Disney’s Tutto Gusto Wine Bar in Epcot’s Italy

IMG_5076“Tutto Gusto Wine Bar in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion is a wonderful treasure, a charming, cozy and relaxing nook tucked away from Walt Disney World’s hustle and bustle.  I recommend it as a great place for adults to enjoy a snack or light meal and an excellent glass of wine.” – Me, channeling my inner restaurant critic.

I am mostly German with some British and Native American tossed in the mix.  I can trace my ancestry back to 17th century Germany on my mother’s side and on my dad’s side, we are direct descendants of Daniel Boone.  There is not, anywhere I can find (no matter how hard I search), even the tiniest drop of Italian blood in my veins.  In my heart, though, I’m Italian.  The language, the food, the wines, the Italian flare for style – all appeal to me in an indescribable way.  I’m certain this is why eating in Epcot’s Italy always gets my vote.  I love the Cast Members and I’ve never EVER had a bad meal.IMG_5069

You may recall from a previous post (about a certain chocolate croissant) that Raymond and I had a couple of hours alone in Epcot last time we visited Disney World.  One of the things I wanted to try, as it was brand new at the time, was Tutto Gusto.  We had ADRs for later that evening at Le Cellier, so a light lunch was in order and Tutto Gusto’s small-plates menu, which I had checked out online, would be perfect.  Raymond loves Italian food (and wine) every bit as much as I do, so he was on board with the plan.

IMG_5074We were pleasantly surprised to find Tutto Gusto nearly empty when we arrived (it had just opened for business earlier in the month, so perhaps it was still unknown to most guests).  We immediately loved the cozy feel of the restaurant – a quiet, relaxing escape from the rest of Epcot.  The restaurant seats fewer than 100 people – when we sat down, there were maybe a dozen patrons, including us.  The server was excellent – attentive without being overbearing.  We ordered glasses of red wine (can’t tell you what it was, but we liked it) – after letting our server pick for us based on our description of what we like in a wine.  We then took our time perusing the menu for a few minutes before ordering.

Raymond ordered a (small, single) Panini that came with an equally small side salad – not IMG_5072surprising if you know what a fan he is of these Italian toasted sandwiches – I have a Panini maker at home and know how to use it!  I opted for the Insalata Di Mare Trapanese (Shrimp, squid, octopus, lemon, extra virgin olive oil).  Both of us were happy with our choices and felt our meals were light enough to be topped off with dessert!  Mocha Tiramisu all around.

Final words about our lunch – YES, I was influenced by all I had read online about Tutto Gusto and HAD to try it – What that curiosity IMG_5077yielded:   We had a lovely, quiet (romantic even) Italian getaway right in the middle of Epcot’s World Showcase.

Disney’s Haunted Mansion – Bringing a Little Bit Home

DWR2009 078Haunted Mansion!  That most perfect example of Disney magic at its best.  Back in October, I highlighted all we love about the Haunted Mansion for a Halloween post.  For Christmas, we brought a little Haunted Mansion to our own humble abode.  No, a ghost didn’t follow us home, but almost just as good!

Megan and I had certainly been thinking alike back in December (although we wouldn’t find that out until Christmas morning)!  Last fall, the Disney Store had some great Haunted Mansion items in their home-goods section – oddly enough, I didn’t see what Megan bought for me when I was shopping and she didn’t see what I bought her.  You might recall (if you saw my Disney Christmas gifts post) that I received a nifty Haunted Mansion wine bottle stopper – perfect for me since my love for both wine and the Haunted Mansion are well-known to The Fam.IMG_2439

I bought Megan a set of coasters for her apartment.  Sounds boring, doesn’t it?  These are no ordinary coasters though – they’re tombstones from the Haunted Mansion’s graveyard!  They even come in an adorable coffin-shaped box that says “Tomb Sweet Tomb” on the top!  Go ahead, admit it….right now you’re wishing your mom had given you an awesome gift like that, too.

Sadly, my original purchase arrived broken.  This was strange to me – I ordered a mug for Raymond, three ornaments (Sally, Steampunk Earhat, and Mulan) and the coasters – the box arrived with virtually no packing material in it – all the items were just rattling around in there.  There was also no receipt or order confirmation document of any kind.  The ornaments and mug were wrapped securely, but the coasters were just in their unprotected box and each one was shattered (they’re ceramic or some such). 

