I have lumped the accommodation and restaurants together in this post because it is most likely you will be reviewing these options together if you are visiting Universal Orlando or thinking about visiting Harry Potter World.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Orlando – This is a great hotel especially if you are visiting Universal. I did not like my reservation experience, but otherwise, we had a good stay. When I was reserving our rooms, I did my research and wanted a double queen with views of the Italian buildings and Bay. When I called, however, I could only book our room with Universal. I booked a double queen with Bay View. When we checked in, since I had not booked our room directly with the hotel, they put us in a Pool View. We could have been anywhere looking at any hotel pool. It was nice, but it was not an Italian view or specific to Universal. I really wanted the unique view looking at the Italian part of the hotel and bay. I do not know how to avoid this except when you are booking, if you want to look at the Italian buildings and bay, confirm and reconfirm that you have a Bay View. That said, once we were in our room (which was big and comfortable for four), we loved these things:
- Trattoria for Breakfast Buffet in the morning – The options are amazing and it is easy in and easy out if you are heading to the park;
- Mama Della Italian for Dinner – Wonderful Italian food and opera singing at night. Amazing! We loved it. Reservations recommended.
- Water Taxis to and from the Universal Park – This is so convenient – In the morning we just jumped on the water taxi and it took us to Universal. So easy. One day a storm shut down the taxis and we thought the bus would take too long, so the wonderful thing about this hotel and the Hard Rock is they are both within walking distance from Universal. We just walked home (about a mile), even with tired kids.
- Express Passes – We did two days at Harry Potter World with Express Passes and early morning starts. We only used the early morning starts once because only a few things have an early morning start, but the Express Passes were great.
We would stay at Portofino again, but I would try to make my reservations for hotel and Universal separately.
At the Portofino, there are two restaurants we liked.
Trattoria for Breakfast Buffet, Orlando – We ate here every morning and loved it. Each morning around 7 am we came down and had the buffet. It is fast and easy. It is $20 for each adult (and perhaps $12 for each kid). But, the ease and speed were worth it for us. The options include everything you can think of… Eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, salmon and bagels, cereals, plus omelets to order, and some savory dishes like udon (which our son had every morning), pastries, fruit, etc. Really sumptuous and good. It’s on the first floor at ground and water level, so once we were done, we just walked out to the water taxi and left for Universal from there. We were on the taxi by 7:30 am in the morning and ready for the early open at 8 am.
Mama Della’s for dinner, Orlando – We made a reservation at 5 pm one day for a 6:30 pm dinner at Mama Della’s. It seemed funny to make a same day reservation, but I wanted to make sure we could get a table and the notes about the place said reservations recommended. We were glad we did because when we got there people were waiting for a table. We had a great dinner. We shared a insalata caprese and they brought tons of fresh bread. I tried the lasagna special. My daughter had their gnocchi and my son had their spaghetti. All the time there were three strolling singers in the restaurant going from table to table taking requests and singing opera and show tunes. It was really fun.
We stayed at the Portofino for Harry Potter World at Universal.