It’s probably fair to say that we have a love-hate relationship with most Magic Kingdom dining options. There’s only one restaurant we love (and other fans are split about 50/50 as to whether it’s awful or awesome), and everything else is conditional or circumstantial. Meaning that we enjoy aspects–atmosphere, characters, specific menu items, etc–but there’s always a “but…” attached.
For example, we think Cinderella’s Royal Table is a fantastic rite-of-passage experience with surprisingly strong cuisine, but the price tag is astronomical. (It’d better be good for how much it costs!) Cosmic Ray’s is great for seeing Sonny Eclipse, but the menu is pretty dumbed-down. Be Our Guest Restaurant can be a fantastic meal if you order correctly and get lucky, but it can also be chaotic, crowded, rushed, and underwhelming. You get the idea.
It’s a similar story here, and we want to be up front about this because it should not be misconstrued as a comeback story or glowing review. This post is mostly positive, but it’s important to stress how every Magic Kingdom counter service eatery is graded on a massive curve. Despite being Walt Disney World’s flagship park, Magic Kingdom is far and away the worst for counter service cuisine. There’s only one fast food option that’s truly great, and even that is going to be a complete non-starter for a lot of families. The rest are either chaotic cafeterias or glorified snack spots with good-but-limited options. There really isn’t a whole lot of in-between.
All of this is laid out in our List of Magic Kingdom’s Top 10 Counter Service Restaurants. Except for one, they pretty much peak at mediocre. That’s not really a “best of” list, it’s more like a “least bad” list. Suffice to say, pretty much every Magic Kingdom quick-service dining spot leaves something to be desired.
But most of them do have fan followings. Back during the phased reopening, we heard more questions about when Casey’s Corner would come back than just about any other restaurant. Cosmic superstar Sonny Eclipse has a fervent fan-following. Over the years, we’ve received more negative feedback about “snubbing” Sleepy Hollow Refreshments from our ‘best of’ lists (for all of Walt Disney World, not just Magic Kingdom) than just about anywhere else.
However, there’s one major Magic Kingdom restaurant that rarely gets any love and seemingly has no fan following: Pinocchio Village Haus. So today, we’re going to do the impossible (it’s kind of fun), making our pitch for Pinocchio Village Haus and the argument in favor of eating here.
To be clear, this is not some kind of “challenge accepted” deal that we’re undertaking as an academic exercise. It’s not a mock trial to see if a credible case can be made for the indefensible. To the contrary, Pinocchio Village Haus has accidentally become the counter service restaurant at which I’ve dined the most in the last year.
This actually came as a surprise to me–I didn’t realize it until ‘auditing’ my folder of dining raw files. But in reflecting on it a bit, it makes perfect sense. There’s actually a lot that I like about Pinocchio Village Haus…it just comes with some massive “buts.”
Let’s start with why there’s likely little love lost for Pinocchio Village Haus. Just like Walt Disney World has rite of passage experiences that are must-dos, there’s also the opposite of that. Rite of passage experiences that you should avoid, but pitfalls so common that almost everyone seems to make the same mistake. Consider it a form of trial by fire or hazing (is that still a thing?).
After a fast and furious morning racing through Fantasyland–knocking out Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, “it’s a small world,” and Peter Pan’s Flight–it’s common for kids and parents alike to hit a wall, needing food immediately or risking a meltdown. Enter Pinocchio Village Haus. Literally, they all enter Pinocchio Village Haus because it’s the nearest restaurant when the clock is ticking on a nuclear meltdown.
The core demographic of Pinocchio Village Haus during the midday rush is “hangry families that are 90 seconds to midnight on the WDW Doomsday Clock.” This is exactly why merely mentioning it can send shudders down the spine of longtime fans. We’ve almost all been there, with the war stories to tell about Pinocchio Village Haus. In a nutshell, a lot of people have eerily similar not-so-fond memories of Pinocchio Village Haus.
It doesn’t help that the menu at Pinocchio Village Haus, historically, has done it no favors. In the last two decades, it has basically undergone one major menu change–right around the opening of New Fantasyland (over a decade ago), when it went from serving pizzas like those at PizzeRizzo or Pizzafari to flatbreads. Since then, there have been a number of tweaks, but no massive changes. The menu was bad before, and still isn’t great now.
There are essentially two reasons why I’ve dined at Pinocchio Village Haus so much in the last year-plus.
The first is that I’ve been on a quest to refresh all of our Magic Kingdom restaurant reviews. When it comes to Pinocchio Village Haus, this has been an exercise in futility. They add something new, I order it, they remove it from the menu. Rinse and repeat. For a spot that hasn’t changed its core menu in a decade, I’ve certainly managed to eat a lot of pizzas that are no longer served here.
