We Tried the New Menu at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

Jason Diffendal

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We Tried the New Menu at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

If you’re wandering through Disney’s Hollywood Studios and find yourself in the Grand Avenue area, you might stumble upon Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano. Known for its cozy atmosphere and Italian-inspired dishes, Mama Melrose’s recently brought in a new head chef, and with that has made many menu changes. Disney announced on Instagram several of the new menu items, and several others were not announced.

Eager to explore these additions, our panel of diners embarked on a culinary journey to taste and critique each new dish. To provide a full restaurant review, we’ve noted which items are new below, and we’ve left in photos and thoughts from our last review for the menu items that have not changed substantially.

Location of Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

A screenshot of the overhead map of Disney's Hollywood Studios, specifically pointing out the location of Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano.

Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano is located in the Grand Avenue area at the back of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You’ll pass through Grand Avenue on your way to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

A zoomed-in image of the overhead map of Disney's Hollywood Studios, showing Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano

Eagle-eyed guests may spot Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano tucked in the back of Grand Avenue, located between the exit of Muppet*Vision 3D and PizzeRizzo, behind the still-shuttered Stage 1 Company Store.

Exterior of Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

The exterior of Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano

The red, white, and green flags along with the red and yellow striped awning direct you to the entrance of Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano.

Interior of Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

The lobby of Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano

As you enter, the lobby area transports you to somewhere vaguely Italian, but at least the restrooms are here so you don’t have to go looking later.

A wide shot of the Mama Melrose's dining area

Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano is themed as a typical Italian restaurant. Think Buca di Beppo vibes.

According to the backstory, the restaurant is known as the place “where Italy meets California in the heart of the Backlot.”

Menu at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

A reporter's hand holding a paper menu for Mama Melrose's.

Here’s a look at the brand-new menu (as of April 1, 2024).

A reporter's hand showing the beverages side of the menu.

The front side has the appetizers and entrees, while the back is full of beverages.

Bread Service at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

A photo of the bread service at Mama Melrose's.

The miniature ciabatta-shaped rolls have not changed. The rolls are warm, soft, and delicious. The olive oil accompaniment is very herby and lightly salted. We enjoyed this as a simple starter.

Rank out of 7: 7

Appetizers at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

A photo of all of the appetizers available at Mama Melrose's.

The six new appetizers on the menu are the Fried Mozzarella Sticks; Burrata Salad; Tomato Bruschetta; House Garlic Bread; Marinated Olives; and the Mushroom, Artichoke, and Cheese Dip.

NEW(ish) – Fried Mozzarella Sticks – $15

Marinara Sauce, Lemon Aïoli

A reporter's hand holding a plate of mozzarella sticks.

We labeled these as “new-ish” because it’s still just fried mozzarella. Now, five mozzarella sticks replace the two mozzarella planks that were previously on the appetizer section of the menu. The only benefit is that it’s now easier to share this appetizer. As before, however, there’s nothing special about it.

A plate of five mozzarella sticks sits on a table.

While these mozzarella sticks may not stand out from the crowd, they offer a comforting familiarity akin to what you might find at your favorite chain restaurant. The marinara sauce is basic, but we all liked the lemon aioli, which adds a delightful twist.

Despite their lack of originality, they make for a satisfying starter, especially when shared among picky eaters. For the more refined palate, there are better options, especially at $3 per stick.

Rank out of 7: 3

NEW – Burrata Salad – $14

Marinated Tomatoes, Fresh Pistou, Crouton Crumble, Balsamic, Fresh Lemon

A close-up of the Burrata Salad on a table.

The burrata replaces the previously offered vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, in an apparent attempt to bougie-up the menu.

A reporter's hand holding a bowl of the Burrata Salad.

This dish suffers from an imbalance of ingredients, as there is not enough burrata and a plethora of underwhelming tomatoes. While the burrata itself is decent, it is just half a ball. Anywhere else I’ve ordered burrata, you get a whole ball. The tomatoes were also not the fresh, ripe wedges this dish requires, but instead, they were the mealy, somewhat flavorless hothouse-grown type.

Overall, the execution of this dish leaves much to be desired. With some adjustments to the proportions and quality, this salad could shine.

Rank out of 7: 4

NEW – Tomato Bruschetta – $14

Heirloom Tomatoes, Pickled Fennel, Grilled Scallion, Herb Crostini

A plate of Tomato Bruschetta sitting on a table.

Among the appetizers, the tomato bruschetta emerges as a standout favorite. With fresh tomatoes and the perfect touch of balsamic vinegar, it delivers a refreshing burst of flavor.

