Review: Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

In my opinion, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano in Disney’s Hollywood Studios has always been hit or miss.

But on my last two visits, it was exceptional. I couldn’t wait to re-visit another year later and see if that was still the case. And, I gotta say, this place is still a hidden gem. I would, in all honestly, choose this restaurant over several signature restaurants on Disney property right now. Let’s take a look at the details.

Atmosphere

When we arrived for a late night advance dining reservation during an Extra Magic Hours night, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano was teeming with hungry guests. You get a sense of Mama’s random story before you ever enter the doors. The Mona Lisa, wearing shades, in front of the Hollywood Sign? Yeah, I don’t get it either.

Outside Wall

Outside Wall as You Approach Mama’s

The flimsy “backstory” unfolds: Mama was once an aspiring actress who began to cook her traditional dishes for friends while she was trying to become a star. Her dreams of acting fame may have faded, but she found another route into the hearts of the masses — her cooking. And Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano was born.

Entrance

Entrance to Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

Even if the backstory still doesn’t make any sense to me after all this time, that doesn’t mean the restaurant isn’t kind of fun to look around. It’s a mix of old world meets Hollywood…and every year that goes by means Mama’s decor becomes even more antiquated.

One of my favorite touches is the wall-o-1980s-stars. These headshots crack me up! It’s like a who’s who of the year the Studios opened. (I always have to scout out Mary Fran.)

Podium and Entrance from the Waiting Area

Podium and Entrance from the Waiting Area

Other decor elements feature kitschy goodies from Mama’s collection.

In Vino Veritas!

In Vino Veritas!

More chances to look for your favorite late 20th century actors await you at the restroom entrance. And check out this guy we saw above the doorway…

Celebrity Pictures Outside the Restrooms

Celebrity Pictures Outside the Restrooms

These little Olafs-on-a-stick are part of the Frozen promotion in Hollywood Studios! Guess someone thought he’d be right at home here on a gondola?

Olaf -- This Guy is Everywhere

Olaf — This Guy is Everywhere

Walk through the large arch and past the kitchen, and the restaurant opens before you. Be sure to peek at the pizza oven as you walk by!

Show Kitchen

Show Kitchen

Once you’re in the dining area, pause to take a look around. The walls are covered with some fun stuff, including tons of albums. That’s right, kids — vinyl. (We realize you may have to explain to the small fry what those round black discs are. ;-) )

Atmosphere and Seating

Atmosphere and Seating

You could spend quite a while checking this place out.

Cozy Lighting

Cozy Lighting

Seating is basic and pretty comfortable. Bright red booths are worth requesting over the captain’s chairs surrounding square or rectangular tables. My favorite seats are by the window.

Seating

Seating Options

While chatting with the staff, we learned that a new menu would soon roll out. So if some of these dishes look delish to you (especially the Pork Chop, hint hint), run and get them. Now.

Eats

So now, it’s time to get down to eating! Like I said, I have been having really great meals here lately, and conversation with the staff may just explain why. It seems that Mama and her staff put a lot of care into these dishes; sauces and dressings are made in-house, from scratch. Nothing is pre-made, and that means that freshness and flavor are more guaranteed here than they would be at, say, your favorite buffet restaurant.

As for dinner, let’s get started with the Beverage Menu. It includes many items from the Standard Disney Bar Menu, but you’ll also find a couple of drinks that are unique to Mama’s — at least in name.

Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Beverage Menu — Click to Enlarge

I decided to go for a Mama’s Margarita, a fairly traditional version of the drink that also includes Orange Juice to balance the flavors. (I requested no salt on the rim, as always.)

Margarita

Mama’s Margarita

We also enjoyed the refreshing Italian Surfer during a past visit.

Italian Surfer

Italian Surfer

The Appetizer and Entree Menu is rather small.

Dessert Drinks -- Click to Enlarge

Appetizer and Entree Menu — Click to Enlarge

Right away, the Spicy Tomato Butter that appears in a few different menu descriptions piqued our interest, so we asked our server to bring us a little to try with our bread. He cheerfully obliged.

I was also glad to see that they’re now serving butter with the bread in addition to the olive oil — yay! So, in the end, our warm bread was therefore accompanied by three different toppings! — Unsalted Butter, Spicy Tomato Butter, and Olive Oil. While the Rolls were fairly standard Disney moderate restaurant rolls, they were a fresh vehicle for all that fantastic flavor.

