New ownership takes over June 28
Nation Valley News
FINCH — The retiring proprietors of Finch Pizzeria were celebrated in small-town style at a special event earlier this month.
Just don’t call it a send-off or a farewell. Daad and Albert Elsaadi are staying in the rural village where they happily raised their four children. But as of June 28, they’re vacating the kitchen at the restaurant, which officially changes hands to new owner Steve Saunders on that date.
With all-Lebanese flair and ingredients, the Elsaadis have been making ‘pizza the way God intended’ — as described by one tripadvisor.ca reviewer — here in Eastern Ontario farm country for almost four decades.
“We’ve had 37 good years,” said Daad at the May 15 community thank-you event upstairs at the Finch Arena.
Daad recounted that she and her husband — Lebanese immigrants then based in Calgary — bought the 44 Front Street address in 1977. They initially rented it to Albert’s brother and sister-in-law before taking over in 1980, moving to Finch in the process.
“It was the best decision we’ve made,” said Daad, adding their four children grew up to become a chemical engineer, a biochemist, a scientist and a successful artist — after getting their start in Finch. They attended elementary school at North Stormont Public School, just up the road in Berwick.
“I always knew where they were,” she said of her offsprings’ ideal small-town upbringing.
Dividing their time between North Stormont and a second home in Lebanon, where they grow and crush their own olives, the Elsaadis make their pizza from scratch, right down to the dough and tomato sauce. They import cracked wheat and lentils from Lebanon, along with their own olive oil, to make the popular pizzas and other delectable dishes and treats sold at the Finch establishment.
“All that we make is homemade,” said Daad, who admitted to being no expert in pizza production when they first started. However, as a foundation, she benefited from the culinary skills passed on by her mother. “I come from a family of six girls and five boys. We all became a good cook like our mother.”
Their clientele at Finch Pizzeria have been “more like friends than customers,” she remarked.
Daad also recounted that Albert at one point told her that even if offered a million dollars to live in the big city, he would “turn his back on it and go back to Finch.”
She fondly remembered how they fed firefighters and hydro workers for 11 days straight during the 1998 Ice Storm.
“There’s going to be a big hole in the community without them [in the restaurant],” observed friend and neighbour Don McKercher, who recalled the Elsaadis as his only visitors while he was laid up at home with an injured leg many years ago.
The community formally demonstrated its appreciation that day by presenting the retiring restaurateurs with a cedar tree — bound for the couple’s yard — and a larger maple tree to be planted in their honour in the village park. The Finch & District Lions Club gifted those items at the Appreciation Tea event.
The couple also received congratulatory scrolls from the township and the provincial and federal governments — with North Stormont Mayor Dennis Fife, MPP Jim McDonell and MP Guy Lauzon handling those respective honours.
The Elsaadis leave Finch July 12 for their other home in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, returning Dec. 1.
Naturally, the Syrian refugee crisis has been an ongoing concern to the couple as a matter very personal and close to home. They’ve spearheaded initiatives to help the situation both in Canada and their ancestral homeland — where many Syrians have fled to escape the violence in their own country. Most recently, Daad reported, they are helping to pay for the school bus transportation of 50 Syrian refugee children in their area of Lebanon, allowing them to receive an education.
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