Posts Tagged by Via Napoli

Dining During Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Nutrition can be one of the most difficult things to manage when you are traveling away from home for a race, or if you are Dopey, races.  This is especially true when you are surrounded by all of the goodies at Walt Disney World.  Joe (you might remember him from his Coast to Coast coverage last year!) is just back from WDW Marathon Weekend and is here to share his tips for dining during a runDisney race weekend!

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When traveling away for a race weekend, runners of all abilities will tell you that any race you run should be no different than your training runs at home.  That goes for shoes, clothing, fuel, and of course food.  So when the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend came upon us, as a runner who was participating in the Dopey Challenge, nutrition and eating while down at Walt Disney World is just as important as making sure that you have the right shoes with you.

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I arrived down in the World on Tuesday before marathon weekend began.  With all of the running that was ahead of me, especially coming from a cold weather climate, hydration was going to be key.  I was staying at Port Orleans French Quarter so having access to a kitchen to make my own meals was not available. However, having a fridge in the room was a big positive. I made sure during the week that I stayed hydrated all the time. In order to accomplish this, I would drink plenty of water and save and reuse the bottles I purchased from the Port Orleans food court.  (WDW allows you free water fills at their food courts and also water fountains throughout the park.)  **This is a GREAT money saving tip!!**

As for eating properly, when running 4 events over 4 days, you have to watch what you are putting in your body days before your events are to commence.  So, I stayed away from salads and other fried foods/burgers that tend to be found all over Walt Disney World and went with healthier options.  Our food court at POFQ had many healthy options for breakfast to include egg whites, fresh fruit and bananas, bagels, etc. I would usually eat these after the races were completed .

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After waking up early, competing, and eating breakfast afterwards, I was not a big fan of lunch as I did not want to feel like I had to eat just for the sake of eating.  But if I did get hungry while walking around the parks in the afternoon, I could grab a lite snack. Like their options in the food courts, Disney has gotten much better over the years with offering much healthier options throughout the theme parks. I would refill my water bottle in one of the water fountains, and grab a banana or piece of fruit while touring the parks.

As for dinner, as someone who does not like to eat before a race in the morning, dinner was going to be the most important meals for me while down for Marathon Weekend.  If I was staying in a DVC or off property, it would be easy to just head to Publix and buy some pasta from the grocery store for my dinner.  However, since this was not an option, ADR reservations would be extremely important as thousands of runners would have similar ideas as me for places to eat before the races. (Italian Restaurants are obviously the most popular). The restaurants that we chose to eat at were Via Napoli in Epcot, Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and the food court at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort.  The reason why I chose these restaurants is because they all offered the one meal that I like to eat before a race, pasta.

I checked with numerous websites before I made my ADR reservations to make sure that they had the types of food that I would want to eat.  At Via Napoli, even though the majority of the food on the menu is Pizza, they do offer a spaghetti and veal meatballs option.  The spaghetti was typical spaghetti but the veal meatballs were a nice change of pace and offered some lean protein, which is always beneficial to runners.

At Trattoria al Forno, the menu was a little more fancy. After glancing at the menu, it took some going back and forth with the waiter but I was able to order some linguini with short rib.  Now at first, I wasn’t too sure about this since I thought that beef short rib was going to be too heavy.  However, the portion size was perfect and the flavor of the meat was amazing!  I would highly recommend this dish on a regular/non-running night and am definitely going to add this restaurant into our restaurant rotation for Disney World.  Also, there was plenty of bread to fulfill any lacking of carbohydrate fueling one might have had.

The Wave

At the Wave, the menu was somewhat limited. However, I decided to mix it up a little and have the free roaming chicken breast with plenty of bread on the side. The chicken was cooked perfectly, the portion size was proper, and it did not make me feel like I was loaded down with heavy food or feeling bloated.  I consume a lot of chicken breast while at home, so having chicken breast at the Wave with some bread fulfilled my carbohydrate and protein needs before the 10K race.

