Nothing has really changed since I was growing up at the restaurant,” says Lisa Mosca, whose father, owner John Mosca, passed away in July. His wife, Mary Jo Mosca, still cooks and runs the kitchen, while Lisa oversees the front of the house. The modest, two-room, little white-framed roadside restaurant in Westwego continues to serve big platters of delicious Italian Creole food and has fans from as far away as Europe.
The late, unforgettable “Mr. John” always presided over the restaurant with a wry sense of humor and a poker face. When dining there under his domain, I always enjoyed his affable manor through the years. The patriarch of the dining room, John always delighted guests with his many interesting stories and lively personality. His sentiment and mood remains.
“The best part about growing up at Mosca’s was all the people,” Lisa tells me, when I called to express condolences about her father. “I have met a lot of people since I was little, like Sylvester Stallone, who came in just a couple of weeks ago.”
“There are pictures on the wall of me as a baby with Carol Burnett, and there is one when I was four years old that was taken with Frankie Avalon,” Lisa tells me. “There is also a picture of me with Francis Ford Coppola when I was seven. And there is a picture with Robert Duvall. I have met the producers of Treme and also Wendell Pierce. They shot a segment here. Martha Stewart also ate here with Quincy Jones. I have really enjoyed being exposed to all of that,” Lisa says. “It has been great.”
The cash-only policy still prevails at Mosca’s, and the jukebox remains heavy on Louis Prima. The short menu has remained the same for nearly 70 years. It is a very simple menu with a hit parade of dependable favorites for which Mosca’s is known. According to Lisa, the only things that have changed since the restaurant’s opening are the kitchen (which had a post-Katrina facelift), and the option of half-orders nowadays. “For the oysters Mosca, for example, that would be around one dozen oysters instead of more than two dozen oysters,” Lisa says.
Most people still want “the usual” when dining here. Everyone has his or her favorites, from the crusty, fragrant oysters Mosca to the opulent and ample chicken grande. The whiskey sours are still stiff, and the Italian crab salads remain as light as air. You can get both at the bar while waiting for a table, which on weekends, due to the no-reservations policy, may last just a while. But that is a good thing, since you can meet some of the many interesting people who come to dine here.
When people talk about change in south Louisiana, it is usually about how they are trying to avoid it, including the owners of such old-line dining establishments as Galatoire’s, Antoine’s, and Arnaud’s (same menu for years). Mosca’s moves to a similar beat.
One taste of the incredibly succulent chicken grande, and you are assured to want to return to Mosca’s someday in the near future. It is generally the same effect with the exceptional oysters Mosca, which, in my opinion, has never been topped in New Orleans. Although the pastas are fresh and homemade, and the steak is great, I still prefer to order these two dishes when I am lucky enough to find the time to visit Mosca’s on my way to Acadiana on Highway 90. Mosca’s remains an iconic symbol of the best of Louisiana, its past and its future. It has survived and has continued to flourish with only basic changes, as some of us have, and yet we go on to discover another day.