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Pizza and a life of pie — Colonnade celebrates its 50th

Kelly Egan, Ottawa Citizen
October 10, 2017

In 50 years of serving the hungry soul, some days it’s pizza, some days a slice of life.

Kalil Dahdouh is in the office above the Colonnade Pizza Restaurant, which he solely took over on Nov. 4, 1967, or very nearly 50 years ago, and a place that may make the best pizza in town — a household brand, really — consuming $30,000 a month in cheese alone.

At age 83 — in remarkably good shape — he’s reminiscing about arriving in Ottawa in January 1959, a young man from Lebanon, to be greeted with waist-high snowbanks outside Union Station.

“I called my father and told him I wanted to come home.” A city is grateful he stayed.

He went on to a remarkable business career, helping grow the city’s Lebanese community, providing a jumping-off point for the likes of Moe Atallah (Newport fame) and regularly feeding a posse of MPs, like Stephen Harper, then merely a nerdy member from Calgary.

“He loved this place,” says Dahdouh. “Half the time he never used a fork and knife. He’d read a book a night. Every night we’d look, different book. He would read and read and read.”

(He says he once heard a plea from a Conservative MP to put a word in with Harper: “You talk to him more than we do.”)

But it is not all fame and roses. He and his wife Mona had four children, including Peter — now a mainstay in the business — and Jacklene, who tragically died of brain cancer on Feb. 28 at the age of 55, leaving a husband and two children, a family bereft.

So, any joy in the 50th anniversary has been sapped. (She was so popular at Air Canada, her workplace, they bused in mourners from the airport to the funeral home.)

“Part of life,” he says, spreading his arms wide as though to capture the wide breadth of what it means to be alive. He looks heartbroken, still.

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