Part of that’s my own fault. For the last 5 or so years, Pinocchio Village Haus has had ‘seasonal’ flatbreads that change from time to time. I’ve well aware of this, and yet have taken my sweet time writing about the restaurant. Part of it isn’t my fault, though, as Pinocchio Village Haus (disappointingly) also pulled a couple of fantastic and fan-favorite items that had been on its 50th Anniversary menu.
In any case, I haven’t really been bothered by the ever-changing seasonal flatbreads. The last few I’ve had have all been fantastic. It also helps that they’re the least popular menu items, and seem to be made-to-order as a result, which means fresh pizza.
The other main reason I eat at Pinocchio Village Haus is because it has my favorite ‘secret spot’ dining area in all of Magic Kingdom. No matter how busy the interior is, you can head up the stairs and relax in an outdoor balcony that is typically devoid of other guests. Word has gotten out a little, as I’m frequently no longer alone up here–but I’ve never had an issue finding a table (knock onwood). To achieve this result, you should walk up discreetly, as one person going up the steps sometimes results in several people following.
Longtime readers might be familiar with this balcony, as we’ve recommended eating here many times in the past. (Note that this is not always available–it’s typically open for lunch and closes later in the day.) It’s amazing to me that you can go from the most crowded and chaotic dining room in Magic Kingdom…to stepping outside and having the most serene and secluded spot, with great views and excellent people-watching. It’s a night-and-day different from the main dining rooms of Pinocchio Village Haus, especially midday.
Whenever possible this year, I’ve been eating outside as a risk mitigation measure. This is far and away my top pick for outdoor dining in Magic Kingdom. So even if the food were always awful at Pinocchio Village Haus, I’d be bringing meals over here from other nearby(ish) restaurants. (That’s exactly what I used to do with the Friar’s Nook, but they also removed the great 50th food that I liked.)
If you’d rather dine indoors, there’s essentially a mirror-image of this balcony on the interior of Pinocchio Village Haus. This is accessible via stairways both inside and outside the restaurant (a door separates the exterior and interior balconies). It can be tricky to find the stairs on the inside from the ground level, which is probably why this area is often empty.
In any case, if you can’t find the inside stairs, it’s almost as easy to go outside, take the exterior stairs, and open the door to the inside. A bit more convoluted, but only an extra 30 seconds or so. Sitting on the inside balcony, you’ll still have the same high decibel level as on the ground floor, but without the crowd and chaos. You’re also removed from the loudness, so it’s almost like white noise. Oh, and there’s air-conditioning, which can be make-or-break when on the precipice of a summertime meltdown!
While these balconies are overlooked by most guests, I’d argue that the vast majority of Pinocchio Village Haus is lovely, with delightful details and design that’s hiding in plain sight. The problem is that its beauty and charm are pretty easy to overlook when the restaurant is packed with people, many of whom are crying and/or yelling!
Despite being one of Magic Kingdom’s high-capacity cafeterias, Pinocchio Village Haus is subdivided into a number of dining rooms. Each of these feature a number of cute details like stained glass windows, carvings, murals, clocks, and statues. Even if you’ve dined at Pinocchio Village Haus before, we’re betting you haven’t had the opportunity to appreciate these areas, so here’s a look at the various dining rooms in the “unblemished” states:
Over the years, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for the aesthetic of Pinocchio Village Haus. If you just quickly scrolled through those photos, go back and take a closer look–I’ll bet just about every single one features a detail you didn’t previously notice at Pinocchio Village Haus, unless you’ve spent a lot of time there. (In which case, I’m so sorry for you.)
While I still think there’s a bit of datedness with the interior of Pinocchio Village Haus, I’m perfectly fine with it. It’s absolutely oozing charm, has a quaint style, and an old-timey look that’s perfectly at home in Fantasyland. Beyond that, Pinocchio Village Haus abounds with detail and design flourishes everywhere you look.
Honestly, it also “helps” that so many Walt Disney World interior updates have gone in the exact opposite direction–bland and modern designs that are devoid of personality and whimsy. Pinocchio Village Haus stands at odds with that, and it’s refreshing as a result. The interior here is warm and inviting, with a homey and cozy quality.
My favorite dining room, and the one that’s far and the way most popular, is the narrow room overlooking the load area of “it’s a small world.” To be sure, this seating area is not as good as Blue Bayou at Disneyland (overlooking Pirates of the Caribbean) or San Angel Inn Restaurante in Mexico at EPCOT (overlooking Gran Fiesta Tour). Those can be moody and romantic, whereas Pinocchio Village Haus…is not those things.
