A breeze rustles through the few trees that line the walkway in front of Mosca’s Restaurants setting the scene for one of Burlington, North Carolina’s more interesting establishments. From the front there are hints of colorful history of this new restaurant. The black cloth sign with bold writing, the bright red doors, and the wide open windows all allow passersby a peak into the enticing world of Mosca’s. As I sit on one of two benches that frame the large wood-panned windows, a young woman approaches me and introduces herself as Julie, the manager of Mosca’s.
The woman I pictured on the phone while setting up this interview is not who I pictured to be standing in front of me. Julie is in her twenties, with short brown hair and a petite frame. A bit shy and hesitant of questions, she is still friendly and warm. Her full name is Julian Mendez, and she is the daughter of the Costa Rican native who owns the restaurant.
Mosca’s namesake is the owner, Guillermo “Mosca” Mendez, who emigrated from Costa Rica to Burlington, North Carolina around the time Julie was four. Originally working as a dishwasher, Mosca’s love of “trying new things and taste testing,” according to his daughter quickly turned into a passion for cooking. After working through the ranks of the kitchen, Mosca quickly became versed in the art of Italian cooking leading to the opening of his family establishment.
“I absolutely love the marinara sauce,” starts Julie. “It might be the best thing we have. For the first two weeks we were open, I ate it every day.” Mosca’s Restaurant is new, it’s only been open for about six months but it’s not just the good food that pulls in customers, it’s the sexy atmosphere and the close-knit staff.
The restaurant is a collection of three main rooms including a bar with the kitchen in the back. The staff varies, an older more serious set of waiters and waitresses during the fast paced lunch shift and a younger more rowdy staff during the evenings. “All of our wait staff are fantastic,” says Julie who has invested herself in the family business. “My brother works here too, not many people know that because he’s also an artist, but he works in the kitchen.” When asked why she chose to work at the restaurant, Julie’s answer only served to highlight the importance of family within Mosca’s. “I saw how hard they [my parents] worked, especially to give me and my brother a good education. I thought it was important to help out.”
But deciding to join in on the family business wasn’t a decision that Julie took lightly. “They say when you open a restaurant, you’re marrying your business for the first year or so, and that’s true,” she says when describing the routine of the restaurant. In the hectic world of the food industry, there is no average day. Julie schedules events for Mosca’s, works on their acquisition of a liquor license, figures out the logistics of live music, and continues to help run the restaurant finically.
An Italian restaurant owned by a Costa Rican family, Mosca’s isn’t what you would expect as the average Burlington establishment. But with economic upheaval and effort put into reviving Downtown Burlington, it is easy to see how this is quickly becoming a popular spot. A true personification of the American dream, Mosca’s brings hope back to the dream of the huddled masses- that with hard work, determination, and some elbow grease any dream can become a reality.