Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano Review
Mama Melrose’s is an Italian restaurant in Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. This dining review features food photos, thoughts on the quality, our experiences here, value for money, and how Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano compares to other themed table service options at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
In terms of basic background info, Mama Melrose’s participates in the Disney Dining Plan and also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. Unless you’re ordering the Charred Strip Steak, Mama Melrose’s is typically not a good use of table service credits on the Disney Dining Plan. Out of pocket, you can generally do well at Mama Melrose’s, with a few entrees under $20, and others just above that amount.
This review comes as many readers have been encouraging us to revisit Mama Melrose, a restaurant at which we hadn’t dined in nearly a decade. We weren’t impressed with what we had at the time, but weren’t necessarily averse to the menu. The bigger sticking point for us was the restaurant’s theme, which we feel is boring as compared to alternatives at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Unfortunately, our recent experience at Mama Melrose’s was not a positive one. When restaurants have been recommended to us by many people, it makes it a bit more difficult to do reviews like this. I felt a bit guilty reading comments replying to our scathing review of Tony’s Town Square. It’s certainly not my goal to make people feel badly about things they enjoy.
If you are a fan of Mama Melrose’s and might be upset by it discussed in an unflattering light, maybe stop reading now? Our disappointing experience at a restaurant doesn’t negate your enjoyment of it, and we certainly aren’t of the belief that our opinions are the gospel. As with Tony’s, we can understand why some people like Mama Melrose’s, and reasonable minds may vary on it (or any restaurant at Walt Disney World, for that matter). If it’s any consolation, Mama Melrose’s doesn’t take the crown from Tony’s Town Square as “worst Italian cuisine at Walt Disney World.”
With that said, let’s start by taking a look at the restaurant’s theme and backstory…
Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano is a Disney-MGM Studios original, dating to the early years of the park. Originally, the restaurant was to be part of an expansive Muppet Studio area, and would be called the Great Gonzo’s Pizza Pandemonium Parlor, which would feature a variety of props and gags.
By the time those plans fell through, the Great Gonzo’s Pizza Pandemonium Parlor was already in development. Needing to be reworked without a Muppets connection, Imagineers came up with the official storyline that a young girl from a small village in Italy fell in love with Hollywood and set out for America with dreams of a career on the big screen.
To pay the bills, she cooked for her friends in showbiz. She had a larger than life personality, and studio moguls dubbed her Mama Melrose, after Melrose Ave. The nickname stuck, and eventually, she opened an Italian restaurant at the behest of her Hollywood friends, which showcased her eclectic and vivacious personality.
Housed in a prop storage and equipment warehouse in an area that was used by the studios for shooting movies based in New York City’s Little Italy, Mama Melrose quickly became a popular spot. Serving Cal-Italian cuisine, Mama Melrose’s earned a reputation as “where Italy meets California in the heart of the Backlot.”
In summary, the backstory is that this is a Cal-Italian restaurant on a backlot in Los Angeles, that is used for filming scenes set in New York City’s Little Italy. This means the fake for-the-cameras setting is New York City and the peel-back-the-curtain “behind the scenes” setting is Los Angeles. Italy is not the setting, but there’s Italian-inspired ‘stuff’ on display because of the Little Italy connection.
If you’re confused, you are not alone. The original Disney-MGM Studios got a little too clever (in my opinion) with how it framed these setting-within-a-setting restaurants, and none of them work as well as the official backstory suggests. It’s the same deal at Sci-Fi Dine-In, but I’d argue that the theme works fine there if you just ignore the behind the scenes elements, which are easy enough to do.
By contrast, spending a little time perusing the walls and details at Mama Melrose’s is more confusing than anything, as it’s a hodgepodge of stuff from Italy, New York City, and Southern California with little discernible reason as to why it’s all there. Well, now you know why, but that explanation is probably still a bit lacking.
Setting aside the official backstory, the decor in Mama Melrose’s is not terrible. It feels like the home of an eclectic grandma who proudly displays every random things her friends and family have given her, with little rhyme or reason as to why.
Nevertheless, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant and 50’s Prime Time Cafe are both much stronger options than Mama Melrose if you’re wanting a fun option at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Those are the crème de la crème of themed dining at Walt Disney World, and both are at roughly the same price-points as Mama Melrose.
