Chicken Breast Alla Parmigiana Trattoria al Forno from yourfirstvisit.net

This time remembering to follow Josh’s dictum, I had the Chicken Breast alla Parmigiana with Tagliatelle. I was impressed by this simple dish—in particular with how hot and crisp the breading was even under the cheese and sauce.

Having learned earlier that day how much work it was to push someone around in the parks in a wheelchair, we were all too tired for dessert…

Open Kitchen Trattoria al Forno from yourfirstvisit.net

The kitchen in Trattoria al Forno is right there (as it was in the past restaurants that occupied this spot) and the various dining spaces are themed to show the growth over a time of a family’s hospitality into all the spaces of their home. You are unlikely to notice this, at least in the dark.

Table Trattoria al Forno from yourfirstvisit.net

By no means a destination restaurant, even so we really liked Trattoria al Forno. It’s better suited to typical family dining for most than any of the other BoardWalk options, but also good enough for a lower-priced adult date-night venue.

I’ll definitely be back—and next time, I’ll try an on-menu soup—and all the desserts!!

(Josh’s review here on easyWDW.com has more and better pictures, plus experience with other menu items.  Check it out!)

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February 23, 2015   6 Comments

Review: Dinner with Cinderella at 1900 Park Fare

CINDERELLA AND HER FAMILY AT 1900 PARK FARE

Review 1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.net

Dinner at 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is one of three princess meals at Walt Disney World, and if it had a better setting it might be the best.

Review Dinner at 1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.netThe other two are Storybook Dining in Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway at Epcot and Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom (closed until March 2015 for refurb.)

Each of these two presents a boatload of princesses and a fun setting–Akershus in the banquet hall of a medieval fort, and Cinderella’s Royal Table inside her castle at the Magic Kingdom.

Cinderella’s Royal Table, however, is wildly expensive and reservations are hard to get.

Akershus is more reasonably priced, but requires a visit to Epcot, which otherwise at the moment has not much of interest to the younger kids who most avidly want to meet the princesses.

Dinner at 1900 Park Fare is about the same price as Akershus, has much better food than either, and, since it’s in a hotel, does not require using a park ticket.

Lobby at Disney's Grand Floridian from yourfirstvisit.net

1900 Park Fare is on the first floor of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, entered through its spectacular lobby. The Grand Floridian is on the resort monorail loop, just outside the Magic Kingdom. To get there from the Magic Kingdom, take either the boat at the right (as you are facing away from the park) or if it has long lines (it’s a small boat, built on the classic Morgan 40 hull), the resort monorail. Take the monorail back.

In the undistinguished and windowless space–the ambiance is the only negative of 1900 Park Fare–two character meals are served, one with Pooh and British friends (including from UKIP) at breakfast, and Cinderella and her family at dinner.

Here’s the scoop on both from our book:

1900 Park Fare from The easy Guide

At 1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.net

Dinner begins with a photo session outside–that’s older son Ted and his girlfriend, Danielle. I ducked this photo–but no others…

No character joins this initial photo session, unlike at Cinderella’s Royal Table, where Cinderella appears, or Akershus, where your greeting photo is with Belle.

At dinner, you will be visited by, and can get autographs from and photos with…

Stepmother 1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.net

Cinderella’s stepmother…

Stepsister  Anastasia Tremaine 1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.net

…her stepsisters…

Prince Charming  1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.net

…Prince Charming. That’s Danielle to the right. My job is to introduce girlfriends to Disney World. When I told Danielle she’d be meeting Cinderella at dinner, she said “Dave, you know how to make a girl’s dreams come true.”

This is now the unofficial motto of the site.

Cinderella and Me 1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.net

Cinderella.

Cinderella and Prince Charming Dancing 1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.net

Cinderella also dances with Prince Charming, and plays with all those who show in princess garb–see the image at the top of the page!

There will be a lot of little girls in princess garb at this meal, but it may be the most everybody-friendly princess meal at Disney World, because the step-family are a bunch of comically hostile smart-alecks, making interaction with them fun for all who aren’t already swooning at Prince Charming.

Buffet  1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.net

And the food?  This is the best buffet at Disney World. See the details in the capsule review above. There’s several hot stations…

Carving Station 1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.net

…a carving station, several cold stations, a kids buffet, and a dessert table.

Dinner 1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.net

My plate shots turned out even worse than usual, but here’s the result of one of several trips to the buffet line…

Dessert 1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.net

…and here’s another.

Cinderella and Prince Charming 1900 Park Fare from yourfirstvisit.net

The food is better than at either Akershus or Cinderella’s Royal Table. While there’s not the parade of princesses you’ll find at those, for many families the comic step-Tremaines more than make up for that. The setting is not as nice as either, but the Grand Floridian overall is a lovely place to visit–and does not require a ticket day to be spent. And the price is similar to Akershus, and much less than Cinderella’s Royal Table.

