Our quest to find hidden gems of the Walt Disney World dining scene and easy last-minute Advance Dining Reservations continues, this time with an alternative to the World Showcase hotspots. This review covers one of the newest restaurants within walking distance EPCOT and Hollywood Studios in the Crescent Lake Resort Area, featuring food photos and a look around the interior.
Today’s restaurant is Amare, a location inside the Swan Reserve that can be reached from DHS or International Gateway by foot or boat plus foot. Amare’s name means “to love,” which I only know because Dean Martin wrote a song about it (well, sorta–in Italian). According to Walt Disney World, guests will fall in love with this casual upscale venue inspired by the tastes and cultures of the Mediterranean region.
Amare’s menu focuses on highlighting fresh premium ingredients popular in the Mediterranean, including a wide variety of seafood, citrus, olive oils, pasta and pitas. Amare features an extensive Mediterranean-based wine list featuring several specialized wine flights with selections from across the region.
One thing to note about Amare is that it’s on the lobby level of the Swan Reserve, meaning you’ll take the escalator up to it (somewhat similar to the Contemporary, except even less is on the ground floor of the Swan Reserve–pretty much just bell services). I’m not mentioning this because it’s difficult to find Amare–it’s easy, especially as compared to the sprawling Swan & Dolphin Resorts.
Rather, because Amare is not on the rooftop of the Swan Reserve like you might assume. That space is reserved for private events and weddings, which must be really big business for the Swan & Dolphin. Not locating Amare up there seems like a huge missed opportunity, but what do I know. It would instantly go from an easy to book ADR to one of the most difficult at Walt Disney World. I’ve seen the EPCOT fireworks from up there; it’s an unbeatable view!
Instead, window tables at Amare are treated to views of the porte cochere and the Swan & Dolphin across the street. It’s definitely not a bad view, but it’s nowhere what it could be if the restaurant were even a few floors higher. Non-window tables either have views of wall-plates or murals. All pretty, but nothing you’ll boast about on postcards back home to your families.
Regardless, Amare is a nice location. The restaurant is imbued with a casual and informal quality that also feels slightly upscale. It’s a typical coastal style, with an airy dining room that features light woods offset with cool blue colors. The light fixtures add warmth and are a bit whimsical, and plants also add to the freshness. Amare could easily pass for a cool California coastal spot, but Mediterranean also works!
In addition to the vibe being light and cool, so too is the design style. Less is more at Amare, with pops of blue plus the wood accents being aided heavily by the large windows and the open kitchen. That last feature quite literally takes center stage, and watching the comings and goings from the kitchen was one of the highlights of our meal.
It also turned out to be the biggest “hazard” of dining at Amare, as we ended up ordering an accidental pizza as a result. (Happens to the best of us–accidental pizzas are a tale as old as time!)
Amare’s table settings are also nice, with patterned blue plates and a candle holder in the center of the table.
I don’t mean to oversell any of this. The photos largely speak for themselves, and the story they probably tell is “styled by Crate & Barrel.” That isn’t inaccurate. Amare is certainly not the pinnacle of themed design; it’s a normal restaurant with a calming interior. Amare is nothing special, but it’s not bad either.
The interior has a sense of polish and works as a serene spot removed from the chaos and crowds of Walt Disney World. Between the style and the empty tables, Amare very much feels like a tranquil reprieve from the parks; a good option for those experiencing sensory overload. In short, do not book Amare if you’re looking for a “Distinctly Disney” experience. It’s almost the exact opposite of that.
On that note, let’s turn to the cuisine at Amare.
Our meal started off with bread service. We received several pieces of fresh, sliced sesame-crusted bread along with hummus, olive oil, and tapenade. The bread was very good; a slight crunchy to the crust and and soft interior. It basically existed to soak up the hummus, oil, and olive spread, and it served that role very admirably.
All of these accompaniments were absolutely fantastic. So much so that we quickly finished and our server, seeing this, brought out a refill. (I’m not sure whether that’s customary or if we received particularly attentive service because we were one of 4-5 parties in the entire restaurant, with staff outnumbering guests by about a 3:1 ratio.)
For an appetizer, we ordered the Fried Calamari: Crispy Calamari served with a Tomato-aleppo Pepper Sugo and toasted Sumac Crema. Anytime we review calamari, I always preface it with there’s no such thing as bad calamari–only varying degrees of good. I’m a sucker for the stuff, and you should know that I’m grading on something of a curve.
Now that we have that out of the way, the calamari at Amare is in the conversation for the best at Walt Disney World. The breading was light but added a nice texture and batter-y goodness to the flavor. The meat was tender and flavorful, with the sumac crema being the figurative icing on the cake. Oh, and the portion was colossal–as it should’ve been given the slightly higher price.
Next time we dine at Amare, I want to order the Charred Octopus. I saw this coming out of the kitchen, and it looked absolutely fantastic–more ambitious and inventive than the calamari.
Following that, we ordered the flagship flatbread: The Amare, which consists of Leek, Potato, Lardon, Roasted Black Pepper and Gruyere.
