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Tables For Two

There’s been some rumbling recently about upcoming projects in EPCOT that, while so far unannounced and unheralded, will mark a fairly significant change in the visual and epicurean landscape of World Showcase.

The Mexico Pavilion at EPCOT CenterBetter visit while you can (Disney)

First, there’s the Cantina de San Angel at the Mexico Pavilion. Sitting along the World Showcase lagoon, and across the promenade from the pavilion’s main building, this counter-service restaurant has never been a favorite. Its position obstructs guest traffic, its lines are usually long, and its seating areas often seem inadequate during peak dining hours.

All that may change soon. A complete refurbishment of the area, which has been rumored for some time, is set to begin with the Cantina’s demolition in early 2010 according to WDWMagic. The new facility is said to improve seating capacity and reduce obstructions to guest traffic, while providing better viewing conditions for Illuminations. The current building, designed years before the debut of Illuminations, creates a huge dead zone along the promenade where the nightly fireworks cannot be seen. While construction is underway on the new building, guests in need of a taco fix will be able to get a snack from Mexico’s booth from this fall’s Food and Wine Festival. The booth was retained and expanded after the Festival ended, and will allegedly remain until the new Cantina opens.

We’re waiting for official information about the timeline, layout, and look of the new Cantina, but it appears to be on the way at last. Hopefully the new building will have a consistent look with the current location – for all its problems, the Cantina always looked good from the lagoon – and will not throw the area out of scale. And, most importantly, its food will hopefully be better – it’s been fairly dire as long as I can remember.

From Mexico we hop to Italy, and an expansion that comes as a bit of a surprise. We’ve discussed how a second restaurant was part of the Italy pavilion’s expansion plans from the very beginning, as part of a planned second phase with a Romain ruins area and gondola-based dark ride. Agreements for the second restaurant were even signed with the same company that operated the pavilion’s original restaurant, L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante.

Aerial view of EPCOT's Italy pavilionThe Italy pavilion from above. World Showcase promenade and the lagoon are to the north.

Spoiler alert – that never happened. Until, possibly, now.

While we may never get those Roman ruins or the much-needed dark ride, it looks like we will be getting a second restaurant in Italy. Shockingly, when you consider how popular Italian cuisine is, there’s never been a quick-service facility in the pavilion. There’s also never been a place to get that most Italian of foods, pizza. Pizza, and especially good pizza, is strangely difficult to come by in Walt Disney World.

Recently, though, Disney filed plans with Orange County for what they so elegantly dub “new construction of pizzeria.” According to the permit, the new restaurant will be owned and operated by the Patina Restaurant Group – the same enterprise that operates the pavilion’s current restaurant, Tutto Italia. But what will be the nature of this new pizzeria? How much will $713,000, the estimated cost of the expansion, buy us?

The construction notice gives us little information about the new facility, but it does show us what the area’s footprint will be. The diagram of the construction site is drawn relative to the specific local land parcel, with no illustration of how it connects to the existing pavilion. I was curious about its intended size, so I took a picture of the Italy pavilion from Google maps and matched the scale (1″ = 100′) to the construction site’s diagram. This was the somewhat surprising result:

Aerial view of EPCOT's Italy pavilion with new expansion overlayAerial view of Italy pavilion with possible site of new restaurant

Now, the location of the restaurant in this image is pure speculation on my part. It makes the best sense, though, considering how it fits with the existing pavilion and how, if you’ll look at the current view of the pavilion, it requires the relocation of nothing more than a few trailers. There are other possible alignments that would overlap with existing backstage areas, but it’s most likely that this will be our construction site.

How big will the actual building be? How will it be themed? And is there a chance that poor Italy will ever earn itself an attraction? After all, this construction site takes up the pad once intended for the ride and the Roman ruins; back in 1983, the second restaurant was originally intended to occupy an upper floor of the expansion.

Hopefully, we’ll find out more soon. For now, at least we know that one glaring hole in EPCOT’s culinary lineup is going to be filled after nearly thirty years. Who knew that it’d take so long to build something that would be – from a financial and guest services standpoint – a slam dunk?

So, well done. Now, let’s talk about those Roman ruins…

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5 comments to Tables For Two

  • [...] thoughts about restaurant changes in Italy and Mexico from Progress City [...]

  • Thanks for the tidbits. it’s nice to see a continuing increase in the amount of dining available, and interesting to note that these expansions both would seem to add more counter service, even if the Italy one has table service as part of it it would likely have counter service too wouldn’t it? and counter service is easier to scale up during those peak times when there is not enough seating available even 9if you added all the seats min the park together as one total, Epcot already has more table service than any of the other parks, so this would seem to make these logical places to improve, besides that food service technology improves over time and older facilities tend to need renovations or replacements at regular intervals in the world outside the Disney theme parks, so it would make sense that the same would be true within them.

  • Walter

    I hope they don’t try to pass pizza off as an Italian dish; real Italian pizza is really bland and boring. Pizza is really an American dish, created by Italian immigrants here, of course, but still uniquely American and without peer from other Italian areas (such as Uruguay and Argentina, though those were mostly northern Italians and the U.S. received mostly southern Italians). Pizza is so American it should have really been sold at the Liberty Inn all along.

    By the way, the world’s best pizza is found nowhere other than the colonial revolutionary city of New Haven, Connecticut.

  • This is very interesting!
    Today, I took some photos of the new pizzeria (it’s only scaffolding now) that you can see here: http://orlandoparksnews.blogspot.com/2010/01/epcot-update.html

    I was wondering if this would also include a much needed attraction in the Italian pavilion, that is one of the smallest!

    Thanks for the post!

  • [...] the construction will be taken down once construction is completed; it all remains to be seen! The area set aside for the construction is much bigger than the original Italy restaurant, however, so I, for one, and hoping there’s [...]

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