With over 130 restaurants at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida booking a lunch or dinner reservation can become an overwhelming task. Where does one even start?
After participating in every runDisney race event at the Walt Disney World Resort and writing about it over on my other site Disney Every Day for the past six years, I find myself at least slightly qualified to make dining recommendations to my fellow runDisney runners and their families.
The most common question I get from those registered to run a half or full marathon at the Walt Disney World Resort is “Where do I go to carb load before my race”? On private Facebook groups and message boards, Disney’s Italian eateries are the ones that get suggested most liberally. I’ve never thought to book a reservation at Downtown Disney’s Portobello Restaurant for a runDisney race, because I had not dined there…until recently.
Nestled in the heart of Downtown Disney and on the shores of Village Lake, Portobello Trattoria has been modeled after what the Italians would call an osteria. Osterias are characterized by good wine and abbreviated, yet refined menus. A fitting description of the restaurant.
As I mentioned before, I’ve completed every distance race on Walt Disney World’s runDisney roster and before each race I like to fill my carbohydrate tank with race fuel. I think Executive Chef Cristobal Lopez has Italian fare down to a science after nineteen years feeding guests at Portobello, which is why I strongly suggest making a pre-race or celebratory post-race reservation here.
Characteristic of an osteria, all of the cocktails at Portobello consist of only two or three ingredients. Often times it’s not what you add to a dish or drink, but what you subtract from it that makes it exceptional. Less is more. Keep it simple.
House-crafted Limoncello | Fig Vodka | Ginger Beer
Florida Cane Orlando Orange Vodka | Cocchi Americano
Appetizers offered at Portobello follow the same line of simple yet refined. You will rarely see more than three ingredients in a dish. Why complicate things?
MOZZARELLA STUFFED RICE BALLS
Crispy Risotto | Fresh Mozzarella | Marinara Sauce
Wood Roasted | Gorgonzola | Polenta | Rosemary Sauce
RADICCHIO AND GOAT CHEESE CROSTINI
Goat Cheese | Radicchio Marmalade
TOUR OF PUGLIA WINE FLIGHT
Originally colonized by the Phoenicians, the red varietals of this region are a delight to the wine lover’s palate.
Cantele Primitivo | Cantele Rosato | Cantele Salice Salentino
Do NOT make the mistake of overlooking the chef’s antipasti platter for two. It was my favorite offering. In fact, you could absolutely make a meal out of this platter and a few glasses off the Portobello Wine Menu. Those carrots are scented with cardamom and the green tomatoes have been completely transformed with the sugared pickling liquid they arrive in. An impeccable balance of salty and sweet make this platter a “must try”!
ANTIPASTI PLATTER (for 2)
Prosciutto | Soppressata | Parmigiano Reggiano | Pecorino Toscano | Bocconcini | Olives | House Made Farmer’s Market Pickled Vegetables (beets, carrots, green tomatoes)
If you were to peek back inside the kitchen at Portobello restaurant before or after dinner service you would likely see Chef Cristobal and his crew with a plate of this… (It’s what he recommended off the entree portion of the menu). This is a perfect balance of protein and carbs.
Potato dumplings with Nonna’s Sunday pork ragu
Steaks, Seafood, Chicken
GRILLED PORK CHOP
Polenta | vinegar Florida sweet peppers
Don’t skip dessert here. It will only add to your pre-race fueling efforts…and besides, how could you not order a “beer” riff on tiramisu presented in a proper pint glass?
Orlando Brewing organic porter | ladyfingers | mascarpone cream
WHITE CHOCOLATE CUSTARD
Classic white chocolate custard caramelized with a crispy candy glaze
Some additional things I would like to point out about Portobello. The restaurant has a full service bar, so if you can’t get an advanced dining reservation, there is still hope. If you are visiting during the cooler months, request a table outside on the deck for majestic views of the lake and Saratoga Springs Resort. Families are welcome here.
The restaurant is easily accessible via the complementary Walt Disney World bus system or water taxi from Saratoga Springs and Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter.
If you’re having dinner, allow yourself enough time to stroll around the Downtown Disney area before or after to enjoy the live music. And if you see Ted, Portobello’s General Manager, shake his hand for me and tell him Amanda sent you.
Lunch 11:30 am – 4:00 pm and Dinner 4:00 pm – 11:00 pm
1650 Buena Vista Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL, 32830
Reservations – 407-WDW-DINE
This post was created in partnership with Portobello. As always all opinions are my own.