Where Am I Supposed To Eat Now?

A few days ago, I found out that my favourite restaurant had closed down. Just like that. No warning. No emotional send off to the last piece of dessert on my plate. Nothing. It’s gone, forever.

For privacy purposes, I won’t reveal the name of the restaurant, but it was an Italian buffet that my family and I had been going to since I was (about) seven-years-old.

Its original location opened in the late 90s, before moving to its current location some time in the 2000s. It is not a franchise – there is no other location. This was it.

In a way, I grew up at this restaurant.

In Grade 2, I had my Communion and then my family, cousins, and grandparents went to this restaurant afterwards. We were there for over two hours. I ate 12 slices of cheese pizza; don’t ask me how. That remains my personal best.

That day, Little Paul wore a golf shirt with navy blue and white horizontal stripes. It was my favourite shirt. And you know what I did to it? I dropped a pizza slice face down, right in the middle of it.

You know in Home Alone how an iron leaves an imprint on Marv’s face? Picture that, but on a shirt, with sauce and grease, in the shape of a pizza slice.

The shirt was ruined, but that story still gets told often.

Another time we were at the restaurant, my grandfather hung up his hat on the window. I don’t know why it was so funny, but I’ll never forget it.

And then there was that day when I became a child model.

I was about 7 or 8 at the time – very small – and my family went there for lunch. My mom and I went up for food together, when a photographer pulled us aside to ask if we wanted to be in the restaurant’s brochure.

Of course we did! They probably picked me out because I was cute and wearing a golf shirt tucked into a pair of jeans. Dare I say I was dapper. I now hate wearing jeans and haven’t in years. They are not comfortable.

So, the photographer had us stand at the pasta station, with our backs to the camera, and pretend to put pasta on our plates. I still remember standing there. I was just tall enough to see over the counter. Pretty sure I could rest my chin on it without needing to bend over.

I was still too small to actually reach for the pasta tongs, so I just stood there holding my plate. Easier said than done. The counter was boiling hot! So there I am, holding my plate a centimetre higher than the counter and trying not to move, while my mom pretended to put pasta on my plate.

Models don’t get enough credit. It’s hard work.

A few months later, when we went back to the restaurant, we noticed new brochures on display. And sure enough, there I was – Little Paul with his mommy. Our backs to the camera, pretending to get pasta.

Since we were pretty much local celebrities, we took a bunch of brochures. We still have them and I even cut out the photo of us to keep on my desk. It’s a very small photo, but a modelling career was born.

That’s also where the modelling career ended.

This restaurant meant a lot to me for the last 22 years, or so. It’s where I always wanted to go for my birthday. Where am I supposed to go now? The other Italian buffet? The Chinese buffet? I mean, that’s what will happen, but this was always the one.

Whenever I came home from university for a weekend (which was rare), my dad and I went there for lunch on Saturday. It was something to look forward to. Most people go home and want home cooking. I wanted home cooking AND a trip to my favourite Italian buffet.

And over the past few years, it’s become a place where I can meet up with old university friends, since it’s sort of in the middle of where we all live.

This Italian buffet had incredible food. The food didn’t make you full after two plates, which was good. The pasta station was one of my favourites. Rigatoni alla vodka and seafood linguine were the two pastas that had my heart and stomach.

The pizza station was also wonderful, though he taste had changed, just a bit, when they moved locations. The original location had the best pizza I’ve ever had. Hence, I ate 12 slices of it, and wore the 13th.

Then there was the calamari. Oh, the calamari. You don’t understand how good it was.

I could go on and list more delicious foods, but the pasta, pizza, and calamari were my favourites. They were leading off the first inning for me, so to speak.

My eating philosophy at a buffet was derived from watching what my dad would do.

I always noticed that he would add one dessert to his first or second plate (sometimes both), and not wait until the end of the meal to peruse the dessert counter.

The reason for this is simple. You might not be hungry enough for dessert at the end, so you might as well eat it with everything else. No one’s going to stop you. If they wanted us to eat dessert at the end, they wouldn’t have it on display as soon as the restaurant opened.

So that’s what I would do. I’d throw a nanaimo bar or a tiny (and I mean tiny) brownie on the side of my first plate. When I eat with friends, they don’t get it. Though, over the years, they’ve realized, “That’s just what Paul does” and dare I say, some of them have even done the same thing.

I’m a trendsetter, if nothing else.

One of the waitresses at this restaurant was one of the nicest people you could meet. She’d see my family walk in from the other side of the room, wave at us, and come say hello, even if our table wasn’t in her designated area.

If I went with friends, she’d always ask about the rest of my family and have me say hello to them. And once she knew I had friends, she’d ask me when they were coming back, whenever I went with my family.

We had known her for well over a decade, dating back to when this restaurant was at the old location. She knew a lot of customers in the same way. And in the blink of an eye, all those relationships are gone.

When a restaurant closes, it’s not just the food that is lost. It’s the bonds you had with the staff. It’s the tradition of going there on your birthday. It’s the meet-up place. It’s the memories that can no longer be made within those walls.

Food is one of those things that brings people together, until it can’t. There’s no more pasta, there’s no more pizza, there’s no more calamari. There’s no more kid’s station or ice cream freezer with one scooper.

There’s just a building that used to be an Italian restaurant.

And I’ll miss it.

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32 Responses to Where Am I Supposed To Eat Now?

