One night in Ottawa, I was really hungry. I had arrived late from the airport after a day and a half of traveling and not eating much. The restaurant in my hotel was closed, so I headed outside to look for food.
With nothing in sight, I walked for blocks, crossing intersections, and passing through sleepy neighbourhoods. I kept walking until I entered yet another neighbourhood. It was off the main road and there weren’t as many streetlights there.
When I turned a corner, I was suddenly basked in light. In the darkness, amidst the lightless houses and empty streets, a glowing white sign appeared with vibrant, red text across it. It said “Pizza Power”.
On each side of the radiant, white sign were red panels, which had “Louis’ Restaurant and Pizza” written on them. It looked like an older place, but it was open and I was hopelessly hungry. I eagerly crossed the street, approaching the restaurant.
When I opened the door and stepped out of the chilly spring night, it was like entering a warm bath. As I looked around the restaurant, I was immediately taken in by the intoxicating scent of homemade pizza. The place was mostly empty, except for a bunch of teenagers in the corner.
As I ogled the pizza the teenagers were eating, an energetic, elderly woman in a red uniform kindly greeted me at the door. She told me I could sit wherever I liked. I went and sat at one of the many wooden booths with red cushions on them. It was a small place, with the kitchen on one side and a little diner area on the other.
The older woman came back, gave me a menu, and poured some water in a red cup. After she left, I checked the time and realized that it was almost ten o’clock. Grateful that they were still open, I took a quick glance at the menu and soon decided to get a large pizza.
When the server came back, I told her what I wanted and she laughed. “You must be hungry! Is this your first time here?” she exclaimed. I said that it was and that I’d just gotten into the city. With a smile she said, “I’m guessing you’re staying at that hotel a few blocks away, we get a lot of travellers from there.”
While I waited, I looked around at the walls of the restaurant. They were completely plastered with photographs, a Canadian flag, and lots of hockey memorabilia. I recognized a few politicians in some of the pictures, but also noticed that my server was in a lot of them.
The server returned to refill my water. As she poured, I asked who the people in the pictures were. She looked up, half-amused, and said that it was a family-owned restaurant. The photos were mostly of her relatives and in-laws as well as their children and grandchildren. Her family had been running the place for around half a century.
After awhile, the server came back with a massive pizza on a silver platter. I’d never seen a server so excited to bring a customer food before. When she placed the pizza in front of me, I saw that someone had written the word “welcome” in pizza sauce across the top of the platter.
“This is the best pizza in town,” she said. “We’re excited since it’s your first time trying it.”
Everything after that was a blur as I devoured the entire pizza in a combined rush of cheesy goodness, handmade-dough delight, and pepperoni pleasure. Happy yet very bloated, I leaned back in the booth and thought I was going to fall asleep. It was almost midnight.
When I went up to the counter for the bill, I told the server that it was the best pizza I’d ever had. As I was paying, an old man and a younger man walked out of the kitchen. They were part of the family too and the elderly man was the current owner. My server told them that it was my first time trying the pizza. They both greeted me and shook my hand.
As I was getting ready to leave, the owner asked if I would be able to get back to my hotel okay. He offered to drive me back to the hotel. I said it was alright, but thanked him anyways.
The warmly glowing, red and white sign slowly disappeared behind me as I walked out into the night. There weren’t many places like Louis’ around Canada and I hoped it would always be there to welcome me back.