The first time I visit C. D’Souza’s, I am not impressed. It is a small place where age shows up as decrepitude. There are no customers. A fan whirrs softly, offering little comfort from the humidity. There is little food on the shelves, so I order a puff and tea, and settle down to chat with the only other customer. I leave the place feeling a pang of regret for what must have once been.
After a decade, I am back.
Earlier in the year, the customer I chatted with reached out with the news that the restaurant was reopening. It had shut down post the pandemic and a notice mentioning renovations had come up. He told me, ‘The family is continuing the legacy’. And, so they are.
My visit this time couldn’t have been different. Jude, the son, greets me like an old friend. He doesn’t know who I am…just that I want to eat Goan food.
The menu is a single page and has the expected favourites — “things people crave for” — vindaloo, cafreal, pattices, sorpotel, peas pulao, potato chops, cutlets, choris (Goa sausages) pao. Jude offers suggestions — “do not eat pattices, you will fill your stomach and ruin your lunch” — and an order is placed. I stick to basics: steak with eggs and potatoes, potato chops, prawn curry — “it is tough to find fresh catch this season”, mori ambotik — “the fish is fresh”, ros omelette, choris chilly fry, and meat chilly fry. Meat here refers to buff, and, like many Goan places, chilly here refers to chilli. In minutes, the spicy aroma of choris wafts through the kitchen. I do not eat pork but my dining companions assure me the choris chilli fry is delicious — “it is homemade”. My Goan friend nods his head approvingly.
It feels like eating at a friend’s home. Jude hovers around us, urging us to eat more, offering us soft drinks, and more bread. At the end of the meal, he brings out small plastic tubs of coconut pudding, very set and with that sweet desiccated coconut flavour. Jude notices me eyeing the goodies behind the glass counter, and brings out some: crumbly, chewy cashew nut macarons that remind us of Christmas marzipans, and crunchy, sweet and caramelised-at-the-bottom coconut macarons/cookies dusted with sugar.
The food is simple, wholesome and comforting in a way only home food can be. There’s an abundance of onions and even tomatoes in the steak, and chilli fry; the prawn curry is delicately spiced; the ambotik perfectly balances the tangy and spicy notes; and the xacuti gravy ladled over the omelette is rich in coconut, and flavour. There is no heavy hand on the spices, the portions are generous and the prices make me want to weep with joy (nothing costs more than ₹300).
C. D’Souza’s is more than just food. Jude keeps us engaged in conversation. As is expected when Goans meet, connections are drawn out. Jude is thrilled to find that my family lives close to his grandmother’s home in Goa. He shares his childhood memories of Goa, good food spots, the development plaguing the state, and of course, the history of Goans in Mumbai.
Once upon a time, in the late 19th and 20th centuries, Goans started arriving in Bombay seeking to study or work and settled in places that had pre-existing Catholic communities like Mazagaon, Dhobi Talao, and Marine Lines. These places soon started seeing a surge in Goan restaurants and caterers. Marosas & Co by the D’Souza family was one of them.
The place has a fascinating origin story. It was the 1940s and in Meadows Street near Flora Fountain was an Italian place called A Comba. The owner, believed to be a spy, was arrested by British authorities. Jude’s grandfather, Caridade D’Souza, bailed him out. Caridade also bought the restaurant, naming it Marosas (after his wife, Maria Ruzai) and converting it into a formal dining restaurant where waiters in gloves served Continental food in special cutlery. Marosas was known for chicken patties, flaky pastry with a creamy chicken filling (it’s on the menu today too) — the patties are believed to have been a favourite of the late actor, Raj Kapoor. A few years later, Caridade opened C. D’Souza’s in Marine Lines, near the Our Lady of Dolours Church, catering to homesick Goans. His daughter-in-law, Philomena, was the cook and the restaurant was her passion. After her death in 2020, Jude decided to work on restoring the restaurant to its former glory. “You don’t see many Goan restaurants around here. I wanted to bring the concept of old-school Goan cuisine here,” he says.
C. D’Souza’s opened for business in April. It’s a fully air-conditioned restaurant, decorated with trippy art by Derek Monteiro, and a kitchen run by two chefs. The restaurant is seeing steady orders, most of them for catering and takeaways. “People from Bandra, Goregaon, Borivli come here to eat whenever they feel like relishing Goan food,” he says. He is taking things slow but has big plans for the future: expect thalis and a special Italian menu, more snacks and breakfast items, and shelves stocked with homemade chocolates and sweets.A
Today, the neighbourhood in which C. D’Souza’s was birthed has changed. Little remains of that past life. The few Goan shops I have seen on earlier visits — selling rosaries and bus tickets to Goa in one dusty space — are gone. There is construction everywhere. Vendors block the roads. And yet, I return. A few streets away is my favourite Goan restaurant, another relic called Snow Flake, still serving wholesome Goan food. Now, C. D’Souza joins the fray.
It's a place for good food, good conversation and a glimpse of Goan hospitality at its finest. And of course, there are those macarons.
Average price, ₹1000 for two.
Address: 314, Parvwala Bldg, Dr Cawasji Hormusji St, Marine Lines, Mumbai
Joanna Lobo is a Goa-based journalist.