“There are SO many restaurants in Disney World, I don’t know which ones are even worth my money!!” That might be a phrase you’ve said to yourself many times when planning your Disney World trip (especially if you’re a first-time Disney World visitor). But those stressful days are behind you friend, you’ve come to the right place.
Here at DFB we’ve got it all. A page dedicated to the best Disney World restaurants? We have it. A Disney World restaurants guide? You betcha! A list of the top restaurants for 2022? It’s all yours. And today we’re taking a look at one specific Hollywood Studios restaurant so YOU can figure out whether it’s worth your time and cash.
For today’s visit, allow us to transport you (virtually) to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and a little spot called Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano!
In case you’ve never heard of it, this is a sit-down restaurant located in Hollywood Studios that aims to serve up Italian eats with California charm. You see, once upon a time, there was a woman named Mama Melrose. She traveled to California to become an actor, but it turns out her Italian cooking was the real star.
The restaurant now draws from her two heritages — Italian and Californian! And that’s something you’ll see reflected in the decor.
On the outside, there are colorful banners with the restaurant’s name, combined with a nearby painting of the Mona Lisa…but it looks like she’s gotten a bit of a Hollywood makeover!
Be sure to take a second and look at some of the details outside the restaurant. These often get forgotten as you rush to eat your meal, but they’re worth checking out.
As you head inside, there are more details to look for. Take a close look at the photos of the celebrities on the wall. These are reportedly photos saved from the old MGM “Star Today” promotion that brought some celebrities to the park to sign autographs for guests.
But the details go beyond the celebrity portraits. You’ll even find a dog with a hidden Mickey spot!
Once you’ve moved past the entrance and check-in table, you’ll get transported into a world of twinkling lights, greenery, tables, and all kinds of signs and photos.
The restaurant is mainly one big space, but it is broken down into about 3 sections. There are standard tables and chairs, along with some booths.
Once you’re taken to your seat, you’ll find a napkin, silverware, some plates, and a menu with a QR code for you to scan.
Then, it’s time to start selecting your meal!
Mama Melrose’s menu consists of many menu items you’d expect to find in your standard Italian spot, as well as a few unique things.
On the appetizer menu, you’ll find a flatbread, a house-made Italian meatball, minestrone soup, and other options.
For the entrees, there’s everything from Mama’s Italian Pasta and spaghetti with meatballs, to strip steak and a cauliflower plant-based option.
There are also some desserts to pick from, including gelato, tiramisu, and mini cannolis.
On the menu, you’ll also find options for kids…
…beer and wine (this is just part of the wine selection)…
…cocktails (this is just part of the cocktail menu)…
…as well as liqueurs and wine flights.
Now, let’s take a look at what we had to eat!
We’ve been to Mama Melrose’s a decent amount of times within the last few months — once for a regular review and another time to check out some of their menu changes and newer options. Now we’re back again to give you our updated thoughts!
Our meal started (as usual) with some bread and olive oil.
Pro tip: while bread and olive oil can be yummy, don’t fill up too much on these standard options before your REAL meal arrives!
Then it was time to dive into our appetizers. We started things off with Vine-ripened Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella. This appetizer features a Balsamic Drizzle, Olive Oil, and Sweet Basil Leaves, and is priced at $12.
This was actually quite tasty! It’s basically a Caprese salad, but hey, sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that!
We wished the tomatoes had been sliced a bit thinner, but other than that it was a fairly solid dish — tasty and simple. It might not blow you totally out of the water, but it’ll satisfy you. We also felt like it was a pretty good portion size, making it nice for sharing!
Next, it was time to try the Crispy Calamari. This is served with Spicy Pickles, Spicy Aïoli, and Fresh Lemon. You can get this for $15.
In the past, we’ve felt like the calamari has been fried well, but the Spicy Aïoli has really been the star of the dish and an awesome addition, elevating it past other calamari dishes you might find.
This time, the dish once again proved to be pretty good! It had a great crunch and wasn’t overly chewy (thank goodness!). And it was flavorful thanks to the sauces and spices. The spicy pickles were a little spicy — with just a tiny kick to them! But the spicy aioli wasn’t spicy at all, so don’t let that scare you away.
It was also a pretty good portion size, making it good for sharing. It can have some fishiness to it (it IS calamari after all), so it’s one that those who hate fish should probably steer clear of.
More of a soup person? At Mama Melrose’s you can grab the Minestrone Soup with Ditalini Pasta. This is a plant-based dish that is priced at $9.
In the past, we’ve felt like this dish has been adequate, but nothing special. When we last had it, it tasted like plain ole minestrone soup — not unlike something you could grab at the grocery store.
But this time things seemed to be a bit better (or maybe our reporters simply have different preferences)! We actually thought the soup was pretty good. It was essentially a vegetable soup, but this time we felt like it was packed with flavor and felt very comforting.