Finally, the last race night, we took it easy and had something at the Port Orleans Food court.   One of the stations at the food court was an Italian type station that had macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, meatballs, and pizza. Of course (as you can see a pattern here), I had the spaghetti and meatballs.  It was a nice quick meal that didn’t require an ADR and that we could eat at our convenience and head to bed early in preparations for the marathon day.

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I learned that it was important to make ADR reservations as soon as our 6 month window opened because most runners would flock to the Italian type restaurants of Walt Disney World.  My greatest fear would be to be searching for something to eat the night before the marathon and not be able to get served at a restaurant that served pasta or some type of Italian food.  I did witness this at Trattoria al Forno as we were leaving the restaurant, I witnessed a runner arguing with the hostess at the front of the restaurant about trying to obtain a to-go order of pasta.  This runner stated that he was a runner and just wanted a plate of pasta to go.  The hostess stated that they could not accommodate him because he didn’t have a reservation.  So, note to all runners out there, it appears that Disney won’t let you order to go meals at a restaurant if you do not have an ADR.

I know its hard to travel to a place that we all love and not consume Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, Dole Whips, citrus swirls, popcorn, and churros to name a few things.  But you have to remember, we all paid a lot of money for these races, took time off of work and our real lives to travel down here for them, and also trained for months and months to have the best possible experience.  It would be a shame to throw all of that hard work away by not fueling your body properly.  All it takes is some planning ahead, take note of what you would normally eat while at home, and apply it while you are on vacation.

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Finally, of course when you are done with your events, there is nothing wrong with having a nice big glass of beer and a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar! Because after all, you earned it!

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Joe Quattrocchi is from Riverdale, NJ and is a proud member of the Essex Running Club.  He has been visiting Walt Disney World for much of his life and has taken over 30 trips to the resort.  Having recently caught the runDisney bug, Joe is the running correspondent for the ResortLoop.com Podcast and has recently joined the Mickey Milers.  You can follow along with his racing adventures on Twitter and Instagram!

Friday Feast: Pre-Race Fuel at WDW

One of the questions I get asked most often is “Where is the best place to eat before a runDisney race at Walt Disney World?”  This is such a difficult question and something I struggle with before every race.  Luckily, WDW has a TON of dining options, so there is generally something for everyone.

Here are a few of the places I have dined at before runDisney events…the good, bad and meh.

Via Napoli

Chicken Parmesan at Via Napoli

Chicken Parmesan at Via Napoli

Italian food always seems to be the go to meal before races, probably because of the abundance of pasta for carb-loading.  So before my first half marathon (Princess 2012), that’s exactly what I decided on and headed to Via Napoli.  I really wanted Chicken Parmesan (one of my favorite pre-race meals anywhere!) which is what I ordered.  At Via Napoli, this comes with roasted potatoes, but I wanted some pasta.  The waiter would not make the substitution, saying that the chef absolutely refuses.  Really?  In Disney?  Interesting…

So I settled for the potatoes, which were good but just didn’t hit the spot.  Also, the restaurant is very loud and busy so I didn’t enjoy the overall experience for before a race.  You can read my full review here.

San Angel Inn

Enchiladas Verde De Pollo at San Angel Inn

Enchiladas Verde De Pollo at San Angel Inn

I had a late lunch here before the 2013 WDW Marathon to fuel up for those long 26.2 miles.  I LOVE Mexican food and while it might not be good for some before a race, it’s perfect for me.  Well as long as it’s something mild and not too acidic.  The enchiladas at San Angel Inn are just perfect.  Corn tortillas, rice and beans for carbs and tons of chicken for protein.  Unfortunately, I had to pass on having a yummy margarita, but there’s always next time…

Maya Grill

Grande Taco Platter at Maya Grill

Grande Taco Platter at Maya Grill

Oh look…more Mexican food!  Maya Grill is an absolute hidden gem at WDW.  Fantastic food, fun entertainment and it’s pretty easy to get a reservation.  Before the 2013 Princess Half Marathon, my fellow Mexican food lover Amanda and I headed to Maya Grill to fuel up with some of our friends.  We shared a giant bowl of guacamole to start, which was some of the best guac I’ve ever had, and I ordered the Grande Taco Platter for my entree.  I got a combination of beef, shrimp and chicken tacos, and the beef tacos were by far the best.  The shrimp and chicken were just meh.  It came with a generous portion of rice, beans and corn pudding.  Overall, it was amazing and great fuel for the race!

