Review: What To Know BEFORE You Make that Reservation for Mama Melrose in Disney World
Ever think to yourself “gosh, I’d just love to spend a hunk of cash at a Disney World restaurant with food that’s just “good enough?” Yeah, okay, probably not. Sometimes you’ll eat at a restaurant in Disney World and be absolutely BLOWN away. Other times, you’ll eat at a spot and think it was horrible. And still, other times you may eat somewhere and think “ehh…that was good enough.” But is good enough actually ENOUGH?!
Recently, we made our way back to a restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios which we’ve previously termed a Disney-fied Olive Garden (not necessarily in a bad way, but you get the idea). Pasta, flatbreads, chicken parm — this spot has all of your expected Italian basics. Sometimes, it’s wowed us. Other times, it’s left us wanting more. How does this spot hold up now and is “good enough” here truly good enough to merit a visit?
In case you haven’t deciphered our clues yet, the restaurant we’re talking about is…Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano! This spot is located in the Grand Avenue area of Hollywood Studios, back by the exit to Muppet*Vision 3-D.
As you might have guessed from the name, this spot serves up Italian fare (as well as some American dishes) in a uniquely themed setting.
According to the story of this spot (you know EVERYTHING in Disney has a story), this is a former backlot warehouse that has been transformed into a dining space.
Who is Mama? Well, apparently she is a young girl from a small Sicilian village. Once upon a time, she moved from her village to Hollywood in hopes of becoming a star. But her true calling wasn’t the stage, instead it was…the kitchen! So Mama turned to cooking and started recreating some of her papa’s secret recipes to feed her starving actor friends.
Her friends then encouraged her to open up a restaurant in an empty warehouse on the backlot that was previously used to store some film equipment. Members of the film industry then began to visit and ultimately started calling her Mama Melrose, a name based on the “lively Los Angeles thoroughfare.”
Mama Melrose’s spot then became known as the place “where Italy meets California in the heart of the Backlot.” Throughout the entire restaurant, you’ll see that theme carried through — touches of Italy or Italian influence mixed with items that make you feel like you’re in Hollywood.
The theming here is truly great. If you have time to wander and look at the photos on the walls and the little touches, do so — it’s worth the extra few minutes!
On the walls, you’ll find photos of celebrities. So the story goes, these are actually photos saved from (then) MGM’s “Star Today” promotion. Back in the day, this was a special offering where “celebrities” (maybe not your biggest names, but still, they’ve probably been in more films than you and me!) would come to MGM to sign autographs for guests. It didn’t survive long, but supposedly Imagineers saved some of the photos the celebrities would use for autographs and hung them on the walls here!
Basically, if you’re a fan of that old-school MGM vibe, you might really enjoy the atmosphere here. Despite the many changes that have taken over this park, Mama Melrose has remained relatively the same (at least in terms of atmosphere), which makes for a strong sense of nostalgia for those who have visited over the years with their families.
But enough about the atmosphere. When you step into the space, you’ll find a check-in table.
Be sure to look at the dog here and search for a hidden Mickey!
Once you step through the entrance, you’ll be transported into that lovely indoor space. The restaurant is really one big space, but it is divided up into about 3 separate sections. You’ll find standard tables and chairs here, as well as some booths.
And when it’s finally time to sit and eat, you’ll get a paper napkin with your utensils.
Now, let’s take a look at the menu!
For our menu, we received a paper with a QR code to scan so we could view the menu online. We visited during lunch, so let’s take a look at the Lunch Menu (which is very similar to the dinner menu).
You can start your meal with a number of appetizers including Crispy Calamari and Caesar Salad.
For entrees you’ll find a variety of items including pasta dishes, fish, and steak.
And you can’t forget about dessert! There’s a cannoli, tiramisu, gelato, and other options.
For the kiddos, you’ll find a menu that includes appetizers, pizza, and side items.
There are also kid-friendly drinks, non-alcoholic options…
…more specialty cocktails and beers…
…hard ciders, wines…
…liqueurs, and even wine flights.
Let’s get to our meal!
