A Short History Of Mosca’s Restaurant
The origin of Mosca’s Restaurant can be accredited to Provino Mosca. Provino immigrated to America in 1913. He traveled from his childhood home in San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy and settled in Chicago Heights, Illinois.
In 1919, Provino married an Italian woman from Chicago Heights named Lisa. Provino first became involved in the restaurant business because Lisa’s mother owned a restaurant in Indiana. After marrying Lisa, he worked in his mother-in-law’s restaurant for the next several years and learned the restaurant trade. After a while, the couple opened up their own small restaurant in Chicago Heights. Provino and Lisa built their business and began to raise their three children: Nicholas, Mary, and John.
While visiting relatives in Louisiana, Provino’s daughter, Mary, met Vincent Marconi, an oyster fisherman from New Orleans. The two married in 1944. Provino grew to love the area around New Orleans because of its culture, availability of fresh seafood, and because his daughter, Mary, was living there with her husband. He wanted to relocate his business to Louisiana and started searching for the perfect spot.
In the meantime, Provino’s 19-year-old son Johnny Mosca was stationed in Italy for several years during World War II. After incurring a shrapnel injury on the front lines, he was soon attached to a British unit under Sir Harold Alexander of the Allied Forces. He was assigned to Alexander’s command in the Mediterranean Theatre. Because of his background in the family restaurant business, Johnny worked as a waiter in hillside palaces and villas, serving great historical figures such as Winston Churchill, General Charles deGalle, Marshall Tito, and Claire Booth Luce. After Johnny’s return from the service in 1946, Provino made the move to Louisiana where he had found a small restaurant located in a swampy region on the West Bank of the Mississippi River.
Between 1946 and 1947, before the Kefauver Commission shut it down, gambling was quite popular in the area. After leaving local gambling houses such as Old Southport, the Beverly, Club Forrest, and O’Dwyer’s, patrons would come to Mosca’s as late as 1:30 am for dinner. As word of Provino’s delicious food spread, more and more customers began making their way to Mosca’s (originally called “Willswood”). Provino spent many late nights in the kitchen, helping to increase Mosca’s popularity.
After years of hard work and dedication to his family and restaurant, Provino passed away in 1962. However, during his lifetime he was able to create a small but successful business in Mosca’s. It was soon after this that Lisa (fondly called “Mama Mosca” by all who knew her) replaced her husband in the kitchen alongside her children Johnny and Mary, as well as Mary’s husband, Vincent. In 1979, Mama Mosca, an important fixture in the restaurant, passed away.
In 1981, Johnny married Mary Jo Angellotti from Chicago Heights. In 1985, they had one daughter, Lisa – named after Johnny’s mother. Vincent, insistent that his sister-in-law Mary Jo learn the restaurant trade, began encouraging her to cook in the kitchen. Soon, she started working regularly in the kitchen alongside Vincent and Mary.
In 1999, Johnny, Mary, Vincent and Mary Jo were humbled and honored when Mosca's was chosen as winner of the prestigious James Beard Award in the America's Regional Classics category.
In 2004, Vincent, a well-known and much loved figure in the restaurant, passed away. In 2005, after incurring damages due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Mosca’s closed for a period of time in order to rebuild its kitchen and repair damages. After rebuilding, the restaurant and the Mosca family regained their customer base and began to thrive once more.
Mary Mosca Marconi passed away in April of 2010. Johnny Mosca passed away in July of 2011. Both were continuously active and present in the family restaurant until their passing and are greatly missed. Yet, Mary Jo Mosca, head chef and co-owner of Mosca's, continues to successfully run the kitchen and restaurant today with help from her daughter and fellow co-owner, Lisa Mosca.
Mosca’s began as a family restaurant and continues to thrive as family restaurant -- ever since Provino first opened the small roadside establishment in 1946.
Mosca’s Restaurant | 4137 U.S. Highway 90 West | Westwego, Louisiana 70094 | Phone: (504) 436-8950