Yestercot at Yesterland.com

L’ Originale
Alfredo di Roma
Ristorante

L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

The official park website has this enticing blurb:

Enjoy a taste Renaissance in this wildly popular Italian restaurant featuring sumptuous classical Roman decor. You know authenticity is not an issue when you realize this restaurant was created by the direct descendants of Alfredo Di Lelio, the inventor of Fettuccini Alfredo. Savor other great pasta dishes, Italian specialties and an abundance of awesome desserts. “Rome” on in!

Yes, let’s “Rome” on in to this Yestaurant.


Welcome to L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante—or simply Alfredo’s, as almost everyone calls it.

L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Alfredo’s building, in the Florentine style

It’s quite a coup for a theme park to have a branch of a restaurant made famous by globetrotting celebrities through much of the twentieth century.

Alfredo Di Lelio was a young man with a small restaurant in Rome. In 1914, after his wife Ines gave birth to their first son, she was quite weak and refused to eat. Alfredo decided to prepare a plate of food that would be appealing and nourishing. His simple combination of noodles, cheese and butter—essentially the common Italian dish fettuccine al burro—was such a hit with his wife that she asked him to add it to the restaurant’s menu. There are also accounts that this happened while his wife was still pregnant. That’s how fettuccine all’Alfredo (or simply fettuccine Alfredo) and future restaurateur Alfredo II were both born around the same time.

L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

1977 caricature of Alfredo Di Lelio II by Al Hirschfeld in the lobby

Alfredo’s in Rome might have remained an obscure local eatery if it hadn’t been for Hollywood silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. During their 1927 honeymoon in Rome, they dined at Alfredo’s restaurant frequently. They so enjoyed Alfredo’s simple yet tasty fettuccine dish that they gave Alfredo a golden fork and spoon inscribed with, “To the King of Fettuccine.” (or “To Alfredo, the King of Pasta,” depending on which account you want to believe).

The Hollywood press picked up the story, and suddenly people all over America wanted to try fettuccine Alfredo. Other major and minor celebrities dined at Alfredo’s when in Rome, and tourists followed. Fettuccine Alfredo became one of the most popular Italian dishes, and Alfredo’s became possibly the best known restaurant in Italy—at least for Americans.

L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

The lobby, a simple room decorated with photos

L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Vintage photos of celebrities

You’re now waiting for your name to be called in the theme park version of Alfredo’s. Take a look at the photographs. They’re pictures of celebrities at the original Rome location, usually posing with Alfredo Di Lelio or Alfredo II.

The lobby has a big glass window into a room where fresh pasta is prepared from scratch throughout the day.

L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Freshly made fettuccine

This restaurant is committed to preserving the original recipe and preparing it for guests as an appetizer or main pasta course. Authentic fettuccine Alfredo is simply a plate of fresh, handmade semolina egg noodles, tossed with plenty of fine Parmesano Reggiano cheese that’s been melted in plenty of high-fat (European style) butter. It’s rich… very rich… very, very rich.

Don’t confuse this authentic fettuccine Alfredo with the fettuccine Alfredo typically served by American restaurants or with pasta topped with grocery store Alfredo sauce. You won’t find milk, cream, water, eggs, garlic, parsley, flavorings, corn starch or other thickeners in the authentic sauce.

L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Main dining room

Now it’s time to be seated in the dining room. The tables are close together and the noise level is high. Waiters are rushing back and forth, trying not to run into guests or each other.

This Alfredo restaurant is more spectacular than “the real Alfredo’s restaurant” in Rome. The chandeliers here are much bigger, and the walls here are decorated with murals. Renaissance style carpeting covers the floor. This restaurant is far grander than you’d expect from an Italian restaurant in America—or Italy, for that matter.

L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Court musicians on a huge trompe l’œil mural

The trompe l’œil—French for “trick the eye”—murals in the dining room are fun. Painted in the style of Italian Mannerist painter Paolo Veronese (ca. 1528-1588), these murals create an optical illusion of depth through perspective and realistic imagery.

L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

A trompe l’œil waiter carrying dishes out of the room

Enjoy your meal. You might love it. You might not. Unfortunately, this restaurant is known for its uneven quality of food and service.

L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Room for dessert?

If you ate a plate of rich fettuccine Alfredo, you might be inclined to turn down dessert. But when you see the dessert choices displayed, you might change your mind.


L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante opened at EPCOT Center (now Epcot) on October 1, 1982, as one of the original restaurants of World Showcase. Five years earlier, Alfredo II and Mr. Guido Bellanca had opened an outpost of Alfredo’s in New York City.

Alfredo’s at Epcot was a huge success from day one. Due to its famous name and America’s love of Italian food, guests packed the restaurant at lunch and dinner.

With its popularity and its large dining room, Alfredo’s was said to have the highest revenue of any Epcot restaurant year after year. According to the “R&I Top 100 Independent Restaurants-2007” list in the restaurant industry trade publication Restaurants & Institutions (R&I), Alfredo’s at Epcot was the number twelve independent restaurant in annual dollar volume in the entire United States.

