Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italian
|Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italian|
|Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italian in Grand Park. Photo by Josh Hallett|
|Disney's Hollywood Studios|
|Opening date||September 26, 1991|
|Restaurant Type||Counter Service|
The origin of Mama Melrose's began before the Disney-MGM Studio's even opened. In 1989, Disney was closing in on a deal with Jim Henson to acquire the Muppets . As part of the deal, Henson would become a creative consultant at Disney, and Disney would create a new Muppet Studio area at the recently debuted Disney-MGM Studios. While much attention was given to the planned Great Muppet Movie Ride, and the eventually built Muppet Vision 3D attraction, Muppet Studios was also to have a signature restaurant- The Great Gonzo's Pizza Pandemonium Parlor . This new eatery was to be operated by Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, while the Swedish Chef ran the kitchen. Differentiating it from other Disney restaurants, The Great Gonzo's Pizza Pandemonium Parlor was also to have interactive elements, both on and off stage. For example, guests would be able to watch the Swedish Chef working in the kitchen, where food fights would spontaneously occur. Other interactive elements included the kitchen randomly exploding, Gonzo and Camilla being temporarily stuck in the air ducts overhead, and Rizzo and his friends delivering guests their meals on a small model train. Besides these show elements, the restaurant would also have showcased Muppet memorabilia, similar to other Hollywood restaurants.
With the passing of Jim Henson in 1990, plans for Disney's acquisition of the Muppets fell through. At this time, plans for the Muppet Studios land were drastically cut back, eventually resulting in a small courtyard to house Muppet Vision 3D. With the Muppet's out of the picture, Imagineers decided to give the restaurant a more traditional Hollywood theme. Initially, they planned on building an Annette Funicello restaurant, although the actress was deemed not popular enough by Disney executives. Instead, Disney decided to create a fictional character, Mama Melrose, and base the restaurant on her.
Finally, on September 26, 1991, Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano opened to guests .
According to the restaurant's backstory:
Mama Melrose was a young girl in a small Sicilian village that fell in love with Hollywood while working in her father's restaurant. With her father's blessing (and his popular recipes), the young girl set sail for America at age 16 to pursue her movie star dreams.
While acting as “a stand-in for actresses with names like Gina, Sophia and Anna", the young girl began to cook Italian dishes for the extras while they waited between scenes. Eventually realizing that her dreams of becoming a star were not coming true, she opened her own restaurant, providing meals for everyone from A-list stars to the produces, directors and crew members.
Using what little funds she had, Mama converted a old warehouse into a family friendly restaurant. The Little Italy facade and industrial looking light fixtures were repurposed from studio equipment. Also decorating the restaurant are Hollywood “where Italy meets California in the heart of the Backlot,memorabilia, references to Italian singers and pennants from California's sports teams.
The restaurant would eventually be known as The young ladies flamboyant attitude reminded a Hollywood studio mogul of Melrose Avenue, and thus she was nicknamed "Mama Melrose".
This new nickname proved to be so perfect that it stuck, and no one can remember Mama Melrose's actual name.
Click below to see Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italian's current menu:
- Three photographs of Roger Rabbit can be found in Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italian