The spicy tomato butter was even better than we’d expected, but having it on bread just doesn’t compare to having it in an actual dish… .

Bread with Butters and Olive Oil

Bread with Unsalted Butter, Spicy Tomato Butter, and Olive Oil

More than one reader had insisted that the Oak-Fired Mussels were not to be missed! And so we began our meal by sharing an order. And, wow!!

The Spicy Tomato Butter, Pan Juices, and Grilled Onions combined with the Fresh Mussels for outstanding flavor. And, please…PLEASE…Mama, make that broth into a soup I can just eat with a spoon. (Save your bread to dip here!)

Mussels

Oak-Fired Mussels in Spicy Tomato Butter with Grilled Onions and Herb Croutons

Next, I had to order the Charred Strip Steak once again. I had enjoyed it so much on my last visit that I had been dreaming about having it again (and I don’t say that very often about a Disney entree)! Served with Five-Cheese Baked Macaroni, Aged Balsamic-Shallot Butter, and a Chianti Wine Reduction that really pulled the dish together, this was just as perfect as the last time.

Honestly, it’s every bit as good — and probably better — than many of the steaks at Disney Signature Restaurant spots. Sigh. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Strip Steak

Charred Strip Steak with Five-Cheese Baked Macaroni, Aged Balsamic-Shallot Butter, and Chianti Wine Reduction

And the Mac and Cheese is some of the best I’ve had on property — it’s even better than Jiko’s.

We also tried a new-to-us dish, the Braciola Di Maiale. The Bone-In, Herb-Roasted Pork Chop is topped with Fig Marsala Sauce, and served over Creamy Polenta and Swiss Chard. It was delicious, and perfectly prepared; the meat was juicy and every component on the plate was delicious.

Pork Chop

Braciola Di Maiale — Herb-Roasted Pork Chop with Creamy Polenta, Swiss Chard, and Fig Marsala Sauce

It does appear that it will cycle off of the menu soon, but the Pork Saltimbocca (we’ve got a photo of it for you later in the post) looks to be a delicious replacement.

Soon, we were ready to turn our attention to something sweet.

Drinks -- Click to Enlarge

Desserts and Coffee Menu — Click to Enlarge

Dessert Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Dessert Drink Menu — Click to Enlarge

We had seen most of these items before, so we decided to go a different route this time out and order another classic kids’ dessert — the Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcake!

So cute, right? I mean, I’m not usually a big fan of making sweet food look like savory food…’cause it just confuses my taste buds…but I can imagine the kiddos really love this one.

Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcake

Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcake

The “Spaghetti” is made from thick Buttercream Icing — perfect for holding its shape atop the cake. The “Meatball” is basically a cake pop consistency, and chocolate of course. The “Sauce” was strawberry-flavored, and the cake itself was pretty basic chocolate cake. Nothing fancy, but your kid won’t care.

Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcake -- Cross Section

Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcake — Cross Section

Since we are grownups, however, we also chose something a little more age-appropriate. This frosty glass of Spumoni Gelato included Chocolate, Vanilla, and Pistachio. We liked its simple presentation and the clean flavors. It’s the perfect “just a bite of something sweet” dessert.

Spumoni Gelato -- Chocolate, Vanilla, and Pistachio

Spumoni Gelato — Chocolate, Vanilla, and Pistachio

Previously, we’ve enjoyed the Chocolate Amarettini Cheesecake as well as the Chocolate Cannoli Cake. We give the edge to the cheesecake; it’s pretty delicious.

Chocolate Amarettini Cheesecake

Chocolate Amarettini Cheesecake

Chocolate Cannoli Cake

Chocolate Cannoli Cake

And just like that, we were finished with another incredible meal, courtesy of Mama Melrose’s!

New Menu Items to Debut at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

So we got word that the menu will be making a change soon; and while we aren’t sure what will be exiting the stage to make way for new items, here are a few new dishes we will most likely be seeing soon. Remember — this is ALL subject to change!

To begin, Seared Fennel Crusted Tuna Salad will include Seared Sushi Grade Tuna, coated with a Fennel Seed Crust, and topped with an Arugula Salad and Olive Tapenade.