Kouzzina

Turkey-Sweet Potato Hash at Kouzzina

Turkey-Sweet Potato Hash at Kouzzina

It’s no secret that I LOVE Kouzzina breakfast, so it probably comes as no surprise that this is my go to place for meals before any of the night races at WDW.  Before both the 2012 Tower of Terror 10-Miler and the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, I had a late breakfast (around 10:00 am) at Kouzzina.  Before I found out about my egg sensitivity, my favorite dish was the Turkey-Sweet Potato Hash, which is topped with a perfectly poached egg and arugula.  Drooooooolllll.  Perfect fuel for a night race!!

Since both those races, I have taken tests that have shown that I have a severe sensitivity to eggs.  Booooooo!!!  But guess what??  I found out from Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free in WDW that Kouzzina has some of the best allergen free waffles around.  And YES they do!!  Get these bad boys with a side of that delicious sweet potato hash and you are good to go.  You know where I’ll be for all the WDW races this fall.  You can read my full review of all the allergen free options here.

Allergen Free Waffles & Chicken Sausage at Kouzzina

Allergen Free Waffles & Chicken Sausage at Kouzzina

Landscape of Flavors

Mango, Blueberry, Banana Smoothie at Landscape of Flavors

Mango, Blueberry, Banana Smoothie at Landscape of Flavors

There are so many options at Landscape of Flavors at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, but my favorite pre-race option is their smoothie bar.  I drink a smoothie everyday for breakfast to get me going, so this was a seriously awesome find for me in WDW.  The only bad thing is that they wouldn’t add any spinach from the salad bar in the next station…come on!!  But even without the spinach, the mango, blueberry and banana smoothie I had was delicious and a wonderful snack before the Wine & Dine Half Marathon.

ESPN Zone

Championship Chicken Sandwich at ESPN Zone

Championship Chicken Sandwich at ESPN Zone

If you’re staying at the Boardwalk, this is an easy option to get a good meal.  Before the 2012 Wine & Dine Half Marathon, I ate here and ordered the Champion Chicken Sandwich without the bun.  I also got the sun-dried tomato pesto and goat cheese on the side so I could limit my intake of that.  The chicken was very good and the dish was a nice combination of protein and carbs for the race.  I just wish they had sweet potato fries!

I would also recommend getting your food to go if you plan on dining here before a race.  The restaurant is very loud with all of the games going on, so it’s not the best place to relax and get your head together.

In-Room Food

Whole Wheat Bagel Thin, Almond Butter & Banana

Whole Wheat Bagel Thin, Almond Butter & Banana

This combo is my must do meal prior to any race.  Whenever I’m in WDW for a race, I make a point to stop for some bagels, almond butter and bananas.  For me, this is the ideal race fuel…carbs, protein, sugars…perfect.  This combo is also great for staying in a hotel room because nothing needs to be refrigerated.  Trust me on this one…you’ll love it!

Well those are the restaurants I’ve visited so far prior to runDisney events.  What is you’re go to meal before a race?  What is your favorite WDW dining location before a race?

Via Napoli Pre-Race Meal Review

A while back I posted my top 5 pre-race dining options in Walt Disney World.  As I predicted in that post, I made Via Napoli my pre-race dinner for the Princess Half Marathon.  This was my first visit to Via Napoli and since I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about it, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  But I was staying optimistic and really excited about this meal.

Via Napoli

We were a large group of 14 people.  Luckily I was able to get a reservation for 8 people at 7:45 pm, and my friend Marc also got one for 6 people at the same time.  We arrived half an hour early to make sure we could combine our reservations and hopefully all sit together.  They gladly put the reservations together, but we would still have to wait until 7:45.  It was insanely crowded in the waiting area for the restaurant.  The line was out the door and people were being turned away if they didn’t have reservations.  When the claustrophobia was about to set in, I went in to the desk to check on our status and thankfully they called my name as I was walking up!

