Berros’s Pizza in Fort Smith has many fans, and for good reason. The food they offer is delicious, homemade, created by people who care.
The food industry is fickle and challenging at the best of times, and involves hard work and critical decision-making. If the food is not good, customers will not return and a poorly administered restaurant will not last long. Like any small business, it is only going to be as successful as the commitment of the owners.
Berro’s was not yet even an idea when Kevin Berro came north 10 years ago. He came to Fort Smith initially to work at the Pelican Restaurant, which had been vacant for a time and was seeking a new restaurateur. He opened Pelican Pizza and Steakhouse with his brother-in-law Ed. The operation was successful but the lease cost was high and along with the other considerable expenses involved in the restaurant business, they worked hard, but the returns were small.
On top of everything, there was always the challenge of finding good, reliable staff.
“It was a big place and with no employees, we were over-worked,” said Kevin.
They decided to make a move. The restaurant relocated to the former Portage Inn and was a smaller operation run by Ed, assisted by his wife Sam, who is Kevin’s sister. It included a bakery and the spot became the go-to place in the community for lunch.
Kevin, meanwhile, took over the Landing bar. He ran that for six years.
Ed and Sam eventually decided it was time to move on, closed shop and headed for Edson, Alberta to start a Mediterranean food establishment, which still runs today.
It was 2007 and Kevin had had enough of the bar business. He and his wife Darine decided to make a go of something new. They opened a new restaurant at the current Berro’s location, the site of the old Gallery restaurant and lounge. They opted to stay small, keeping the kitchen and restaurant, but not going with the lounge.
“I wanted out of the bar business. We wanted to open our own pizza place, do our own thing,” said Kevin.
Not long after, his brother Rajaa and wife Gina joined them. That was nearly five years ago. The two brothers were raised in Lebanon, which they both describe as “like a war zone.” That’s a long way and another lifetime compared to running a pizza joint in a small town in the northern Canadian bush. The two families came together nicely.
Darine and Gina shared cooking duties with the men and also ran the customer service end of the restaurant and did the adminstration – all while raising young families.
“The transition into Fort Smith was hard in the beginning, but people are so friendly and welcoming,” said Gina.
She said they loved Fort Smith and its people.
“Even if we have our problems, in the end we are one big family.”
That formidable team has come to an end now, in yet another chapter in the Berro’s saga. Rajaa and Gina returned to Edmonton where both their extended families live. The separation of two families that had grown so close together through work and play was a tough one.
But for Rajaa and Gina it is the beginning of a new adventure. They will continue as restaurateurs in Edmonton, taking on the restuarant Louisiana Purchase, which specializes in Cajun and Creole cooking.
Meanwhile, Kevin and Darine are alone once again, busy cranking out arguably the best pizzas in the North.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s good. I enjoy what I am doing,” said Kevin.
For anyone who lives in Fort Smith and has enjoyed the food at Berro’s, they are glad Kevin and Darine love what they do.
As for Raj and Gina, next time you are in Edmonton, stop by the Louisiana Purchase at 10320-111 St. to try out some of their New Orleans specialties. They would love some Fort Smith company.