REVIEW: Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano Revamps (Almost) Entire Menu at Hollywood Studios

    Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano has a nearly completely new menu after an April 2024 revamp, and we made it out to the Italian restaurant to review the new items!

    Mama Melrose’s Theming, Backstory, and Location

    Because it’s been a while since we’ve done a dining review for Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, we’ll give an overview of the restaurant’s theming and what you can expect from a non-food perspective.

    Location

    Mama Melrose’s is located in the Grand Avenue section of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. More specifically, the area is Grand Park, formerly (and unofficially) known as Muppets Courtyard. Other offerings in this section of Hollywood Studios include the MuppetVision 3D attraction, the barely open PizzeRizzo, the almost never open It’s a Wonderful Shop Christmas shop, and the (also almost never open) Stage 1 Store.

    You’ll find Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano hidden away past all of the offerings listed above. The location is rather unassuming and blends in well with the theming of the area. Here’s a look at the entrance to the table-service restaurant.

    Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano Review | Theming

    Backstory

    Once upon a time, a young girl from a small Sicilian village moved to Hollywood to become a star. However, she soon found that cooking was her true calling as she re-created her papa’s secret recipes for her starving actor friends.

    At their urging, she opened a restaurant in a vacant backlot warehouse once used to store film equipment. Mama’s culinary talents soon attracted the patronage of film industry insiders, who dubbed her Mama Melrose, after the lively Los Angeles thoroughfare. Her establishment became known as the place “where Italy meets California in the heart of the Backlot,” and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Theming

    The second you step inside, you’re immediately met with a nearly overwhelming amount of theming that feels completely natural (for an eclectic grandma). The lobby (pictured below) is simply a transition space from the outside world into Mama’s world of celebrity photos and an eclectic collection of just about anything you would imagine you’d find in the space.

    Every guest will walk by the open kitchen where the smells of the restaurant carry through into the dining room located to the right of the photo below.

    The dining room is broken into a few different sections, each containing collections of stuff, string lighting, and a dimmer-than-pictured-below setting. Here’s a tour of some of the dining spaces and details you can find throughout the restaurant.

    Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano New Menu

    The reason for our visit was simple: is the new Mama Melrose menu worth it?

    On April 1st, Disney World rolled out a nearly completely revamped menu for Mama Melrose, and we wanted to see if the new dishes would change our opinion of the location. In general, Mama Melrose wasn’t at or really near the top of our list for dining at Hollywood Studios. Again, we haven’t reviewed the dining venue in years, but we haven’t felt a compelling reason to. The consensus was that Mama Melrose was a somewhat average dining location with average or even below-average Italian cuisine.

    When the April 2024 menu revamp was announced, we immediately booked a reservation to see if the menu revamp would tip the scales. Here’s a look at the menu presented to us during our April 1st dinner.

    We generally find that most readers have their minds made up on drinks, so we generally skip them during reviews, and we skipped them during our recent dinner too. Plus, reservations were running some 30 minutes behind when we checked in, so a quick trip to BaseLine Tap House was in order.

    Here’s the updated dessert menu too. We’ll get to dessert in a bit.

    New Appetizers

    Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano Review | New Appetizers

    While Disney World announced a few new dishes last week, we found that the menu overhaul was far more expansive than originally announced. With most of the appetizers being new, we had to pick and choose what we could eat while still trying to save room for entrees and dessert. Here’s what we settled on.

    Tomato Bruschetta | $14

    Heirloom Tomatoes, Pickled Fennel, Grilled Scallion, Herb Crostini

    Welcome to Goat Cheese: The Restaurant. We’ll start with the Tomato Bruschetta, which is a previously unannounced appetizer that was one of many dishes that were finalized within the last day or so prior to the April 1st rollout of the new menu.

    We’re suckers for a good goat cheese, and the goat cheese in this bruschetta certainly stole the leading role. In fact, it was a bit of a one-dimensional flavor profile in that the goat cheese was so present. That’s not to say that it was bad, because it certainly wasn’t, but we would’ve loved to have seen a bit of competition for the leading role. A balsamic glaze was the first thing that came to mind.

    The herb crostini did provide a herb-y flavor, which was nice, but the pickled fennel got lost in the mix. The tomatoes were fine, and the microbasil always makes for a nice addition to photos, if nothing else.

    At $14, we were left wanting a bit more from the flavor profile. The portion was good, especially for sharing.

    Mushroom, Artichoke, Cheese Dip | $14

    Goat Cheese, Tomatoes, Toasted Crostini

    Continuing our culinary tour of Goat Cheese: The Restaurant, we have a dip that was previously announced.

    A less herb-y crostini will be your edible spoon of choice here for a dip that is hard to pull yourself away from. The goat cheese is certainly present in not only the flavor, but in the texture as well. A baked top layer gives way to a creamy dip below. Unfortunately for this review, the camera was put away once we dipped our first crostini, and the dish was gone before we knew it.

    In terms of flavor, the goat cheese is, once again, in a leading role, but there is something else here that added just the slightest suggestion of spicy heat. I hesitate to use the word “spicy” here for fear of scaring readers away from a rather delicious dip.

