In Review: Lunch at Mama Melrose’s

I will be up front with this review, we were only here for one thing – the Fantasmic Dining Package. Nothing I’d experienced on previous trips, or read or heard in recent reviews had us overly excited to try this Italian style restaurant tucked away somewhere in the very furthest corner of Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World (I’m sure even some of the Cast Members in the park aren’t sure exactly how to get there) – ironically though, this oasis will soon become the busiest part of any of the four parks at the resort once Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opens in August.

The Fantasmic Dining Package includes a two course meal, with drink along with reserved seating for Fantasmic that evening. If you have ever had to battle the crowds for a halfway decent seat at Fantasmic you will know just how great this package is, as you are guaranteed a seat in the prime viewing locations. Its currently $43.00 per person, but you can also use 1 Disney Dining Table Service Credit, which is a great option.

On Arrival

We arrived about 15 minutes before out reservation time at 13:00, the waiting area overflowing with people waiting. We had about a 20 minute wait for our table, which wasn’t too bad considering how busy the waiting area was.

The inside of the restaurant is styled in the all to overly used Italian restaurant inside but outside dining room set up – I guess to enhance the ‘you are part of the family’ vibe they are going for, which was out of date at least 15 years ago. Add to this a lot of little nods to the history of this park and it begins to win some charm back, signed portraits of famous faces who have visited the park throughout its early years – it is also a fun game to try and name the stars of the day from the late 80’s…

At The Table & The Food

After about 60 seconds of sitting down with our menus out waitress is back at our table looking to take our order. Clearly a busy lunch service, but this is Disney World, there are rarely, if ever, slow lunch services especially in the restaurants in the parks. This was our first in park sit down meal of our trip so I had expected quicker service (after all the longer we sit in the restaurant, the longer I won’t be spending money on gifts!) but this was almost rushed. After ordering, our drinks appeared within what felt like seconds.

We ordered the Seafood Cioppino (Shrimp, Mussels, Calamari, Fish, and Spaghetti tossed with spicy Cioppino Sauce) Charred Strip Steak (Four-Cheese Macaroni with Pancetta, Aged Balsamic-Shallot Butter, and Chianti Wine Reduction) and we both received the trip of desserts (Miniature versions of Lemon Cheesecake topped with Passion Fruit Pearls, Valencia Blood Orange Cake, and Tiramisù) as part of the dining package and a glass of wine each. Pretty good value when you throw in the prime seating for Fantastic later that night.

Except it wasn’t. The rushed order taking and drinks delivery trend continued with our entrees arriving literally less than 5 minutes after ordering them. Now we were being rushed – food which has clearly been sitting under a heat lamp, mass produced well in advance of us walking through the door (a trend we would begin to notice, in other restaurants too). The tell tale signs of a thick skin formed over any of the sauces on our plates, along with only warm in the middle steak and cold pasta. The steak was cooked really well, and the substituted the Mashed Potato for Mac & Cheese which was not a problem with our waitress was probably the freshest item on our plates, while the seafood in the spaghetti dish had definitely been frozen at some point in its journey but was tasty and well cooked. This was followed quickly by a prepared-yesterday-and-kept-in-the-fridge-until-needed trio-of desserts.

The best thing was the wine, which we ordered a second glass off to help wash down the mediocre at best lunch. Apart from our disastrous meal at Morimoto Asia earlier in the trip, this was the next miss. The food wasn’t bad, we just weren’t overly happy at how nothing was freshly cooked, even in a ‘proper’ restaurant and how rushed it all felt. We had planned lunches to avoid the mid afternoon heat and crowds, but the whole time at the table clocked in well under 50 minutes – which is quick for a 2 course lunch.

In Review

Food Quality 12/20

Major points off for the prepared food offered, but what we got was good. Just good though.

Service 8/20

While all the standard pleasantries were offered, it was all too rushed and clearly just going through the motions. When we asked for a second glass of wine it nearly sent our waitress into a tailspin, she stopped short at offering us a takeaway cup for it…

Setting 10/20

Your standard, seen it a million times before Italian Restaurant, with a small hint of Disney’s MGM Studio history thrown in.

Overall 30/60

Like mentioned above, the word ‘mediocre’ would be my parting comment. It wasn’t a bad meal, and it could have been better. But if you want to do the Fantasmic Dining Package this is an excellent option for lunch to make sure you get those amazing seats.

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