Thursday, July 21, 2011

John Mosca

Every so often, an obituary just happens to catch my eye. Yesterday was one of those moments as I perused The New York Times and other newspapers on the packed Southwest flight from Kansas City to Oakland.

In the obituary section of the Times was a reasonably sized obit for John Mosca. What was so special about Mosca? Mosca, 86, died in his Louisiana home last week, a victim of prostate cancer. What struck me was that his story was one which we now seem to read on a daily basis as we continue to lose members of "the greatest generation."

Mosca's story started in suburban Chicago where he was born and ultimately began working in his parent's restaurant. When World War II broke out, Mosca--as did so many in his generation--enlisted and served in the infantry. He was injured by shrapnel in Italy, earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, and came home where he immediately went to work again in the restaurant, now located in Louisiana after his family's move there. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Mosca family restaurant, west of New Orleans, became a destination for those seeking Louisiana seafood coupled with the family's Italian roots. A specialty of the house was the blue crab claws drenched in garlicky Italian dressing. Word spread of the tasty cuisine which ultimately included a broader menu and another specialty--baked gulf oysters in bread crumbs with chicken, a dish called chicken a la grande.

None other than New Yorker food critic Calvin Trillin (who once proclaimed Arthur Bryant's of Kansas City as "the greatest restaurant in the world") journeyed to Mosca's, and wrote a glowing article about the restaurant, and the owner, last November.

Mosca's survived not only time and changes in diners' tastes but also weather--the restaurant was so damaged by Hurricane Katrina that it took 10 months to re-build and re-open. Air conditioning was ultimately added to the building but a few things stayed constant--a cash only policy, the menu, the jukebox, and Mr. Mosca's constant presence.

Today, we salute another of the greatest generation who has passed--John Mosca, 86, of Hanrahan, Louisiana.

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