'It's a Newfoundland tradition': A Good Friday for fish and chips

An annual feed of fried fish and chips is a tradition for many Newfoundland and Labrador families, but actually making the feast is a family tradition for others.

Serving fi and chi a family affair for Leo's Restaurant

Melissa Pittman and her brother Brian are the third generation to work at family-owned Leo's Restaurant. (Gary Locke/CBC)

For many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, it wouldn't be Good Friday without a feed of fish and chips.

The annual fried fest is a tradition for many families in the province, but actually making the fish and chips is a family tradition for others.

Melissa Pittman's grandfather is Leo — yes, the Leo of Leo's Restaurant.

Pittman's family has been serving up fi and chi at the restaurant on Freshwater Road in St. John's since the '60s

"My grandfather started working here in 1949 when it was Marty's, a Marty's Lunch," she told CBC, as she fried up some cod.

A feed of fi and chi is a tradition for many families in the province, whether it be eating it — or cooking it. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Leo Pittman took over the restaurant in the '60s when the previous owner retired, and soon changed the name.

"Everybody kept saying they were going to Leo's shop, so he said he'd change it to Leo's."

Pittman's father took it over after Leo retired, and now she and her brother both work there.

300 pounds of fish

Leo's may be one of three fish and chips joints in the same area, but come Good Friday, Leo's, along with Ches's and the Big R, will all be packed with hungry customers.

Pittman said they'll likely serve 300 pounds of fish before the day is done.

'It's madness," said Pittman.

Karen Lambert, owner of the Big R, says Good Friday is like four Fridays packed into one. (Gary Locke/CBC)

"It starts for us Thursday night really. We'll stay here all night when we close then we're here till probably three or four in the morning, then come back at five or six again."

With wait times of up to two hours to get served a plate of fi and chi, Pittman said the Leo's regulars stay away because they don't want to deal with the hassle.

'Four Fridays into one'

Down the block on Harvey Road, Karen Lambert will also be serving up feeds of fish and chips.

Lambert owns the Big R, which gets its own fair share of Good Friday customers.

"It's about four Fridays into one," she said.

"You're talking about thousands of pieces of fish."

Lambert said she's glad three fish and chips shops can all thrive in the same neighbourhood, but notes the Good Friday frenzy might be a distinctly Newfoundland experience.

"I've got girls here from Saskatchewan, from Moncton and they never heard tell of it," she said.

"It's a Newfoundland tradition, but I'll take it."

With files from Kenny Sharpe