Op-Ed: The Mozza ‘corner’ got trashed. Don’t worry about us, send your sympathy to George Floyd’s family instead
About 9:30 Saturday night, we got a text saying MelroseMac was being looted, a hideous spillover from the demonstrations protesting the killing of George Floyd. Curfew was on, but out of what we thought was overcaution, we decided one of us — Michael — should go check on “the Corner,” our name for Highland and Melrose, where three Mozza restaurants and a takeout prosper next to a computer store.
A nightmarish sight awaited. The thought-to-be impregnable metal gate at MelroseMac had been breached and inside was an eerily silent free-for-all. Next to it, Mozza 2Go and Chi Spacca had been thrashed — the entrance charred, the walls graffiti-smeared, the wine display ransacked, stacks of cookbooks burned, upended tables broken and hundreds of dishes shattered, along with four windows.
What made it sadder for us was that Chi Spacca had remained open after Mayor Garcetti ordered L.A. restaurants closed on March 16, and for two weeks, in what the in-house Mozza Tribune called “our finest hour,” it fed thousands with the Restaurant Workers Relief Program. Then Nancy tested positive and had to retreat (she barely got ill). To find Spacca beaten up Saturday made the hardship of the last three months hurt even more.
You can’t see a deadly virus and, until it’s captured by a cellphone camera, it’s difficult for much of the population to grasp day-to-day racism. But a smashed window, a building in flames and vandals dashing out a door with loot are mesmerizing sights, on television or in person.
This week, the virus that has killed, is killing, more than 100,000 Americans, and the sickening, maddening realities of never-ending racism are sharing — stunningly — equal billing with the theft of an IMac Pro and a case of barolo. The demonstrations are profound — and we praise them — but it is the upheaval in Los Angeles and across the country that has really kicked the media into high gear and, remarkably, relegated COVID-19 to the inside pages. (You remember the pandemic, right? That Wuhan, China, bat thing? We quarantined and wore face masks?)
So we watched, and Michael tried to thwart, the throngs targeting MelroseMac and stragglers going for the wine at Osteria Mozza. The looters mostly sprinted east on Melrose, computer boxes tucked in like a football, making the sidewalk turn at Highland and getting into waiting, almost always shiny, newish cars — one was a black AMG Mercedes — then peeling out. Police were nowhere to be found.
Twice, though, it looked like the cavalry had arrived. Around 11 p.m. and later at 11:30 or so, 10 LAPD cruisers approached, sirens on. “Police!” the looters shouted and scatted like roaches. But the black-and-whites drove right by our mayhem, headed west. We understood. It wasn’t like saving Gaja or Giacosa reds was a priority for the police. They had bigger branzino to fry.
On Sunday, there was this MSNBC headline: “Chef who survived COVID-19 describes watching her restaurant looted, lit on fire on TV.” That was Nancy, but she would never have come up with such a “woe is me” headline. Compared to so many, we are lucky.
We took a walk on Monday and several passing motorists stopped to offer their “deepest sympathies.” Not necessary. Any sympathy you want to throw our way, toss it instead to those who need it more, to George Floyd’s family, for instance. Especially send it to his brother Terrence.
Actually, don’t send Terrence sympathy, give him respect and heed his words. Of all the comments about the destruction over the last week, none rang out to us as much as those Terrence offered at a memorial for his brother George. It was a Rodney King “Can we all get along” moment.
“I understand y’all are upset. I doubt y’all are half as upset as I am, so if I’m not over here blowing up stuff, if I’m not over here messing up my community, then what are y’all doing? What are y’all doing? Y’all doing nothing.”
That’s what we think too. How many of the losers wrecking Melrose even knew the name of the man the protest was about?
On Saturday night, on Sunday and Monday, the looters got away with more than computers and bottles of wine. They took the spotlight off the essence of the protests. They blocked the point that black lives matter. But Tuesday night, at least in L.A., the balance shifted. The demonstrators showed us the true colors of America at its best, the marchers clarified our righteous outrage over what happened to George Floyd. We hope — they hope — this time it will finally make a difference.
If it does, then it will be worth the knockdown our beloved corner took one Saturday night in 2020. We will get back up. We can always find another case of barolo or barbaresco. Terrence Floyd can’t find another brother.
Nancy Silverton is the chef/owner of the Mozza restaurants. Michael Krikorian, a former Times reporter, covered Watts.
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