Mama Cozza’s Italian Restaurant: This southern California pizzeria has drawn celebrities from Rudy Vallée to Gwen Stefani.

Founded by a former beat cop and his wife, this southern California mainstay has thrilled celebs and civilians alike with its warm service and authentic fare.



Frank Cozza Sr. and Frank Cozza Jr. pose in the pizzeria in 1984

 

When he wasn’t working his beat, Frank Cozza, a police officer in Anaheim, California, often spent time in a restaurant called Costello’s in the 1950s, until the business moved locations. Its replacement, a beer and pool hall, eventually folded, and Frank’s wife, driving past the vacated building, noticed a “For Lease” sign. Frank leaped at the chance to create his own venue, and Mama Cozza’s Italian Restaurant (mamacozzas.com) opened its doors in 1965, with Frank and his wife helming the operation.

The couple did have some help: Friend Jack Sullivan, executive chef at the local Disneyland Hotel, initially guided them through the ins and outs of the biz. But when Frank’s Italian-born mother visited from New York in 1968, she swiftly kicked the couple out of the kitchen and went to work, showing them the “proper” way to cook her homeland’s delicacies. “My grandmother changed everything,” recalls Frank Cozza Jr., son of Frank. “My father knew how to cook, but not for people.”

Frank Sr. works in the Anaheim police department in 1956

Luckily, as a police officer, the elder Cozza counted many friends in the community, and word-of-mouth soon spread. Small menu tweaks occurred over the decades, but generally the recipes and menu have remained the same—and Frank Jr. believes this steadfast consistency has kept the restaurant afloat, even in rocky economic times.

Actor Ernest Borgnine has dropped in for a visit to Mama Cozza’s

Meanwhile, accommodating touches make customers feel like family; they’re treated to a pre-meal relish tray and breadsticks, plus after-dinner anisette and oranges, on the house. The lounge offers a lively atmosphere, with sports on six TVs and weekend live entertainment, while an adjacent banquet room hosts large parties. “We’re not looking for the one-time customer,” Frank Jr. notes. “We want people to come on a regular basis because this is their home. My father prided himself on service, so we make sure customers feel taken care of.”

Being in Southern California, Mama Cozza’s has attracted plenty of celebs over the years—Rudy Vallée, Ernest Borgnine and Gwen Stefani, to name a few—but the restaurant created its own celebrity when it was featured in 2010 on the popular Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. “That sparked my father’s life and gave him a sense that he did well,” Frank Jr. proudly remembers. “The 50 years have gone by so fast. It’s been a nice ride, and we just keep going.”

 

Edit Module

Tell us what you think at or email.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Should You Be Buying New Equipment Before the Tax Year Ends?

Mike Rassmussen breaks down the do's and don'ts of equipment purchases prior to December 31.

Chef's Corner | Shawn Randazzo Explains His Philosophy Behind Detroit-Style Pizza

Shawn Randazzo, master of the Motor City pizza, teaches you all you need to know about Detroit-style pies so you don’t have to hear it through the grapevine.

December 2018: The 2019 Pizza Power Report and more!

Detroit-style pizza, cheese trends, chicken wings and more marketing tips.

Quick-Fire Questions with The Dough Doctor

Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann provides rapid-fire responses to operators’ minor dilemmas.

Make Your Wing Sales Soar With These Insights From Operators

Chefs report on the hottest flavor trends and innovative cooking techniques for pizza’s best companion: the chicken wing.

The Best Local Marketing to Find You Long-Term Pizza Customers

What cheese trends are taking off in restaurants across the country? Experts and operators weigh in.

Your restaurant should be making the most out of your cheese choices.

Detroit-Style Is Motown's Favorite Pizza

Airy dough, crispy crust and signature caramelized cheese makes Detroit-style pizza an instant winner on any pizza lover’s list.

The 2019 Pizza Power Report: A State-of-the-Industry Analysis

To stay competitive in the pizza business in 2019, independents will have to meet customers’ growing demand for speed, customization, delivery and convenience.

How to make the most of your mozz

A staple at every pizzeria, mozzarella shines for its versatility in everything from apps and salads to pizza and pasta.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags