While Muppet-themed restaurants were a part of the original plan for the Disney’s Hollywood Studios land that eventually became Muppets Courtyard, it wasn’t until 2016 that such a venue finally opened its doors. Replacing the “Toy Story Pizza Planet,” “PizzeRizzo” retains its predecessor’s Italian menu with the addition of newly expanded dining areas and a New York pizzeria atmosphere. The decor is surprisingly understated for a Muppet establishment, but there are still plenty of fun and sometimes very subtle nods to Kermit and company to be found throughout. One thing that is definitely not subtle, though, is the large neon sign on the restaurant’s roof depicting its namesake and proprietor, Rizzo the Rat.
Opening “PizzeRizzo,” however, did not mark Rizzo’s first experience working in restaurant business (or at least playing the part in a movie). The 1984 film “The Muppets Take Manhattan” featured one of Rizzo’s first breakout roles, in which he portrayed a waiter working alongside Kermit, Miss Piggy, their human friend Jenny, and many fellow rats at “Pete’s Luncheonette.” In one of the movie’s most impressive showcases of puppetry, Rizzo performs the song “Rat Scat” while the other rats prepare the food in a number of inventive (yet not always sanitary) ways. Although the food at “PizzeRizzo” is far from authentic New York pizza, its crew of human cast members at work back in the kitchen ensure that it at least doesn’t have the kind of health code violations that occurred on “Pete’s Luncheonette.”