Mama Melrose’s is more homey and charming than it is themed; it’s like the precursor to Buca di Beppo. In my estimation, that’s part of the problem. This atmosphere is now synonymous with the Buca di Beppo chain, and those restaurants arguably do it better. It doesn’t matter that Walt Disney World did this first.
If you’ve been to that chain, you might think, “oh, this is the Disney version of Buca di Beppo” upon entering Mama Melrose’s. In fact, I’d say Mama Melrose’s is similar to Buca di Beppo in more ways than one. Speaking of which, let’s move on to the food portion of this Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano review…
Bread service is pretty typical, with standard rolls accompanied by some olive oil and herbs.
The bread was warm from the oven and doughy, and were surprisingly tasty. Much better than the cold/old crusty bread I was half expecting. So far, so good.
Continuing with the House-made Italian Meatball with Marinara, Fresh Ricotta, and Basil. This is a special blend of…none of us can totally remember. I think short rib and pork.
Regardless, it was surprisingly good, with the meatball itself being flavorful and rich without being overly fatty. Everything about the dish was of a higher quality and attention to detail than we’d find in any of the entrees.
Likewise, I really enjoyed the Mushroom Flatbread (“Roasted Cremini and Button Mushrooms with a Roasted Vidalia Onion Spread topped with a Fontina and Asiago Cheese finished with Balsamic Reduction and fresh Herbs.”)
The mushrooms were hearty and savory, and the creaminess of the spread and cheese worked well with the tang of the balsamic reduction. There was perhaps a tad too much balsamic, but this is still something I’d absolutely order again, if I returned to Mama Melrose’s, and it’d be a go-to appetizer elsewhere.
For my entree, I had the Seasonally-inspired Chef’s Selection, which was braised short rib over risotto.
This was probably the highlight of the entrees, which isn’t saying a ton. While I did a terrible job with this photo, you can see the pool of oil at the bottom of the dish; the overly greasy, fatty, and creamy nature of the dish dragged it down. I can get behind an indulgent plate of short ribs, but this was just too much.
Not terrible, but too heavy–especially on a hot day in a theme park. The portion size is also much larger than it probably appears in the photo. I ate it all…and felt like taking a 3-hour nap afterwards.
Sarah ordered the Polenta Cake, Mushroom, and Herb Cauliflower (“Polenta layered with Sautéed Mushroom, Spinach, and Red Pepper with a Cashew-Cheese Sauce.”)
The thinking here was that this would be healthier and lighter relative to the rest of the menu. It was not. As you can see, this was also very oily, and that somehow didn’t do anything to enhance this relatively flavor-less dish. The vegetables weren’t fresh, and there was nothing interesting about it.
I tried this as well, eager to see if Walt Disney World’s improving vegan options had spread to Mama Melrose’s. They have definitely not.
Next, we’ve got the Mama’s Italian Pasta with Shrimp (“Spaghetti tossed with Roasted Garlic, Tomato, fresh Basil, and Asiago-Herb Crostini”).
As far as options at Mama Melrose’s go, this is a fairly safe option. Neither the pasta (overly-chewy) nor the shrimp (also overly-chewy) will wow you, but at least there’s a lot of it…I guess?
Finally, the Seafood Cioppino (“Shrimp, Mussels, Calamari, Fish, and Spaghetti tossed with spicy Cioppino Sauce”).
If you like rubbery seafood in bland sauce from a can, this is perfect for you! In fairness, there is a generous portion of seafood here and the spicy tomato sauce isn’t half bad, but it’s nothing special. Not a terrible choice if you find yourself at Mama Melrose’s and don’t want something richer.
Having had our fill of oily, salty, heavy, and large entrees (plus, if we’re being fair, delicious appetizers), none of us were in a position to have dessert. That’s slightly unfortunate, as there are a variety of traditional options that I generally love, and prices aren’t too bad. Oh well.