Here's Max!

We were split into 2 tables, but they were close by each other.  First impression of the restaurant was that it was loud.  VERY loud.  Not only was the general dining room noise very loud, but there were a ton of celebrations going on that night.  It seemed like the waiters were constantly coming out to sing to someone.  Our waiter Max introduced himself with some serious Italian charm.  Speaking of, every waiter in the restaurant was incredibly good looking…this can’t be what all Italians are like right?!   Disney has some great casting for sure!

We had looked at the menu while we were waiting since we were all incredibly hungry, so we were ready to order right away.  My friend Tiffany and I split the Calamari Fritti for an appetizer and I also went in on the family style salad with the group.  For my entree, I decided to go with the Pollo Parmigiana, but here’s where things started getting difficult.  The menu said that this dish came with roasted fingerling potatoes, which seemed like a strange pairing to me.  In menus I had seen online, it was supposed to come with a spaghetti torta.  I asked if I could substitute pasta for the potatoes and was told no.  Really?  That seems very unDisney like to me since the restaurants here are always so accommodating.  Max told me that this request has been made before and the chef refuses to make the substitution. Interesting…

Then it was time for Katherine to order.  She doesn’t eat a lot of meat and the vegetarian options on the menu are limited if you want something other than pizza.  She just wanted spaghetti with marinara for her dinner, but only spaghetti with meatballs is on the menu.  She asked if she would still have to pay the hefty $19 price tag if she didn’t get the meatballs and was told yes.  Another shocking answer.  After talking with his manager, Max came back and offered Katherine the meal from the kids menu.  The portion was smaller, but she was happy with this solution.  For the time being…

The calamari was really good.  Some of the best I’ve ever had.  The cornmeal crust was light and crunchy and the calamari was not chewy at all.  It came with a side of spicy marinara sauce that was delicious.  The sauce was great for dipping our bread in as well.  Tiffany and I devoured the appetizer and I also had some of the family style salad, which had roasted red peppers and olives in a red wine vinaigrette.  This was quite good as well.

The entrees came out fairly quickly after the appetizers.  Needless to say, I was a little disappointed with my dish.  The Pollo Parmigiana was a thin chicken breast topped with sauce and mozzarella, and there were just a few potatoes off to the side.  The taste was quite good and the portion was just enough, especially after all of the appetizers.  But I must say that for $26, I was expecting a little more.  This was by far the most expensive chicken parm I have ever had, and it definitely wasn’t the best.

Pollo Parmigiana

Three other people at the table ordered the Candele pasta.  This is a baked pasta dish of candle stick pasta, sausage ragu, polpettine (meatballs), mozzarella and ricotta.  Whoa.  This dish looked great and everyone said it was amazing.  I was just afraid it would be a bit too heavy the night before the race.  The other dish at the table was a Margherita pizza, which also looked fantastic.  The only issue was that it wasn’t properly cut and Marc was seriously struggling with it throughout the meal.

Candele

Margherita Pizza

Now here is where the serious issues began.  We asked for the check and that it be split up for our table of 8.  To through another wrench in the mix, a few of us had Table in Wonderland, so he had to apply those discounts as well.  This was apparently too much for Max to handle.  To make a very long story short, we waited close to 30 minutes to get our check.  Our friends at the other table (who had another waiter) were long finished and we were continuing to wait.  We were all full, tired, and just wanted to get out of there so we could get a good night sleep for the race in the morning.  We were ready to go and getting seriously cranky.  Not a great way to end the night.

Then to top it all off, Katherine got violently ill on the way home from dinner.  It was definitely food poisoning.  The only thing she had that no one else did was the kids meal of spaghetti and marinara.  Not something you want to have right before running a half marathon.  I’m glad to report that she recovered well and actually got up to run the race the next morning.  A superhero in my book!

So overall, dinner was good, but the service was atrocious.  Here are my takeaways from this meal:

  • Order the Calamari Fritti…delish!
  • Stick with the pizza.  Even though it is pricy for pizza, you will get the most bang for your buck.
  • Don’t order off of the kids menu for fear of food poisoning.
  • Tell your waiter up front if you are splitting the check so they have enough time to figure out the process.
  • Don’t come here if you are looking for a nice quiet meal.
  •  Not sure if I would continue to recommend this for a pre-race meal.  I might go with Mama Melrose or Il Mulino for a carb-loading Italian feast.