Still, it surprises me that Pinocchio Village Haus never really gets much praise for this dining room. No, it’s not as good as those two atmospheric exemplars. But it’s still really cool to have a window seat that overlooks “The Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed.” Not to get too controversial, but when this room is peaceful, I’d put it right up there with our beloved upstairs tables at Columbia Harbour House that overlook the walkways.
The problem, of course, is that Pinocchio Village Haus is almost never quiet and uncrowded. Not only that, but it’s almost impossible to score a seat here during the midday rush, requiring tremendous luck or a level of patience in waiting that–in this raucous restaurant–will likely cause you to lose your sanity.
It took us several years of visiting Walt Disney World before ever lucking into a table in this room. More recently, now that our trips have lower stakes, we’ve purposefully dined here right at around 10:30 a.m. when Pinocchio Village Haus opens, or closer to fireworks time when it’s starting to clear out. Those are pretty much the sweet spots, both when the restaurant is pleasant and when you actually stand a chance at scoring these seats.
At those hours, this seating area is serene and overlooking “it’s a small world” is something special. During the front half of the day, you see guests getting on one of their first rides of the day, happy and excited. At the end, riders are more, ahem, beaten down, but you get a sense of satisfaction watching boats load and dispatch. It’s decompressing and oddly therapeutic. I’m not even kidding.
This being (ostensibly) a restaurant review, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least touch upon the food at Pinocchio Village Haus.
First is the All-Meat Flatbread topped with Sausage, Pepperoni, Ham, Bacon, Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella. If my highly scientific research is accurate, this is the most popular pizza at Pinocchio Village Haus.
For the most part, I think this is a what you see is what you get situation. There’s nothing special about any of the toppings here, they’re exactly what you’d expect.
How good or bad this is ultimately depends upon whether the cheese and meat gods smile upon you, and you get a pizza that’s thoroughly covered with toppings. The above is about average in terms of meat and slightly below average for cheese. Nothing that a bit of dipping ranch for the crust can’t fix, though!
Above is an ancient photo of the Margherita Flatbread. It’s not currently on the menu (it comes and goes), but that’s not the point.
Check out the crust–it’s basically as if Hank Pym used the shrink-and-grow technology of Pym Particles to experiment on a saltine cracker, and that pizza crust was the end result. It was bad.
Over the years, the crust has gradually gotten thicker and doughier at Pinocchio Village Haus, and that alone has been a dramatic improvement. It’s still not on par with the pizzas at PizzeRizzo or Pizzafari, but it’s a big improvement.
I’d also argue that the other ingredients here are typically better. This is not just your average ‘Great Value’ brand frozen pizza.
My current favorite menu option is the Buffalo Chicken Flatbread topped with Grilled Chicken, Mozzarella, Ranch, Buffalo Sauce, and Crumbled Ranch-flavored Tortilla Chips.
This is way better than it has any right to be, with tender chicken, delicious dressing and sauce, and a nice texture thanks to the chips. I’m not going to fixate on this too much, though, because it’ll probably be gone a week after I publish this (I sure hope not, but most of these pizzas are short-lived).
Regardless, I’d recommend rolling the dice on the specialty pizza at Pinocchio Village Haus, whatever it is. My batting average with these is above .500, which is good by Magic Kingdom counter service standards.
Ultimately, Pinocchio Village Haus is not a great Walt Disney World restaurant. It is pretty much the exact opposite of a hidden gem in Magic Kingdom. It’s like a ticking time bomb that goes off around noon each day, giving some not-so-magical memories to the hangry guests who descend upon it all at once in a desperate attempt to avert disastrous meltdowns.
The ironic thing is that within the crowds, chaos and craziness, there is a certain specialness about Pinocchio Village Haus. It’s evident in the design and details, the charm and whimsy. You may have to search a bit to see it, but there’s beauty in the madness. Most ironically of all, this opposite-of-hidden-gem restaurant actually does have hidden gem spaces.
It just takes dining at the right time and steering clear of the wrong ones at all costs, and Pinocchio Village Haus can actually be a pretty good–and memorable for the right reasons–restaurant at Magic Kingdom. We noted at the outset that just about every dining option in the flagship park is conditional, and perhaps nowhere is that more true than Pinocchio Village Haus.
What has been your experience with Pinocchio Village Haus? Favorite and least favorite pizzas here? Any horror stories, or have your meals here been uneventful? Do you have a love-hate relationship with this restaurant, only one of the two extremes, or neither? Think we’re off our rockers with even this tepid endorsement of Magic Kingdom’s loudest, most crowded, chaotic and crazy counter service?! Agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!