Another angle of the Tomato Bruschetta sitting on a table

While it may be a bit messy, its vibrant taste makes it worth the extra napkins. We received 5 pieces, which makes it great for sharing.

Rank out of 7: 6

NEW – House Garlic Bread – $10

Roasted Garlic Spread, Parmesan, Marinara Sauce

A photo of the House Garlic Bread sitting on a white plate.

Unfortunately, the house garlic bread falls short of expectations. With bread that’s not very fresh and cheese that lacks flavor (which is more likely mozzarella than the advertised parmesan), it pales in comparison even to the complimentary bread service. At $10, it’s a pretty poor value, so we’d classify it as a skippable appetizer in a sea of more enticing options.

Rank out of 7: 2

NEW – Marinated Olives (plant-based) – $8

Orange, Chili Flakes, Herbs

A reporter's hand holding a bowl of marinated olives.

The olives, though not particularly remarkable, make for a decent appetizer choice, especially if you’re sharing with a group.

A bowl of marinated olives sitting on a table.

While they may not steal the show, their generous portion size and reasonable price make them a solid option for olive enthusiasts, but make sure there’s more than one olive enthusiast in your party!

Rank out of 7: 5

NEW – Mushroom, Artichoke, Cheese Dip – $14

Goat Cheese, Tomatoes, Toasted Crostini

new mushroom, artichoke, and goat cheese dip at Mama Melrose's

This new offering is another appetizer that is great for sharing, and it certainly left an impression. While the initial encounter with its unexpected firmness raised a brow, the flavors were all there.

Its consistency leaned more towards a spread, rather than a typical dip. Nevertheless, the flavors were delightful. The dominant notes of creamy goat cheese were harmoniously complemented by hints of artichoke and mushroom, hitting all the right taste buds.

close up of new mushroom, artichoke, and goat cheese dip at Mama Melrose's

However, our enthusiasm waned when it came to the accompanying bread. Though visually promising, the toasted crostini didn’t deliver the crispiness we were expecting. The flavors were fine, but the texture left us questioning its freshness.

Despite this minor setback, the overall experience of this dip was a flavorful triumph, offering a tantalizing blend of ingredients that certainly left us craving more.

Rank out of 7: 5

Fried Calamari – $16

Pickled Shallots, Marinara Sauce, Lemon Aïoli, Pepperoncini

A plate of fried calamari sitting on a table

This dish has not changed significantly other than the change of the dipping sauces and garnish, so the photos and thoughts are from our previous visit.

Another angle of the fried calamari sitting on a table

We expected these to be rubbery, but to our surprise, they were not. The seasoning is fine, although all in one bite, it’s slightly mushy. There’s not enough crispiness from the breading, so the mushiness is somewhat off-putting for a calamari dish. It is, however, a large portion size, easily sharable between two or three people looking for mediocre calamari.

Rank out of 7: 4

Mama’s Caesar Salad – $12

Fresh Romaine, House-made Caesar Dressing, Herbed Croutons, and Parmesan

A plate of Mama's Caesar Salad sitting on a table.

This dish has not changed, so the photos and thoughts are from our previous visit. It is lightly dressed, and there’s not an obnoxious amount of cheese — which is a nice change of pace. A fine choice, although not a great value.

Rank out of 7: 5

Entrées at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

A photo containing all of the entrees from Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano

NEW – Fettuccini Alfredo with Shrimp – $32

Pasta, Cheese Sauce, Fresh Basil

A gray bowl of Fettuccini Alfredo with Shrimp sitting on a table.

This replaced the rather horrendous shrimp campanelle from the previous menu. Note that it is also available with chicken for the non-pescatarians.

The fettuccine Alfredo surprises with its buttery sauce, deviating from the traditional creamy style. We appreciated the more authentic presentation, but be warned that kids (or adults) looking for the familiar Olive Garden-style dish are likely to be disappointed. While the shrimp shines, the pasta’s inconsistent texture detracts from the overall experience.

With some adjustments to the cooking time, this dish has the potential to excel.

Rank out of 7: 5

NEW – Prosciutto and Honey Pizza – $22

Parmesan, Ham, Red Chili Flakes

A white plate of Prosciutto and Honey Pizza sitting on a table

Surprisingly, the prosciutto and honey pizza steals the spotlight as a favorite among our group. With a delicate crust, plenty of savory prosciutto, and a touch of sweetness from the honey, it’s a winning combination of flavors.

The cheese on this pizza is very good but we wished there was a bit more to cover the crust fully. Regardless, this pizza proves that sometimes simplicity reigns supreme.