Overall, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano is one of our least favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World. First and most obvious is that the entrees just are not good. However, even if you are craving comfort food, you can just as easily get that in a much better setting at either 50’s Prime Time Cafe or Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. If you want good Italian cuisine, you’re better served by a multitude of restaurants at Walt Disney World, including a couple that are a short walk from Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That leaves Mama Melrose’s in no man’s land; even if you get what you deem to be a satisfactory meal here, you could’ve done better elsewhere.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have you dined at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano? Do you agree or disagree with our review? What do you like or dislike on the menu here? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
We have tried MM three times over the years mostly as part of the package for Fantasmic. Unfortunately the fare was way below standards for Disney and Italian food. Greasy would be the word on the plate. Your comments were spot on on this one. It is to bad it has to be this way. They need to send the chefs to my neighbor hood and talk take some lessons from my grandma. I grew up in an Italian/Jewish/white melting pot of a place. Is their any other Italian restaurants in the parks to compare this to? It would be interesting. As sophisticated as Disney is its hard to understand why MM is still the way it is. As always thanks for your commentary.
Mama’s has never disappointed. We all enjoyed the food quality better than Hollywood Brown Derby during our Thanksgiving Week 2017. Mama’s has always been consistently good from our many experiences dining there.
Tom, come to WDW in August and borrow my 10 year old for a day (or 4). He’s old enough to walk on his own and afford a new angle to a day at each park. We will be doing the 2nd MNSSHP and I love reading you’re posts but would like to get one with a new angle. We are Split staying club level YC and WL if you want to catch those too. I have seen you with family but never a review of a day with kids and I am sure many followers, like us, HAVE kids.
It’s aggravating to read poor restaurant reviews, unfortunately, I can only see this getting worse as crowds increase.
My good people,
Do not settle for mediocre Italian food with long waits inside the parks (I had a reservation at Tony’s at the Magic Kingdom and STILL waited 45 minutes). Plan your day at the parks as usual while dining on quick service meals here and there and then head over to Disney Springs at night for some very good and inventive Italian food. You still get the great Disney vibe and you don’t have to leave the area. You will not be disappointed and at least you will receive a quality meal for the somewhat high price that you often pay at Disney. Mangia!
We love the Steak!! First time eating at Mama Melrose this past May and it was great! Husband and I both had adult beverages and the Steak and Mac. Son had the salmon and virgin daiquiri, enjoyed both. Daughter had cheese pizza, as she was 2 1/2 at the time not terribly picky about her pizza except you can’t say it has cheese on it.
We found the bread service was tasty and the steaks, hubby orders medium rare, me medium well both turned out perfect. We could not finish our plates and took to go along with the dessert samplers to finish back at our resort. My husband has picked as a definite for our return trip!
Ok thanks I’ve seen good reviews of the steak and Mac so good to see another good review. Will plan to try that when we go to Mama Melrose. HS doesn’t seem to have the best dining but to get the Fantasmic package and give my kids their spaghetti happiness this should be a good decision for our family anyways.
I whole heartedly disagree with you. In fact if you do the fantasy of package getting a 3 course meal and a pass for fantasmic, it is it the best use of a single table service credit. I used to agree 110% with you on many posts and views. However as of recent I feel you are only good with opinions of young couples or singles traveling.
Yes! The charred steak and 4 cheese macaroni are amazing. My family makes a reservation to Mama Melrose’s every single visit and we won’t be stopping anytime soon. Sounds like Tom and Sarah should have ordered differently.
fully agree here. i’ve been i think two times in my life and refuse to go back. the first was in the advent of the fantasmic dinner package and i don’t remember the food being anything worth writing home about. the second and final time was about 10 years ago, again for the dinner package, and it was AWFUL! everything we ordered had a terrible burnt taste, and the flatbread was completely inedible due to being totally black on the underside. the pasta was rubbery. just everything overall gross. i won’t be back. i really wish 50s and/or sci fi offered the fantasmic dinner package, because the three that do are places we don’t have interest in.
After 25 years of going to WDW I finally ate here for the first time last week. I have to say it beat my decidedly low expectations. We were also fairly
impressed by the bread rolls and mushroom flatbread. Knowing WDW’s dismal track record with red sauce, I went for the chicken Campanella which was actually pretty good. Then again, it’s relatively hard to screw up a cream sauce.
