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Moe's World Famous Newport Restaurant has become an Ottawa landmark

But the Newport is more than just good food. It comes with a good story. 

There are many fancy restaurants in Ottawa promising an unforgettable eating experience. 

Moe's World Famous Newport restaurant on Churchill Avenue is far from fancy, but it has its fair charge of many happy and repeat customers. 

Owner Moe Atallah's 95-seat restaurant, featuring 45 seats on the patio, resembles most family-owned lunch counters except for all the pictures of Elvis Presley offset by hundreds of news clippings and photos of Atallah and Earl McRae from local rags the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun and dailies outside of Canada's capital including The New York Times, the Calgary Sun, Time Magazine and many more, all framed and occupying as much wall space as will fit. 

The place is packed because the food - pizza mostly, but the homemade pastas and breakfasts are popular - is unpretentious and generously delicious. 

But the Newport is more than just good food. It comes with a good story. 

In 1988, shortly after opening his first restaurant at the corner of Richmond Road and Churchill Avenue with a loan from his journalist brother Samir. 

"Westboro wasn't what it is today," Atallah remembered. "You could shoot a cannon down Richmond and not hit a soul. Business was slow, two, three people a day for lunch."

His brother asked him if he wanted to work for someone else for the rest of his life. 

"He loaned me the money," added Atallah. "If he hadn't helped me, I would have been bankrupt in a year."

One day shortly after opening, Atallah was working alone when Ottawa Citizen sports writer Earl McRae came in for breakfast and asked why he was working alone.

He replied that Donna was going to an Elvis Presley tribute concert. 

McRae was also a big Elvis fan, and joked that Atallah looked like the famed singer, and was thinking about writing something about 'The King' for the June 26th anniversary of his last live performance. The next day, Atallah saw a column about an Elvis sighting at the Newport. 

"The restaurant was twice as busy the next day with customers asking about Elvis," said Atallah. 

McRae's little joke took on a life of its own. From time to time, McRae would write something about seeing Elvis at the Newport which would get people excited. Pretty soon, McRae and Atallah were teaming up for charity events as 'The Elvis Sighting Society'.

And the legend was born. 

Within two years, he was successful enough to buy both the building the Newport was in and the second location, Donna's Express, on Churchill Avenue and Scott Street. 

Today, Moe's Newport has become a landmark in Westboro, a place to have your picture taken and perhaps see some local celebrities.

"Everyone sells pizza, burgers and eggs," he tells his staff. "You have to be different. This is a seven day a week, noon and night job. Take care and love what you do.'

He got into the restaurant business early in Lebanon and worked at restaurants his father owned. Trained as an interior designer, Atallah moved to Ottawa in 1977 when civil war broke out in Lebanon and found a job on his first day on Rideau Street and later was managing a pizza restaurant for 10 years. 

The Ottawa restaurant scene was very different from today. He credited McRae for kickstarting his success, adding that hard work and consistency have made the Newport what it is today. 

"See what your customers like and implement," he added. 

 

 

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