Tomb Sweet TombOn December 20th I emailed the Disney Store per the website’s “contact us” instructions and explained my plight – then promptly got swept up in the holiday madness and forgot all about it.  Christmas morning arrived – and this is, again, strange.  Megan gave me a Disney cookie jar…turns out it was the second one she’d ordered because the first one came in broken.  Note:  She wanted that cookie jar in time for Christmas, so when the broken one arrived she immediately called the Disney Store and they shipped a replacement one right out.  That’s when I remembered the coasters and told her that while I hadn’t heard back yet, I was sure my email was being processed and replacements would be on their way soon.

Fast forward to last Monday.  Megan came over to do some laundry and watch a couple movies with me (yes, Disney movies) and said, “I guess I’m never getting those coasters, amCoasters I.”  Yikes!  I’d forgotten all about them.  I called the Disney Store and explained the situation – that I had emailed and received no reply (I offered to forward a copy of the email if necessary) – The lady on the phone – who’s every sentence was liberally sprinkled with terms like “magical” and “pixie dust” and even a reference to “Fairy Godmother” (I kid you not) – said she would send replacement coasters out posthaste with no further action on my part necessary.  Sure enough, three days later I had a box from the Disney Store on my doorstep.  New coasters safe and sound.  Aren’t they CUTE?

Moral of the story – do NOT email the Disney Store if there’s a problem with your order – give them a call.  They’ll be magically helpful and certain to offer whatever pixie-dusted assistance is necessary (even enlisting Fairy Godmother’s aid, if required) to ensure your happily-ever-after satisfaction.

New ShoesSo, last Saturday Raymond and I went to a big shoe sale at our local running store.  I was able to score a much-needed new pair of Nikes for 40% off!  Not my usual color-choice, these beauties are gray, purple, and neon green (hello?  ON SALE!) – They’re growing on me though – I’m calling them my Haunted Mansion shoes.

What-If Wednesday – Changing Disney’s Hollywood Studios

IMG_0906Ladies and Gentlemen!  It’s time for…….What-If Wednesday!  The game show where we use our imagination to bring about Disney change.  Contestants from Twitter and Facebook go head to head and compete to invent the most popular (pretend) changes.  Get ready to let your imagination run wild!  And as Drew Carey would say, this is “the show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.”  Let’s GO!

This week’s episode – Changing Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

Okay, now that you’ve got the idea –  Here’s how this really works.  A couple of weeks ago I posed the question – If you had Superpowers, but only at Walt Disney World, what would they be?  That question was SO much fun and the answers so imaginative, I decided to give it another go.  This week’s question was:  If you had the power to change THREE things at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, what would they be?

Here is what participants had to say:

Get busy on adding Star Wars Land (Bill Maguire @wfmaguire, Mrs. Mouseward Bound IMG_3531@MousewardBound, Jordan Duncan @JordanGhastly, Stephanie via Facebook ).  See, the worst thing about Star Warsland is that Disney spoke of it.  Teased us – led us on, if you will.  Now we want them to fork over the goods!  Will the expense of MyMagic+ be the demise of what would have been a very needed, very popular addition for the Studios?

Update The Great Movie Ride! (Bill Maguire @wfmaguire, Mrs. Mouseward Bound @MousewardBound ).  I’m old enough that I still get a kick out of The Great Movie Ride as is, but you young whippersnappers probably find it a bit out of date.  There are SO many great movies, it would be very cool indeed to see this ride revamped from time to time to include a few newer, yet no less important, classics.

Make it less of a “Half-Day Park” (Waltdisneyworldwords @WDWords) by adding more rides!  I IMG_3081couldn’t agree more with this suggestion.  While we can make it a full day park, it can sometimes be a challenge.  Perhaps that’s been because after you’ve hit Toy Story Midway Mania, Tower of Terror, and Rock’n’ Roller Coaster – everything else seems a bit tame.  My theory is FastPass+ will actually help this – you’ll get more opportunity to spread the big three out over the course of a day and add things like Star Tours, Muppets, Indiana Jones, and the Great Movie Ride in between.  Anybody else think so?