The current menu includes Pasce all’ Acqua Pazza, a dish that utilizes a Fish of the Day selection, but the new menu will change up the presentation a bit. Look for the new version to include Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Smoked Bacon, Mushrooms, Wilted Greens, and a Celery Root Beurre Blanc.

It appears that the current vegetarian entree, Whole-Wheat Fettucini, will be replaced with a Pappardelle Pasta featuring Roasted Butternut Squash Puree, Roasted Seasonal Mushrooms, and Swiss Chard, Parmesan, Thyme Butter, and Truffle Oil.

Whole Wheat Fettuccini will give way to a new dish

Whole Wheat Fettuccini will give way to a new dish

The menu will also include a new pork dish as well, as we mentioned. Look for Pork SaltimboccaPork Tenderloin is topped with Prosciutto, Fontina, and Fried Sage, and will be served with Mashed Potatoes and Broccolini.

Pork Saltimbocca will replace the current pork dish on the menu

Pork Saltimbocca will replace the current pork dish on the menu

In addition to these changes, three new desserts will debut: Tiramisu, a Cannoli Plate, and a Ghirardelli Chocolate and Cherry Torte.

Overall

Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano has officially attained that coveted “Hidden Gem” status with me. Every meal I’ve eaten here in recent years has been a clear homerun.

And it is the food, to be sure. Freshly prepared, perfectly served, this restaurant has maintained consistency for longer than many Disney restaurants can in my experience.

But that’s not all it is! The staff here are pretty much fantastic. Every person we encountered was gracious and passionate about their restaurant. That only led to further excitement on our part. We were sad that Kevin, one of my favorite servers in the whole World, was off the night we visited. But the rest of the team more than made up for his absence.

If you haven’t had a chance to try Mama Melrose’s, or you’re looking for an excuse to return there, I say go for it. I know I’ll be dining there again as soon as possible.

Is Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano on your must-dine list? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think!

Comments

  1. Dave says

    Totally agree. Mama Melrose’s has achieved something that eludes nearly all WDW restaurants: consistency in quality of food and service.

  2. nitabee says

    I had the penne alla vodka on my first trip to Mama Melrose’s, and I’ve had it on my other two visits there. I love it! I don’t know if it’s authentic, as I’ve never tried it anywhere else besides my kitchen, but I think their version is delicious. I really like the decor there, most notably the white strands of lights – I’m always a sucker for those kind of lights. Glad to see Mama Melrose’s get some love here.

  3. Mike V says

    Timing is quite ironic with the opening of the 5th WDW Italian restaurant.

    While I have dined here twice and both times enjoyed….It’s Italian.

    INside is very nice, very “homey.”

  4. Amy says

    i too dream of that steak – its the best steak i’ve ever had (and we ate at Le Cellier the same trip), if that gets bumped off the menu i may weep!!!

    I also tried some of my friends calamari appetiser on the last trip, i’d never had it before but it was delicious and has opened my eyes to seafood.

    Wish i didn’t have to wait till 2016 to go back here!!

  5. Alice says

    Our family ate here this summer and had the worst meal we have ever eaten at Disney. It was our fourth time eating here and we had looked forward to eating a great meal as usual. We were so let down. Our food was burnt and it took 45 minutes to get to our table. The desserts were wonderful!

  6. says

    We really enjoyed it last time we ate there – we have another reservation for February! The new vegetarian entrée sounds really good, I may try that… though the penne ala vodka was so good last time…

  7. Jess says

    I’m glad to hear that the food has improved. We ate here once a few years back (I can’t remember which trip it was….anyone else have that problem, where Disney trips blur together in your memory?) and it was terrible. My husband and I both rank it as our worst Disney dining experience ever. My steak was kind of chewy and uninspired, whereas my husband’s was so bloody that he had to send it back (and I’ve never seen him send anything back!). I also remember the cheesy side dish and the tiramisu being underwhelming. We’ve never bothered going back, since there are so many other yummy places to eat at the World. However, based on all of the positive feedback here, we may have to give it a second chance.

  8. says

    That looks so yummy! The last time that I ate at Mama Melrose was in July 2009. The food was “meh” at the time, so I’ve opted against another trip during subsequent visits. However, I think that this post might have just changed my mind! Thank you for sharing such a lovely review!

