Disney Dining Review: Trattoria al Forno

Welcome to the weekend, Disney fans!  Today’s post for Saturdays With Nick needs no introduction – It’s about food.  At Disney World.  Enjoy!

Disney Dining Review: Trattoria al Forno

By Nick

A few months ago, Trattoria al Forno opened at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort in Walt Disney World, replacing Kouzzina by Cat Cora.

Trattoria al Forno takes it’s patrons on a taste tour of Italy featuring regional specialties as well as classic dishes, such as wood-fired pizzas made with house-made-daily mozzarella and pastas prepared al forno, which is Italian for baked in an oven, using authentic ingredients and recipes hailing from all over Italy.

There is a wonderful back story created by Walt Disney Imagineering that tells of an Italian family that ran a modest tavern and boarding house on the boardwalk, which expanded over the years into a popular restaurant. As the establishment was handed down, each generation added their own touches to the meals and the restaurant’s design.

The interior helps to convey this story, starting with the original Entrata, or entrance, where the story begins, with vintage family photos lining the walls introducing the generational story. A custom wine cabinet displays authentic regional wines offered on the menu.

The story continues into the dining areas, which were once boarding house spaces. There are four distinct rooms, with furnishings, finishes and lighting relating to the character of each original boarding house room.

The three main dining rooms are open to the show kitchen and to each other.

On to the important part. The food!

My wife and I had dinner here in January, and it was the best meal of that trip.

The meal started with a warm loaf of Ciabatta Bread.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a beer guy, but I chose to go with the Romantic wine flight on that evening, primarily because I wanted to try the Sogno d’Italia Chianti, which is made exclusively for Disney.
Trattoria al Forno has an extensive, 100% Italian, wine list with over 60 offerings by bottle and more than 25 by glass.

For an appetizer, we shared the Fried Calamari with White Balsami and Lemon Agrodolce which is a traditional sweet and sour Italian sauce. Calamari is one of my favorites, and this was in all honesty one of the best I’ve ever had. Perfectly cooked and the sauce was excellent.

While our entrees were very good, we both agree we’d try something different next time.

Barbie had the Eggplant Rollatini with shaved fennel-arugula salad.

She actually preferred my meal which was the Braised Beef with house-made cavatelli. The beef was very tasty, but it could have used more sauce, as it was a huge hunk of meat, which would have benefited from more of a flavor variety.

Desserts were terrific. Barbie had the Tiramisu, lady finger-soaked espresso and layered with Italian mascarpone cream.

I had the Bomboloni, essentially an Italian doughnut with dark chocolate, served with vanilla gelato.

Both my wife and I look forward to returning to try more meals at Trattoria al Forno in the future.

This article was originally published on The Disney Exchange Blog and Podcast, which Nick co-writes and co-hosts.

For more great reviews, trip reports and all manner of Disney delights, follow Nick, his wife Barbie, and friends:  Disney Musings Blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, On Instagram, On Pinterest.

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!

Evolution of Disney Vacations

IMG_2141If you’re a lifelong Disney fan, you may have a good many Disney vacation memories to smile about.  You’ll also maybe have seen the way you vacation at your favorite Disney resort change over time.  Today I’m here to share our family’s experience…how our vacation style has changed over the years.  Perhaps you’ll be able to relate to one (or more) of the stages of the…

Evolution of Disney Vacations

The BK Stage (Before Kids) – We were young, broke and just married.  We didn’t know what we didn’t know, but were crazy about everything – the attractions, shows, atmosphere, the details…the magic that hooked us and made us want to keep coming back!  No plans, no dining reservations, no FastPasses (they had not yet been invented), but we were blissfully happy and felt so fortunate to have had the experience.

The Stroller Phase – I realize looking back that taking kids in strollers with one in diapers must have been challenging (and involved packing a LOT of stuff!), but I don’t remember that part.  I remember taking our time, seeing and doing what we could while fitting in naps and pool-time at our resort.  The child-swap option for attractions worked well for us and we loved the three o’clock parade.RM-Magic-Kingdom-Parade-Watching-1996IMG_2139

The Character Phase – Meet-and-greets, autographs, character dining – we couldn’t seem to get enough!  During this phase, we seemed to care the most (compared to any other time) about where and when we could find our favorite characters.  Megan was a shy little girl and felt the most comfortable with characters that didn’t talk because it meant that she didn’t have to talk either.  Her happiness meeting Donald, Minnie, Mickey and the rest of the gang stands out in my memory especially for this reason.IMG_1948 IMG_2128 IMG_1942

The Family Motto Phase – This will be different for every family – based on your family’s touring style.  This is the stage when you are free to go, go, go!  No strollers, no naps, everyone’s tall enough to ride everything.  We really liked this phase!  The Green Family coat of arms is made up of three gold stags on a blue shield with the motto:  Virtus Semper Viridis – we convinced our kids that this meant “We’ll rest when we’re dead” and during the post-stroller, post-character phases, we rose early and hit as many attractions as we possibly could before seeing a nighttime spectacular – after which we’d return to our room, collapse, rise and repeat.  IMG_0990 DSCN2522The motto really means “Virtue is always flourishing” but nobody needed to know that, did they.  We felt our five or six days at Walt Disney World was time so precious (and expensive) that to relax at our resort was unproductive.  Right or wrong, that’s how we felt and boy, could we get stuff done!  We’re still especially guilty of living by the (made up) motto when we visit ports on Disney Cruise Line – we make the most of every minute and return to the ship exhausted.In line at Disney

The Empty Nest Phase – Sounds sad and lonely, but it’s anything but.  We can invite our Disney-loving offspring to join us on some trips and sometimes not!  Yes, we’re back to vacationing without kids, only this time we know what we’re doing.  We know exactly when we want to go (and aren’t vacationing around school and sports), we know where we want to stay, how we want to tour, where we want to eat, and now we know how to relax!  Best of all worlds!  We’re really making the most of this phase because in the next one, God willing, we’ll be back to the stroller phase again as grandparents… which actually sounds pretty good to us.Epcot-International-Food-and-Wine-Festival

How about you?  How have your family’s Disney vacations evolved over the years?  Which phase are you in now?

