WDW Spotlight – Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

As mentioned earlier on the blog/social media, Geoff and I relocated recently from Orlando to San Diego area for a new job of mine. Which is very exciting, but oh my goodness I miss WDW! Geoff and I are planning on getting Disneyland annual passes asap, but I wanted to start up a series of WDW Spotlights, featuring attractions, restaurants, etc that I hold dear to my heart. I’ve lived next to WDW from 7 years old to 30, so I have a lot of loved spots!  Hopefully I’ll be able to add some Disneyland ones soon too.

For my first WDW spotlight, I want to highlight a restaurant that I absolutely adore.  I hesitate to pick one favorite restaurant at Disney, because my favorites always vary wildly depending on what mood I’m in, but it’s been near the top of my lists since I was a kid.  I’m talking about Mama Melrose’s!  This is a restaurant tucked away in a tiny corner of Hollywood Studios.  With all the construction Studios has been under, I was worried it would close, but for now at least it seems to be secure in its spot.

What is it?  Mama Melrose’s is an Italian inspired restaurant, featuring Italian entrees and delicious, delicious flatbreads.  It is nestled in what used to be the Streets of America area, which is now Muppets/Grand Avenue.  If you go past Pizzerizzo’s and the Christmas shop, you’ll see it right by the exit to the Muppets show.  Inside you get a mix of retro music (a mix of California and Italian inspired songs), Italian design, and Hollywood memorabilia.

What’s the story?  Like most things at Disney, Mama Melrose’s has a backstory!  The owner was in love with Hollywood and immigrated from Italy to pursue a career as an actress.  She would cook for her coworkers and was known for her amazing food.  Eventually, as she realized stardom may not be in the cards for her, she decided to open up an Italian restaurant on the sets.  Her friends and coworkers helped her set up shop in the New York part of the sets; this explains why outside looks like a little New York street!  Since it was on a soundstage, they tried to set up it as cozy as possible, but there’s still industrial ceilings, graffiti on the walls, etc.  Because she loved Hollywood, and because many actors, directors, etc came to her restaurant, there were also tons of Hollywood memorabilia.  (This includes photos from when Studios, then called MGM Studios, would host celebrities to come visit the park for a day (or a few days!), get their pictures taken, etc.  Here’s an example with Jamie Farr, actor of Klinger from M*A*S*H.)

Jamie Farr & Mickey Mouse!

Why do you love it?  Obviously, I love Disney stuff.  Even blatantly Disney stuff.  Even geared-towards-kids Disney stuff like character dining (with some exceptions – looking at you, Artist Point, ahem).  But what I really love is when Disney themes something, well, non-Disney.  It’s why I usually prefer non-IP related rides (Haunted Mansion, Pirates (considering they came before the films), Expedition Everest, etc), because you don’t feel like it’s Disney, it just IS a insert-thing-here.  That’s how I feel with Mama Melrose’s – I feel like I stumbled on a delicious hidden eatery on a New York City soundstage.  I feel like there’s a nostalgia for old Hollywood, mixed with a love of California and Italy.  The year-round Christmas lights just make everything feel warm and cozy, and no matter how busy it gets it just feels like a little hole in the wall secret restaurant because it just feels so unlike a usual Disney restaurant.

I also love their flatbreads.  Seriously.  I grew up devouring their vine ripened tomato flatbread.  I haven’t even had most of their regular entrees, because with the exception of one time I’ve always gotten their flatbreads.  (The vegetarian entree was delicious, but I regretted missing out on their flatbreads.  Now I don’t even bother being adventurous, ha!)  Mama Melrose’s features a wood burning oven used for their flatbreads, and it makes all the difference between that and most of the other pizza I’ve had on property (Via Napoli is an exception).  In addition to their flatbreads, they do have Italian entrees (my husband is a fan of their chicken parmesan), complimentary bread service, and delicious desserts.  If I haven’t overstuffed myself with bread & flatbread, I love treating myself to their dessert sampler.

Hollywood Studios has always been my favorite park, and while I love all the restaurants there, Mama Melrose’s is probably the one I’ve been to the most.  If you want a quieter, well themed but not Disney themed restaurant that has good food and is just an all around good restaurant, I can’t recommend it enough.  It feels like you’re taking a break from Disney while still feeling like part of Hollywood Studios.

You can check out their menu here.  You can always stop in and see if you can wait for a table, but I highly recommend making a reservation if you can – it feels like a hidden gem, but it’s still a busy place!

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