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

So, it had been far too long since I’d been to Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, and it was high time to head back.

Located in the Backlot area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Mama’s is a hodgepodge, with all sorts of Hollywood memorabilia smooshed into an old fashioned Italian restaurant.

The food here can be inconsistent (surprise), so you never really know what you’re going to get. But my past two visits have been great, so I was excited to check it out again.

Let’s take a look at my most recent lunch here, and see where this meal falls on the Disney Restaurant Continuum. (Wait til you see the picture of the STEAK!!!)


Mama Melrose’s is, well, a little strange. At first, it appears to a typical old-fashioned family restaurant that might be found in any large city’s Little Italy section.

Dining Room View From Outside

But once you move beyond the brick facade and really start to look around at the curious surroundings, you might inquire about the backstory to clear up the confusion.

The story behind Mama Melrose’s is a little “We Made This Story to Fit the Space.” But here goes.

A young girl from Italy with stars in her eyes makes her way across the US, in hopes of finding fame and fortune in Hollywood. But during her starving artist days, she found that her cooking was more successful than her acting.

Dining Room Inside

And so, she opened a restaurant at the urging of her friends in a vacant warehouse that had previously been used to store film equipment. Nicknamed “Mama Melrose” by her patrons, she gained the fame she was looking for — but it came via her authentic Italian cooking.

Since Mama was a poor, struggling actress — and a recent immigrant to boot — the dining room is set up with what she could find to make it cozy and comfortable. Low lighting from strands of lights give it a soft glow. (And who doesn’t love those little white lights?)

And chandeliers are mismatched — sometimes, right down to the glass globes around the bulbs.

Mismatched Shades

Quirky Lighting

Wall hangings celebrate Los Angeles, Mama’s new home, and her roots in Italy.

Wall Hangings

Of course, it is an Italian restaurant, and so you’ll also see foods — dried and cured sausages, cheese, pasta, and fruits and veggies — hanging around as well.

Food Decor at Mama's

Walls also hold pictures of [Read more…]

Review: Sommerfest in Epcot’s Germany Pavilion

Editor’s Note: New entrees and side items were recently added to the menu.

Alrighty, all — it’s time to take a little field trip to Deutschland!! We’re headed to Sommerfest!

This place is as simple and what-you-see-is-what-you-get as possible, but sometimes simple and easy is exactly what you need on a long Epcot touring day. When you don’t have an advance dining reservation and you’re headed toward Epcot’s Germany Pavilion, you might consider stopping at this little counter service spot!

Sausage. Pretzel. Beer. Cake. What more do you need? Let’s check it out!


Atmosphere is kind of limited, since this is basically in the giant stone waiting area of Biergarten, the pavilion’s table service restaurant. That said, the waiting area itself is very well themed and has a fun old world feel to it. That’s really something I love about the whole Germany Pavilion.

Mural Welcoming Guests

Sommerfest is located at the back of the Pavilion. Head through the “town square,” past the counter selling beer and Jägermeister on your right, to the awning that reads “Sommerfest Snacks”.

Outside View

Turn the corner to the left, and you’re there! It really isn’t much more than a serving counter. You’ll head back out to the sunshine to find a seat in the square by the fountain once you get  your food.

Speaking of seating — there’s not much of it. There are a few tables scattered inside the big covered area, and a couple of them outside as well. But if you’re visiting during prime meal hours or a busy Disney season, those WILL all be taken when you get your food. Many folks perch on the edge of the fountain, or even sit on the ground to eat up.

And one other thing — there’s almost always a line here. But your patience will be rewarded.

Cast Members at Sommerfest

Cast Members here, who are from Germany of course, know [Read more…]

Snack Series: Triple Chocolate Cake in Disney World

We’re SO excited about the Grand Launch of our DFB Mini-Guide to Magic Kingdom Snacks e-Book, 2013 Edition! In honor of the book, I’d like to share a favorite snack from the Magic Kingdom today!

Don’t forget to pick up your copy with the limited time discount!! Get $2 off TODAY with code Magic13 at check-out!

Chocolate Cake -- one of many snacks in the Magic Kingdom!

Triple Chocolate Cake in Disney World

This is one of the varied “counter-service” desserts you’ll find in Disney World on your visit — many of which are lackluster. And that’s initially what I feared about the chocolate cake! Would it be any good?

I decided to get it on a visit to Tortuga Tavern because I’d never had it before (and I never want there to be any food at Disney World that I’ve never had before…).

Tortuga Tavern Menu

I took the cake to an outdoor table and snapped some shots. It looked good enough, with that ooey-gooey frosting and the Mickey sprinkles…

Inspecting the goods...

But, like I said, I’ve been burned before when it comes to counter-service desserts!

