Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jul 27 2015, Page 15

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L OOK up and there are mermaids in stained glass and Lord of the Rings- style chandeliers. Look down and there’s a sea nymph water fountain, a bright orange lunch counter, and the smiling faces of owners Marrian and Bill Polsom. The first- time restaurateurs embarking on second careers in the perilous restaurant business with their purchase of Juliana Pizza have not only survived, they’re still happily married. The West End Winnipeg eatery at 678 Ellice Ave. has been around for decades, staying true to its roots while adapting to the times. The latest sign says Juliana Pizza & Restaurant Greek Jamaican Food. Its diverse menu and flashing lights are a beacon to the multicultural neighbourhood it serves. But there is nothing flashy about it. “ If you’re looking for ‘ cuisine’, you won’t find it here,” said Marrian, the cook. “ It’s just home- cooked meals.” She prepares from scratch Caribbean dishes she knows by heart from growing up in Jamaica. She added menu items such as roti and jerk chicken to Juliana’s Greek dishes and pizza but it’s all still affordable and homemade with fresh ingredients, she said. They take pride in not “ skimping” on the pizza toppings, said Bill. He is the waiter, pizza delivery driver and breakfast cook when Juliana opens at 9 a. m. and Marrian does her kitchen prep for lunch and supper. They work up to 12 hours a day, taking a break at the back of the restaurant when they can. They’ve kept their overhead and prices low by doing the work themselves and not hiring full- time staff, said Marrian. With rising food costs, the inexpensive eatery that’s received glowing reviews over the years will likely have to raise its prices soon, said Bill. Marrian said she’s ready to hang up her apron for good if they’re offered the right price for the restaurant. Since 2005, they have worked together running Juliana from morning till night and closing for a couple of weeks in the winter to go someplace warm. When Bill retired as a corrections officer and Marrian was ready to move on from her job as a health- care aide, they wanted to start their own small business. “ We decided we wanted to do something together,” said Marrian. Initially, they were shopping around for a gas bar to buy. Then they drove down Ellice Avenue and saw Juliana Pizza for sale and stopped in. “ We just loved the ambience,” said Marrian. “ We had lunch, then came back for supper.” Then they bought the place from a Vietnamese- Canadian woman — who bought the restaurant from the original Greek owners who started it in 1976 — and carried on with its Greek menu. For Marrian and Bill, it was a new world. “ We didn’t know anything about cooking pizzas and Greek food,” she said. The seller spent several weeks training them. After a couple of months in business, Marrian said she was hearing from people wanting “ good Jamaican food.” She spiced up the menu, adding items such as jerk chicken pizza, rotis, oxtail and her own ginger beer. In 2008, a lunch counter was installed, courtesy of the HBO Canada TV series Less Than Kind that shot restaurant scenes in their establishment. She and Bill closed on shooting days and played extras in the scenes. “ It was fun,” said Marrian. The series preserves their restaurant digitally, but the long- lasting West End eatery has already ingrained itself in the gastronomic memory of many Winnipeggers. Bill recalled serving a man who was visiting from Saudi Arabia and wanted to see if Juliana was still in business. He became very attached to it decades earlier when he was a student at the University of Winnipeg, said Bill. “ What makes this place unique is the restaurant’s longevity,” he said. “ We’ve had people from Alberta and B. C. and suburban people come in who used to live in the ’ hood,” Bill said. Like a Salisbury House nip, Juliana pizzas and rotis are a taste of Winnipeg for many, said Marrian. She’s fulfilled the yearnings of former Winnipeggers in faraway places. “ One woman ordered six rotis to take to Scotland.” carol. sanders@ freepress. mb. ca NEIGHBOURHOOD JOINTS They’re in every corner of the city: the weird little store that stocks exactly what you’re looking for, or that mashup of a place that carries a little bit of everything. It could be that little diner with the crusty owner that makes the best burgers in town. Or maybe it’s that odd little store, café or restaurant that’s been around forever and caters to a mysterious clientele. A Neighbourhood Joint can be just about anything, but more often than not, it’s what makes your neighbourhood unique. But the reality of keeping these Neighbourhood Joints in business is a struggle. In this summer series, Free Press reporters shine a light on some of these under- the- radar spots. JULIANA PIZZA 678 Ellice Ave. West End institution going strong Great Greek, Caribbean fare served here MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Bill and Marrian Polsom have owned and operated Juliana Pizza for the last 11 years. By Carol Sanders B_ 03_ Jul- 27- 15_ FP_ 01. indd B3 7/ 26/ 15 7: 23: 36 PM

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