Rank out of 7: 7

NEW – Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pizza – $21

Caramelized Onions, Watercress

A plate of Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pizza sitting on a table.

While the mushroom and goat cheese pizza offers a generous serving of mushrooms, their potent flavor may overwhelm some palates. To our surprise, there was not an overwhelming amount of goat cheese, but rather the perfect amount to allow the mushrooms to shine. If you’re a mushroom lover (and don’t mind goat cheese), this is a winner.

Rank out of 7: 6

NEW(ish) – Margherita Pizza – $19

Fresh Mozzarella, Marinara Sauce, Basil

new margherita pizza at Mama Melrose's

There was a Margherita pizza on the old menu, albeit in the appetizer section. Now that it’s an entree, the pizza is a bit bigger than the former version.

The Margherita Pizza delivered the same delightful crust as the other pizza offerings, with traditional flavors that were instantly recognizable. 

close up of new margherita pizza at Mama Melrose's

Quick note: While the menu calls these “pizza”, the staff seem committed to using the term “flatbreads,” likely to avoid semantic arguments, as the crust is a little more delicate and crispy than your average New York pizza.

Rank out of 7: 5

NEW – Braised Pork Osso Buco – $30

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

A reporter's hand holding the Braised Pork Osso Buco.

This was the dish many of us were most looking forward to. The pork chop from the previous menu was never the juicy flavorful cut that everyone wants, but rather the overcooked and tough chop that we all too often get (and especially at Disney).

A bowl of Braised Pork Osso Buco on a table.

Unfortunately, while visually appealing, the braised pork osso buco falls short in flavor. Although it was somewhat overcooked, it retained some tenderness, but it lacked the bold taste one would expect from this dish, even with pan sauce drizzled overtop.

However, the polenta accompaniment adds a nice touch, and it’s a hearty option for those craving a substantial meal, especially if you’re looking for something that is not pasta.

Rank out of 7: 4

NEW – Rigatoni Bolognese – $26

Ground Beef, Italian Sausage, Parmesan

A bowl of Rigatoni Bolognese sitting on a table.

This dish plays it safe, offering a classic option for less adventurous eaters. It’s a reliable choice but falls short of memorable.

A reporter holding a bowl of Rigatoni Bolognese

While the pasta was well-cooked, the Bolognese sauce was lacking in the sauce department. To our surprise, there was plenty of beef and sausage, but a lack of actual tomato sauce. With a bit more sauce, this would actually be a decent choice.

Rank out of 7: 4

NEW – Chef Selection of Fresh Fish (Grouper) – Market Price ($33)

A bowl of Grouper at Mama Melrose's.

The grouper stands out as a highlight of the meal, with perfectly cooked fish and a flavorful ratatouille sauce. Its crispy exterior and tender flaky interior make it a delightful choice for seafood lovers. This dish earns high marks for both taste and presentation.

A close-up of the grouper.

The accompaniment is a sort of pureed ratatouille with some crispy potato slices thrown in. It’s perfectly fine but nothing special.

Rank out of 7: 7

Polenta Cake, Mushroom, and Herb Cauliflower – $24

Polenta layered with Sautéed Mushroom, Spinach, and Red Pepper with a Cashew-Cheese Sauce (Plant-based)

Polenta Cake, Mushroom, and Herb Cauliflower

This dish has not changed, so the photos and thoughts are from our previous visit.

This is definitely a more interesting dish. There’s really no flavor in the polenta, and it has the texture of very moist cornbread. The cashew flavor in the sauce is prevalent; it tastes nothing like cheese although it looks a lot like an alfredo sauce. There are plenty of mushrooms, and we liked them as they have some kick. The roasted cauliflower was great.

A close-up of the Polenta Cake, Mushroom, and Herb Cauliflower

Overall, we’d say this was one of the better plant-based entrees at a Disney theme park restaurant.

Rank out of 7: 5

Spaghetti and Meatballs – $27

House-made Marinara, garnished with Pecorino Romano Cheese and Parsley

spaghetti and meatballs at Mama Melrose's

The old standby remains on the menu, as there would likely be an uproar if it were removed.

a close-up of spaghetti and meatballs

This dish has not changed, so the photos and thoughts are from our previous visit. The same noodles and red sauce that are in the chicken parmesan are in this dish in a somewhat bigger portion. The four large meatballs were surprisingly good. We enjoyed this, and the pickiest eater in your party should too.