Many times it is hit and miss with some of the restaurants; but I was there about 15 years ago with a girl scout troop. It was awful. We never went back. But I have to disagree with you about Tony’s. Enjoy all your reviews, even when I disagree with them but that is not often.
“Neither the pasta (overly-chewy) nor the shrimp (also overly-chewy) will wow you, but at least there’s a lot of it…I guess?” I suppose your “I guess” part means something, but the picture you included of the Italian Pasta with Shrimp does not remotely look like there’s a lot of it. Did you eat some of it before the picture was taken? You don’t say when you were there, but I just looked at the menu to see the price of this “lot of it” dish. It’s been changed. This dish apparently no longer has any shrimp. So I’d be even more disappointed if I got such a small portion and paid $18 for it.
We’ve eaten here twice as sit down dining options at HS have been fairly limited over the last two years. The food has been fine. Not great not horrible. But the attitude of the wait staff both times was off putting bordering on rude. Understand, we are neither high maintenance nor demanding guests. Both my husband and I hopped tables early in in life and we generally are over solicitous to all restaurant employees. The first time our waitress actually sneered at our food choices, disappeared after our food appeared so that we had to get up and hung down our own flatware, and told us to “cool it” when we asked her to hurry with our check so we wouldn’t miss our next FP (who h we were only in danger of missing because the restaurant service had been so poor).
We tried MM again as part of a Fantasmic package and while our service wasn’t as bad as our first visit our waiter’s attitude could best be described as surly. So “never again” is our motto now.
We just returned from a week at Disney and again struggled to find a decent place for dinner at the Studios (we wanted a place that took reservations since we had my parents in their 80s with us). We didn’t feel like paying the Brown Derby prices (2 other expensive meals planned). We decided to go for just burgers and fries at sci-Fi dinner. The food and service were HORRIBLE! We got there at 6:45 and the place was half empty even though they were taking their time seating folks. We all got milkshakes, burgers and fries and we were not out of there until AFTER 8:45. No appetizers. No deserts. My father who ordered last said I’ll also take a chocolate milkshake. Clear as day! The waiter kept asking him if that was a regular or special and pointing and glasses with glow cubes 3 times my father said NO just a regular chocolate milkshake. He brought our drinks and everyone got a milkshake but my Dad chocolate milk!!! We had ordered 2 other chocolate milkshakes with no issue. The milkshakes were great but the burgers and fries so bad that I ate less than half. So over 2 hours for BAD food and since we were a party of 6 the tip wasn’t included! We didn’t want a FAST meal but for what we got it took WAY too long
I think with a lot of these places it is hit and miss every time. We were at Melrose on Christmas day this year and it was a fine meal. We have been here many times and find it fairly consistent in being good. We often go to 50’s as well. The past time, again over the holidays, was not good. Food was bland and the usual flair in service was just not there. The Sci-fi experience has its ups and downs as well. So in many cases you just have to take a chance and hope whatever you chose actually works out when you visit.
We have eaten here a few times in the past due to Fantasmic packages. The vegetarian lasagna was pretty decent and the flatbreads were pretty good. Marinara sauces (pomodoro) were not overly salted and pasta cooked perfectly for us. Too bad you did not try the tiramisu.
For us, it appears Disney is turning more toward ‘flights’ on their DDP meals. We are not particularly pleased.
See, I don’t quite get why the de facto conclusion isn’t: get an Uber because I tell you all to never have a rental car and head to the newest Central Florida location of Buca di Beppo in Celebration for very similar fare or even the Macaroni Grill in LBV.
It just seems like your starting point is always that people will be in WDW and should never leave because there’s no MAGIC elsewhere. I have no pony in this race, Tom. I have dined at this place maybe three times with the last well over a decade ago. I don’t disagree with your opinions of the food or decor. Same as your opinions on Tony’s. And you even know your history here. But it seems like even when you write a bad review of something at WDW, your conclusion is simply go elsewhere at WDW. How about, if you want great Italian at WDW, simply go to the scary Swan Hotel and eat at Il Mulino. Otherwise, you are getting largely crap at Disney prices. That pizza place at the Italy pavilion has gotten such an overrated opinion largely because the bloggers and lifestylers have loved it. It’s not that good!