Drinks & Eats
We started our meal with Mama’s Margarita, which is priced at $15. This drink is made with Jose Cuervo Tradicional Tequila, Limoncello, Fresh Lime Juice, Sweet-and-Sour, and Orange Juice.
The drink was very light and refreshing. It was very much like a regular margarita, but with a more citrus and lemon flavors.
If you like a traditional margarita or you like citrus cocktails this drink is one we really think you’ll love!
Then our meal continued with some complimentary bread. We got about 3 (fairly standard) rolls with olive oil and Italian seasoning mix.
You could also get butter if requested. Overall, this was a solid way to start the meal — nothing to really write home about, but nothing bad either.
Next, it was time to order some appetizers. We started with the House-Made Italian Meatball for $13. This dish is made of a meatball served with Marinara, Fresh Ricotta, and Basil.
Overall, the meatball was REALLY good and flavorful! But, it was also verrrrrry dense. The marinara sauce was on the sweet side, but thankfully the ricotta helped balance that out.
If you like meatballs, we think this is something you’ll really enjoy. It is big enough to share, so we think it could make a decent appetizer for 2 people.
What would have taken this to the next level? More ricotta, ’cause how can you go wrong with MORE CHEESE?! Answer: you can’t.
Is it a real, truly authentic Italian meatball, like the kind a true Italian grandma would make? Not quite. But it WAS tasty, had the right amount of Italian seasoning, and was something we enjoyed!
Then we got the Minestrone Soup for $9. This dish is plant-based and comes with Ditalini Pasta.
If you like minestrone soup, then we think you’ll find this one to be pretty adequate. It’s a plain ole minestrone soup — honestly, not unlike one you’d find at your local grocery store.
There really wasn’t anything special or particularly unique about this offering. Full disclosure: our reporter who tried this admitted that they are not a broth-based soup person. Instead, they’d much prefer a creamy soup, which we can totally appreciate. So that’s something to note in terms of their overall feeling on the soup.
But still, they shared that a big problem here is the price you’re paying for the soup you’re getting. At least to us, this soup (which was fairly ordinary and didn’t have anything particularly unique) doesn’t really stand out as a great value at $9. We’d recommend you spend a bit more and opt for that meatball or another appetizer instead.
Time to move on to the entrees. We started with the Oven-baked Chicken alla Parmigiana for $26. This is made with Breaded Chicken Breast with Marinara Sauce, topped with Melted Mozzarella over Spaghetti. Basically, it’s the chicken parm dish you know (and probably love).
This version of the chicken parm was…good. The marinara sauce was (again) a bit too sweet for us, but the cheese helped to cut out some of that sweetness.
The chicken breast was very thick, which we didn’t exactly love. But, the breading on the chicken was really good and crispy in all the right places.
Again, it’s a dish where we feel like we could have used some more cheeeeeese. We added a bit of parmesan to it, which was good, but more mozzarella would have made this dish so much better!
The spaghetti that came with the chicken was good, but it was pretty ordinary — nothing really special or unique about it.
Overall, this was good, but not anything particularly unique. And at that $26 price tag, it’s a bit expensive. Don’t get us wrong, the actual portion size was large and totally shareable (which is good because we’re not really sure who wants to eat a large amount of warm pasta on a 95 degree day and then run to Slinky Dog Dash), but the dish itself just wasn’t unique.
Finally, we end our round of entrees with Mama’s Italian Pasta with Chicken for $24. This dish is made of chicken with Spaghetti tossed with Roasted Garlic, Tomato, fresh Basil, and Asiago-Herb Crostini.
This dish was…just okay. The pasta had a nice garlic olive oil sauce, which was great for us since the marinara sauce on the other dishes had been a little too sweet for our liking.
The garlic was not overpowering, but was a prevalent flavor in the dish so if you hate garlic, that’s something to keep in mind.
Unfortunately, our chicken was VERY dry. When we took a bite with the pasta, it was better because the pasta and accompanying sauce added some of that moisture that the chicken desperately needed. But, on its own, the chicken was verrrry dry.
The chicken also just didn’t have that much flavor. But, the pasta with the garlic sauce was very flavorful, so as long as you get a bite of that with the chicken, it should be okay.