    Whereas the Bruschetta left us wanting a bit more, this dip was fully realized and something we’d definitely order again.

    Fried Mozzarella Sticks | $15

    Marinara Sauce, Lemon Aïoli

    $15. Fifteen American dollars. That’s a lot of money for fried mozzarella sticks. Or maybe I’ve lost touch. Either way, the reasons we ordered these instead of some of the other new dishes are because they were previously announced and because they’ll be super popular due to how accessible they are to a wider variety of palates.

    Before we get to the highlight of this dish (the sauces), here’s a closer look at one of the sticks pulled apart.

    The mozzarella sticks themselves are what you’d expect. There is a nice crust and we thought that the sticks were a bit larger than expected, but not large, if that makes sense. The real highlight of this dish, and the reason that I stopped being angry about $15 mozzarella sticks is the sauces.

    The marinara was better than average, but the real highlight was the lemon aïoli. With all of the lemon flavoring without any of the tang, this sauce was awesome! It has the texture and even the underlying flavor of an aïoli, immediately and noticeably enhanced by the presence of the lemon flavoring. And it’s not just a lemon flavor on the tongue, it stays in your mouth long enough for you to consider stealing more than your portion of the shareable and diving back in for more.

    Entrees

    Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano Review | New Entrees

    Once again, we find ourselves with more new entrees than previously announced. A bit overwhelming when you sit down thinking that you only are going to get a few items and then are presented with a substantially different menu. Anyway, that’s my problem, not yours.

    In terms of the returning items. They are returning in spirit, but not fully “old” by the letter of the law. The fish has been changed to a grouper, but it could always change based on market conditions, so we skipped it. The NY Strip Steak is only very slightly different than the old Charred Strip Steak. The four-cheese panacotta of old is now a bacon lardon mac & cheese gratin – not enough to earn our $36 in a review focused on what’s new.

    In fact, we only ordered five of the six new entrees, masterfully avoiding a third goat cheese dish (for now). With the appetizers mostly cleared from the table, it was time for the entrees!

    Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp | $32

    Pasta, Cheese Sauce, Fresh Basil

    All of a sudden, the $36 NY Strip Steak is looking pretty good. Looking around the restaurant, there were a lot of fettuccine alfredo dishes being delivered to a lot of tables. That said, there were not a lot of empty fettuccine alfredo dishes at the end of the meal.

    Optional with either shrimp or chicken, the fettuccine alfredo dish was below average, and perhaps far below average. The point of failure here was the sauce, which was far too thin, almost to the point of being watery. For a dish that will likely be very popular due to familiarity, the quality has to increase significantly before we can recommend it.

    Braised Pork Osso Bucco | $30

    Creamy Polenta, Roasted Cipollini Onions, Sweet Peppers, Lemon Gremolata

    I originally wanted to save the best dish for last in this review, but we need to turn things around quickly. Without bringing a ruler to dinner (an idea for next time), it’s hard to say just how much larger this dish was versus my expectations. We’ll go with softball-sized for now.

    The large pork shank has a bone protruding through the middle, adding to the already wonderful flavor introduced by the glaze and other accompaniments on the pork itself. We didn’t expect to write this when we sat down at Mama Melrose’s for dinner, but this dish reminded us of Jiko – The Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Yes, you read that right, Jiko.

    The bone in the middle of the pork shank was easily removed as the pork slid right off. An extra fatty layer around the bone was something we avoided, but it might be something that others enjoy. The creamy polenta base was wonderful, and the lemon gremolata introduced hints of citrus throughout the dish. This is a winner for sure!

    Rigatoni Bolognese | $26

    Ground Beef, Italian Sausage, Parmesan

    Ok, with the ship righted a bit and the review back on track, we’re going to go back to ranking low to high for the rest of the entrees. Keep in mind that we’ve got the Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp in last place and the Braised Pork Osso Bucco in first place. Here’s an updated look at the current standings:

    1. Braised Pork Osso Bucco
    2. ???
    3. ???
    4. Rigatoni Bolognese
    5. Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp

    The Rigatoni Bolognese is a decent dish and is executed well. While the rankings only show one place difference between this and the fettuccine, they are worlds apart. The meat sauce was nicely made, and the rigatoni was cooked well. If you’re going to go for a “basic” pasta dish at Mama Melrose’s, make it the rigatoni. Personally, I usually gravitate toward something a bit unexpected when paying for table service at Disney World, but there are a variety of palates and this will suit pasta lovers well.

    One last tasting note is that the dish may look a bit dry, but we didn’t have any dryness issues at all.

    Prosciutto and Honey Pizza | $22

    Parmesan, Ham, Red Chili Flakes

    Our third place dish is the Prosciutto and Honey Pizza. We really enjoyed this, perhaps more at the table than at home for leftovers, but a to-go box is the name of the game when you’re eight dishes deep. You won’t have that “problem” should you visit Mama Melrose’s and have a more sensible approach to dining.

    Before we move on to our closer shots of the pizza, have one more look at the photo above. There is a lot of crust here. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as the crust is nicely made, but it’s certainly noteworthy for those expecting a more traditionally American presentation.