For first-timers it remains my third-recommended princess meal.  But for returning visitors–or families with only older boy children–it is decidedly worth a visit!

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November 4, 2014   5 Comments

The Scoop On Food and Wine

A couple of my imaginary internet friends have published detailed reviews/overviews of the offerings at this year’s Epcot International Food And Wine Festival, which still has about another month to go.

Check them out!

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October 12, 2014   No Comments

How to Get, and Reward, Help with Your Dining Reservations

Getting Dining Reservations Help from yourfirstvisit.netThere’s two ways to book your Disney World dining—on the web, and over the phone at (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463). (Don’t know what to book?  See this.)

Crack Commenter Disney Dining Agent noted yesterday that if you are calling, your odds of getting one of the best dining agents are increased if you call between 7a and 10a eastern.

His comment explains the details, but the short version is that the best agents get first pick of shifts, and that shift is the most popular among them.

He also notes that the way to insure that the best keep showing up at that time is to do the survey after the call, and to rate excellent help from the dining agent as a “1” when question number 5 rolls around!

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April 24, 2014   2 Comments

First Time Visitors and Dining at Walt Disney World

(A slightly different version of this first appeared in WDW Magazine.)

Dining at Disney World for First-Time Visitors from yourfirstvisit.netFirst time family visitors to Walt Disney World need to know three things about dining:

  1. Some dining venues are among the best family experiences Walt Disney Word has to offer
  2. The most popular of these can sell out months ahead, so planning really pays off in helping access them—you can—and should– start booking them 180 days before the day you plan to eat
  3. Disney World dining in general is expensive, and some of the best experiences even more so, and there’s no perfect way to cut the cost

The best rides at Walt Disney World are often called “E” Ticket rides—from the old days, when it took a most-expensive “E” Ticket to get on them.

Dining—particularly at certain “table service” restaurants that have offerings beyond the food itself–can be an E-Ticket experience as well!

(“Table service” is Disney World lingo for venues with seats, waiters, and scheduled times. Venues without waiters are called “quick” or “counter” service, may or may not have seats, and can’t be reserved.)

Guide to Disney World Dining from yourfirstvisit.netThe most fun and best-loved family dining contains some or all of the following features in addition to the food:

  • A fun setting
  • Some kind of show and/or interactive play-along elements, and
  • Visits by Disney characters like Mickey, Tigger, or the Disney Princesses.

On almost everyone’s list of the best among these are

  • The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, a silly dinner show with interactive elements at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
  • The Princess meals Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom and Akershus at Epcot.  The first has the better setting, the second is much less expensive
  • Dining with Tigger, Pooh and friends at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom
  • Dining with Mickey and friends at Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
  • Various degrees of wait-staff induced silliness at 50’s Prime Time Café at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Whispering Canyon at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Exotic settings in the local versions of national chain restaurants the Rainforest Café, in both Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney, and T-Rex in Downtown Disney

That’s why you’ll find most of these on each of this site’s itineraries.

San Angel Inn at Epcot from yourfirstvisit.netBut, because the best dining options have limited capacity and are wildly popular, these restaurants can be filled almost as soon as reservations open for them—180 days before.

The importance of dining experiences is the Disney World topic that most surprise first-time visitors, and is where their doing some advance thinking and planning pays off most.   So you should pick your table service dining choices as soon as you can, and reserve them as soon as reservations open.

Disney World calls these reservations “Advance Dining Reservations—“ADRs” for short.

Reservations currently open 180 days before the date of dining—online at 6 a.m. and over the phone at 7 a.m. (If you are staying at a Disney World hotel, once 180 days from your arrival dates rolls around, you can make ADRs for not just that day but the first ten days of your visit.  You’ll sometimes see this referred to as “180+10.”)

Disney World dining is expensive.  The Disney Dining Plan, which has a couple of variants, is a way to prepay some of these dining expenses.  Years ago, you could save a lot of money by buying the “Disney Dining Plan,” but at current pricing levels you won’t save much—or anything—by buying it.

The Disney Dining Plan is a handy budgeting tool, and it does relieve some anxiety (because you already paid for it…) about the cost of meals in the parks.  So I do still recommend it.  But with or without it, the typical family should budget about $50+ per adult per day for dining, and somewhere between $25 and $50/day for the kids–depending on their ages and appetites.

The best way to save money eating at Disney World  is to buy ingredients and build some of your own meals.  This works best for cold breakfasts in your hotel room, and packing some lunches and/or snacks into the parks.

