DARTMOUTH ORIGINAL – MEET JACK
Jack Toulany had never eaten a slice of pizza when he arrived in Canada in 1976. The current owner of Revana Pizza and Whiskeys in downtown Dartmouth arrived in Canada with his family more than 40 years ago to flee from escalating war violence in Lebanon. Jack was 17 years old.
“I went to school for three months, but I had to go to work to help support my family. I took the first job I could find – a cook at Tony’s Donair.”
Jack’s boss at the time mentioned that he knew of a pizza shop for sale on Portland Street in downtown Dartmouth. That got Jack thinking about a better life for himself and his family in their new country. The next day, he headed to the bank to ask for a loan. They refused, of course, as Jack was still a minor. Not one to give up easily, he got his father to co-sign the loan and became the owner of Revana Pizza, just a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday.
“I was scared,” Jack recalls, “I had no idea what I was doing at first!”
Jack in the original Revana Pizza location in 1980.
Jack put everything he had into the business and, slowly but surely, he started to prosper. Within a few years, he was able to purchase his own building and move Revana Pizza to its current location at 29 Portland Street. He eventually purchased more commercial properties in the area and opened Whiskey’s Lounge beside the pizza shop. Being on the street for more than 40 years, Jack says he has seen many changes in downtown Dartmouth.
“There were hard times. In the 90s, after 5 p.m., it was a ghost town at night. If it weren’t for deliveries back then, we wouldn’t still be here today.”
By the early 2000s, Jack says, the energy started to come back to downtown Dartmouth. In fact, for his business, not only did foot traffic begin to increase, but so did interest from Hollywood. Jack says he has seen some famous faces cross his threshold over the years.
“We had the singer John Mellancamp eat lasagna at Whiskey’s a few years back. He smoked a cigar out on the patio! Another time, Rob Lowe was out front wearing a winter coat in the summertime. He was shooting a Christmas movie. I invited him into the shop and he signed a t-shirt for us!”
Jack says his secret to success is simple: work hard. For as long as he can remember, he’s worked at least 11 hours a day, six days a week in the shop, alongside his wife Marie and his children, Mikey and Joanne. Jack says, when they were young, he created a playroom in the basement of the pizza shop out of necessity.
“As a family, we are used to working long hours in the shop, six days a week. I don’t have that problem with my wife, we don’t want to kill each other. I am an easy-going guy. I go with the flow.”
Jack says he has no plans to retire anytime soon – or share the secret recipe for Revana’s famous pizza. He is willing to offer recommendations on toppings.
“My favourite is the Italian pizza – anchovies, sliced tomatoes, red onions and Kalamata olives! If you like salty food, you will like this!”
Portrait taken by James Arthur Maclean Photography