So... a hungry, A-list, Academy Award-winning actress walks in to a Winnipeg restaurant and, instead of being lavished with attention, is told to take a walk.
In his defence, Falafel Place owner Ami Hassan didn't recognize Julia Roberts. And, like most Sundays during brunch the place was packed. And it was Father's Day.
"I said, ‘Go for a walk for a half an hour and I’ll have a table for you,’" Hassan said Tuesday, laughing. "I did not know who they were… I think I’m the only guy in the world who told Julia Roberts to go for a walk."
The four-time Oscar nominee and highest-paid actress in the world for close to a decade after starring in 1990's Pretty Woman, was in town last weekend to visit her husband Daniel Moder, who is listed as the director of photography for the movie Flag Day — a drama directed by Sean Penn currently being filmed here.
Roberts, Moder and their three children were on the hunt for food at the popular Corydon Avenue diner at peak-brunch, about 11 a.m.
A server at the restaurant alerted Hassan to the identity of the woman in the large hat and sunglasses, but the family had already left the building.
Falafel Place staff member Eyoel Berhane had run into Roberts and her family Saturday evening at Green Apple Skateboard Shop on Corydon. After a quick chat, the family left and Berhane assumed that was the last time he would cross paths with the movie star. Little did he know he would be serving her breakfast less than 24 hours later.
"The very next day she’s at Falafel Place," he said, adding Roberts recognized him from the previous day’s encounter.
Roberts and family returned after the recommended 30 minutes and were seated at a corner table.
“I said, ‘Go for a walk for a half an hour and I’ll have a table for you.’ I did not know who they were… I think I’m the only guy in the world who told Julia Roberts to go for a walk.” -Ami Hassan
Even though he admitted to being a little star-struck, Berhane tried to treat the five-seater the same as he would any other table.
"I had other tables and I felt like everyone else was giving her so much attention I was trying to give her a little (space)," he said. "They were all polite… it was a nice, genuine experience."
Roberts, the Academy Award-winning Best Actress in 2000 for her performance in Erin Brockovich, reportedly ordered a muffin and a falafel in a pita, while Moder and their kids had the basic breakfast.
Berhane said it’s nice to see a celebrity in Winnipeg enjoying the city and that if he runs into the family for a third time he’s going to make sure to snag a photo with the icon.
Roberts also stopped by at least one other local establishment during her visit; staff at La Carnita on Main Street said she grabbed lunch and dinner there last week.
"The staff was excited, but the majority of the people didn’t know she was there," said Quynn Skrumeda, assistant general manager of the Toronto-based Mexican chain's Winnipeg location. "We have a pretty big policy where we don’t really treat celebrities like they’re celebrities.
"Toronto being the metropolitan city that it is, we’ve had our fair share of celebrities come through in those locations."
Roberts, 51, has also won three Golden Globe Awards, and has been nominated eight times. Her lengthy list of hit box-office films has grossed more than US$2.8 billion worldwide.
Eva Wasney reports on arts, culture and life for the Winnipeg Free Press.