Rank out of 7: 6

Oven-baked Chicken alla Parmigiana – $28

Breaded Chicken Breast with Marinara Sauce topped with Melted Mozzarella over Spaghetti

chicken alla parmigiana plated on a table

Another standby that would likely create an even bigger uproar if it were gone from the new menu.

A close-up of the chicken alla parmigiana

This dish has not changed, so the photos and thoughts are from our previous visit. While there is nothing special about this, the chicken is crispy, and the portion is filling.  There’s a good amount of sauce, and it has a decent flavor. The chicken isn’t as dry as we thought it would be, either. It’s a classic that they actually got right.

Rank out of 7: 6

NY Strip Steak – $36 (not pictured)

Bacon Lardon Macaroni & Cheese Gratin, Aged Balsamic-Shallot Butter, Red Wine Steak Sauce

Although the accompaniments have changed, we elected not to get this dish this time around. Suffice it to say, you’re at an Italian restaurant, so it’s never wise to get steak. But those who would get the steak are difficult to convince otherwise, and that’s why it’s on the menu.

Mama’s Italian Pasta with Chicken – $26 (not pictured)

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

This is another dish that has not changed significantly. The manager told us that the artichokes were replaced with kale, as the artichokes in the previous version were not well-received by the majority of diners. However, I’m not sure that kale would fare better with most diners. The type of pasta has also changed from fettuccini to bucatini.

Desserts at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

A reporter's hand holding the Mama Melrose's desserts menu
A photo of the three new desserts from Mama Melrose's.

NEW – Goat Cheese Mousse Tart – $10

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

A photo of a plated Goat Cheese Mousse Tart.

Unfortunately, the goat cheese mousse tart fails to impress, with its sour cream-like filling and excessive tartness.

A bisection of the tart.

Universally disliked by our diners, it’s a dessert best avoided.

Rank out of 7: 1

NEW – Pasticciotti Cream Tart – $10

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

A plated Pasticciotti Cream Tart.

Among the desserts, the pasticciotti cream tart emerges as the favorite, with its balanced sweetness and almond flavor.

A bisection of the tart.

While it may not be as indulgent as some of the other options, its subtle elegance makes it a satisfying choice.

Rank out of 7: 5

NEW – Flourless Chocolate Cake – $10

Almond Flour Chocolate Cake paired with Vanilla Gelato and Blood Orange Sauce

A plated Flourless Chocolate Cake.

This dessert falls short of expectations, resembling more of a sad brownie than a decadent cake.

Another angle of the Flourless Chocolate Cake.

Its texture and taste leave much to be desired, making it a disappointing end to the meal.

Rank out of 7: 4

Tiramisú – $8.5

Layers of Mascarpone and Espresso-soaked Lady Fingers topped with Cocoa Powder and Whipped Cream

An above view of Tiramisu

This dish has not changed, so the photos and thoughts are from our previous visit. While this looks like a decent tiramisu, for some reason there’s so much chocolate in it that it’s overpowering. It could have been good, but the chocolate simply ruins it.

A closer shot of the Tiramisu

The biscotti was tough, and it would’ve been nice to have some coffee with it. Otherwise, it was just a hard cookie.

Rank out of 7: 3

Mini Cannoli Trio – $11

Orange Cream, Caramel-Butterscotch, and Traditional Cannoli with Chocolate Chips garnished with Chocolate Sauce and Powdered Sugar

A close photo of the mini cannoli trio.

This dish has not changed, so the photos and thoughts are from our previous visit. The cannoli shells are squishy instead of crispy, and the filling in all three is chalky, not smooth and creamy. The traditional chocolate chip cannoli was the best of the three, which is unfortunate. The orange has a slight zing, but it was hard for us to tell if the orange is coming from the cream or just the swirls of whatever is stuck to the ends. The caramel butterscotch was overly sweet.

They should have picked either caramel or butterscotch and it likely would have been good, but the combination just doesn’t work. These are ok, but nothing to write home about, and they’re not even good for sharing since there are three different flavors.

Rank out of 7: 2

Watch our Video Review of Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

Overall Thoughts on Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

We pretty much got what we expected. There’s nothing gourmet or special about Mama Melrose’s. The portion sizes are decent and great for sharing, so there was plenty of food to go around.

A photo of Jason and Eric reporting from Mama Melrose's.

In conclusion, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano offers a mixed bag of new menu items. While a few dishes shine with bold flavors and excellent execution, many fall short of expectations.

The upside of this restaurant is that the menu offers a diverse selection, so if you’re trying to please a large group, it’s very likely that most diners can find something to suit their tastes. Whether you’re craving classic Italian comfort food or seeking something new and adventurous, Mama Melrose’s has something for everyone.

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