Add a Monsters, Inc. Door Coaster (Bill Maguire @wfmaguire ).  Ah, Bill.  If only.  Think about how innovative and exciting this would be!  Totally different from anything already at Walt Disney World but a perfect (and much-needed) addition for Pixar Place.  The effects they could use for this would make it an e-ticket ride for sure.

Close Backlot Tour (BRGUEST @Florida407wdw) (Forever?)  – Backlot Tour IS currently non-operational.  Maybe that’s a good sign.  If the nice Disney people have no intention of restoring this attraction to some semblance of its former enjoyable-ness, they need to raze it all and put something fabulous in its place.  I adored the original Backlot Tour, but it had become a mere shadow of what it once was and for me, too depressing to contemplate riding (good thing it’s closed then, huh.)

Revise Muppets (BRGUEST @Florida407wdw) – Now that the Muppets have returned to the big screen in a big way, it is time to revamp the Muppet Vision 3D movie experience and throw a little cash and TLC over that way in the Studios.  Much of what’s there is fantastic – it just needs modernized so the younger fans feel like “their” Muppets (Walter!) are well represented.

IMG_3026Build a Hollywood Tower of Terror Resort (Jackie Psarianos @JackiePsarianos) – Jackie!  This would be sensational.  Think of the possibilities!  Restored to it’s 1930’s glory, the Hollywood Tower Hotel would be one of (if not THE) most sought-after resort properties at Walt Disney World.  Just imagine – The dining, the gardens, the pools, the rooms!  Yeah…sigh…good idea.

Destroy the American Idol Experience (Mrs. Mouseward Bound @MousewardBound).  Yes.  ‘Nuff said.  (How about a big round of applause!)

Add a Super Hero section (Stephanie via Facebook) – this idea was seconded by Anna (Facebook) who is ready to see Marvel at Disney World (hey – I gave everyone the power to make changes, that power would certainly overcome any legal obstacles involved, right?).  When you think about all the incredible things Disney Imagineers could come up with involving the Marvel franchise, it boggles the mind!  Sadly, Disneyland (and non-US Disney properties) will be the recipient of anything Marvel-ous for the foreseeable future.

Add an Indiana Jones ride (Jordan Duncan @JordanGhastly).  I would love this.  Indiana Jones was one of those movies that just got to me when I first saw it and made me a fan for life.  There is an Indie ride at Disneyland – I’m sure something like that in the Studios would be an immediate crowd favorite!

Lose Aerosmith on Rock’n’ Roller Coaster and replace them with a better band (Jordan Duncan @JordanGhastly) – WHAT?!  I challenged Jordan on this since I’m a huge Aerosmith fan, but I couldn’t help liking his Beetles and Rolling Stones ideas!  Joseph (on Facebook and member of The Fam) suggested making RnRC longer, which would give music lovers a chance to enjoy more tunes as well.

Add more rides for younger kids like a Disney Jr. area with a giant Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to play in! (Stephanie via Facebook) – Not having little ones anymore myself, I don’t have a good perspective about what’s lacking at the Studios for the curtain-climber set.  I can see that if the Studios had more attractions for the under-8 folks, it could probably go head to head with Magic Kingdom for IMG_3046popularity.

Toy Story Midway Mania drew some suggestions of its own:  The first change would be to how they do FP for this attraction. (Waltdisneyworldwords @WDWords) – I checked and this suggestion had to do with changing the ratio between standby and FastPass guests so the standby line would move a bit better (or at all!)  and second change would be to improve the stand-by line experience for Toy Story Midway Mania – Joseph suggested this one – he is his mother’s son after all.

Wow!  That was FUN!  Thanks for playing, everyone!  What were your favorite ideas?

Any suggestions for next week’s What-if Wednesday?




Cruising the Mediterranean on the Disney Magic – Part 2


Our First View of Europe

Our first view of Europe was from the plane’s window as we prepared to land in Barcelona.  It was breathtaking!  Seeing those beautiful peaks also meant the long, seemingly endless flight would soon be over!  Plans to sleep on the plane had failed miserably and I, having ignored all the advice I’d read about coping with jet lag, had feet and ankles so swollen it was reminiscent of the last month of pregnancy.  The six of us had basically spent the entire transatlantic jaunt watching movies and eating.  Running on fumes, we drug ourselves through customs without incident and looked for our Disney transfer bus.


