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November 25, 2014

Going to Disney has always been a birthday tradition, and this past year was no exception. I flew down to Orlando, Florida last weekend to visit my parents. My mom’s birthday is a few days after mine, so we usually have to share the celebration, something, after 28 years, I’m still not comfortable with.


 Since I grew up just an hour east of Orlando, I know Disney like the back of my hand (just not as hairy). We stayed at the Swan and Dolphin, one of the only hotels on Disney property we had yet to stay at. To me, it always seemed uptight and pretentious – and it was.


Aside from not having a “theme,” there was absolutely no sign of Disney whatsoever. The towels in the room weren’t shaped like Mickey, no characters were walking around, and they didn’t even have that TV channel that runs on a loop explaining all the rides at the parks. It was more business/convention people than families. But, they had a great bar in the lobby, so we were all happy.




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Since we have been going to Disney every year since I was a child, we have had our fair share of meals from Disney hotels and restaurants. And, if you have ever eaten at Disney you know that the food isn’t all that great. From character breakfasts to 18$ for a chicken sandwich, the meals at Disney are just another way to take your hard earned money. Honestly, the only thing I ever eat when I go is the chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.


Actually, that’s all I eat when I go anywhere.


So, this year we decided to skip the generic overpriced Disney restaurants and try one of the privately-owned establishments located in our very own lobby. It is called Il Mulino and, if you could guess, it is an Italian restaurant. 


It had been months since I had a good Italian dinner – one that didn’t come out of a foil can or delivered to me at 1am. I was over-the-moon ecstatic to have an authentic Italian dinner and a nice glass of wine. 



The Swan & Dolphin Resort 

When we walked into Il Mulino, we were all surprised at just how modern and chic it was. There was a large bar area in the front with couches, high tops, and live music. Nestled in the very back were the tables, surrounded by brick walls and dim lighting. Very opposite the florescent lighting and screaming children at Chef Mickey’s. 



Once we were settled into our table, I picked up the 32-page list of wines. I started browsing the pages, desperately looking for any bottle under 40$. Finally, on the last page, I found a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon for 36$. “We’ll take two, please” I said, just in case they would run out.


For an appetizer, my mom and I split the Fried Calamari while my dad ate a Caesar Salad. To many people’s surprise, I actually love Calamari! I don’t know why, since I hate hate hate anything seafood, but there’s something about Calamari. I think it’s because it’s fried. I thought it was good, but my mom exclaimed it was the best Calamari she had ever eaten…so, Disney, if you want to quote that for your website, go for it. 


I didn’t even need to look at the menu to know what I was going to have: The Veal Parmigiana.  Veal Parm is my all-time favorite meal, so when it is on

the menu, and I am not paying, that’s what I order. While my parents decided on their entrees, I perused the menu and was really impressed. There were so many dishes on there that I would have loved to try: The Spaghetti Carbonara, Pollo Alla Scarpariello and the Porcini Risotto.


My mom ordered the Shrimp Francese and my dad got the Frutti di Mare. We poured the remaining wine from our first bottle and enjoyed each other’s company while we waited for our food to be delivered. 

The food came and before anyone could even take a bite, I had to take my pictures. “Ah, come on. I’m starving!” my dad groaned at me. “Leave him alone, Tom. He’s a professional food blogger” my mom chimed in. Once I got my pictures, I gave my parents the OK to dig in.


The veal, as you can see, took up the entire plate. It was crispy, tender, and most importantly, covered with mozzarella cheese. I looked over at both my parents’ dish, and although both seemed unappetizing to me AND contained shellfish, they seemed to be enjoying their dinners. We were finishing our entrees just as the restaurant started to close. We were so full from the food and wine that we had to pass on dessert (on OUR birthday dessert). 

The next morning, we woke up surprisingly famished. We got dressed in our Sunday’s best and headed over to the Old Key West Resort for breakfast. This hotel holds my dad’s favorite restaurant on Disney property: Olivia’s Café. My mom and I aren’t really sure why it is his favorite place (even above Planet Hollywood!) There isn’t really anything special about it, but according to him, they make the best god damn breakfast in all of Orlando. So, we go there every time after checking out from our hotel.


I arrived to the hotel a few minutes after they had gotten there. I wanted to give them time to get sat, settled, and order some coffee. So, imagine my surprise when I walk into the restaurant 10 minutes after our reservation and see my mom waving a stack of papers around, arguing with Ina, the 87 year old hostess.


I walked up to my dad and asked what was going on. He told me that they couldn’t find our reservation, but that mom would handle it. We overheard her yell, “I made this reservation two months ago. I even have all the confirmation papers with me. PRINTED.” She then placed the paperwork on the hostess podium and poor Ina had to put on her bifocals.


“Ma’am, it says here you made the reservation for November 9th. Today is the 16th. I’m afraid you’re a week late.”


There was nothing else for my mom to do but bow her head down and apologize. Luckily, we were seated right away, and not everyone in the restaurant was looking at us.



I, too, love Olivia’s Café. Maybe because we’ve been going there for years. It does have a nice comfort to it, and they have tables outside, overlooking the lagoon. As soon as the waitress came by to introduce herself, I ordered a bloody mary and more crayons. 


For breakfast, I got sausage and eggs with a side of Mickey Mouse shaped waffles! How cute?! This meal made my inner child extremely happy while my inner alcoholic was enjoying the vodka.


This was such a treat to be able to celebrate me and my mom’s birthday together. It was so nice to spend some good quality time with my parents in the sunshine state and enjoy good wine, great food, and fantastic conversation.


*I did some research, and there are a few Il Mulino locations in the New York City area. Whether it is a birthday celebration or just a night out with friends or family, I highly recommend this restaurant! 

Veal Parmigiana

Frutti di Mare

Shrimp Francese

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