Joe’s Special linguine is hitting the road.

The signature dish at Tucson’s enduring Mama Louisa’s Italian Restaurant is heading to Rita Ranch.

And so is Mama Louisa’s daily pasta bar, house-made pastas, ravioli, eggplant Parmigiana and other Italian favorites that have delighted generations of diners since the restaurant opened on South Craycroft Road in 1956.

If all goes as Theresa and David Mowery expect, they will open an east-side location of Mama Louisa’s in a couple of weeks at 7545 S. Houghton Road. The restaurant is affiliated in name and taste to the original restaurant, owned by the family of Theresa Mowery’s sister, Suzanne Elefante, but both will operate independently.

The new Mama Louisa’s will take up the 2,700-square-foot space that was home to China View Bistro; that restaurant closed Sunday. Mowery said the restaurant will seat 75.

The original Mama Louisa’s at 2041 S. Craycroft Road is now owned by Elefante’s son Joseph. Elefante, 63, who has worked at the restaurant since her family bought it in 1973, retired last year but continues to keep the books.

Theresa Mowery has worked at the restaurant just as long as her sister, starting out busing tables when she was 15 before moving on to making pizzas. When she graduated from high school a couple of years later, she moved into the kitchen to help out with food prep “and I’ve been there ever since,” she said. Her duties over the years expanded to include running the kitchen and the catering services.

Mowery said she and her husband toyed with the idea of branching out with their own restaurant, “but it really came to light in the last six months that I needed a new chapter in my life,” she said.

Rita Ranch was a natural fit; the couple live on that side of town. Mowery will run the kitchen and her husband will run the business side. Both of their grown sons also will work at the restaurant, she said.

Meanwhile, Elefante said her son Michael, who cooks at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain and spent his teen years working at Mama Louisa’s, will rejoin the original restaurant in early August with fellow Ritz-Carlton chef Michael Press.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-44642.

I cover music for the Arizona Daily Star.