You’ve seen the rooms. You’ve seen the Character Breakfast. You’ve even seen Tom go down the Riviera Pool water slide. Now it’s time to uncover Disney’s Riviera Resort’s best-kept secret (at least until this dining review gets out): Primo Piatto’s dinner. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect in terms of dining for this resort, but it seems they’ve taken a ton of feedback from other resorts and recently-opened establishments, figured out what guests want (Coke Freestyle machines, actual silverware, edible pizzas), and implemented it perfectly at Riviera.
We had great breakfasts and memorable lunches here, but the real gem of Primo Piatto is its simple and unassuming dinner menu. Comprised of just three main specialties (don’t worry, all of the salads, sandwiches, and pizza from lunch are also available at dinner), you can have a dinner here that rivals many table-service restaurants on property, at a fraction of the cost. In fact, we may have just found one of the best steaks on property. To take a full tour of the resort’s quick service restaurant, check out our lunch review, which covers all of the seating and amenities available.
We got each of the main dinner specialties, plus two of the desserts on the menu for this review.
Grilled Hanger Steak – $17.99
Medium Grilled Steak with a Red Wine Sauce and Balsamic Syrup served with Mascarpone Mashed Potatoes and Buttered Carrots
It’s almost criminal to begin with the best item on the menu, but I couldn’t wait to tell you about it (and also that’s how the photos uploaded, so…) I don’t think anyone expects much from a quick service steak, even at the $18 price point, however the moment this arrived at the table, we were all blown away.
You can smell the savory red wine reduction and sweet carrots from the plate, which arrives piping hot. (All items are cooked to order at Primo Piatto.) Instead of the usual gristly grey puck that passes as a steak across property, you get a large, tender cut of steak that’s cooked to a perfectly juicy medium. A generous scoop of mashed potatoes is garnished with chives and four or five petit glazed carrots.
Upon first taste, this brought back fond memories of the Blue Bayou filet I had back in September at Disneyland. (An odd analogy, I know.) While this kind of steak dish (meat, potatoes, sauce) is constantly offered at restaurants, it’s rarely executed well. Here, it’s absolutely perfect. The steak was fork-tender and tasted incredible. Even the mashed potatoes were silky… and don’t get me started on the perfectly roasted carrots. At the price, this is likely the best steak on property, bar-none. If the steak from Topolino’s Terrace appealed to you, but you don’t need character interactions, or are looking to save $20-$30 on dinner, definitely opt for the Primo Piatto steak. If you’re starving after park close at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or EPCOT, come get the Primo Piatto steak. (It’s open until midnight!) If you’re staying at Pop Century or Art of Animation to save money, plan on having dinner here (no reservations required) and make an evening of exploring the resort. You can even take the Skyliner over! All decision flowcharts lead to this steak.
Roasted Half Chicken – $15.99
Served with Gruyère Macaroni and Cheese and Grilled Asparagus
After reading about the steak, it’s unlikely you’ll want to hear of the other dishes, but they shine in their own right. I got the Roasted Chicken mainly because I wanted to try the Gruyere Mac and Cheese, and I was slightly disappointed at the sight of such pale, seemingly unseasoned chicken… but it was actually pretty good.
The skin is crisp and flavorful, with delicate peppery notes. The leaner parts of the chicken were drier, but the wings were plenty juicy, which is to be expected from any dish like this.
I was surprised at how good the asparagus was; just make sure you eat them sooner than later or they’ll get cold fast.
As for the mac, it was good, but not outstanding. (The steak really took the spotlight, as you can imagine.) The best part was the breadcrumb-coated top, but underneath, the cavatappi pasta was somewhat mushy and overcooked, with way too much béchamel. I know some people would say that there’s no such thing as too much cheese, and while I’m inclined to agree, the dense cheese sauce was slightly too thick for my taste.
The macaroni also comes in this tiny cast iron pot, and is available as a side for $4.49.
Crispy Chicken Breast Cutlet – $14.99
Fried Hand-breaded Chicken over Saffron Risotto topped with Extra Virgin Olive Oil tossed with Arugula and Shaved Parmesan
It looked impressive, but this was arguably the most bland of the three specialty dishes. Still, the subdued flavors were strangely comforting, with the contrasting crunch of the chicken and warm, silky risotto coming together for a great combination.
For the best experience, make sure you squeeze the lemon over the entire dish to give it some necessary depth.
Classic Tiramisù – $4.99
This tiny tiramisu packs a lot of flavor, and a surprising amount of liqueur. The dense, pillowy cream layers envelop a layer of soaked ladyfinger cookies in a strong coffee liqueur, probably Tia Maria or Kahlua.
We mention the alcohol here not because it’ll get you tipsy, but because it’s rare to have any desserts on property feature booze, especially not a $5 counter service dessert. This isn’t a must-get, but it’s very good, and perfect for tiramisu lovers.
Chocolate Lava Cake – $6.99
With Primo Piatto surpassing many dishes from Topolino’s Terrace, I was hoping I’d found a $7 dupe for their Valrhona Chocolate Cake, and while this version was good, it still can’t rival the one upstairs.
The middle of the cake was gooey, but it didn’t ooze chocolate like a lava cake should. The raspberries, which are coated in extra tart raspberry sauce, were very good here. Still, we’d opt for the tiramisu as the top dessert here. That is, until we come back for the gelato.