Today, it’s time to check back in on one of Disney’s more hidden eateries — Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
As I’ve observed before (and many of you have agreed), you just never know what you’re going to get when you dine at Mama Melrose’s. Sometimes it’s mundane, and sometimes it’s great — and it’s the “greats” that keep me going back for more! What will it be today? Here we go!
Not much has changed in the atmosphere department since my last trip to Mama’s. We were greeted with the same general decor that we found on previous visits: warm, cozy, inviting, and slightly bizarre.
…The story goes that Mama came west from Italy to make her name in Hollywood. While the actress fame didn’t pan out, she opened her “Ristorante Italiano” and gained a place in the heart of her new city that way! And so, the interior reflects the journey from Italy all the way to Hollywood. Though I feel like there’s a hearty helping of New York City’s Little Italy in there, too.
We arrived on time for our Spring Break reservation, but we had a bit of a wait before our table was ready. (Full disclosure — I asked for one of the rare window-side tables so that my photos would come out a bit better, so that might have been why the wait was longer).
While we waited, the kitchen staff were busily assembling delicious flatbreads, so we took a few minutes to watch.
Mama’s boasts a woodburning oven, which makes for terrific, crisp-tender flatbread crust. And flatbreads are definitely something the restaurant is known for!
The dining room itself is the same sort of bizarre flavor plus cozy Italian grandmother’s kitchen. It’s like I’m peering into a quaint family restaurant in Little Italy!
And I think it always pays to look up in Disney restaurants, because the Imagineers never leave details out, not even when it comes to light fixtures (one of my favorite things to check out in any themed restaurant!).
Check out the mismatched shades on this chandelier. You can picture Mama making do with what she could find at the local tag sales!
Along the walls are photos of Mama’s favorite celebrities, records from her favorite singers, and other fun Italy-meets-California memorabilia. However, those of us who know that Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened at the end of the 1980’s are starting to see a little wear in the decor…
The lobby sports head shots of some of your favorite 1980’s stars (luckily, my husband and I have been watching a lot of “Newhart” lately). And based on the pictures around our table, you’d think Roger Rabbit was an up-and-comer in the Disney character community.
One of my favorite parts of this table, though? This view!!!!
Ba ha ha ha!!! Oh, Kermie.
OK, on to the good stuff (not that 1980’s TV stars and giant Kermit eyeballs aren’t good stuff).
My last couple of visits to Mama’s have been good, but not “I-can’t-WAIT-to-go-back-there” good. I was content in only visiting once every couple of years to see if anything had changed, then move on to other restaurants.
But this meal was a bit different! Perhaps it was the great window table where I could actually see what I was eating. Perhaps it was the superstar service from Legacy-Award Winning cast member, Kevin (ask for Kevin — you won’t be disappointed). But we had a great time, and a great meal, at Mama’s.
The drink menu offers many of the standard Disney cocktails, but you will find a few surprises as well. For fans of Italian wines, there are many to choose from, both in the red and white categories. There are also a few pleasing choices from California vineyards (bringing in Mama’s California tie-in) that pair well with Italian food.
Menu items provide a good variation of Italian favorites, even if there isn’t anything particularly original here. Sometimes, it’s all about the comfort food, you know?
I decided to start my meal with a little libation, and settled on the Cali-Meets-Italy selection, the Italian Surfer. While the mixture of Parrot Bay coconut rum, Amaretto, and fruit juice was a bit sweeter that I normally like (a little sweet and sour, please?), it was really good, and so pretty with the fruit garnish.
We started with bread service, your typical Hollywood Studios bread roll accompanied by some olive oil and herbs. The bread was warm from the oven, though (thanks, Kevin!), which made it much more appealing than the “old/cold” version of the same.
For an appetizer, I couldn’t wait to sample a dish I’d heard a lot about from readers! Mama’s Antipasto for Two!
This truly was a standout. The selection of Genoa Salami, Prosciutto, Gorgonzola, and Fontina — my absolute favorite — was both familiar and impressive. Portion size was perfect — finally, some BIG cheese servings at Disney! — and everything that I tasted (pretty much everything but the olives; you’re on your own there) was delicious.
A bazillion points to Mama’s for this app. Now showy or superfluous…just high-quality, rustic, and hearty.
The Caesar Salad was somewhat standard when compared to the antipasto platter. This one neither wowed nor offended, and if you need a caesar during your Italian food meal, this will serve the purpose.
For our entrees, we decided to give the Chicken Parmesan another try. Chicken parm is one of my husband’s favorite dishes, after all. The last time we visited it was fine, but nothing to write home about.
But we were much happier with it this time. The chicken was juicy and a good temperature throughout, with the melted cheese brown and bubbling on top. Nestled on a perfectly-sized portion of spaghetti covered in marinara, there was a good pasta-to-chicken ratio in every bite. He was pleased. 😉
I chose the Penne a la Vodka — another highly-touted dish that I’d never tried before. While it was very good, I have ONE itty-bitty complaint. I REALLY really wish I had known from the get-go that all of the amazing bacon-laced, creamy tomato sauce had settled to the bottom! I would have searched for it much earlier in the journey!
Here’s a Tip from your Aunt AJ: be SURE to mix the pasta up with a few good and thorough flips before you dig in to the dish so that the yummy sauce evenly coats the penne. 😉
Here’s another tip — don’t be afraid to play with your food. To bring even MORE flavor to the party, I added some of the Gorgonzola and Fontina from the antipasto platter into the penne. Once it got all melty and delicious it added a whole new dimension to the dish! YUM!
When it came time to order dessert, we were interested to see a few new choices on the dessert menu. And, for us, chocolate was the name of the game that day!
We started with the Chocolate Cannoli Cake. It was so beautiful on the plate!
Breaking through the Nutella ganache topping into the moist chocolate cake crust, we found a decadent, creamy, rich center, studded with candied orange peel. The tuile garnish on top was crisp and light, and offered a good contrast to the other components, including the Chianti red wine sauce! Way to go, Mama’s.
But, believe it or not, the designated superstar award of this meal, hands down, goes to the Chocolate Amarettini Cheesecake!
While this is clearly a pre-made dessert, it was truly one of the best cheesecakes that I have had in a long time. Seriously. I could have eaten seven of these. Had I known how good it would be, I might have been tempted to skip my entree altogether in favor of dessert for dinner!
Don’t you want to just dive in?!?! Seriously — amazing.
I have said it before: when Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano is on, it is a great experience. This was truly one of those times. From the impressive and generous antipasto, right through to the desserts, we could not have had better food.
To top it off, Kevin, our server, was a superstar! By the time we finished our meal, we felt like old friends. We’d also like to give a shout out to the folks who made it possible for us to have that coveted window seat. Thanks to them, we were able to get these fantastic food shots for you!
Have you tried Mama Melrose’s for the first time recently, or have you given it an encore opportunity? What are your impressions?