So what are your thoughts on Via Napoli?  Have you been there for a pre-race meal?  Would you go there in the future?  I’d love to hear your experiences!

Fit for a Princess Expo & Pre-Half Antics

After our Whispering Canyon Café skillet chow down, Sarah-Irene, Katherine and I headed over to the Fit for a Princess Expo to pick up our race packets and do a little shopping.

If you’ve never been to ESPN Wide World of Sports, be prepared for a lot of walking.  The facility is massive and it is usually very crowded before races, which was the case when we arrived.  We were directed to a large tent to pick up our bibs for the half marathon, which was a new addition this year.  Outside the tent, Cinderella’s glass coach was set up for a photo op with two footmen.  Such a great touch for all the princesses getting ready to race.

They rolled out the red carpet for the princesses!

Because of the crowds, there was first a line to get in the tent, then a line to enter the bib pickup area.  Once inside, I printed my waiver, picked up my bib and verified my B-Tag.  Even with the mass amounts of people, everything only took about 15 minutes and we were off to the expo floor to get our shirts and do some shopping.

Waiting for my bib...12526

More red carpet going into the expo

Did I mention it was crowded?  The expo was jam packed and insanely hot.  We made our way to the back of the floor to pick up our shirts and clear bags.  Most of the runDisney race shirts are unisex, but for the Princess they are separated by women’s and men’s.  I know a few people that had to change sizes at the expo, so this is something to keep in mind if you’re running the Princess in the future.  I really liked the shirt this year and it will definitely get a lot of use on my training runs.

Wall to wall princesses!

Shirt and bib...medal not included 🙂

We wandered the floor for a bit and I probably spent a lot more money than I wanted to.  What can I say, I have no will power.  My favorite booths were One More Mile, BondiBand, The Stick, and BeeCause Charms.  I’ve wanted to get a Stick for a while and I picked up the Sprinter Stick and a Foot Wheel, both of which really came in handy after the race!  At BeeCause Charms, I picked up these fabulous charms for my sneakers.  The clover for my Dad and the breast cancer ribbon for my Mom, who just recently beat it!

BeeCause Charms

My last stop at the expo was the official runDisney merchandise area.  Here’s wear my weakness set in.  My original goal was to get the “I Did It” shirt, but by the time I got there they were all out of my size.  So instead I bought a bunch of other things…shocking I know.  I got a great Princess tech tank, a Princess BondiBand, 2 commemorative pins and a runDisney decal for my car.

My runDisney swag

Now that the damage was done, it was time to leave.  We picked up Amanda who was napping at the hotel and headed to the Grand Floridian for a running blogger meet-up hosted by Heather from Running with SassWe were an hour late to the meet-up because of all the time we spent at the expo and it was just winding down, but I did get to see my friend Megan from Megan in Wonderland, meet a great blogger named Alexandra from Adventures with Alexandra, and hear a truly inspirational story from Janet Oberholtzer.  Janet is a marathoner who almost lost her leg in a horrific car accident, but has since overcome the odds is now racing again.  I can’t wait to read her book Because I Can…

After the meet-up, we wandered the Grand Floridian for a bit, then headed over to Epcot for our pre-race dinner at Via Napoli.

Max...the highlight of Via Napoli

We arrived at the restaurant about 45 minutes early so we could combine our reservation with our friend Marc and his family, as well as met up with Sarah-Irene’s husband John, her friends who were also in town for the race, and our new friend Tiffany.  Since we were a large party of 14, we were seated near each other, but had to be split into 2 tables.  I’m going to save the details of the meal for another post, but here’s a summary: super cute waiter, incredibly loud atmosphere, awesome appetizers, overpriced entrees, serious issues splitting the bill, and a night ending in food poisoning for Katherine.  Let’s just say, I’ll think twice about going there again.