  9. Suzanne says

    Good review! I’ve heard a lot of bad things about this place and hadn’t really considered it! I may have to review my ADRs for my next trip now! Thanks!

  10. Kerri says

    I completely agree here! Mama’s is a wonderful restaurant. You can tell the kitchen takes pride in the food they serve. The waitstaff is always friendly and helpful. Our favorites are the crispy calamari…the dipping sauces are fantastic, the strip steak, and the carne d’italia flatbread!

  11. TK8286 says

    Have to agree ! The five cheese pasta and steak was better than several meals I had on our last trip. Great atmosphere!

  12. Joy says

    We were just there on Sunday and while we enjoyed the food, our server was not great. She seemed annoyed that we didn’t order cocktails and we didn’t get the tomato butter or olive oil with our bread. She hardly visited our table at all during the meal.

  13. nicole says

    We booked an adr here just to try the steak and macaroni and cheese, hoping it’s still there on November 15th when we are there. :)

  14. Diane says

    Boy am I sorry I didn’t eat here when I was in WDW last month! It was 20 years ago the last time we ate here and although we really enjoyed the meal then, we just never returned. I’m definitely going to have to eat there the next trip. That steak…my mouth is still watering from your picture, I hope it’s still on the menu. If it aint broke…don’t fix it Disney! Thanks for the great post.

  15. Lauren says

    I’ve always loved the Food at Mama Melrose’s, and I really appreciate the quirky decor. I hold my Italian food to high standards (it’s a New Jersey thing, I guess) and they hold up strong. I also find that the Fantasmic Dinner Package provides a great value if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan – you get an appetizer as part of the package, in addition to the dessert. I had the mozzarella/tomato app, the wild mushroom flatbread, and about half of the dessert platter by myself (the rest of my party was full – more sweets for me!!) Quality of food was high, and everything tasted very fresh.

    My big complaint has always been the service. It’s traditionally been very slow, but this was GLACIAL. We arrived in the middle of a particularly violent rainstorm, so we were 5 minutes late for a 4:30 reservation. It was 4:40 by the time we were seated. While we were able to place our order quickly, it was 5:00 by the time the appetizers arrived, and 5:50 before we received our entree (!!!!). Dessert arrived rather punctually, but I was astounded that it took over an hour after placing our order to deliver our food. We addressed this politely with our server (I have very little spine, so this was hard for me!), who seemed to have been avoiding us, and she became rather waspish after this was brought up. I had expressed to her that we had a 6:00pm reservation for the Frozen Sing-a-Long as part of our VIP package, but we didn’t actually get the check until 6:40 – this was from a 4:30 Advanced Dining Reservation! I think it was more than fair to budget an hour and a half for a sit-down meal, but this was over two hours and we missed what was supposed to be a perk of the VIP package (thankfully the Cast Member working the final show of the evening allowed up the priority seating). Just really rubbed me the wrong way.

    I’d go again for the food, but I would give myself a HUGE time buffer, as it’s not the first time dinner has run over there. Wouldn’t they want a higher table turnaround, especially during a busy evening?

  16. Nadia says

    I love reading your posts. We have been three times. Our first visit was beyond horrible. The next was fabulous. Our most recent visit, we waited 45 minutes to be seated, my son’s steak was so full of gristle he couldn’t eat it and the rest of our meals were just passable, service was non-existant (we had to flag down other waiter to be waited on) and there was a mix-up with our bill. It was so disappointing. I don’t think we will be going back.

  17. Mark says

    Our favorite Italian in the parks. Much better than the two in Epcot. I will admit though that they are not the most efficient. Just like being in Italy. :)

  18. Keith says

    “Honestly, it’s every bit as good — and probably better — than many of the steaks at Disney Signature Restaurant spots.”

    Just a guess, but you’ve probably not dined at Shula’s or Bull&Bear? It’s a pretty good steak, but don’t get carried away

  19. Georgeanne says

    Keith,
    Shula’s and Bull and Bear are NOT disney signature restaurants. This blog has featured amazing, detailed reviews of both of those places. They certainly are in a league if their own. But again, not Disney restaurants, so I don’t think the author was getting “carried away” at all.

