Tony’s Town Square Review
Admit it. At some point in your life, either you or your date has nuzzled a meatball over to the other side of the table. It’s a special kind of sharing made possible thanks to Disney movie magic. The scene is of course from The Lady and the Tramp, and it’s an indelible part of Disney history. One of the most important restaurants at Walt Disney World honors this film and its iconic scene. Here’s everything you need to know about eating at Tony’s Town Square.
There are two settings to Tony’s Town Square, the exterior and the interior. The exterior is the most trafficked spot at Walt Disney World. Magic Kingdom claims attendance of 20 million each year, and all of those guests must walk through Main Street U.S.A. As people see the world-renowned Town Square Exposition Hall on the right, they are only a few steps away from the restaurant, which leads to a pro tip about it.
Some of the seats at Tony’s Town Square provide a view of the Main Street U.S.A. strip. Here, you can people-watch other Mickey Travelers as they excitedly wander through the front of the park. For some of them, it’s the first visit or a long overdue return visit. The vicarious thrill of watching these guests is immeasurable. Plus, Disney hosts character meetings on these grounds. You can see kids relish in their encounters with Marie the cat, Mickey Mouse, Pluto, and several others. You’d be amazed at how much the right seat at the restaurant can enhance your meal.
The interior of Tony’s Town Square starts with a television screen in the lobby. Why do I mention this odd fact? Well, the television plays the best scenes from The Lady and the Tramp on a loop. If you sit here long enough, you’ll inevitably see the seminal meatball-nuzzling scene. The restaurant itself is understated by Disney standards. It’s undeniably elegant, but the setting would seem just as valid at any random Italian restaurant in your city.
Sure, a few unmistakable Disney touches are visible. The giant fountain memorializes the The Lady and her Tramp, and commemorative lithographs from the film are on display on many of the walls. Otherwise, the eatery has standard tables and booths and ordinary (but lovely) chairs. Disney had a choice in being overt or subtle with the theme. They leaned toward the latter. Unless you look at the walls or the fountain, you’ll never notice that you’re dining at a restaurant based on a film. For Disney, that’s an unusual situation.
The meals also don’t tie into the movie. Rather than offering Tramp-Approved Meatballs or something similarly named, Tony’s Town Square serves Spaghetti. Even the description lacks a film connection. The Spaghetti comes with “with choice of Meatballs or Sweet Italian Sausage and Marinara Sauce.” The point is that anybody seeking a strong theme here is going to exit the restaurant feeling disappointed.
The food itself is solid. It’s just not the best Italian cuisine on the Disney campus. Honestly, it’s not even close. Trip Advisor ranks Tony’s Town Square 345th out of 2,972 restaurants in Orlando, which is middling by Disney standards. The three other recognizable Italian eateries at Disney are Trattoria al Forno (ranked #132), Tutto Italia Ristorante (ranked #117), and Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano (#186). I say this to make the point that you’re eating here for the ambience and other exterior factors more than the cuisine.
What does Tony’s Town Square do well? The obvious answer is Italian food, and it’s a true statement. Yes, other places at Walt Disney World serve better recipes. They’re not centrally located at the front of Magic Kingdom, though. For a simple Italian meal in a place where you’re certain to visit during your vacation, Tony’s Town Square is fine-to-good.
The best starter bites, known as the antipasti, are Caprese, Calamari, Pasta Fagioli, and Italian Cheese Dip. The Caprese is fresh, the Calamari is tender, and the soup is rich. I favor the Italian Cheese Dip since I’m a cheese guy. The Ricotta here is quite good and pairs well with the tomato jam. Alternately, you can skip the appetizers and eat the complimentary bread instead. It’s quite tasty, and I LOVE the accompanying olive oil dipping sauce.
The entrees are the heart of the meal here. Called the Secondi Piatti, it includes all of the famous Italian dishes such as pizza, ravioli, fettucine, and a pair of classics. The stars at Tony’s Town Square are Shrimp Scampi, Chicken Fettucine Alfredo, and Spaghetti. Oddly, you can substitute Sweet Italian Sausage for meatballs on Spaghetti orders, which feels like sacrilege. Also, folks who aren’t Italian fans have another option, Braised Short Ribs. I also like the steak here, but it’s not available on the current menu.
The desserts are a mix of Italian staples and other sweets. Gelato, Cannoli, and Tiramisu fall into the latter category, while the more standard options are Chocolate Cake, a seasonal cheesecake, and a sugar-free raspberry sorbet. Having had most of these offerings, I heartily recommend that you go Italian. The Cannoli here is spectacular.
The Package Deal
Over the past year, Tony’s Town Square had added a wonderful new selling point. You can order a package deal that entitles you to a three-course meal at the restaurant plus preferred seating at the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade. The way it works is that you get a marker signifying that you ordered the package. You’ll walk over to a roped-off area just across from Main Street Bakery.
Guests must show up early, usually half an hour. Otherwise, ticket holders may not get a seat with a good view, negating the purpose of the package. I mention this because the seating area is directly in the sun. The last time my family did this package, we regretted that we didn’t have a parasol or something similar to block out the sun’s glare. That’s the ONLY negative about this package. The views are terrific, and the parade is classic Disney magic. At this point, the primary reason that we eat at Tony’s Town Square is because of the parade package. I highly recommend it when you plan to watch the parade AND eat at Magic Kingdom
The Honest Review
A lot of diehard Disney fanatics dismissively describe Tony’s Town Square as service the “Red Sauce of Death,” a nasty way of saying that their primary Italian sauce is nasty. I think that’s an unfair (but funny) description. Still, there’s a bit of truth in the statement. This eatery is generic in both design and cuisine.
Guests who choose to eat here are likely doing so because of the location, the parade package, or love for the movie. Those are all perfectly valid reasons, as Tony’s Town Square is wonderful way to maximize Disney park time while getting a decent meal and sitting down for 60-90 minutes.
The food, however, isn’t special, which means that if you’re eating for pleasure rather than sustenance, Tony’s Town Square isn’t a great choice. Head over to the World Showcase and order some Italian food at Tutto Italia Ristorante. Their cheeses are night and day better; truthfully, the food is just better on the whole. The entirety of Trip Advisor voters agree with me.
If you want to relive one of the most memorable moments in the history of Disney animation, however, Tony’s Town Square is the place to go. Nuzzle a meatball for me, my friends!
David Mumpower is the author of the Disney Demystified series. For only $4.99 each, you can read book one about Disneyland or book two about Walt Disney World. The softcover books also make amazing stocking stuffers this holiday season!