Rideau Spotlight: Cumberland Pizza
August 15, 2023
The day-to-day life of a business owner is often filled with a long list of tasks that can sometimes seem endless on the busiest of days. Raw materials need to be procured, quality assurance needs to be conducted and check books need to be balanced. Amid all the hustle and bustle, however, a truly successful business owner never loses sight of their ultimate goal – to offer something to one’s community that resonates deeply with their clientele and enriches the lives of both the proprietors and their customers alike.
When Eidy Absi first opened his business at the intersection of Cumberland and Cathcart in 1973, he sought to create something that did more than merely serve food. He strongly believed in promoting a customer experience that was as warm and inviting as the pizzas that came out of his oven. The food was only half of the equation; building long-lasting relationships with valued customers was just as, if not more, important.
Fifty years later, Mr. Absi has since retired from the restaurant business, but his nephew Fadi Kapro and Fadi’s wife Farida have since carried the flame of Cumberland Pizza and embraced that same undying belief in customer experience coming first.
Thank You for Being a Friend
Cumberland Pizza’s approach to customer relations has allowed the humble little restaurant to carve out a legacy and reputation for itself that has helped it to endure even the most harrowing bumps in the road with relative ease.
One of the first challenges came when Mr. Absi relocated the business away from the street that gave the restaurant its namesake. Resettling on Nelson Street in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood, the decision was made to leave the name unchanged to preserve the brand and reputation that the business had fostered. Customers adjusted accordingly, with little to no confusion.
Many years later, new chain restaurants would begin to establish a presence along neighbouring Rideau Street. With marketing budgets that are several figures in size, many independently owned small businesses would feel threatened by such competition as even sending out flyers via Canada Post can add up quickly.
To Fadi & Farida Kapro, however, the solution was simple. They would stay the course and fall back on Fadi’s uncle’s primary founding principle: prioritizing customer service.
“Most of our customers, they become our friends. We know them by name,” he says. “And while they’re having pizza, we talk with them. We spend our time with them.”
In doing so, the restaurant has fostered a devoted customer base for itself almost entirely via word-of-mouth. This approach has paid dividends in the virtual world as well, as Cumberland Pizza currently holds the #2 ranking amongst 1,503 Ottawa-based restaurants listed on TripAdvisor. Not bad for a business that has an online advertising budget of zero dollars!
Not even a fire in 2022 that put the business out of commission for a year was able to put a dent in the devotion exhibited by their customer base. “We were really scared when we came back, we thought we were going to lose business,” Fadi recalls. “To be honest, it was even busier…The first week we opened, we couldn’t catch up [with orders]!”
The Joy of Cooking
Of course, you don’t become one of the city’s most celebrated eateries on customer service alone. The Kapros have turned pizza into something that closely resembles fine art, with a tried-and-true recipe that was pioneered by Mr. Absi and has kept the business thriving for half a century.
Cumberland Pizza’s house-made tomato sauce and signature crispy crust is the result of the Kapros’ unwavering devotion to using only the freshest, most high-end ingredients. No expense is spared and no compromises are made. Fadi tells of numerous encounters in which salesmen have sought to persuade him to try using cheaper cheeses on his pizza to cut back on production costs, only to be promptly dismissed shortly thereafter.
As far as Fadi is concerned, buying vegetables at half-price and using ingredients that contain preservatives runs contrary to the very essence of Cumberland Pizza, which has thrived precisely because of how distinct it is from its competitors. “We have no competition because we know what we have. And what we have, nobody else has,” he asserts. “Forget everybody; we’re not everybody.”
The restaurant has also expanded its menu in recent years to include Greek dishes like souvlaki, donairs and gyros. This decision was made in order to fully capitalize on Farida’s cooking skills while preserving the Mediterranean feel of the menu. And in keeping with their business values, all of these items are made in house as well, right down to the chicken on their skewers and the tzatziki.
“My wife, she’s a very, very good cook,” Fadi insists. “And because we’re good at it, [we figured] ‘Why don’t you sell it?’”
Embracing New Beginnings
The friendly atmosphere at Cumberland Pizza becomes apparent as soon as you walk up to the counter. Expect to be greeted with an emphatic “Hello, my friend!” from Fadi before he asks you about your day. This is not a practice that is reserved for long-time customers, either: “Treat customers as a friend,” he advises, “and always talk with first-time customers; when you get a regular in, you don’t let them wait.”
The Kapros also take a great deal of pride in the restaurant’s new décor that was implemented as part of their reconstruction efforts last year. Farida is particularly proud to show off their brand new 14-foot piece of wall art that has been put up on the wall standing opposite to the front counter. She notes how the material the art is printed onto makes it easy to wash if necessary – functional and fashionable!
And on a lovely summer’s day, you’re free to take your pizza outside and enjoy the weather from underneath the awning in front of the restaurant. There’s no better way to enjoy the last few months of summer than having a fresh slice of pepperoni pizza and a cold soft drink while sitting in the shade!
In fact, there is scarcely a better way to enjoy pizza than by paying the Kapros a visit at Cumberland Pizza and experiencing their approach to great food and great customer experience for yourself. Whether you’re looking to feed your friends at your next Super Bowl party or just want to try a slice for lunch, let Cumberland Pizza demonstrate why they’ve been one of the premier pizza destinations in Ottawa’s Original Downtown for 50 years.
🌿 Dietary Accommodations: Vegetarian options available, pizza crust is egg-free
⏰ Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
⏰ Friday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
⏰ Saturday: 12 p.m. – 9 p.m.
⏰ Sunday: Closed
📞 (613) 789-9999