One of our team members who tried the soup actually eats a plant-based diet, and they shared that they felt like it was very flavorful for being plant-based. They even told us that they liked it enough they might consider getting it on a hot Florida day. Now that’s some serious soup love!
Last, from the appetizer menu, we grabbed the House-Made Italian Meatball. This is served with Marinara, Fresh Ricotta, and Basil, and is priced at $13.
The last time we had this dish, we thought it was REALLY good and flavorful, but quite dense. The marinara sauce we had last time was also pretty sweet, though the ricotta helped balance things out. So what did we think this time?
Well, it was still a sizable and good meatball, made with pork and beef. It was tender and had some great flavors going on. It wasn’t spicy at all, so don’t worry about that. The marinara was solid, but not anything special in our opinion. Overall, this time we felt like it was good but might not totally blow you away.
Next, it’s entree time! First, let’s tackle a plant-based option, the Polenta Cake, Mushroom, and Herb Cauliflower. This dish features Polenta layered with Sautéed Mushroom, Spinach, and Red Pepper with a Cashew-Cheese Sauce. It’s priced at $21.
This actually KNOCKED one of our reporter’s SOCKS OFF. We aren’t kidding folks. This is a dish you might really want to try!
Our team member who tried it and is a plant-based eater was totally astounded by the dish, and even our reporter who doesn’t stick to a plant-based diet was really impressed (and might even consider ordering it over the other menu options they tried during their recent visit)!
Now, let’s go over some disclaimers. The cashew cream sauce, which is meant to emulate “real” cheese, in no way emulates real cheese. Our plant-based eater said that it really should be considered a separate category of food as it really doesn’t encapsulate real cheese. But if you’re a plant-based eater, it’s likely a flavor and texture you’re very familiar with.
Just because it’s not the same as “real” cheese doesn’t mean it’s bad though. In fact, in terms of cashew cream sauces, our reporter shared that this is one of the BEST they’ve ever had because Disney was actually able to get the sauce to be creamy and not grainy. It’s just something to be aware of if you’re not a plant-based eater. The other sauce on the dish was more like one you’d find on chicken marsala.
The mushrooms were incredibly flavorful and the sauce truly was addictive. Our plant-based reporter said they wished they could eat it EVERY day.
Next, we opted to try the Grilled Bone-In Pork Chop. This is served with Creamy Polenta, Roasted Tomatoes, Mustard Vincotto, and Charred Broccolini, and is priced at $28.
When we had this before, we thought it was cooked well and had a nice char, but the polenta was a little offputting because it was gritty. So, what was it like this time?
Well, the pork itself was very juicy and tender but wasn’t seasoned well, which was unfortunate. Though it was juicy, it really just didn’t have much flavor and was bland.
The broccoli in the dish was cooked well, which was great. And it soaked up allllll those juices from the pork, making it extra tasty.
The real star here, though, was that polenta (this time)! It was SOOO creamy and cheesy and just absolutely wonderful. It also had a fantastic texture and was dense in a great way.
We found it to have a sharper cheese flavor, so just keep that in mind. Just goes to show that sometimes a particular person may love something while another dislikes it, or sometimes a dish can be fantastic one day and not so great the next. Things change a lot.
Then it was time for some pasta. We went with the Spaghetti and Meatballs, served with House-made Marinara, and garnished with Pecorino Romano Cheese and Parsley. This entree is priced at $24.
This was pretty good, but nothing special. It could be a great pick for picky eaters though.
The meatballs weren’t spicy at all, so don’t be concerned there. They tasted pretty similar to the house-made Italian meatball from the appetizers section. Overall, it was good, but nothing outstanding and isn’t something we’d go out of our way to order again in the future.
Finally, we ended our entree portion with the Oven-baked Chicken alla Parmigiana, which features a Breaded Chicken Breast with Marinara Sauce topped with Melted Mozzarella over Spaghetti. It’s priced at $26.
When we last had this dish, we thought it was…good. We found the marinara sauce to be a bit too sweet and the chicken was very thick, which we didn’t love. But the breading was good and crispy in the right spots.
This time, however, another DFB reporter tried it and they had a different opinion! Our reporter who tried it this time said that the Chicken Parm was actually really good! They shared that it had a nice crunch (just like last time), but they really loved the HUGE, thick portion! They also felt like the chicken was cooked really well.
Just goes to show you that things can totally differ depending on who tries it or who prepares it! While this wasn’t exactly one reporter’s cup of tea, another really enjoyed it. Where do you think you’d fall?
And finally, we ended our meal with dessert (of course!). We started with the Mini Cannoli Trio, priced at $10. This comes with an Orange Cream, a Caramel-Butterscotch, and a Traditional Cannoli with Chocolate Chips garnished with Chocolate Sauce and Powdered Sugar. These are newer offerings that got added to the menu around June of 2022.
