Universal Orlando 2022 Mardi Gras Tomato Basil Arancini


When I think of Orlando area theme park food festivals, I ponder many different things. One, as a very part-time theme park food blogger, I prepare to eat lots of food. Two, I prepare to take notes so I can write about them later (so you can avoid bad food!). Third, one should not expect great food at the “Italy” themed food tent at an Orlando area food festival.

Having said that, this year’s Universal Orlando turned the Louie’s Italian Restaurant window kiosk into “Louie’s Gelato Window.” Yes, this qualifies as an Italian food festival tent. Thus, I expected lower quality food here.

A returning food item from 2021 Mardi Grad appears on menu at this “Italy” food area. The Tomato Basil Arancini costs $5.99. Based on all possible discounts, this price point might mean you pay less than last year for this item.  The menu description reads fried risotto filled with tomato basil mascarpone with a spicy Arrabiata sauce. The menu indicates this item also meets vegetarian (not vegan) standards.

In simple terms, for your money, you get three fried risotto balls well-presented within a spicy sauce. Though there seems to be some issues over the portion size compared to last year, the portion size fails to replace a legitimate meal portion size. So, the pricing fits food festival sizing so be aware of that.

For me, the best part of this dish involves the Arrabiata sauce. The fried cheese possesses a decent flavor, but the sauce kicked it up a notch to be wilder, louder, and spicier. Arrabiata sauce is a tomato-based sauce made with garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes. The red pepper flakes provide a spicier level compared to a standard marinara. The tomato basil mascarpone adds solid texture. The touch of basil helps add to the Italian feel of this dish. Once again, the Mardi Gras food items taste best when you get all the flavors together. So, if you are a food blogger, the need to taste each ingredient separately takes away from enjoyment. Fortunately, you get to enjoy the food without having to explain or evaluate it!

In my opinion, this “Italian” food festival item deserves a look. In fairness, this combination of cheese and sauce merely provides a decent snack. The flavors work together well. In comparison to last year’s version, I think this one is slightly weaker but still worth your time.

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