I soon dug in…and was MORE than impressed! This cake was moist — not at all dry or crumbly like my previous experiences with counter-service cake — and the frosting was super fudgy. Even better, it really packed a dark chocolate punch of flavor.

Inside the Chocolate Cake

Maybe my standards were just set low, but I really did [Read more…]

Guest Review: California Grill at the Contemporary Resort

Today, we’re welcoming Alex F. with a signature dining review. Alex takes us with her to the top of the Contemporary Resort for dinner at the California Grill! Let’s go…

I have been to Disney World over 20 times and I have always wanted to write a review. So, finally I decided that on my latest trip, I would take pictures and review California Grill at the Contemporary Resort. I hope that this review is helpful and enjoyable!


California Grill, a signature dining restaurant located on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort, features unique views through the walls of windows and the two observation decks.

While dining here, you can either have close up aerial views of the Magic Kingdom from one side of the dining room, or distant views of Epcot and Hollywood Studios from the other (you can see Spaceship Earth, the Swan and Dolphin hotels, and even the Tower of Terror).

Table by the Window with Magic Kingdom View

To access the California Grill, you must check-in on the 2nd floor to the right of the escalators. Years ago, you were able to simply go straight upstairs and check-in, but that has all changed. Now, once you have checked in, you can head over to a special elevator just for [Read more…]

Review: Black Forest Cake Roulade at Epcot’s Sommerfest

I’ve always spied the desserts at Sommerfest in Epcot’s Germany with envy. Apple Strudel, Bavarian cheesecake, and…Black Forest Cake Roulade! For any cherry and chocolate lover (like yours truly), this was a must-try…


Located just off to the side of Germany’s picturesque cobblestone town square, Sommerfest has all the look and feel of a 16th century German town. You will feel like you’ve left Florida behind as you walk among the buildings, smell the sausages and sauerkraut, and hear the polka music wafting in.

Sommerfest in Epcot's Germany Pavilion

There are a few tables inside, but this is a great spot to grab a bite and eat outside al fresco style.


Sommerfest really is a hidden gem among the counter service options in World Showcase. You can choose from a couple of sausages (Bratwurst or Frankfurther), both served German-style with sauerkraut. And those lovely hand-twisted pretzels (NOT the same as the other Disney soft pretzels, mind you) is also an option.

But today was the day I was finally going to indulge in that Black Forest Cake Roulade I’d been eying for a year or so.

Sommerfest Menu - Click to Enlarge

A rolled cake, sandwiched together with whipped cream around a cherry compote, and then covered in chocolate flakes. You totally want to dig in, right?

Black Forest Cake Roulade

The outside was coated with [Read more…]

Review: Big River Grille and Brewing Works at the Boardwalk Inn Resort

Today, it’s high time that we share with you our thoughts about the one and only working microbrewery at Walt Disney World, Big River Grille & Brewing Works!

Located at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort, the American pub-style restaurant features a primo location to see and be seen right on the Boardwalk. But, I’ll be right up front with you and tell you now that this has NOT been my favorite place to eat at Disney in the past.

However, we came to it with an open mind hoping to find some improvements on our last visit. We were rewarded with a much, much better experience than in times past! What did they do right on this visit? Read on…


The entrance to the restaurant on the Boardwalk, beneath an awning bearing the restaurant’s name.

Big River Grille & Brewing Works

Once inside, you’ll notice that there are three distinct seating areas within the restaurant: the bar area to the right; the seating area to the left, a rather nondescript space; and a patio area offering great views of the Boardwalk, the lake, and the Yacht and Beach Club on the other side of water. (You may even see the tops of Illuminations fireworks from here.)

There are a few good reasons to head over to Big River Grille:
1.) It’s normally pretty easy to get into, so if you’re hungry and don’t have an advance dining reservation, or you’re at Epcot or Hollywood Studios and would like to skip out on the park crazy for a while, this can be a good place to come for a bite and a sip.

2.) As I mentioned above, it’s the only working microbrewery at Disney, and the beers are quite popular! (More on the beer a little later.) It’s also pretty cool to look around the interior and see just where your brew is being produced.

Brew Kettle, Big River Grille

3.) Finally, while I don’t love the [Read more…]

Guest Review: Pinocchio Village Haus — Now With Flatbreads!

We’re welcoming back guest author Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley with a review of Pinocchio Village Haus. And since the new menu was recently revealed, we’ll also include a review of one of the new flatbreads available!

After recovering from One More Disney Day, I headed back into the Magic Kingdom where I found myself exiting Mickey’s PhilharMagic to the realization that I was starving.

That’s when a Cast Member with a puppet waved at me, and I knew what I had to do.

No strings!


