Chances are when you dine at Ed’s Mudville Grill you’ll run into someone from your neighborhood, school or sports team. It’s almost certain you’ll recognize members of the staff, many of whom have been there for most of the 20 years that Ed’s has been open. The Mudville crew includes, seated from left, Dominic Moresi, John Mahloch, Morgan Herrera, Greg Neely; standing, Stephanie Moresi, Ed Moresi, Samantha Reinholdt, Lorenzo Garcia, Brigitte Carlson, Terri Matheson, Antonio Tapia, Ryan Metz and Carol Ricetti. Mac McCormick missed the photo.
The iconic poem “Casey at the Bat” ends by declaring “there is no joy in Mudville.” That’s not true in Clayton, where there is almost always joy in Mudville. That is, in Ed’s Mudville Grill, which on May 3 celebrates 20 years as a popular, family-friendly downtown anchor.
For Mudville Grill owner Ed Moresi, May 3 is a recurring landmark in his professional career. It was on May 3, 1974 that he began busing tables and washing dishes for Skip Ipsen at Skipolini’s in Clayton during his junior year at Clayton Valley High School. Exactly 20 years later in 1994 he opened Mudville at the corner of Center Street and Marsh Creek Road.
Not wanting to tempt fate, Moresi’s Chophouse opened in 2007 on, you guessed it, May 3.
“I like working” Moresi says, when he explains that running the two restaurants is a seven-day-a-week commitment, one that he seems to relish.
Over the past 20 years not a lot has changed inside the restaurant or on the menu. Mudville started with 11 TVs and still has 11, although now they are flat screen and high definition. “When we started we got reception from a satellite. It was brutal since every TV had to show the same game or event. The TVs weighed 500 pounds.”
Technology now allows staff to change channels on any of the sets from an iPad behind the bar with reception for games and tournaments from around the world coming to a single 24-inch DirecTV dish. That’s especially important as patrons now watch more soccer, golf and NASCAR than when Mudville opened and it was mostly baseball, basketball and football on the screens.
The other noticeable change is that the walls and ceiling have double or triple the amount of sports memorabilia from the 1994 opening decor.
Moresi wanted a “family friendly” restaurant with a casual dining experience in 1994 and that philosophy hasn’t changed in 20 years. “About the only difference is that now we have adults who came with their parents years ago and now are bringing in their own children.”
When he started working on the Mudville site in October 1993 the building had been vacant for five years after being an ice cream shop. He also took over the space next door that had been an El Charro Express, among other tenants, for his kitchen, restrooms and game room.
The building had opened in the late 1980s almost exactly 100 years after “Casey at the Bat” was first published in the San Francisco Examiner on June 3, 1888.
Line-up hasn’t changed
Ed and Stephanie Moresi’s sons Dominic and Nicholas were 13 and 9 when Mudville opened. Dominic began working then before school. His grandpa Al Moresi would take him to Diablo View, which had just opened, after he did his work assignments. Dominic is now general manager of Mudville.
Nicholas did some bussing while at De La Salle High then went to Fresno State, played professional baseball for five years and now is in Southern California trying to secure a firefighter’s job.
Since “99.5 percent of the customers are regulars,” patrons are used to seeing managers John Mahloch (18 years behind the bar), Chris “Mac” McCormick (18), Carol Ricetti (18) and Lorenzo Garcia (14) when they stop by for lunch or dinner. It’s his crew who comes up with new menu items after they experiment and sample prospective additions.
Mudville is “closed on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas and after the parade on Fourth of July. I realize these are family days and a family restaurant shouldn’t be open.” Moresi does admit that wife Stephanie “wasn’t too happy” when he opened on Thanksgiving in the first couple of years.
Their busiest days are St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and Super Bowl Sunday. For the past 15 years Mudville’s outside deck on Center Street has been covered by a tent on St. Patrick’s Day. “We originally rented the tent from Wally’s Rentals and then they sold it to us.” March 17 is a “no excuses, nobody off, everybody works day.” The restaurant’s biggest day ever was St. Paddy’s Day 2012 (“nice weather on a Saturday”).
Pitching out of a jam
The most challenging time for Moresi was right after opening the Chophouse in 2007. The first two months “were gangbusters,” then the recession hit not only the new higher-end restaurant but Mudville’s as well. “I hadn’t built in a recession to my business plan” he can now say with a smile. The next three years were “brutal,” Moresi admits.
The .5 percent of Mudville’s diners who aren’t regulars includes people passing though Clayton. “A couple weeks ago there was a couple from Stockton who were driving through town and saw the ‘Open’ sign. We had a nice conversation. It was fun.”
Another segment of his clientele that Moresi never envisioned two decades ago: Mudville turns out to be a great spot for couples to get acquainted after being paired on Internet dating sites like Match.com. “We’ve already had some couples get married who first met in person here.”
The 57-year-old proprietor has no plans to retire. “That doesn’t appeal to me. I can work here, see friends and have a glass of wine.”