Next on the agenda for the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is the Italy Global Marketplace. At Walt Disney Word, Italian cuisine is fairly ubiquitous, undoubtedly because it’s a crowdpleaser that appeals to a wide range of guests. Even unambitious or mediocre Italian food tends to offer comforting and familiar flavors, so it’s a popular choice.
Last year, we received criticism for placing the Italy booth (the entire thing) on our Worst 7 Dishes at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival despite not ordering anything from there. Our rationale was that we refused to support this abomination of a booth until it got its act together, as it had been so bad for so long.
Unfortunately, this is not some grand redemption tale about how a ragtag Food & Wine booth went from zero to hero. To the contrary, these dishes are still indistinguishable from Stouffer’s microwavable dishes–if you’re “lucky” you might even get one with a cool center that wasn’t nuked all the way through.
Rather than keeping our promise and not ordering anything from Italy until it improved, we did the totally rational thing and ordered the entire food menu out of spite. It was a bad decision, and the receipt showing I spent $27.20 on this junk is future blackmail material if it falls into the wrong hands.
I started looking at World Showcase table service entree prices after to see what I could’ve gotten for that, but had to stop because it was too depressing. One thing I will say: if you’re for some reason thinking about ordering everything–or even two-thirds of it–at the Italy booth is that you could do better for less money with a dozen or so items on the Tutto Italia Ristorante lunch menu. You’d have the added bonus of enjoying some AC halfway through your stroll of World Showcase.
Anyway, here’s what’s on the menu at the Italy Global Marketplace for 2018:
Fritto Misto: Crispy Shrimp, Zucchini and Sweet Potatoes with a Spicy Sauce
Pollo Alla Cacciatora: Braised Chicken Thigh, Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Parmesan Polenta
Mezzi Rigatoni: Vodka Sauce, Crispy Pancetta and Parmesan Cheese
Cannoli: Cannoli filled with Sweet Ricotta, Chocolate and Candied Fruit
Now our photos and reviews of each item…
Fritto Misto – If you’re part of some cruel challenge requiring you to try something from every booth, this should be your choice from the Italy booth.
The pieces of zucchini and sweet potato were actually good, with the calamari-style vegetables working well with the batter, herbs, and zesty sauce. I was less enthusiastic about the rubbery shrimp, but even those weren’t terrible.
Pollo Alla Cacciatora – This dish also wasn’t all bad, as the braised chicken thigh was tender and juicy, albeit a bit too fatty. The accompanying tomato-water did the dish no favors, nor did the block of parmesan polenta.
Despite my criticism, if all you’re looking for is a hunk of chicken for picky eaters, this is not a terrible option.
Mezzi Rigatoni – Boring and bland, the mezzi rigatoni is also only for incredibly picky eaters. Literally anyone reading this should be able to do undercooked pasta better at home.
Cannoli – What you see is pretty much what you get here. This isn’t ambitious, freshly prepared, or deserving of praise, but it’s also not deserving of condemnation. We think it’s a bit too small for the price, but the same could be said for many other desserts at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.
In terms of Italian alcohol, here’s what’s on offer this year:
Moretti La Rossa Double Malt
Placido Pinot Grigio
Villa Sandi Prosecco
Montegrande Corbinello Spumante Dolce
Fior d’Arancio Montegrande Moscato
Frozen Margarita with Limoncello and Tequila
For what it’s worth, I feel like I’m being overly generous to all of these food items, and that’s in part because over the years we’ve found so many readers have claimed the Italy booth is not really as bad as we think. I wholeheartedly disagree, but I also can appreciate that we might approach Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival differently than others. As with the Mexico booth, you unquestionably have access to far superior Italian cuisine at home, so even if you’d rather play it safe with Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, we’d strongly encourage you to skip Italy
Ultimately, our disappointment by the Italy booth was predictable. I cannot even remember a time when this booth was good; it’s obviously a location resting on the laurels of the real-world Italy’s reputation, preying on unsuspecting tourists. The inspiration for the menu must be an Italian version of Rizzo the Rat saying, “they’re tourists…what do they know?!”
What do you think of the Italy Global Marketplace? Have you tried any of the food items at this booth? What did you think of them? Do you agree with our perspective that Italy is a perpetual underachiever at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? 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!