There were times admits Aileen Nuttall that she was ready to put away her pizza pans for good.
Her husband John Winterbottom, the gregarious face behind Papa Baldy’s Pizza, had died unexpectedly in October 2017.
And then four months later in February, the pizzeria in the West Park Shopping Centre was left in ruins after a pickup backed through the front door and window, injuring one of her employees and leaving the others shaken.
For Nuttall — Mama Baldy — it felt like her family was attacked.
Nuttall and her husband’s pizza dreams began three years earlier. The couple had met 10 years earlier at Bentley’s Monkey Top Saloon.
“I was a cook. He was a biker,” she says with a laugh.
Riding motorcycles was a hobby, Winterbottom had made his living on the road as an oilfield trucker.
“He’s done the ice road truck thing, he’s done it all.”
But he had always dreamed of opening a pizza restaurant and when the opportunity arose in 2016 the pair took the plunge.
From the start, they had a vision. Their pizza was going to be the best they could make it — dough rolled on site, all natural ingredients, fresh vegetables cut in the morning and their own cheese blend, including locally sourced products and no soy fillers. Their donair meat comes all the way from Nova Scotia, where they found a supplier with the tastiest meat.
This was no overnight success story. Opening a new restaurant is tough and Baldy pounded the pavement every day distributing menus to local businesses from one end of the city to the other. They even reached out to local schools and started doing hot lunches.
“He just had the gift of the gab. He just went out and drummed up sales. He knew once we got people to taste the pizza they would like it and they would be back.”
You won’t find a deep fryer at Papa Baldy’s, 3722 57 Ave. “Even our French fries are oven-baked.
“That’s how we did it. We wanted to make really good food and concentrate on the basics and do it well.”
Papa Baldy’s became a success — and then Nuttall had to start all over again.
After the crash, “I didn’t know if I could come back,” she says.
But friends and customers rallied behind her, told her Papa Baldy’s was too good a pizzeria to let go.
She was convinced to go to a food and beverage show at Westerner Park and the experience proved inspirational.
“We were the best booth. We sold 72 large pizzas, cut into 16 slices. Everybody was so happy to see me back.”
Nine weeks after the pizzeria was almost destroyed, the doors were open again. Nine months later, she is now on the verge of opening a sit-down restaurant.
That was another dream of Baldy’s, who always believed his pizza was best straight out of the oven and wanted to prove it to customers. The restaurant is expected to open in a few days.
“I support this community of West Park and they support me. I love them for it,” she says. “West Park is its own little community.”
For those facing challenges in their life, Nuttall has a message.
“Just get up and do it again. Keep trying. There is no failure.
“Just keep going.”