Madness At Mosca's

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris December 20, 2022 09:25 in Dining Diary

There was a big family wedding in November and extended family from far and wide came in. My DC sister probably misses the fam more than the rest, and she stays over extra days to visit with each of us individually and to see high school friends. These extra days offered an occasion to visit a legendary institution.

I pitched Mosca’s, a place of renown in a most obscure location on the Westbank. Owners Mary Jo and daughter Lisa have kept the place going as a duo for many years, continuing a long and storied legacy filled with visits from allegedly notorious types as well as celebrities flying in on private jets. 

They come for privacy, but especially to eat famously delicious food like Chicken a la Grande, Spaghetti Bordelaise, and Oysters Mosca, among others. This menu is shockingly short, but if you have a few dishes that are a destination in themselves, there is no need to fill up space on the menu and in the kitchen with also-rans. 

As usual, we decided on a whim the day-of to dine at Mosca’s. Lisa was extremely gracious to work us in early. When we arrived there was absolutely no place to park. Cars overflowed the “parking lot”, which means all bare ground around the house. I was nervous about parking on the neighbor’s property, which was completely indistinguishable from the restaurant’s. We sat in the front room, which I believe was a first for me. It is adjacent to the bar. 

This old house is so nondescript, so unusual, so rare in its unpretentiousness, it is strangely refreshing. There is even a sort of private space, made far less private because one must pass it on the way to and from the kitchen. I wound up there once myself, but I’m getting ahead of this tale.

Once inside, it was obvious that the cars weren’t misleading. It was madness. Every table was filled and insufficient waitstaff scurried about. We placed an order for Oysters Mosca, not even asking about the MKT. The table had enough oyster eaters for a large, so we got that one. We ordered two house salads, a large Chicken a la Grande, a large Spaghetti Bordelaise, roasted potatoes, and meatballs and spaghetti. All of this was eaten family-style.

When we saw the salad, it was so large that I wanted to make sure we canceled the other. The waitress, poor thing, just occasionally flew by the table, with nary a minute for conversation. I had to get up and walk through that private dining space to catch her to cancel the extra salad. She assured me that there were two in one bowl.

This salad reminded everyone at the table of the salad from our early home, which meant basic. It was heavy on the vinegar. It was so simple, so old-fashioned, we couldn’t understand why none of us could stop eating it. There is a version of this with crabmeat on top, but I like this one better.

When the oysters arrived it was clear that these were not the dish we remembered. It was mostly breading, which, here, means a delicious mouthful of garlic, oil, and breadcrumbs. But this used to have a lot more oysters. When the bill came the one at the table with the cash exclaimed audibly that the oysters were $55!

The Chicken a la Grande was, as always, terrific. This signature dish is redolent (one of Tom’s favorite words does apply here) with garlic, oil, and herbs. The roasted bird comes cut into easy pieces for sharing, with crispy skin and tender insides. It is a smallish bird rather than the disgustingly bloated chickens most often seen today.


On past visits, I have watched with envy every time I did not order the Spaghetti Bordelaise here. It goes through the dining room piled high on a plate, a delicious smell wafting as it passes. We finally ordered it this evening and it was a big disappointment.

Also very disappointing was the meatballs and spaghetti, an extremely ordinary version of the New Orleans classic, with meatballs too large and overworked, and a sauce so thick it just lay there as a blanket over the spaghetti. This was worthy of its place as an also-ran on this menu.

There was a nice surprise on this table. The roasted potatoes were really very good. I finally got around to them as an afterthought but I wish I had eaten them with the chicken.

One of us wanted to order shrimp later but we were told at the beginning to get the entire order in, and straight, because that was it. The full order goes in. Done. This seemed a little odd and a bit rigid, but by the end of the evening, I understood it. This situation is at max. Changes would break the system.

We were there an extraordinarily long time. The glacial place suggested to me that the kitchen was as understaffed as the dining room. I felt bad for the Mosca ladies.

I would say this is the COVID stain rearing its ugly head again, but we have been there, since COVID, either in late ‘20 or early ‘21. I didn’t see much difference in the pre-pandemic version then, but there was a big difference this evening. Maybe the continuing staffing issues have hit them harder out there, but the difference was stark. Bragging about something and bringing people to enjoy what you have bragged about, and it turns out completely different hurts. I felt bad for the neophytes. I’m sure none of them will return, but I will.

We have had too many great meals at Mosca’s to give up on it so easily, but I do finally see what Tom has always said: any restaurant can have a bad night.