Disney Women of a Certain Age

RM-Halloween-Jack-O-LanternHalloween is right around the corner.  I love this time of the year so much and I go all out with the spooky decorations.  We’re having a little get together to celebrate the season and, as expected, I’m adding Disney touches here and there.  We’ve invited our friends to a costume party and, me being me, I want to wear a Disney costume to this shindig.  Therein lies my problem.  I’m past the princess age and too mature for the cute stuff.  What’s the deal?  Think about it – most of the women my age in Disney movies are either evil or dead.  How depressing!  And challenging

Disney Women of a Certain Age

Mulan’s mom was alive and so were Andy’s mom in the Toy Stories, Helen Parr in the Incredibles and Mrs. Darling in Peter Pan.  Would anyone know who I was if I tried to dress up as one of them? Yes, Elastigirl!  Absolutely NO to the spandex.  I don’t think so.  Who do you remember the most?  I’ll tell you – Evil middle-aged women!  Be it queen, step-mother, magical-baby-stealing-hag, or fur-obsessed dog-napper – those are the stand-outs.RM-Disney-Halloween-Decorations

Alas, my options are limited.(No, I can never pass up the opportunity to say, “alas”.)  Think about Bambi, Snow White, Tarzan, Cinderella, and Anna & Elsa – their moms are all gone (a.k.a. deceased).  Dumbo’s mom!  Yeah…No.  WHO?  Who can I be?  I am running out of time to decide.  I guess I’ll have to go with “mature” and evil.  Check back this weekend over on the Facebook page and see who I end up as.  Any suggestions?RM-Disney-Halloween-Mickey-O-Lantern

I’m pretty secure with being the age I am – I’m all about being age-appropriate (yet trendy and stylish) – Honestly, this costume thing is quite a challenge!

Are you dressing up in a Disney-themed costume?  I’d love to hear all about it.  Maybe I can live vicariously through your fancy Belle or Rapunzel costume.  Or Jessie or Bo Peep or Snow White…

Happy Halloween!!!RM-Disney-Halloween-Decorations2

Walt Disney and New Orleans

RM-NOLA-Bourbon-Street-SignWalt Disney and New Orleans

I’m fascinated by the connection between Walt Disney and New Orleans.  If you’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring the Big Easy – the draw is undeniable.  A city like no other, New Orleans leaves visitors with the impression of old world charm, mystery, tradition, funky modern influence, and, yes, a bit of seediness woven in here and there.  A unique place, this steamy city on the Mississippi delta made such an impression on Walt Disney, he incorporated her iconic images in Disney parks, resorts and movies.RM-New-Orleans-Balcony RM-NOLA-Zombie's-Cigars RM-NOLA-Voodoo-Shop RM-NOLA-French-Quarter

It’s said that New Orleans was once a contender for the location of Disney World.  If this article is true, it’s amazing to think about what might have been!  We recently had the chance to head south for the weekend to a wedding in New Orleans.  While I’ve been there many times before, this time I tried to look at the city with fresh eyes; tried to picture the streets, the buildings, and the atmosphere as Walt Disney might have seen them so many years ago.  While lots has changed in post-Katrina New Orleans, her heart is the same.  She’s still mysterious and fascinating – much like you’d expect in a neighborhood founded in 1718, yet full of surprises at the same time.RM-NOLA-Street-Scene

Our hotel was just a couple of blocks from the heart of the French Quarter.  It was cloudy and misty, which made it thankfully cooler, but a bit dreary for pictures.  We strolled leisurely along Bourbon Street after lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, the Red Fish Grill.  RM-NOLA-Pat-O'Brian'sTurning right on St. Peter Street, we passed a New Orleans Ghost Tour headquarters, the famous Preservation Hall,  and Pat O’Brian’s pub (home of the famous Hurricane) as we headed to Royal Street.  Once on Royal, we slowly made our way from the touristy voodoo and souvenir shops to the more upscale boutiques full of antiques, estate jewelry, art, and crystal chandeliers.  Street musicians of all types were plentiful and added the perfect soundtrack to our wandering, as special as the city itself.  Browsing incredible (and incredibly priced) treasures of all sorts was both interesting and educational.  All the while, I tried to imagine Walt and Lillian shopping for the furnishings for Disneyland’s Club 33.  It was very easy to do!RM-NOLA-Galatoire's-33

Now let’s look at some of the New Orleans influences that can be found in Disney parks and resorts (photos courtesy of Nick Maglio) – Can you tell me where each of these pictures was taken?RM-Nick's-Photo2 RM-Nick's-Photo4 RM-Nick's-Photo3 RM-Nick's-Photo5 RM-Nick's-Photo1