    Ok, with that out of the way, it’s time for a closer look at what’s going on with these toppings. I fail to remember a time in my life when I was presented with a thicker cut of prosciutto. Texture-wise, it’s closer to bacon or pepperoni than a thin-sliced prosciutto. While I quite liked it, the consensus at the table was that it was just too thick.

    What made this pizza interesting was the delicious four-cheese base and the honey. After a couple of slices, you could really start to feel the sweetness of the honey starting to build up on your palate, and a sweet pizza was a delicious pizza. Thick prosciutto aside, this is a solid number three on our list of entrees.

    Mama’s Italian Pasta with Chicken | $30

    Bucatini Pasta, Kale, Roasted Garlic, Cherry Tomatoes, Parmesan

    What a gem of a pasta dish! I’m actually eating some leftovers as I write this review, and it is divine. It’s a strong number two on our list, and I would suggest that it might be interchangeable at the top spot with the Braised Pork Osso Bucco – high praise!

    We’ll start with the “bad” of this dish before moving on to what makes it excellent. We were a little underwhelmed by the chicken. It was drier than I would’ve liked.

    That said, the dish as a whole was the opposite of dry, which made up for the chicken. Exhibit A:

    Are those whole garlic cloves I see?

    A nice surprise was the use of Bucatini pasta instead of the old version of the dish that used spaghetti. The larger noodle with a hole in the middle really soaked up the phenomenal sauce that was light, fresh, and contained a hint of citrus. This pasta dish won’t weigh you down with that heavy-carb feeling that is ever present at Italian restaurants. That said, you won’t be hungry afterward either, because we found the portion size to be good, especially if you dabble in the appetizers at all.

    Speaking of appetizers, we need to mention the bread service before we move on to dessert. While there is a new House Garlic Bread appetizer, you will get a basic bread service for free…for now. We’re told that there is chatter that might lead to the free bread service being discontinued, but as of right now it’s still available. Something to keep an eye on.

    Dipping oil made fresh right at the table

    Here’s our final ranking of the new Mama Melrose’s entrees that we tried:

    1. Braised Pork Osso Bucco
    2. Mama’s Italian Pasta with Chicken
    3. Prosciutto and Honey Pizza
    4. Rigatoni Bolognese
    5. Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp

    Desserts

    Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano Review | New Desserts

    Mercifully, one of the three new desserts was already sold out on the day that we visited. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure that I need to describe a flourless chocolate cake, but the blood orange sauce certainly piqued my interest. Perhaps another time. Let’s see what new desserts were available and if they’re worth the extra $10.

    Pasticciotti Cream Tart | $10

    House-made Tart with Pastry Cream and Frangipane dusted with Powdered Sugar served with an Amarena Cherry Compote

    At this point in the evening, we’re starting to wear down our server and once-willing participants helping me eat through this dining review were also starting to show signs of fatigue. That is to say that once the preliminary photos of the dessert were taken, there were no follow-up photos of the interior of the tarts. Instead, I’ll be forced to use words.

    This dessert was more chilled than we would’ve liked, and the pastry itself was quite thick. Thick enough that the texture was offputting. The cream inside the tart was wonderful, and the frangipane was delicious – not artificial-tasting at all. The cherry compote was nice, but not needed (which is a good thing).

    Goat Cheese Mousse Tart | $10

    Topped with Honeycomb and an Edible Flower served with Blackberries and a Cassis Compote

    Somehow, the goat cheese has returned.

    Just when you were starting to think you weren’t going to have to read the words Goat Cheese: The Restaurant again, we’re back. This time, we’re greeted with the undeniable flavor of goat cheese in tart form. The pastry itself was nicely cooked and of a manageable thickness.

    The real highlight of this dish is the honeycomb that starts to slowly spread across the top of the tart once the plate hits the table. The honeycomb really elevates the tart and plays nicely with the goat cheese.

    The compote here has two blackberries, and really does a decent job of taming the goat cheese flavor if you’re goat cheese’d out, which we might be at this point.

    Is Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano Worth It?

    With a nearly completely revamped menu, is Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano worth a visit in 2024? In our opinion, the needle has moved from ‘no’ to ‘yes’ with this most recent menu update. While there will still be stronger options food-wise in Hollywood Studios such as The Hollywood Brown Derby, and stronger options theme-wise such as Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant and Roundup Rodeo BBQ, the Mama Melrose’s menu update should at least grab your attention.

    There are some real winners on the menu such as the Braised Pork Osso Bucco and Mama’s Italian Pasta with Chicken. There are certainly dishes to avoid such as the Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp and (probably) the Pasticciotti Cream Tart, but we think that the restaurant is no longer an immediate write-off when planning your vacation.

    While the April 2024 menu update is a solid and much-needed change, we still struggle a bit on where to place Mama Melrose’s in the Hollywood Studios restaurant lineup. If you’ve already done some of the must-do’s like Sci-Fi Dine-In and find yourself looking for a “new” place to eat on your next trip, this menu update is strong enough to earn Mama Melrose’s a second glance.

    As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!

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