But these ingredients aren’t cheap (if you have a car, you can hit an off-site grocery store…but that costs time you could be spending vacationing) and may not even be available in your hotel.

Food at Disney's Grand Floridian from yourfirstvisit.netThe availability of such ingredients—lunch supplies especially– varies widely across the Disney hotels.

The best selections of such food for sale in shops are found at Fort Wilderness and in the Disney Vacation Club resorts, and the weakest are the value resorts.

The example is from a shop at the Grand Floridian after its new DVC Villas opened.

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December 23, 2013   No Comments

Review: Princess Dining at Akershus

Review of Akershus from yourfirstvisit.netStorybook Dining in Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, a table-service restaurant in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion, is one of Disney World’s three “Princess Meals”—and arguably the best of the three.

  • Cinderella’s Royal Table, in the castle in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, is the most iconic, sought after, and—by far—expensive of the three.  Cinderella and other princesses visit at breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • 1900 Park Fare, in the Grand Floridian, offers dinner attended by Cinderella, Prince Charming, and Cinderella’s family. The setting is undistinguished, the food great, and the price is about half that of the Royal Table—exactly half if you are using the dining plan—one credit, rather than two.
  • Like Cinderella’s Royal Table, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall has a bucket of princesses and is set in a castle, but is priced comparably to 1900 Park Fare—more than 1900 if cash (but still not as much more as Cindy), the same as 1900 if dining plan.

STORYBOOK DINING AT AKERSHUS ROYAL BANQUET HALL

Akershus in Norway at Epcot from yourfirstvisit.netAkershus Royal Banquet Hall is in the Norway Pavilion of the Epcot’s World Showcase. (From Epcot’s Future World, the second country going clockwise, right after Mexico.)

Akershus Keep in Norway at Epcot from yourfirstvisit.netThe Banquet Hall is inside Akershus Castle.

Dining Room at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.netThe castle,  in the less interesting Romanesque style rather than the frothier Gothic style of Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom, is not so immediately appealing, but the interior is lovely.

Breakfast is typical of what is served elsewhere but the lunch and dinner menus have many Scandinavia highlights, starting with a buffet with range of appetizers and cold dishes—fresh foods, cheeses and preserved meats and fish.  Besides the buffet, one also orders an entrée…

Magical Dad Drink at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.net…possibly a silly drink for dad and mom…

Dessert at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.net…and a dessert sampler.

Unadventurous eaters will find something to enjoy, but the adventurous, and/or lovers of preserved fish, will most enjoy the Akershus lunch and dinner menus.

Me and Son #2--Oh and Belle, too--at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.netMeals there include visits from several Disney princesses—on our visit, we were formally greeted by Belle…

Ariel at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.net…and also met Ariel…

Cinderella and Son #2 at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.net…Cinderella…

Aurora at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.net…Aurora…

Snow White at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.net…Snow White, and others.

The best features of Akershus are the princesses, the castle setting, and then the food.  The food comes higher on the list for those interested in Scandinavian cuisine.

Being in Epcot is a mixed blessing.  Epcot most rewards older kids willing to accept its invitation to think and to be creative.  There’s not as much there for kids young enough to most enjoy a princess meal—and such kids may also not be adventurous enough to enjoy the full range of food on offer.

(On the other hand, I was eating pickled herring and smoked salmon at age three, so I love this place…I was not sophisticated…but my dad ate them, so so did I. )

A great day for younger kids at Epcot would start before park open and include Soarin (if they are mature enough and at least 38 inches), The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Spaceship Earth, Turtle Talk with Crush, and a character meet ‘n greeting.

An early breakfast—early enough that you are done by park open, so you can take advantage of the lower crowds then–at Akershus fits this well.

Lunch also works just fine with this kind of morning.

For younger kids not afraid of fireworks, a visit—or return–in the evening for dinner at Akershus and the fireworks show Illuminations also works.

Kids just old enough to enjoy everything at Epcot—both the princess meals and the challenge to their intellect and imagination—will enjoy the park, including Akershus, the best!

*   *   *

PICKING BETWEEN CINDERELLA’S ROYAL TABLE AND STORYBOOK DINING AT AKERSHUS

I’m often asked, since my itineraries include two princess meals, Cindy and Akershus, if a family can afford just one, which should they pick.

If the kids are old enough to enjoy Epcot fully, I’d go with Akershus hands down.  You get the same piles of princesses at a lower price, with a more interesting menu.

But there’s a lot to be said for the iconic appeal of dining in the castle at the Magic Kingdom, and the Magic Kingdom, of course, appeals to all ages.  So for younger kids, that’s the one I’d suggest.

My itineraries promise all the best of Walt Disney World—so in them you get both!

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October 31, 2013   26 Comments