Tucked between the new Fantasyland construction walls and it’s a small world, Pinocchio Village Haus is a bit confusing. It’s in Fantasyland, and the food is Italian, but the restaurant itself is based on the Bavarian architecture that Walt and Lillian Disney were so fond of.

Pinocchio Village Haus

In fact, it’s set in a little German village, where there’s oompah playing over the speakers and you order lunch in what appears to be a charming courtyard.

Once you’ve got your food in hand, it’s time to [Read more…]

Guest Review: ‘Ama ‘Ama Lunch at Disney’s Aulani Resort

Aloha to guest author Anderson Dun! A native of Hawai’i currently living in Arizona, he brings us a delicious review of ‘Ama ‘Ama at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawai’i. Let’s hear it from an expert!

While I didn’t have a chance to stay there, I just knew that I had to visit the Disney resort and have a meal there during my trip home to Hawai’i. I thought about eating at Makahiki buffet, but after reading some good reviews of lunch at ‘Ama ‘Ama, I decided to try it out.


Pre-Lunch Visit to Off the Hook Pool Bar

When we first arrived at 11:10 AM, my mom and I were told that they were closed and didn’t have any openings until 12:45 PM. I was a bit surprised, but we took the time to wander about the resort.

The first thing we did was head next door to the Off the Hook Pool Bar. The pool bar is right next to the restaurant and offers food and drinks, but of course, we were [Read more…]

Disney Food Pics of the Week: Cake

Thanks to all who have contributed their photos to the Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza! Keep sending them along! This week, the Disney Food Pics of the Week feature one of my favorite foods — cake! But you’ll see that there are many different kinds of cake…

A stunning, and unique, view of chocolate cake at Les Chefs de France in Epcot! Photographer: Penglynns

Le Chefs de France Chocolate Cake

I’m so intrigued by this — I wish I could taste it. It looks so moist, and are those chocolate chips? Sweet Potato Cake from CakeLove’s Sweet Sundays demo at the 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival. [Read more…]

Food Post Weekly Round-Up: October 25, 2009

backlot noticeA quick reminder: As of Tuesday, October 27, 2009, Disney Advanced Dining Reservations have been moved back to 180 days ahead of arrival date! So those of you headed to Disney during the next six months, plan to be on that phone or online on Tuesday :)

On to the round-up, I’m amazed every week by the number of fun Disney food posts there are around the web. I’m so lucky to have found each and every one of these blogs and videos, and I hope you’ll benefit from (and bookmark!) these great sites. Lots of great information here this week… Away we go!

One of my favorite baking blogs, Cookie Madness, headed to Disney World a couple of weeks ago and returned with a fantastic trip report complete with photos from Citricos and Yachtsman Steakhouse. Also, be sure to check out her post about the S’mores Fudge from the Main Street Confectionery!

Everything Walt Disney World has an information-packed review of where to go to get groceries around Disney World, including a great FAQ about grocery delivery!

Okay, this one is from September, but I just found it and had to include (I LOVE this blog). So, Watch Me Eat spends some time at the Yak and Yeti Local Foods Cafe quick-service spot in Animal Kingdom. I love that they serve your food in take-out containers here.

The Disney Blog announces that Stone Crab Season has begun at Fulton’s! There’s even a special menu…

If you love chocolate cake, you’ll love this! The Mouse For Less has a fun article where 12-year-old chocolate cake critic, Max, rates five different Disney World chocolate cakes on a scale of one to ten!

Have $375 to burn on a great New Year’s Eve event? Disney Parks Blog announces the Victoria and Albert’s New Year’s Eve experience, beginning this year. Sounds divine…

The Orange County Register’s Around Disney Blog reports that Hook’s Pointe in the Disneyland Hotel has re-branded to become the only seafood-focused dining spot in Disneyland. The blog also posts a great round-up of where to find halloween treats and desserts in Disneyland!

Domestic Debacle posts photos and a review of the Polynesian Resort Spirit of Aloha Luau show.

Mommy Musings has a superb bunch of Party for the Senses Photos from the week celebrating “Classical Cuisine.”

In the Orlando Sentinel’s Daily Disney Blog (this is a new blog that’s in beta for the OS — very cool), Heather McPherson shares the recipe for Citricos’ Onion Tart.

etckt has a fun description of Hoop Dee Doo Revue, accompanied by a list-o-facts about the dinner show.

Finally, a couple of fun videos for you this week!

Chef Brian Piasecki, currently presiding over the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill, demonstrates the recipe for Le Cellier‘s Cheddar Cheese Soup in this cool video!

And Cat Cora, who’s new signature restaurant Kouzzina just opened in September, joins the muppets to promote Disney’s Give a Day, Get a Disney Day promotion!