The argument could be made that Walt Disney World has too many Italian restaurants. Several resorts plus Disney Springs, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom all have Italian eateries. There isn’t just a surplus of these dining options, but too many that are mediocre and aren’t memorable.
In fairness, the same could be said about spots serving basic burgers or ordinary frozen chicken nuggets, and yet there’s also an abundance of those. This is for good reason: they’re crowd-pleasers that are popular among guests. No matter how much pleading we do, Pizzafari and Restaurantosaurus will always draw huge crowds.
It’s the same deal with Italian food at Walt Disney World. The cuisine is familiar, comforting, and universal appealing. There’s a reason the Italian restaurant lineup has grown at Walt Disney World in the last several years, while Sanaa and other ambitious restaurants have languished. Samaki Wa Kupaka and Zanzibari Vegetable Curry may cause kids and picky eaters to cringe, but just about everyone loves Fettuccine Alfredo or Chicken Parmigiana.
We’ve had some questionable meals at Tony’s Town Square over the years, but even we recognizable why so many Walt Disney World guests love the place. Heck, it’s even easy to see the appeal of the Italy booth during Epcot’s festivals. Despite serving up elementary school lunch room caliber cuisine for the last decade-plus, the infamous Italy booth draws long lines because its food is approachable. (Literally. You could prepare similar versions in your microwave at home.)
The purpose of this post isn’t to bash the Italy booth or any other Italian restaurants at Walt Disney World. We’re simply pointing out that Tony’s Town Square, Mama Melrose, Tutto Italia, and others aren’t exactly ambitious but still fulfill a role. In fairness, they’re also not awful. That is sort of the point–we’ve more or less come to expect Italian cuisine at Walt Disney World to be safe but middling. It won’t be your most memorable meal, but hopefully, also not your worst or most disappointing.
And that’s what brings us to a recent scene from an Italian restaurant at Walt Disney World…
We were at Epcot and getting hungry, and it had been a bit since we’d done a table service meal. In perusing same-day availability in My Disney Experience, several options jumped out.
However, we felt like we should have a productive meal–and by that, I mean something bloggable–so we eliminated all of our standard go-to options that didn’t “need” to be covered again. This left us with a trio of choices: Il Mulino, Turf Club, and Trattoria al Forno. It seems like that last one has come up several times recently in the comments and, crucially, it was the easiest commute, so we headed over.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, Trattoria al Forno is a table service restaurant at BoardWalk Inn at Walt Disney World. It’s a mid-tier family-friendly Italian restaurant for breakfast and dinner. During normal times, it’s also home to Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast, a royal meal with a bunch of princes and princesses from places other than Italy.
We’ve reviewed Trattoria al Forno for dinner before–and have given it reasonably high marks–but there have been a lot of menu additions of late. Given that and the ease of scoring Advance Dining Reservations here–at a time when ADRs can be difficult–we figured it’d be worth revisiting…
Trattoria al Forno is wedged between the BoardWalk Pizza Window and BoardWalk Deli on one side, and AbracadaBAR and Flying Fish on the other side. They’re all interconnected, whether via the kitchens behind the scenes or the shared facilities for guests.
Speaking of which, we’d be remiss if we didn’t recommend ducking into AbracadaBAR to check out the restrooms. There are some fun tricks (sorry, illusions) outside the toilets and you’ll probably have time to kill before Trattoria al Forno seats you. (Disney Tourist Blog, bringing you the best bathroom banter and toilet tips since ’11.)
Although you couldn’t tell from this photo of the waiting area, Trattoria al Forno was packed the evening we dined here. The host indicated they were running about 20 minutes behind, which I suspect is pretty common and by design.
Whenever we walk past Trattoria al Forno, it seems like there are guests waiting around outside. While it’s possible this has become a popular loiterin’ spot for Floridians and I just haven’t gotten the memo, it’s more likely that Trattoria al Forno is trying to serve as many guests as possible, turning over tables as efficiently as possible. That would explain the wait and crowds coupled with the walk-up waitlist and same-day ADR availability. Just something to keep in mind if you’re planning on arriving early to an ADR in the hopes of being seated early.
Trattoria al Forno is inviting on the inside. There’s an abundance of warm colors, rich woods, brick features, and paneling. It’s not the pinnacle of themed design, but very much conveys the theme of upscale Italian restaurant.
From the upholstery to the light fixtures, there’s a good amount of depth and detail. Plenty of texture, variety of materials, and light touches that you’d expect from a family-run Italian restaurant.
The star of the show is the open kitchen, which is visible from the far reaches of the seating area. We were seated right next to it, yet for some reason, I didn’t take any photos. You’ll just have to take my word for its existence or, ya know, Google “Trattoria al Forno open kitchen” and confirm for yourself.
