Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano
Review by Kevin Klose - 2/3/08
It was one of those glorious late January days here in central Florida.
The weather was perfect for going to the parks with the temperature in the low 70’s, sunny, no humidity. And to really torture the folks that visit when the parks are hot and crowded….they were deserted.
The four of us decided to venture into MGM…er..Hollywood Studios…..ok…I’m not sure I’m ever going to get the hang of that. It’s the same with the WEDway People Mover. I know…it’s the Tomorrowland Transportation Authority, but it will always be the WEDway People Mover to me.
Back to the topic at hand…
Our goal was to compare a couple of counter service locations in Hollywood Studios as we had recently done with the Magic Kingdom. Within a very short time frame…it became apparent that Hollywood Studios (HS) seems to be lacking in variety at their counter service locations.
Part of the problem was that certain locations were closed. When one enjoys the perks of lower crowd levels, you must also accept that certain things will be closing earlier or being closed for refurbishment.
As our plan was not working out the way we intended, we decided to not waste our trip.
We have recently reviewed 50’s Prime Time Café and we have talked about loving the Hollywood Brown Derby on several occasions so our options were Sci-Fi Drive In, Mama Melrose’s or the Hollywood and Vine Buffet. As we were closest to Mama Melrose’s…we decided to see about a table.
It was late afternoon (4:00pm ish) when we arrived and were immediately taken to a table in a nearly empty restaurant. We weren’t sure if this was a good sign or bad or if it was due to the park being not crowded. Whatever the reason, we were ready to give it a shot.
I have only been to Mama Melrose’s twice in my life. I had lunch there once as part of the Backstage Magic Tour (see my review here: http://www.wdwinfo.com/reviews/backstage-magic-tour.htm) and while it was fairly decent, our experience was different than that of a regular guest. Lunch was served family style and we were not offered choices. There were several things to choose from, but it was pre-arranged as part of the tour. Not bad…not great…and a atypical experience, it wasn’t really enough to form an opinion.
The only other time I had dined in this restaurant, it was a full fledged disaster. I don’t really remember all of the details as it was many, many years ago, but it involved a refund of all monies paid and a trip to Guest Services. I had never been back. I had also heard enough negative reviews of the place that I was under the assumption that nothing had changed.
With this in mind, we settled in to look at the menus. As were pretty much the sole patrons, our server was at our sides in a flash. We explained that we were going to take a minute and look things over. She took our drink orders and went on her way.
As we were looking at the dinner menu, there was a choice of 9 appetizers. We decided on the Vegetarian Minestrone ($5.49), the soup of the day (Tuscan Bean something or other at $5.48) and something called Artisan Breads and Spreads ($6.99).
The good news…..the Vegetarian Minestrone was wonderful. It was nicely spiced with a hearty mix of vegetables and pasta in a rich tomato broth. It was truly tasty and needed no embellishment.
The bad news…..the soup of the day looked and tasted like the stuff you rinse out of the sink strainer after having done the dishes. It tasted and smelled awful and after the first bite was left untouched. Our server noticed rather quickly and without any urging from us offered to change it for another bowl of the minestrone. I get the feeling we were not the first to be dissatisfied with the soup of that particular day.
I was a bit annoyed with our last appetizer. The Artisan Bread and Spreads for $6.99 seems to be a way of charging patrons for something most decent restaurants serve free of charge. What Italian restaurant doesn’t offer a complimentary basket of bread or rolls as you look over the menu? The plate consisted of a small variety of breads served with a tablespoon of arugula and chive pesto, sun-dried tomato spread, a roasted vegetable tapenade and a bulb or roasted garlic.
Now I can understand if there was a charge for any of the toppings, but charging patrons for bread seems like gouging to me and $6.99 is outrageous for what is being served. As for it being Artisan bread? Apparently, our local Publix employs Artisans as well because the same bread is available there.
With my grousing aside, the toppings were ok with the sun-dried tomatoes and roasted garlic being the clear winners. Keep in mind that they are not worth $6.99.
On to better news…..
The four of us decided to order 3 entrees. One of us had the Charred Butcher Tender Steak which was topped with gorgonzola butter on roasted red pepper polenta with grilled asparagus and a red wine reduction ($20.99), We also had a Grilled Chicken Flatbread with sun-dried tomato pesto, pancetta, asiago cheese and fresh chives ($12.99)
And the Wood Grilled Chicken tossed with Pipette pasta, artichokes, peas and roasted red peppers in a basil four cheese cream sauce ($17.99).
The Charred Butcher Steak was a nice piece of steak, sliced and served medium rare as requested. It was topped with a delicious bit of gorgonzola cheese. The polenta was not as flavorful and a bit dry. This dish would have been better with a bit more cheese sauce and a bit more red wine reduction to moisten the polenta. Were we to order it again, we would ask for these things in advance. The grilled asparagus was just that…grilled asparagus.
The Chicken Flatbread was a nice individual sized serving. The crust was crispy and flavorful and the toppins were plentiful. We all agreed that this was quite tasty. A four cheese version is available for a dollar less and would be a great meal for kids. I should note…one of the four cheeses is gorgonzola, but I am sure that could be remedied for a picky eater.
The best entrée was the Wood Grilled Chicken. The name is a bit misleading as chicken is not the main ingredient by far. This is a very tasty pasta dish with a small portion of sliced grilled chicken included. You receive a large portion and this dish could easily be split as it is rich and filling. The artichokes and roasted red peppers offered a nice counter to the rich and creamy cheese sauce. We all agreed that this would be ordered again on a subsequent visit. Shrimp can be substituted for chicken and that would bring the price up to $19.99
I need to tell you that a third bowl of minestrone was ordered by the person that did not order an entree. It was considered to be that good.
We finished our meal by ordering one desert for the 4 of us to share. There are 5 desert choices and we chose the Warm Chocolate Truffle Cake ($5.99). It’s listed as being filled with Chocolate Ganache over raspberry sauce with a Pistachio Florentine.
Our cake was roughly the size of a small cupcake and the cake portion was bit dry. The truffle center was warm and melted. I would describe this as being ok….but it had the possibility of being great. I think ours hade been over baked and it dried out. The highlight of this desert was the Pistachio Florentine. It’s a wafer thin cookie made with crushed pistachios. The desert is served with one and we asked to buy more. Our server brought us two more and I gotta tell you….they are mighty fine. They should offer them as a desert choice all by themselves.
Our bill (with no drinks…only water) was approximately $81.00. After our Disney Dining Experience discount, our total was $78.00 but that now included an 18% gratuity.
This restaurant offers a lunch menu as well. Many of the choices and the same at lunch and dinner but surprisingly, the prices are identical. There are 10 entrée choices at lunch and 13 at dinner. A limited children’s menu is also available
I would say that after this experience, we will definitely visit Mama Melrose’s again when we go to MG….er Hollywood Studios. They have changed my mind.