This was pretty good, but, unfortunately, the cannolis were smaller than we expected. When they say “mini,” they mean it!
The butterscotch cannolo was good and had a strong butterscotch flavor. The pastry struck a nice balance between being soft and crunchy, which we really liked! The chocolate cannolo was good too, and we loved how there were chocolate pieces in the ricotta!
The next dessert we tried was the Cherry-Chocolate Cake, priced at $8.50. This is actually a plant-based chocolate cake served with a Morello Cherry-Pomegranate-Molasses Sauce.
According to our plant-based eater, the cherry chocolate cake was ridiculously good! Despite being plant-based, everyone at the table (including eaters who eat dairy and other non-plant-based foods) was trying to grab a bite. It seemed like the most popular dessert at our table!
What we really enjoyed was that while it says it’s a cherry-chocolate cake, the fruits included weren’t just cherries. There were also pomegranates and other fruits that really added a strong tartness!
The sauce drizzled on top was nice, and the cake itself was shockingly moist. We really think Disney did an amazing job of making a plant-based dessert that did not taste plant-based, and also provided a flavor combination that was a fun alternative to what you find all over the parks.
This one was a total winner in our book — totally unique and delicious!
Then it was time to try the Colors of Italy Cheesecake. This dessert is made with a Lemon Cheesecake layered with a Raspberry Marmalade and Olive Oil Cake topped with a Whipped Raspberry Panna Cotta and finished with a Raspberry-Basil Sauce garnished with Sparkle Fresh Raspberry halves. WHEW. That’s a lot of ingredients! You can get this cake for $8.
The last time we had this, we REALLY liked it and found it to be deliciously light and refreshing.
This time, the cake delivered on flavor once again, with some caveats. We found it to be very raspberry-forward, to the point where it was almost overwhelming. But if you’re a raspberry fan, you’ll probably LOVE that. The olive oil cake was absolutely delicious though. Unfortunately, the cheesecake had a bit of an off-texture. Our reporter shared that it coated their mouth and sort of stuck around even after they had swallowed it, so just be prepared for that.
Aside from that texture issue, the cheesecake as a whole was very tasty and really pretty. The glitter on the raspberries was pretty fabulous, so it definitely gets points for presentation!
Finally, we ordered Mama’s Cookies to Go, which is a newer offering (having been added in June of 2022). This is priced at $11.50 and comes with an assorted box of Cookies and Biscotti including a Lemon Crinkle Cookie, Pine Nut Cookie, Butter Cookie with Nonpareils, and Double Chocolate-Almond Biscotti.
The cookies were actually really fun, especially since they came all packed up in a box. These are classic and felt pretty authentic. The texture and flavor of these cookies were great and we loved that they were able to be taken with us on the go. If you’re looking for something sweet to munch on as you walk around the parks, this could be a good option.
And that’s it for our meal at Mama Melrose’s! Let’s go over some final thoughts.
Nosh or Not
Head to Mama Melrose’s if:
- You’re looking for classic, standard Italian eats
- You’re looking for a sit-down, indoor, air-conditioned dining spot in Hollywood Studios
- You want some AWESOME plant-based cheese sauce and a fantastic plant-based dessert
SKIP Mama Melrose’s if:
- You are looking for especially cheap eats
- You want food that is going to BLOW YOU AWAY 100% of the time
- You want unique food you can’t get anywhere else
In the past, we’ve pondered whether Mama Melrose’s is essentially the Olive Garden for Disney World. In some ways, it can be. The chicken parm, spaghetti and meatballs, and some of the other dishes we had were pretty standard Italian fare and were good, but might not blow your mind. Other things, however, were a bit more unique and delicious. The plant-based sauce with the Cauliflower dish and the plant-based cherry-chocolate cake were especially delicious, according to our plant-based eater.
The interesting thing here is that some dishes can truly be hit or miss. One of our reporters found the minestrone soup they had on a previous visit to just be okay, while a reporter on this most recent trip said that it was very flavorful. The same happened with the Chicken Parm — certain aspects of it did not appeal to our previous reporter, but our reporter on this trip really liked it.
This could be due to changes in the dish itself (where it’s prepared especially well one day and prepared differently another day), or simply due to the preferences of our own reporters. But it’s something to keep in mind. What we loved (or didn’t) might not end up being what you enjoy. And things could change from visit to visit.
Overall, Mama Melrose continues to deliver good, standard Italian fare in a fun environment, with a few stand-out dishes. Is it the restaurant you’ll be talking about for months after your trip? Maybe not. But will it fill you up, leave you satisfied, and maybe even surprise you with a few especially good dishes? Probably!
What do you think? Do you absolutely love Mama Melrose’s? Would you want to try it on your next trip? Let us know in the comments! And stay tuned for more reviews.
Tell us your thoughts about Mama Melrose’s in the comments!
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