If you want good quality basic American Italian at low prices with HUGE portions, than go to Buca. Very simple conclusion. May not get you a free Halloween Party in June admission (although I am sure you’ll get one), but it won’t feel increasingly like you are not only a brand advocate, but a WDW brand advocate at that.
BTW, did you see WDW is, apparently, offering a four days for $195 ticket through June 30th? And why do so many Orlando hotels have such availability and low rates now? Yes, I am sure it’s all for the opening of Galaxy’s Edge. … But how about a blog post on this great ticket deal. Personally, I feel WDW parks are worth about $49 a day, so this seems fair.
His reviews are about Disney World… Not about Florida. I think you should find something else to read most likely
When I am in the theme park with my children the logistics of going somewhere else offsite are a non-starter. Whether or not anyone thinks that’s a poor choice is irrelevant to me. I’ve decided that the hassle of moving all those bodies around just isn’t worth whatever I save on a meal. It is what it is.
I know I am a captive audience, and there is better value and better food to be had elsewhere. For me, it’s about finding the best options in the park, and for that reason I find these reviews very helpful.
We plan to do a few meals offsite. We will be driving so do not have to stay onsite. We will when it’s convenient or to try a specific special meal at Disney World. It’s nice to have the option. Being stuck with only what’s onsite would be stressful for me.
Where did you see the four days for $195 advertised? I don’t see it anywhere.
Pretty sure that ticket deal is only for Florida residents so it probably wouldn’t be pertinent for most of his readers….
I am not in the USA currently, so I have no idea what the specifics of the ticket offer happen to be. I would guess many of Tom’s readers who frequent WDW happen to live in FL. But they have also done deals targeted at DVC members (my AP last year was half priced, or what it was worth, for example). I think telling people these exist serves more of a purpose than say … a review of a crappy QSR or the latest Starbucks mugs. Yes, I know this isn’t my blog … blah, blah, blah … but I am offering an opinion.
Frankly, my larger point in the above post was Tom’s steadfast refusal to tell people to spend their money elsewhere. It’s almost like the conclusion is the premise: you start with all your money is going to Bob Iger and Bob Chapek and Company and work your way back. For a worldly travel blogger that wants to be seen as fair and balanced, it comes off a bit disingenuous when one can visit WDW and even stay at WDW and not give all their dining dollars, for example, to Disney. But the premise is you are trapped in a non-existent bubble and if you cross the purple arches your trip will be ruined. Bad and vastly overpriced food served by disinterested individuals can ruin a trip for me. Driving 10-30 minutes to a better option off-site or even at Disney Springs doesn’t seem like a bad option when you have an open mind.
Our last meal here in 2018 was a big disappointment. I agree that there are much better choices at that price point.
Yeah I’m a little nervous about eating there but we have the Fantasmic package so at least we get reserved seats for that. Our kids all love spaghetti so had to have one night on our trip with spaghetti lol
We’ve eaten there 3 times each time because of the Fantasmic package and we are on the dining plan (which I don’t care for, but the only “deal” at the time we booked. We are scheduled to go there again this fall for the same deal. I did not care for the buffet there the year we did it, but wondering if we should give it a try again??
We ate here in December and found the bread very good. Our meals, all pasta choices were just good.
And thank you for the back story info. I had no idea why the decor was all over the place!
We end up here every few years as one of our kids always requests Italian as their dinner of the week. (The way we travel as a non-squabbling family is everyone gets to pick a restaurant and some fast passes). Keeps the peace knowing you will get your dining location/ride, at some point during the trip! The rest of us have to suck it up if we aren’t particularly thrilled.
We loved Mama Melrose’s. I got the chicken parm & subbed the spaghetti for fettuccine Alfredo & the Alfredo sauce was really good.
I do agree that it’s too heavy for a day in a hot park but any Italian food would be. We went at the end of Nov & it was cold so it didn’t bother us.
I would absolutely go back!
I guess we’ve had better luck at MM’s. We’ve eaten here several times over the last many years and have enjoyed it (a lot). Now, we are not into seafood, so maybe that is why our entrees have had better luck than yours. Regardless, thanks for the thoughtful review.