In the Heart of Barcelona

As I mentioned in Part 1, I booked all the tours and shore excursions for this trip on my own, however, the hotel in Barcelona and transfers there from the airport and then to the port for boarding the Magic and finally back to the airport, I booked through Disney.  Having used Disney transfers in the past, I knew they’d be reliable, English-speaking, and stress-free (especially for a group of six).  The hotel would be centrally located – within walking distance of all we wanted to see and do in Barcelona on our one-and-only day there.  So, we boarded our motor coach at the airport and headed for the Renaissance Hotel Barcelona.  The weather was gorgeous – crystal clear blue skies, tons of sun and highs in the mid 80’s.


The Sagrada Familia

Luckily, one of our rooms was available for us to use when we arrived.  It was still morning, so we freshened up, piled all the luggage in a corner and headed out onto the streets of Barcelona.  I did not book a tour for the inside of the Sagrada Familia due to time constraints, but we wanted to see this famous cathedral at least from the outside.  Our “real” tour for the day was scheduled for 4:00 pm.  We had plenty of time to walk all the way around the cathedral taking pictures – WOW!  Amazing! – before finding a place to stop and eat lunch.  I’d wanted to buy water and wine to take on the ship with us as well – shops and restaurants lined all the streets along the way from the Sagrada Familia back to the hotel.


Delicious Lunch at a Corner Café in Barcelona

I’d love to be able to tell you the name and exact location of the fabulous corner café where we enjoyed lunch.  Sleep deprivation, hunger, and jet lag had all combined to make that part of the day a bit hazy.  We were pretty grouchy – I remember that well enough.  After a great meal, we made our beverage purchases and hobbled back to the hotel for a little siesta.  After a very short rest, we headed back out, but this time we were going to Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter – The “Old City” where we would meet our tour guide, Amanda.  On the way we made a quick stop by the Hard Rock Café to pick up a couple of pins for Raymond and Joseph’s collection.  The Hard Rock was packed!


Poor Megan – SO Tired!

I booked our tour for Barcelona late in the day, hoping we could use it as motivation to stay awake and keep moving!  I figured it would be timed just right so we could have dinner right after the two-hour tour ended, walk back to the hotel along the famous La Rambla and get to sleep early in preparation for setting sail the next day.  This still seemed a solid plan – except for one tiny thing.  The tour I’d booked….was a SEGWAY TOUR!  None of us had ever been on a Segway, we were exhausted, had aching feet and were generally cranky!  Uh-oh.


The Placa Sant Jaume, Barcelona

We met Amanda from Barcelona Segway Tours at the Placa Sant Jaume – a square in the center of Barcelona’s Old City.  She arrived on her Segway and guided us a short distance through the very narrow streets to the tour company’s headquarters.  Helmets, Segways, and release forms properly distributed – we headed out to a nearby courtyard for our Segway lesson and practice session.


Barcelona, Look OUT!

Who knew?  Seriously – I’m not kidding – this was hands down one of the most fun things any of us had ever done.  Megan noticed right away and commented that “You want to cure jetlag and cranky-ness?  Just get on a Segway!”  It was so EASY!  Before we knew it, we were off on an incredible tour that took us through the Gothic Quarter (Roman ruins!) to the waterfront (Christopher Columbus Statue!) – along the waterfront past Barcelona’s man-made beach with its khaki-colored sand imported from the Sahara Desert.  How we didn’t wreck at the beach I’ll never know – we were completely distracted by the total lack of clothing on the sunbathers!  Amanda was delightful, spoke excellent English and her love of both her job and her city were obvious.


Segway Tour in Barcelona – Most Fun EVER!

When the tour was over, we were entirely refreshed, excited about what the next day would hold and ready to eat!  We ended up at a seaside restaurant with outdoor seating where we ate a leisurely dinner and enjoyed delicious Spanish wine while the sun set beside us on the Mediterranean.  After dinner we did indeed walk along La Rambla and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the bustling Catalonian city.  Once back at the hotel, we couldn’t get to our rooms fast enough – exhaustion had set back in.  We promptly fell into our beds and were sound asleep in record time – dreaming about the sights yet to see on a journey that was only just beginning.

Links to other parts of this trip report:DSCN2897