posted by Joe Anaya on January 13th, 2014

Several years ago, my wife and I introduced pizza delivery to the small town of Otavalo, Ecuador. We went there for a wedding and while staying in the hacienda, we ended up getting the Ecuadorian equivalent of Montezuma’s Revenge. After a few days of ingesting only mint tea and never leaving our room, we were on the mend. Oddly, we both had a hankerin’ for pizza. But my wife was still too sickly to leave the proximity of our bathroom for more than a few minutes.

Undaunted, I shuffled down to the reception desk to discuss our options. The first obstacle was I don’t really speak Spanish, and by “don’t really speak” I mean, I have the vocabulary of a 20-month old baby. But I was determined. Fortunately, the receptionist was equally determined to practice her English and was more than willing to join our quest for pizza at the hotel.

Secondly, pizza isn’t a native food of Ecuador, but we were in luck. The bride and groom had cooperated with a small local restaurant and got them to make a close proximity of a pepperoni pizza for the kids at the rehearsal dinner. The receptionist confirmed that the restaurant still had the recipe to make a pizza and would accept a credit card payment over the phone. Now to get this Italian/Latin-American hybrid to us.

Through broken Spanish, pigeon English, and sign language, the receptionist and I work through our options. The first thought was for me to get a cab, go to the restaurant, order the pizza, wait for it, then catch a cab back to the hotel, but although I was feeling better, the thought of being away from my porcelain throne for that long sent chills from my toes to my underwear.

It turns out the receptionist’s brother or uncle (I’m not sure which) is a cabbie or just owns a car (I’m not sure which). She talks him into picking up the pizza and driving it to us at the hotel. He finds it odd to give a car ride to food, but he’s willing. So, we’re all set.

We order the pizza and send the brother/uncle to pick it up in 20 minutes. 15 minutes after that, there’s a knock at our room door. A hesitant man with a horizontal paper bag (Apparently, they hadn’t figured out the pizza box yet.) is standing at the door.

The cost for the “cab ride” was about $2. In Ecuador, at the time, the exchange rate was very favorable for U.S. tourists. It was something like 5 bagillion Sucra per one U.S. dollar. I gave him the equivalent of $5 and told him to keep the change. He was very confused. “Todo es para ti,” was my best attempt to tell him it was all for him. By the ecstatic and appreciative response, apparently we had also just introduced tipping as well.

If you Google pizza + Otavalo you’ll only get a handful of restaurants. I couldn’t tell if any of them deliver, but if they do, you’re welcome Ecuador.

File Under Mr. Cool