This dish was lighter than the chicken parm, but is still a fairly heavy dish to eat before walking around a theme park, so that’s something to consider.
Was it an AMAZING pasta, the type you’d get in Italy, New York, or even other Disney World spots (more on that in a second)? No. But was it pretty good for theme park pasta? Definitely.
We (of course) HAD to get dessert, so this time we opted for the Tiramisu, which is $8. This is made of Layers of Mascarpone and Espresso soaked Lady Fingers topped with Cocoa Powder and Whipped Cream. Of all the things we tried at Mama Melrose during this most recent visit, THIS was the STAR.
It didn’t have a heavy or overly strong coffee flavor, but the coffee flavor was still present (a.k.a. it was just the right balance!). There was a creaminess to it that you don’t often find in tiramisu and we really enjoyed it!
The side of whip creamed added to that creaminess and it really made it even more delicious. The portion was nice and big too so you could easily share it, though you might not want to because it is THAT good!
We would have liked more whipped cream, but other than that, this dish was a delight! Our reporter who tried it is not even a tiramisu fan, but they did think it was particularly good, especially compared to some other tiramisu desserts you can get on property.
If you like tiramisu, we think you should totally give this one a try! Just keep in mind that this isn’t the most kid-friendly dessert, so if you’re looking to share with the kiddos you might want to grab something else.
So, is Mama Melrose a must-go or a skip?
Nosh or Not
Head on over to Mama Melrose if:
- You’re looking for a family-friendly, relaxed table service environment — This is a great family joint. The kids menu will likely satisfy a lot of kiddos and it’s pretty loud in here already, so you won’t have to stress if your little ones are chatting up the place during the entire meal.
- You’re a fan of nostalgic spots — If you’re a fan of the MGM days and want to take a little trip back into that true sense of “old Hollywood” you might really enjoy this place as it’s a bit of a throw-back to that.
- You’re looking for a hearty meal that will fill you up — Those pasta dishes certainly won’t leave you feeling hungry!
Skip Mama Melrose if:
- You’re looking for a fast meal — If you’re rushing from one Lightning Lane to another, the longer meal time here won’t be for you.
- You’re looking for EXCEPTIONAL food — The food here is fine (and we did really love that tiramisu), but is it the best Italian food in Disney World? In our opinion, no. It’s also not particularly unique. It’s more along the lines of the classic Italian fare you can get at a local chain, Italian-themed restaurant back home, with the added flair of Disney theming.
- You’re looking for a cheap spot — The portion sizes were good, but the food isn’t particularly exceptional (see above) and the prices are pretty hefty. So if you’re watching that budget, it might be better to opt for a different spot
Overall, this spot is a fun one when it comes to theming. And if you’ve been coming here with your family for years, it’s a beautiful trip down nostalgia lane. But, the food is…hit or miss. As we noted at the start, we’ve sometimes been really impressed with some of the dishes here. This time around, the chicken parm was good and so was the house-made Italian meatball.
The Italian Pasta with chicken was alright, but the chicken itself was really dry. And the minestrone soup was…alright, but nothing special. The tiramisu was the STAR of the show, but sometimes you gotta eat more than just a plate of dessert, ya know?
Our server was great, gave us awesome recommendations and checked up on us, and didn’t make us feel rushed at all, which was super nice. We really enjoyed eating here in terms of the theming and nostalgia, and the food is fine…it’s just nothing special.
When you compare it to the majesty that is Topolino’s Terrace — Flavors of the Riviera (Disney’s Riviera Resort), which features handmade pasta, the difference is stark. Seriously, the gnocchi at Topolino’s Terrace is the stuff that you DREAM about as a foodie.
Again, there’s nothing BAD about Mama Melrose. It’s just that for the price you’re paying, you have to go in knowing that the atmosphere will be adorable, but the food will (generally) just be standard, okay, alright — nothing tremendously exciting or unique. If that’s what you’re looking for, then it could be a great fit.
But if you’re looking for some pasta you’ll dream about for months…you can find other options in Disney World that’ll be much better.
What do you think? Tell us your thoughts in the comments! And, as always, stay tuned for more Disney news and reviews!
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