This was one of a couple sizable flatbreads we saw coming out of the kitchen, with the other covered with a thick forest of leaves. If I’m going to get the garden in my pizza, potatoes seem like the far better choice.
As you might gather simply by looking at it, this pizza was heavy. Less clear from the photos is that it’s also quite large.
Everything about this was fantastic. The crust had a flavor that rivaled Via Napoli, and the toppings were perfect. More pizzas should feature heavy helpings of creamy cheese, bacon, and potatoes. Of course, that’s my personal assessment. I don’t think Sarah quite agreed, and she probably would’ve preferred the leaf-covered pizza.
After eating three-quarters of it (following nearly a loaf of bread and three-quarters of the calamari), I was definitely feeling the weight of this dish. I had done the impossible, having a heavy meal at a Mediterranean restaurant…and we weren’t even at the entrees yet!
Our second entree was the Grilled Souvlaki: Your choice of two grilled, tender Chicken or Angus Beef Skewers with Crispy Potatoes, Tabbouleh, Pesto, Harissa Spiced Hummus, and Warm Pita Bread. (Our first entree was a steak that’s no longer on the menu–guess I should be faster to write these restaurant reviews!)
This was recommended by our server, who called it the highlight of the menu at Amare. She was correct.
This dish was a veritable culinary tour of the Mediterranean, with the perfect mixture of fresh, refreshing, aromatic, garlicky, spicy, savory, and so forth–a bunch of other “-y” descriptors. In particular, the grilled meat was tender and tasty, and would’ve had plenty of flavor from the grill. The pesto and other accompaniments took it to the next level, though.
The warm pitas were likewise fantastic–fresh and with the perfect amount of elasticity, plus great flavor. After so many heavy items, this was the perfect entree. Normally, I’m inclined to combine this all into one handheld dish, but each component had such standout flavors that we both ate them individually. The Grilled Souvlaki is highly recommended by both of us, and is sufficiently approachable–it should be a crowd pleaser for those willing to step outside their comfort zones a bit.
We finished the meal off with the Greek Yogurt Cheesecake.
Not realizing this isn’t listed on the online menu, I forgot to write down the details and price. I think it was around $15–definitely in the $14 to $16 range. Whatever the price, I recall thinking, “that’s a lot” when seeing the menu.
That first impression was further reinforced when seeing the cheesecake itself.
It’s a relatively straightforward cheesecake, accompanied by chocolate tiles and blueberries. It’s on the small side, especially for the price. I have no qualms with the flavor; it’s on the light side, but exactly what you’d expect of a yogurt cheesecake. It’s difficult to recommend this dessert when taking into account the value proposition. Do another appetizer or pizza instead. If you’re heading back into World Showcase, grab a few desserts from festival booths instead.
Ultimately, we really enjoyed our meal at Amare and would rate the restaurant as being satisfying to superb as well as easy & enjoyable on our highly-technical scale of alliterative last-minute Advance Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World. Given that it’s a spot that literally has multiple ADR time slots on a daily basis (we dined here during near-peak season and made reservations an hour in advance while walking around World Showcase), Amare is a great choice when you’re in the mood for something different or want to get off your feet…but for some reason don’t mind walking to get there.
What holds Amare back more than anything else is the alternatives nearby. If you’re a first-timer to Walt Disney World, there are almost no circumstances under which we’d recommend dining at Amare unless you’re staying at the Swan Reserve and want something inside your hotel. There are simply a wealth of cuisine choices in World Showcase, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and even the Crescent Lake Resorts. Although Amare can hold its own against those on the food front, it absolutely cannot when it comes to atmosphere or themed design–the areas where Walt Disney World restaurants truly excel versus their real world counterparts.
For Walt Disney World regulars who have “eaten everywhere” and are looking to try something different, Amare gets our endorsement. The food is fantastic and price points are fair relative to portion sizes. Plus, the menu has ambitious and unique dishes, and Amare offers something for everyone.
Personally, I think Mediterranean cuisine is pretty crowd-pleasing, but the variety here is even more so. We primarily eat a Mediterranean diet, and I can assure you that “potato pizza” and “porterhouse” are not usually on our menu at home. Its range is part of why we enjoy Amare and will add this to our rotation–it offers lighter and healthier options for Sarah, plus whatever ridiculousness I might like to eat on any given evening.
Amare isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you’re looking for a laid-back meal with great food and lower stakes, it’s a great choice–and a good alternative to something like Ale & Compass or one of the lounges at Yacht & Beach Club. It can’t hold its own against Topolino’s Terrace, Yachtsman Steakhouse, or the stalwarts of World Showcase…but it’s also not trying to do so (and is priced accordingly). Amare delivers on the promise of a mellow Mediterranean meal.
Have you done dinner at Amare restaurant in the Swan Reserve Resort? Have a favorite dish served at dinner? Thoughts on the menu, Crate & Barrel decor, how it compares to other mid-tier dining establishments at Walt Disney World, or anything else addressed in this review? Will you be attempting to book this Advance Dining Reservation? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!