  1. This is a wonderful story. I know many places like that which close down because the next generation is not carrying on the tradition. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Omg Paul I am so sorry!!! The same thing happened to me and my fav Korean place in Ottawa. The owners were from the same town I lived in my first time over and then just poof it’s gone! The worst is rolling up on time for dinner, already hungry, already drooling over what you know you’re going to have, and then BAM it’s not even open!! Like it’s heartbreaking enough that it’s closed forever but did you have to find out in such a harsh way?! Now you’re sad AND hungry

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bill Fonda says:

    This doesn’t seem silly at all. I get exactly what you’re saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this story and can relate. One of my favorite childhood restaurants closed and it took a little of my childhood away.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh Paul, I think a lot of us on here can relate, seriously not silly whatsoever. I had a favorite Italian place here in El Paso as well. They were a little hole in the wall but you’d get the best Chicken Jerusalem and baked meatball and spaghetti dish ever! Not to mention their brick oven pizzas, ugh I miss them.

    Then one day I dialed their number to place on order to pick up dinner after work and it was disconnected! I was sure it was a mistake then I drove to the restaurant after work and it was closed, no one in the parking lot, I got off and peered through the windows and the place was empty, completely void of what I knew to be my favorite Italian restaurant for over 15 years. They were just gone, so I understand you, and I understand how it was more than just a place to eat. It was a part of your life, so your not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Brick oven pizza is just next level! So good. You have to tell me what Chicken Jerusalem is…I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it.

      That’s a brutal way to find out it had closed! I commend you for driving there to see what was up. It’s almost a sense of disbelief that it could be there one day and gone the next. We called the restaurant and the voicemail message said they had closed – I don’t know if that’s better or worse than no message at all.

      Thanks for sharing this!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. V Donovan says:

    Aw, that’s too bad! If I were you, I’d try and find out why they closed. I think a lot of places these days close because they can’t afford rent, so there’s a chance the owners may just move to a different cheaper location.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Okay, so I did some sleuthing online and apparently they filed for bankruptcy. That sort of makes sense because their prices were steadily increasing lately and I thought it was a bit odd. My hope is someone buys the building and opens a restaurant that is very similar.


  7. Authoress51 says:

    I am sorry

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Rebecca says:

    Sorry to hear your favorite restaurant closed down. I likewise grew up with restaurants my family and I would frequent often, and sadly, many of them have closed over the years to be placed by “hip, trendy” spots that end up bellying up within a couple of years. It’s not just the hearty, no-frills food, but also the ambiance and hospitality that will be missed. The memories will live on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Well said! It’s hard to develop the same, deep connection to a new place. I’m curious to see what replaces it, if it’s another restaurant or something different entirely.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Becky says:

    I have date night with my parents every Friday night and we go to the same restaurant (a family-owned Italian place). We have the same waitress every week, but if she’s not working that night, we have a back up. We would honestly probably cry if the restaurant ever closed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      That sounds like a good tradition. If they start raising prices and you notice it’s not as packed as it normally is, that’ll be a red flag. Maybe whisper to the waitress “Give us a heads up if this place is ever in trouble”.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. We had our favorite Chinese restaurant close last year. It opened in the 1970’s. We’ve been going since the early 1990’s. When the owner retired she passed it down to her kids. They lasted about a month. They closed it down without warning and sold the property. It felt like an old friend moving away without saying goodbye.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. jaimieweb says:

    I’m sorry to hear that your restaurant closed. It sounds like you had a lot memories there. I felt like you were did not get to say goodbye. There was an ice-cream place I really liked that closed suddenly and I was so sad. It was only a place I went to for a couple of months. So I can not imagine a restaurant that I had been going for years closing. I do not know how I would handle that. I would probably look at pictures if I had any.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Fortunately I have a few pictures on my phone of the food, so those will never be deleted now. But you’re right, it feels like I never got the chance to say goodbye, not just to the restaurant but to the waiters that knew me. A few years ago, there was a Dairy Queen by my house that was within walking distance and then it closed suddenly after a year or so. I still regret not going there as often as I should have. I feel your pain.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jaimieweb says:

        Yay, I’m glad you have some pictures. That is sad that you could not say goodbye to waiters. Hopefully you ruin into some of waiters in your city. I would of been sad about the Dairy Queen too. I love their blizzards. I hate when your favorite restaurants close suddenly. Well I hate when they close at all but suddenly really hurts.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Bummer man. That is so sad when you get older and stuff like this happens. I’m sorry buddy.

    On the bright side, it’s time to turn over a new plate. Go looking for a new place with similar qualities. Maybe you’ll find that waitress again someday if you look hard enough. Or maybe they just moved locations again and didn’t feel like telling their long-time customers?….yeah, probably not. Bummer man.

    Here’s to good eating, and fellowship.

    PS Challenge accepted! I shall now look to break your unofficial record of 12 slices of cheese pizza.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Good luck on eating more than 12 slices! I figured as I got older I’d be able to eat more, but it’s gone the other way. Thanks for the comment! I’m hopeful a new Italian buffet opens up one day.


  13. mydangblog says:

    Aw, I hate it when that happens, and it happens to Ken and me a lot–sometimes we think we’re a bad luck charm to the point where, if we find a restaurant we really like, we say “We probably shouldn’t go there again”!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: The week gone by — Feb. 9 – A Silly Place

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