Very few restaurants are around long enough to celebrate their 39th anniversary in the increasingly competitive and volatile New York City restaurant scene. Yet Villa Mosconi, the quintessential Greenwich Village Italian, is doing just that. Any establishment that withstands the test of time for nearly four decades has to have a lot going for it, and Villa Mosconi certainly does.
Chef Pietro Mosconi, who immigrated to the States in 1966 from the Emilia-Romana region of Italy with his family, opened the family-owned establishment with his siblings in 1976. He has received numerous accolades for his culinary accomplishments, including the Chefs de Cuisine Association's Gold Medal. Mr. Mosconi has trained an excellent kitchen staff that continues to churn out his rustic, earthy and full-flavored dishes developed over generations from his native regional cuisine. The menu includes standard Italian favorites like ravioli, fried calamari, spaghetti and meatballs, and veal costoletta alla Milanese or Parmigiana. Mr. Mosconi still rises early to obtain the freshest ingredients from the city's markets to meet his high standards. Some noteworthy pasta specials include the light and airy homemade cheese and Swiss chard tortelli in a butter and sage sauce, angolotti (meat filled dumplings) in pink sauce, and tagliatelle done in a lamb or wild boar ragu. Heartier specials include the slow-cooked braised beef short ribs served over spinach and mashed potatoes in a savory brown sauce; ossobucco over risotto; and a pork chop stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella in a mushroom and artichoke sauce.
The regular menu produces standouts like the hot antipasto platter, a baked artichoke with a cheese and bread stuffing, veal medallions alla Bolognese with prosciutto and mozzarella, and simply grilled, perfectly seasoned lamb chops. For dessert, homemade offerings include a decadent tiramisu, a classic Italian ricotta cheesecake, and zabaglione.
The excellent waitstaff will take their time to describe the specials in exquisite detail and will cater dishes to diners' needs, including gluten-free offerings. The Mosconi family continues to offer their excellent cuisine at a great value. The portions are large, and the prices modest (pastas start at $15 and entrées at $20).
There is also more than meets the eye to the restaurant. A humble storefront belies the expansive three dining room establishment. The main dining room is adorned with old-world art and low ceilings. With two additional rear rooms available for a la carte dining or private parties, including the popular year-round garden atrium, Villa Mosconi is perfect for a romantic dinner for two or a large family gathering or corporate event. After nearly four decades the Mosconi siblings have begun to hand over the reins to the next generation. As opposed to only meeting "my brother..." or "my sister..." you may now be introduced to "my cousin...."—not Vinny, but perhaps Jerry or Joe. It's clear the restaurant is in capable hands to continue the fine family tradition for at least another four decades.
69 MacDougal St. (btw. Bleecker & Houston Sts.), 212-673-0390
Richard Jay Scholem was a restaurant critic for the New York Times Long Island Section for 14 years. His A La Carte Column appeared from 1990 to 2004. For more “Taste of the Town” reviews, click here.