  20. says

    Keith — Yep, I’ve dined at Shula’s and Bull and Bear several times, five of which I’ve written up for the blog. I’ve had the tomahawk as well as several other steaks (and their great burger in the lounge) at B&B, and filet and ribeye at Shula’s. Have also had great steaks at Jiko, Flying Fish, Citricos, Narcoossee’s, Le Cellier, Artist Point, California Grill, etc. (I LOVE steak ;-D) Honestly, my Mama Melrose steaks have been on par or better. Crazy, right? But I call ‘em like I see ‘em ;-) Thanks for your comment!

  21. Beth says

    We ate there in July for the first time. Food was great but service and pace of food delivery was poor. We were a party of two and it took 2 hours from start to finish and we are eat and leave people. They have a wrench in their seating procedures somewhere…either too many reservations at one time or the host stand is not trained well in when to seat a party. There may not be adequate communication between the host and what is happening in the dinning room. Kitchen back ups are normally a result of too many orders into the kitchen at once. Are the servers stations to big for the servers to handle? Maybe… Plus I noticed many people come into the restaurant on the Disney Dining Plan and don’t understand how it works!! I can’t believe how many times I have watched a serve explain the plan to a table and answer their questions for over 5 minutes, while their other tables need drinks or plates cleared or (my favorite) there is something wrong with you meal and the server doesn’t come over to check in after entrée delivery. Just some observations…

  22. Jenny says

    We ate here for the first time in September as a part of the Fantasmic package. The food was nothing special but, I had to comment on how slow and bad the service was! Surprisingly, we didn’t wait long to sit down but, then the waiting game began. Our server seemed overwhelmed (too large of a service area?) and like she did not want to be there. We were celebrating my birthday and wedding anniversary and we were both wearing pins. Our server did not seem to notice our pins or the fact that it said what we were celebrating on our dining receipt! She said nothing to us! I ordered a lemonade and I seriously didn’t get it until 20 minutes later! A short time after I got my lemonade, we finally received our bread. After our server took our order, we did not see her for the rest of our meal. I mean, we seen her walk by our table and help others but, she didn’t bother to check on us. We waited around 20 minutes for our food too! Everything was taking so long that we asked for our check and for our desserts to go. She came back with our check and a box of three mini desserts. We were on the dining plan so, I’m not sure why we received three mini desserts that we did not get to select. Overall, a waste of a dining credit. It took so long that we skipped Fantasmic. Extremely slow and poor service is what I received at not one, not two, but three Disney restaurants during my vacation. Is this the new norm for Disney Dining?

  23. Deborah Thompson says

    We have eaten at many of the restaurants at Disney World since we are passholders and spend a lot of time at the Parks. NEVER have I been as disappointed as I was when we went to this location. It was my birthday and we had reservations. They set us way off in the corner and it took forever to just get a drink. The server was nasty and very poor at her job. The meal was tiny and not good at all. They never celebrated my birthday at all. We complained before leaving but no one seemed to care. We will never go back to this location.

  24. Joe B says

    Good review.
    We dined here in ’99 & the food was so bland that we didn’t return until 2010 when we decided to give it another chance. It was such a pleasant surprise that everything was really good this time. We’ve been going now yearly and haven’t been disappointed yet except for maybe when they removed the wood plank tuna which was delicious. My regular go to is the Seafood Arrabbita (previously Fra Diavolo) which is quit tasty.
    I’m a big Tiramisu fan but wasn’t crazy about their Semifreddo version. The cheesecake is good but I enjoy the Panna Cotta the most. All in all Mama Melrose is never the highlight of our yearly trip but we do enjoy it enough to keep returning. Your review actually has me looking forward to our upcoming reservation on Nov 11th.

  25. says

    I love your review of Mama Melrose and you’re completely right about their steak, its better than so many ‘signature’ restaurant steaks on property! Far too many people don’t get this restaurant the fair chance it deserves when it has reasonable prices, great atmosphere, and great food! Truly the gem of the studios!

  26. Amanda says

    So, so glad for this review!!! I’ve booked the Fantasmic Dining Package at Mama’s for our trip, and some have said it’s so-so. But I love Italian, and this makes me pretty confident that we’ll enjoy our food.

  27. Emily says

    I’m eating here for the first time in July, so far I’m going toward the steak as I’ve heard so many good reviews about it! The only thing which puts me off, is the macoroni and cheese that comes with the dish, would the substitute the Mac n cheese for vegetables or not?

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