An existing restaurant at Disney Springs is receiving a total makeover and new concept, reopening in 2018 as Terralina Crafted Italian. In this post, we’ll offer some info on this replacement for the former Portobello Country Italian Trattoria, some other random Disney Springs dining updates, and thoughts on the future of Disney Springs dining.
As you might recall, Portobello closed earlier this spring with an announcement that it was being re-imagined as a totally new restaurant concept to open sometime in 2018. A couple of other restaurants will follow it, which is exciting news for anyone who has enjoyed the recent surge in quality dining at Disney Springs.
James Beard Award-winning Chef Tony Mantuano returns from Portobello to create Terralina Crafted Italian’s new menu, while Chef Justin Plank will be back to run the kitchen. Chef Mantuano’s authentic Italian cuisine will include artisanal pizzas and fresh vegetable dishes fired up in a wood-burning oven.
Two new signatures dishes on the menu will be mussels and a grilled pork chop, and they will be joined by a few favorites from Portobello, such as the antipasti platter and signature pastas. (So, I guess it’s not a totally new menu.)
The concept art of the interior looks fine, but I wonder if this is really going to be what it takes to get guests to visit Terralina Crafted Italian. It still looks fairly generic, with no clear hook beyond “NEW!”
While no reason was given for the change beyond the normal PR fluff, we suspect that it’s likely due to increasing competition from newer restaurant concepts such as Paddlefish and the Boathouse.
This could be explained away as a matter of new restaurants having buzz–which Terralina Crafted Italian will theoretically also have when it reopens–that will eventually subside with the older options reclaiming some of the business they’ve lost over time. We doubt this is the case.
While there is no doubt a period of buzz for any new restaurant when it opens at Walt Disney World, Morimoto Asia and the Boathouse are not exactly new anymore. By contrast, STK is even newer than either of those, and it’s about as popular as the old-school restaurants in the area.
Instead, we think the explanation comes down to a matter of concept and execution. Hot spots like Morimoto Asia, the Boathouse, and Homecomin’ are all popular because they offer compelling menus and interesting environments that appeal to visitors. I don’t want to call any of these spots trendy (except maybe Morimoto Asia) because I don’t think that’s exactly the right word, but they are places that “work” well, whereas I think a lot of the older restaurants aren’t as compelling.
I’m not entirely convinced that the concept art for Terralina Crafted Italian reveals a restaurant that goes far enough to work well, but at least part of that will come down to the inventiveness and quality of the menu. If the food is great, the ambiance won’t matter quite as much. On the other hand, if the food is only mediocre, it’ll have a difficult time gaining traction without a more interesting environment to help prop it up.
Honestly, we wouldn’t be surprised if this is just the first of several existing restaurants to receive a new-look. If you’ve been to Disney Springs on a busy weeknight, it’s quite easy to see which restaurants are popular…and which are not. Almost without exception, the popular ones are the newer concepts, while the holdovers from the ‘Downtown Disney’ era have walk-up availability.
This is already happening elsewhere. Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe is slated to close in August, to be replaced (albeit not directly) in 2018 by Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill at a new location in Town Center at Disney Springs. This restaurant will purportedly “modernize the traditional bar & grill concept,” by placing it in a setting “inspired by traditional farmhouses with a touch of elegance.” That sounds pretty much like almost every new restaurant concept for Disney Springs, so I wouldn’t exactly call it a game-changer in concept.
Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill will attempt to capture the essence of laid-back California dining made popular by Puck at Spago, his flagship restaurant in Los Angeles. The menu will feature the best of Wolfgang Puck’s signature dishes with Mediterranean influences, innovative takes on comfort food classics, and handcrafted specialty cocktails.
Walt Disney World has also announced a new addition on the West Side, taking Wolfgang Puck’s current location. Jaleo, a concept by world-renowned Chef José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup will open sometime in 2018, and is expected to bring the “spirit and flavors of Spain” to Disney Springs. Jaleo will feature an extensive menu of tapas that reflect the rich regional diversity of traditional and contemporary Spanish cuisine, such as paella cooked over a wood fire, hand-carved Jamon Iberico de Bellota, and wood-grilled Iberico pork.
It’s probably only a matter of time before we see refreshes for Bongos Cuban Cafe, which has had its own rumors of a closing and overhaul, at some point in the near future. Even newer restaurants like Paradiso 37 don’t seem safe–what was once “good enough” by Downtown Disney standards is now “subpar” by Disney Springs standards.
Interestingly, Bongos Cuban Cafe and Wolfgang Puck Grande Cafe were both part of the opening lineup for the West Side expansion that debuted at Walt Disney World in 1997. That same lineup also included DisneyQuest, Cirque du Soleil, House of Blues, the Virgin Megastore, and a Sunglass Hut.
As you likely know, DisneyQuest just closed, Virgin Megastore closed a while ago, Sunglass Hut was rebranded, and Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba show had its final performance on December 31, 2017. (With a new concept expected to debut at a date to be determined.)
The point with all of this is that it would seem the time is right for a Bongos Cuban Cafe redo, as well.
In addition to all of these West Side changes, it wouldn’t be shocking to see House of Blues redone, too. The Edison is slated to open in early 2018, if recent construction photos are any indication, and it will be the new hot spot for nightlife at Walt Disney World. (UPDATE: It opened in January 2018.)
The Edison has a location in downtown Los Angeles, and it’s one of the trendiest spots in DTLA. It’s located near the parking garage we typically use, and it’s always packed at night. It’s also very hip–to the point we’ve never had the courage to venture inside the bar. (We’re also rarely dressed appropriately for their strict dress code.)
We’re looking forward to the Disney Springs location, as the dress code will undoubtedly be (significantly) more relaxed at Disney Springs, while the venue should retain its distinct character and hipness (we may not be “DTLA hip” but we are “Disney Springs hip”).
Given its large footprint and somewhat similar vibe, the Edison is likely to compete with, and take away, business from House of Blues. Accordingly, we’d expect something to happen with House of Blues. Probably not a rebranding, but at least a refresh. (Of course, all of this depends upon their leases with Disney.)
It’s patently obvious that Walt Disney World wants to continue overhauling Disney Springs, and I’d say what has occurred thus far has been a resounding success by any criterion. What the future holds for Disney Springs is anyone’s guess. My guess would be that we will continue to see a continual wave of refurbishments and additions through 2020 as older venues strive to remain relevant and popular amidst the sea change of Disney Springs.
As frequent Walt Disney World visitors, we’re quite excited by this–increased competition has already raised the bar on Disney Springs dining, and should only continue to do so. It’ll be interesting to see whether the resort restaurants are forced to similarly elevate their game, or if they are sufficiently insulated from this potential competition by virtue of their location.
What do you think of all the changes at Disney Springs? Are you excited for the new restaurant concepts, or are there already too many great choices for places to eat at Disney Springs? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!