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Pros: it's closing soon
Cons: I always get sick after eating here, bad service, ambiance, price
My first introduction to L'Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante (to be called Alfredo's for the remainder of this review) was at lunch during the first summer that Epcot was open about 25 years ago. Back then, if you were a member of the Magic Kingdom Club, you had the opportunity to purchase special packages which included your meals anywhere on Disney property (later to even include Victoria & Albert's) as well as your park tickets as deluxe accommodations either in the tower at the Contemporary Resort or at the Polynesian Village. This was the original incarnation of the current Disney Dining Plan.
We were traveling with another family and it seemed like all we did was eat that trip. We went to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue and the Polynesian Luau. We had breakfast at the Top of the World and at the Papeete Bay Verandah. A special dinner out for my family was at the Gulf Coast Room while our friends went to the Empress Lilly. We also ate our way through Epcot: Les Chefs de France, the Rose and Crown, the San Angel Inn, Mitsukoshi Teppanyaki and, of course, Alfredo's.
Our visit was toward the end of our week so I was all full up. All I really wanted was a bowl of soup. So, that's what I ordered despite my father's protests that I should get more since it was already paid for. I had a marvelous bowl of minestrone which was the best I've ever had. I also had a few bites of my mom's fettucine Alfredo at her urging. The restaurant's signature dish was quite good but very, very rich. I was quite glad I bypassed it since I really wasn't that hungry. But, if you want to eat the real thing, Alfredo's invented this dish. It's not the American version with a gloppy cream sauce. No, it's simply Parmesano Reggiano cheese, melted in high-fat butter which is tossed over salted fettucine and then a bit of freshly ground black pepper on top. There's no cream or milk involved. This was also the meal where my dad fooled my brother and his friend into eating fried zucchini by telling them it was French fries. Both kids thought it was the greatest thing ever until my dad told them what it was.
Unfortunately, this first lunch was the only good dining experience I've had at Alfredo's. Perhaps there's something in the olive oil, but every meal since then, I've always become violently ill afterward. I detest going here but since it is one of my mother's favorite restaurants and we travel with her on most of our Disney trips, I've ended up eating at this restaurant more times than I can remember.
Why don't I like Alfredo's? Let's start with the atmosphere. While the restaurant is quite lovely with trompe l'il murals on the walls and elaborate hanging chandeliers, the tables are right on top of each other with patrons crammed into nooks and crannies all over the restaurant. The noise level isn't deafening but it's close. I find it impossible to have a conversation and not have to raise my voice or ask my tablemates to repeat themselves. You get to hear all about the medical problems of the gentleman at the table on one side and the shoddy divorce settlement of the lady on another. My daughter sat throughout her meal with both hands plastered over her ears as that was the only way she knew to handle the noise levels. It's also a sensory thing. I don't like being in that close a proximity to my fellow diners. Nothing against them as I am sure they are fine people.
The entertainment that used to be there with strolling violinists, an accordian player and operatic singers is history. Once upon a time (which wasn't that long ago), these used to be a regular part of the Alfredo's experience. We've celebrated my mom's birthday here two or three times and she loved being serenaded.
Service is generally somewhat surly or distant. I can handle distant as long as I don't have to wait 30 minutes for a drink refill or just as long for the check. Be aware that the waiters will give you a hard sell on bottles of wine with your meal. As with many other Disney restaurants these days, the general attitude is that the servers are doing you a big favor by waiting upon you. Sorry guys, but it's the other way around.
Finally, there's the big issue of food quality. In a nutshell, it's unexceptional. There are a number of local Italian restaurants I frequent that have much better food. Even the Olive Garden of all places compares. At least at the Olive Garden, they can accommodate special requests and the food is served at the proper temperature. That means hot food is hot (not lukewarm) and cold food is cold (again, not lukewarm).
Each table is presented with some bread and olive oil for dipping. The oil is just oil - feel free to add pepper yourself to it at the table. For appetizers, your choices include fried calamari, bean soup, lobster bisque, an antipasto plate, a Caesar or wild greens salad, a tomato and mozzarella dish and smaller sized platters of fettucine Alfredo. If you want to try the signature dish, I'd suggest getting an appetizer of it. This is a quadruple bypass on a plate. I've found the calamari to be a bit soggy, mushy tomatoes in the mozzarella dish and the lobster bisque is far superior at the Coral Reef Restaurant.
For main dishes, you can go with the fettucine again. Other pasta choices include lasagna or a pasta trio with lasagna, ziti in a tomato sauce and truffle stuffed dumplings. You can also get tagliolini in a vodka sauce with shrimp. That's IT for pasta. They used to offer a gnocchi and a pappardelle dish but those are gone with the simplification of the menus at Disney restaurants thanks to the Disney Dining Plan. I'm used to Italian restaurants with at least a dozen pasta choices, let alone other entrée items on the menu.
The pasta dishes are all served al dente and are cooked and presented well but I've truly enjoyed my meals more at the Old Spaghetti Factory of all places! The flavors are just off a little with the tomato sauces being a bit too "bright". On the sunny side, the lasagna servings are quite small so you aren't presented with the option of eating a lot of something that isn't that good. You also aren't given any options such as ordering a serving of ziti with butter instead of tomato sauce. This was quite difficult for my daughter who at the time had a quite limited diet and would not eat meat or tomato sauces.
Those other entrée items in this case are roasted chicken, a sausage trio consisting of wild boar, fennel and Italian sausages, lamb roast, veal stew, a sirloin steak and a chef's special which was pork osso bucco when I last visited. None of us have ordered off this part of the menu during our last trip, opting for pasta.
After spending $45 on a very small and quite cardboard tasting cake in 1998 for my mother, we've chosen not to eat desserts at Alfredo's since then. I'm sure the prices have gone up since we had that cake if you want one for yourself and if you are even able to order one. It was so bad that the ducks outside our villa at Old Key West turned their beaks up at it. Eventually a seagull came by and ate the crumbs. They are like Mikey. They'll eat anything. I've seen other diners eating tiramisu and drinking dessert cappuchinos but I'd rather spend my calories elsewhere if I'm going to spend them at all.
Add in exceptionally high prices for poor quality preparation and Alfredo's is simply not worth it. Our last meal for four adults and one child ran $160 before tax and tip and that's without dessert or buying a separate meal for our other child.
On the bright side, this restaurant is slated to close late this summer and will be replaced by another Italian restaurant which has not yet been announced. If you absolutely must still try Alfredo's, you can still go to their original location in Rome, or their restaurant in New York or the one that is soon to be opened in Las Vegas.