It is rare that I find myself on the Westbank, but I had business in Westwego, and that was a good excuse to visit Mo’s, the legendary institution there.
If there was ever a place that defined the term “neighborhood joint” it is Mo’s Pizza. Catering to the people of Westwego, its surroundings, and anyone who has heard tales of it, Mo’s is always filled with mostly working-class people, and those dropping in to see what all the fuss is about.
The place is full of atmosphere, and it is like no other. The entrance is no-frills, to put it mildly. You walk right up to the line to order. There is always a line. On the way to the front, you will pass a row of seating that appears to have been ripped from a movie theater or bus station.
Behind the counter are very friendly, dedicated people in fast motion who work frantically to keep up with orders. This is no small feat. Besides the line before them, the phone rings constantly. The large “dining room” is filled with tables of all sizes covered in blue and white checked wipeable tablecloths. These tables are surrounded by people who have ordered and are waiting for their number to be called, The rest of them are happily consuming their orders.
The counter is above glass cases filled with enormous pizzas, sausage rolls, calzones, and a few bins with pasta, like lasagna, sausage with peppers, meatballs and spaghetti, and Alfredo pasta. Muffulettas come from the back as do chicken wings and poor boy specials each day.
The menu is not large but all the essentials of the adequate Italian restaurant are here. Regular patrons of Mo’s do not consider it adequate. They are passionate, but I wonder how much of their enthusiasm stems from the portion size.
I admit to being wowed by Mo’s my first time too. It is a New York-style pizza with a stiff thin crust that I like very much. The toppings are generous, it’s a good pizza. Not brilliant, but it will hit the spot. The selections are limited. You’ll not find anything new-fangled here. Choices are basic cheese, pepperoni, and the Supreme, with canned black olives, mushrooms, onions, peppers, pepperoni, and Italian sausage. There is an all-meat pizza which has ham as well as sliced meatballs, pepperoni and Italian sausage.
Maybe the best thing here is the sausage roll, which comes with just the sausage wrapped in pizza dough, or the sausage in pizza dough with peppers, onions, and cheese. Both of these are really good, because the sausage is very nice, a soft grind with a crisp skin.
The calzones are just like the pizza, as all calzones are. Same dough, same innards. A caller to the radio show suggested we try the lasagna here, which he said is his absolute favorite. It was indeed a very good old-fashioned lasagna. My problem with everything here stems from a red sauce that is in my view too sweet. I love the pizza crust, and generous toppings, but then the sauce makes its flavor note.
I also tried the muffaletta on this last trip and it too is good. They don’t skimp on amount or quality of toppings, exactly like they treat the rest of the menu. The price here is something I haven’t paid much attention to, but it seems a great value for what you get. And that may be the very reason for the hoopla.
Or it could be the experience of eating here. Mo’s is totally unpretentious, take it or leave it, and that is part of its appeal. On any day you will find it filled with the camaraderie of people connected in some way to each other. And they are having a great time, even if they are just passing through, or picking up a slice for lunch.