By the time we got back to the hotel and settled down for the night, it was around 10:30 pm.  My alarm was set to go off in 4 hours and I was both worried about Katherine and praying that I was not going to get what she had.  My nerves were on edge and my first half marathon was the next morning…yikes!

The Best Pre-Race Disney Dining Options in Walt Disney World

With the Princess Half Marathon quickly approaching, I keep finding myself not thinking of running as much as I’m thinking about food.  I guess this isn’t very strange since I think about food a lot, but I should be focusing on running, right?  I’ve mentioned before that nutrition has been an issue for me during this training (watch for a nutrition series to follow), so I’ve been concerned about where I’m going to eat prior to the race.  Pre-race meals aren’t a time to try new cuisines or to have your favorite spicy dish because it can wind up causing trouble around mile 5 if you’re stomach isn’t prepared.  To find a meal with a good combination of carbs and protein, I’ve spent some time perusing numerous menus, and have come up with a list of what I think are the best pre-race restaurants in Walt Disney World.

50s Prime Time Café
There’s nothing more familiar than the home cooking found here.  Dad’s Traditional Meatloaf and Mom’s Old-fashioned Pot Roast are two of my favorite dishes at 50s Prime Time Café.  Both are served with creamy mashed potatoes and veggies giving you a great combination of protein and carbs.  These dishes might prove to be a little heavy, so a healthier option might be the Mulitgrain Spaghetti and “Meatballs,” which are actually made out of vegetables.  I’ve heard this dish is a little spicy, so steer clear if spice doesn’t sit well.

Teppan Edo
This is a great combination of good food and fun dining entertainment.  Make sure to get the hibachi entrée where you’ll have your choice of protein: chicken, steak, shrimp or scallops.  This is cooked right in front of you by a very talented hibachi chef, who will not only deliver you with an amazing meal but provide some fun surprises as well.  All of the entrees come with udon noodles, various vegetables, and steamed rice.  Ask the chef to reduce the amount of oil/butter and soy sauce he uses to make the meal healthier and reduce your sodium intake.  Teppan Edo is also a great place for groups because of the large, communal dining tables.  So if you’re with a running team, this is perfect!

‘Ohana
Protein, protein, protein!  Can it get any better than simple grilled meats on a skewer?  I think not!  You’ll have your choice of chicken, steak, pork and shrimp to give you that protein boost you’ll need.  Delicious Pineapple-Coconut Bread and Egg Noodles with Peanut Sauce will carb you up and make sure to get some veggie stir-fry as well.  This is hard to say, but I would stay away from the Fried Pork Dumplings and the Chicken Wings before a race.  Those can be greasy and are sure to sit like rocks in your stomach, which definitely won’t help to cross the finish line.

The Wave…of American Flavors
With a menu focusing on sustainable, local and unique dining options, The Wave is a great healthy option for before a race.  The meals are on the lighter side, so they won’t weigh you down the next morning.  A great option is the Sustainable Fish of the Day.  Not only will you get protein from the fish, but also from the fiber filled edamame and vegetable stew.  If seafood isn’t your thing, try the Oven-roasted Chicken with Potato Waffles.  That’s right…I said potato waffles!  Add that to the rice and black-eyed peas that come with the dish and you’ve got all your carbs for the race.

Via Napoli
For some reason whenever I think of pre-race meals, my mind always goes to Italian.  Maybe it’s the carb-loading one often hears about pre-race meals that make me think of mass amounts of pasta.  Yes, Via Napoli has pasta dishes, but I’m more interested in the pizza.  For a pre-race meal, I would build my own pizza starting with the Margherita base and adding chicken sausage, red peppers and arugula.  I’d pair it with that big “Family Style” House Salad to get my fill of veggies.  A good alternative dish to pizza would be the Pollo Parmigiana.  This is a hefty portion of breaded chicken topped with fresh marinara and mozzarella, and served with a Spaghetti Torta, which with a large “disk” of pasta.  I think this is going to be my pre-Princess Half Marathon meal!

So those are my picks, but I want to hear from you!  Where do you eat in Walt Disney World before a race?  What are your favorite meals to get you across the finish line?