The original 25-year contract with the company operating L’Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante ran through August 31, 2007. Alfredo’s at Epcot closed permanently after dinner on the final day of the contract. “Regulars” of the restaurant packed Alfredo’s, with some flying in just for the occasion.

Several other Epcot restaurants are also operated by outside companies—those in France (operated by JBI LLC, founded by famed French chefs Paul Bocuse, Gaston Lenôtre and Roger Vergé); those in Japan (operated by Japanese department store chain Mitsukoshi); those in Mexico (operated by Palmas Services LLC, founded by the Debler family of the San Angel Inn of Mexico City), those in China (operated by China Pavilion Exhibition Corporation of Lake Buena Vista, Florida); and those in Morocco (operated by The Morocco Pavilion, which was set up by the Kingdom of Morocco). Disney and these restaurant operators negotiated new contracts, and all the restaurants have been enhanced and augmented over the years.

Disney and the company that ran Alfredo’s ended their relationship rather than coming up with a new contract. An internal Walt Disney World document said, “While we have enjoyed working with the Alfredo’s Group since Epcot opened, we are finalizing plans to develop a new Italian restaurant concept.”

What was the reason? Why would either side want to end the business relationship? Internet bulletin boards had speculation ranging from dissatisfaction with the Disney Dining Plan by the Alfredo’s side to dissatisfaction with the quality of the restaurant by the Disney side.

Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria at Downtown Disney, Disneyland Resort

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

The Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria at Downtown Disney, Disneyland Resort

On April 20, 2007, a press release said, “The Patina Restaurant Group announced today that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has selected it to be the operating participant for the restaurant at the Italy Pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. The new operation will begin September 1, 2007. Notably, the Patina Restaurant Group was also one of the original operating participants at the Disneyland Resort’s Downtown Disney District in Anaheim, starting in 2001.”

Patina not only operated restaurants at the Disneyland Resort—the Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria, Tortilla Jo’s, and the Catel Restaurant and Uva Bar—it also operated a portfolio of several dozen other “premium segment” restaurants in California, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

Tutto Italia Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2008

Original sign for Tutto Italia, using the former L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma sign frame

Although the Patina Restaurant Group officially took over the former Alfredo’s at Epcot the morning after it served its last meal, Patina didn’t open a new restaurant operation overnight—it took a little over two weeks. On September 17, 2007, Patina reopened the former Alfredo’s as Tutto Italia, which means “All Italy.” As its name suggests, Tutto Italia served specialties from throughout Italy rather than concentrating on a particular region. Tutto Italia’s menu wasn’t a clone of any existing restaurant in the Patina portfolio, but it drew upon the recipes and experience of other Patina locations. The trompe l’œil murals were still there. The tables and chairs were rearranged to make the room less crowded.

Tutto Italia Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

At first, just minor changes to the exterior

Tutto Italia was intended to be just a “temporary restaurant.” Back in April 2007, Patina announced plans to open a new restaurant concept in Fall 2008. That never happened.

One explanation was that it wouldn’t happen until after Disney and Patina built a casual pizza restaurant next door—and those plans were put on hold in 2008 and 2009 because of the economic recession. But the project finally proceeded in 2010.

Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria, added in 2010

Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Via Napoli pizza ovens, named after Italy’s three active volcanoes—Stromboli, Vesuvius, and Etna

Via Napoli, an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria, opened in fall 2010. Despite the new pizzeria next door, Tutto Italia didn’t shut down for a major makeover with a new interior, new menu, or new name.

Finally, in January 2012, Tutto Italia finally closed for more than three months. When it reopened, it was still called Tutto Italia. The trompe l’œil murals that were created for Alfredo’s survived. (Those murals are a good example of the wonderful details that Disney Imagineering put into Epcot’s World Showcase pavilions more than a quarter century ago.) Overall, the décor now has a lighter tone. The biggest change was the addition of Tutto Gusto, a wine bar restaurant, carved out of underused space in Tutto Italia.

Tutto Italia Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Two restaurants where there had been only one

Tutto Italia Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Enhanced exterior of Tutto Italia, with architectural embellishments

Tutto Italia Ristorante at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2016

Enhanced interior of Tutto Italia, with comfortable booths and wide aisles

The restaurant scene in Epcot’s Italy may continue to evolve, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to order fettuccine Alfredo again.

After operating two other New York City locations of Alfredo of Rome, the ownership of the Epcot location is currently represented in the Big Apple at Alfredo 100, which opened in 2014. The number in the name marks the 100 year Alfredo tradition, based on the 1914 founding of the original in Rome.

Back when the Epcot location closed, a new U.S. location for Alfredo of Rome had been announced for the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, which was the former Aladdin. And there were rumors that a new Orlando location would be next. But neither of those opened.

Alfredo III, the grandson of founder Alfredo Di Lelio, runs Ristorante “Il Vero Alfredo - L’Imperatore delle fettuccine” (“The True Alfredo - The Emperor of Fettuccine” Restaurant) in Rome, Italy. And he’s selling franchises.


Click here to post comments at MiceChat about this article.


Original O’ Canada
Epcot’s Icon Tower
Home


© 2007-2016 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated November 26, 2016.