Trattoria al Forno is a table service restaurant at BoardWalk Inn at Walt Disney World. It’s a family-friendly Italian restaurant, with an approachable menu. In this review, we’ll share food photos, some insight into the ambiance of this WDW dining spot, and thoughts on our meal at Trattoria al Forno.
Trattoria al Forno replaced Kouzzina by Cat Cora, which closed a few years ago after concluding its 5-year run on the BoardWalk. Although it was always “on our list,” we never got around to trying Kouzzina. In fact, before our meal at Trattoria al Forno, Sarah had never dined in this venue, and my last time here was at some point in the mid-1990s when it was Spoodles and I made my own pizza as a kid…
For the last year or so, we had been telling ourselves we’d make it to Trattoria al Forno for the new character breakfast at some point in the near future. However, when our plans changed due to Hurricane Irma, we made an impromptu stop at this eatery. Who knows, but for that, we may have failed to dine here until it inevitability turns into a Guy Fieri restaurant.
Initially, we debated between Trattoria al Forno and Il Mulino New York Trattoria. We had done Todd English’s bluezoo the night before, and were really impressed by it. However, we felt a bit under-dressed there, and weren’t keen on a repeat of that.
Our assumption was that Trattoria al Forno would be more laid back. (More than just an assumption–as much is obvious if you simply walk past each.) We’ll get to Il Mulino soon…it’s “on our list.”
Upon walking into Trattoria al Forno I was surprised to see the open kitchen. Not because open kitchens are unprecedented or anything, but it brought back memories of Spoodles I didn’t even know I had.
Even though we are two incarnations removed from Spoodles, if memory serves me, that aspect of the restaurant is virtually unchanged.
Ambiance-wise, Trattoria al Forno is nice. It feels a lot like an upscale Italian restaurant, from the upholstery to the light fixtures. There’s a lot of texture, rich woods, and light touches that you’d expect from a family-run Italian restaurant.
Thematically, Trattoria al Forno is not doing anything all that impressive, but it gets the job done at conveying the theme. Sometimes–like here–that’s perfectly sufficient. I’d say the star of the restaurant in terms of ambiance is the show kitchen, which is visible from the far reaches of the seating area.
Our meal started out with individual loaves of ciabatta, but I forgot to photograph it. This bread was fine, but nothing special.
For our first appetizer, we had the tried and true Calamari Fritti. Whenever I go to an Italian restaurant, it’s pretty much guaranteed I’m ordering the calamari. The pepperoncini provided a mild kick here, and the balsamic (below the calamari) worked well with that. The breading was the perfect consistency, and the calamari itself was good. We’d definitely recommend this.
Our second appetizer was the Gnocchi di Patata. Per the menu, this contains “Pancetta, Seasonal Vegetables, Goat Cheese Crema, Soft-cooked Egg.”
My initial thought when reading that it included the egg was that this might be compensating for an otherwise dry gnocchi dish. That was not the case; if anything, the egg made this a tad too liquid-y. Despite that, the flavor here was exceptional and it was both hearty and modestly ambitious. Also recommended.
For her entree, Sarah had the Pasta alla Bolognese. From the menu: “Braised Short Rib, Smoked Pork Belly, Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Pecorino Romano.”
She found the pasta to be perfectly-prepared, but the sauce and meat were both lacking. The sauce was nearly devoid of flavor and tasted canned. We’ve found this complaint all-too common with Italian restaurants at Walt Disney World, unfortunately. The meat was alright, but couldn’t make up for that lackluster sauce. We would not recommend this.
For my entree, I had the Pasta alla Carbonara. Per the menu: “Bacon and Eggs House-cured Pancetta, Local Organic Egg, Pecorino Romano, fresh Pasta.”
Given the similarity to our gnocchi, this might seem like overkill or redundant. And, maybe it was. Personally, I loved it. Even though this is best-described as comfort food, it was good comfort food. A nice, heavy meal that allowed me to carb-load for a weekend of hibernating in a hotel room. 😉 This was my favorite item of the meal–and that’s with two pretty good appetizers.
Swap out the glass cup for a plastic one, and this is just as easily a dish you could order at PizzeRizzo, prepared a couple of weeks ago and frozen until ready for your very special dessert. It tasted about as good as it looks, and I’m normally a sucker for tiramisu.
When it comes to Italian restaurants, there are several options at Walt Disney World. Personally, I think the only one that can be fairly compared to Trattoria al Forno is Tutto Italia. Everywhere else (Mama Melrose, Tony’s Town Square, Via Napoli, etc.) is sufficiently different that a comparison doesn’t seem appropriate.
It’s been a while since we’ve dined at Tutto Italia (to the point that we’re overdue to revisit it), but based upon our last visit to Tutto Italia, I’d give Trattoria al Forno the slight nod. In reality, which is “better” probably comes down to individual menu items and how the kitchen is doing on a particular day. We went 3 for 5 in our meal at Trattoria al Forno; anytime you bat above .500 at a Walt Disney World Italian restaurant, you’re doing fairly well.
Overall, Trattoria al Forno offers a satisfying slate of Italian cuisine with a varied, crowd-pleasing menu. I suppose you could spin this restaurant in a couple of different ways: the #1 non-Signature restaurant on the BoardWalk, or conversely, failing to make the top 10 table service restaurants in the Epcot-area. I’m disinclined to take a strong stance on it one way or the other. I think Trattoria al Forno fills an important role in being a quality, approachable option in the Crescent Lake area. It’s not as good as Flying Fish, Yachtsman Steakhouse, or Swan & Dolphin dining, but that doesn’t matter–it’s not the same type of restaurant. For what it is, we’re pleased with Trattoria al Forno, and would return.
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!