The goal here being a bloggable meal, we watched what was coming out of the open kitchen, cross-referenced that with our server’s recommendations, and ordered accordingly.
Dinner at Trattoria al Forno started with ciabatta.
The bread was paired with olive oil swirled with a balsamic, and a heavy olive tapenade. Don’t let its ordinary appearance deceive you: this bread was surprisingly tasty, with the exterior having a good crunch. The tapenade was freshly-made, salty, and rich. Fairly heavy and savory for a bread course, but we were fans. So much so that “we” (read: me) ate a couple loaves of this.
For our appetizer, we started with the Roma Tomato Bruschetta: Grilled Ciabatta, Genovese Basil, Aged Balsamic.
The grilled ciabatta pieces were incredibly crisp and didn’t lose any of their ‘structural integrity’ under the weight of the moist tomatoes. If anything, this skewed a bit too much in the direction of crunchiness–a bit more tomato juice soaking into the bread might’ve been a good thing.
The aged balsamic provided a tartness while the tomatoes brought a good piquancy. All things considered, it was a refreshing appetizer that offered a light, fresh start to a meal.
With that said, nothing about this bruschetta is anything special. It is not a standout dish. My appetizer recommendations at Trattoria al Forno are the calamari and caprese, but we’ve done both of those before. (In the case of the calamari, many times.)
For my entree, I had the Lasagna al Forno: Blended Italian Cheeses, Beef, Veal, Pork, Herb Ricotta.
This came highly recommended by our server, who was straightforward with what he recommended–and did not recommend. He called this an inventive twist on a classic dish, which is absolutely spot-on.
This lasagna is served with a mix of three different sauces–red pepper, marinara, and alfredo–all of which blend together shockingly well. As you can see, it’s presented as little “lasagna volcanoes” (for lack of a better term) rather than the traditional layers.
These volcanoes are bursting with beef, veal, and pork plus ricotta and Italian cheeses. They’re seasoned, filled with herbs, and topped with crispy breadcrumbs for texture. The presentation is unique and the flavor is fantastic. Like a traditional lasagna, it’s incredibly heavy and rich, but there’s more nuance. I absolutely loved this–it’s one of the best lasagnas I’ve ever had. (It also knocked me out. Perhaps a ton of bread plus a heavy pasta wasn’t the ideal approach.)
For her entree, Sarah ordered the Truffle Gnocchi: Parmesan, Fontina, Pecorino Cream.
This was downright light as compared to my lasagna.
The gnocchi was perfectly-prepared: pillowy and light with just the right amount of chewiness.
The cream had a pronounced truffle flavor, adding a deep umami quality to the dish. The combination of textures was superb, as were the flavors. While not particularly heavy, this dish was savory and richly satisfying. It hit the same high notes as the lasagna, but in a very different way. Another highly recommended dish.
We also ordered the side of Garlic Bread, which came out with our main courses.
This was the only thing our server didn’t enthusiastically endorse, which in part because he might’ve been thinking, holy cow these two are loading up on bread and carbs. And we were. I thought the presentation here was fun, and the garlic bread offered a good mix of flavor and texture, but it was definitely a carb overload at this point. Maybe a good way to finish a meal if you’re preparing for a runDisney event?
I really wanted to try the Tiramisù (which has been changed significantly since we last dined at Trattoria al Forno) and Chocolate Semolina, but that was absolutely out of the question. It was a small miracle that I could walk out of the restaurant after all of that.
Overall, this was yet another good-to-great meal at Trattoria al Forno. While superficially similar, we’ve found this to be satisfying and ambitious unlike any other standard Italian restaurant at Walt Disney World. Trattoria al Forno “plays the hits,” so to speak, but does so in a way that subverts expectations. Yes, you’re eating crowd-pleasing comfort food, but you’re also getting a shockingly multifaceted meal.
Not to oversell it, but this meal at Trattoria al Forno firmly establishes its spot as one of the mid-tier resort restaurants that punches above its weight, delivering approachable and quality cuisine. To be sure, it’s not a Signature Restaurant or the epitome of fine dining at Walt Disney World, but I doubt that’s what anyone is expecting.
If you find yourself in Epcot or Hollywood Studios without an Advance Dining Reservation for one of those parks’ top tier restaurants, Trattoria al Forno is a good consolation prize that often has same-day or last-minute ADR availability. In other words, don’t feel like you’re “settling” if you book a reservation here. For a family-friendly table service option with something for everyone, Trattoria al Forno truly delivers and delights.
What do you think of Trattoria al Forno? Where does it rank in terms of Italian restaurants at Walt Disney World for you? Have any favorite dishes here? 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!