What the first meal that comes to mind for a runner the night before a big run?
Pasta, Pasta, Pasta or the infamous Carb Loading (which is pretty much a myth, but that is an entirely different post)
One of my favorite places to do some serious Carb Loading and still please the family at Walt Disney World is at Via Napoli. There was no doubt in my mind that this would be one of my dining reservations for the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.
Via Napoli is located in the back of the Epcot’s World Showcase Italian Pavilion, which means you get to walk through Disney’s representation of St. Mark’s Square in Venice and past the Fontana Di Nettuno which is meant to pay homage to the Trevi Fountain in Rome (great picture stop and while you are there throw in a coin, so that you will return to Epcot).
Walking in the door you instantly feel transported to a café in Italy. I love the décor, huge open space with arches and chandeliers, and colorful frescoes on the walls and ceilings.
It has three main seating areas large family style table, enclosed patio and general large room seating. With that being said, Via Napoli is a loud restaurant (like Italians who love good food and good wine). The Cast Members who serve you are all from Italy (and if you like cute Italian boys)…
The service was pretty typical for a true Italian Restaurant, they are not as attentive as most American diners would like. I can live with this because the food is outstanding and the views are not so bad. I digress, back to the reason I am here, the centerpiece of the restaurant…
the three pizza ovens. The ovens are named for the three Italian volcanoes, Stromboli, Vesuvio, and Etna. Pizza chefs are hard at work assembling the pies in full view of guests here. This is always an enjoyable bit of mealtime entertainment for curious foodies like myself.
I started my meal off with a glass of the House Red Sangria, after all my marathon was still a day away and I had over 24 hours to get the alcohol out of my system and hydrate. This is the only downfall of eating at Disney prior to a race…you have to limit the drinks. My trips to Walt Disney World are about the only time that I drink. I LOVE the House Sangria and wish I could have had ordered the entire pitcher for myself.
I also paid extra and ordered the house salad. Normally, the salad is only purchased as Family Style and there are 2 person minimum. I told the Cast Member that I would pay the second person price, and graciously in the Italian way he did not charge me double for the salad. The House Salad is simply delicious with its mixed greens, cucumber, pepperoncino peppers, peppadew peppers, diced tomatoes, olives, red wine vinaigrette. Of course I had to sit and pick all of the olives out first to eat, an Italian treat.
Did I mention pizza is was going to be the centerpiece of my carb loading meal? Via Napoli easily tops my list for serving up the Best Pizza as Walt Disney World. But don’t expect Dominos or Pizza Hut pizza, this is Napoli (Naples) style pizza. Trust me, I have had the real stuff in Naples, Italy and this is pretty much a perfect replication and is magical.
Now remember that the magic in the pizzas not only comes from the work of those three giant pizza ovens, but because the chefs use Italian flour and water sourced from a spring similar those in the Campania region. That’s right, the pizza is made from water that is either imported from Naples or calibrated to the exact pH level of that in Naples, depending on which version of the story you want to believe. Regardless, it is an outstanding thin crust that strikes the exact balance of crispy and chewy that you’re looking for in a pizza crust. The wood-fired ovens also give a healthy dose of charring to the bottom and edges of the crust. I love the crispy charred edges but younger and especially fussy eaters may not.
Via Napoli pizza is served in 3 sizes, individual, mezzo metro and large. I ordered the individual Prosciutto e Melone Pizza and trust me when I say that it easily feeds 2-3 people. The menu features many different topping combinations as well as a chance to build your own. My pizza was a white pizza with fontina, mozzarella, prosciutto, cantaloupe, and arugula. Hawaiians can have ham and pineapple, I prefer the Italian ham and cantaloupe.
I wish I could say that I had dessert, but I was so full and had a takeout box with half of my pizza for snacking on tomorrow. But I will leave you with pictures of a past dessert from Via Napoli, Zeppole di Caterina (ricotta cheese fritters served with whipped cream) and I promise next time there will be Tiramisù.
Via Napoli once again delivered a great meal that was perfect for my carb loading and makes me want to come back again on my next trip.