Oggi tutti si sentono italiani— it was a day that all Toronto felt Italian. In 1982, when Italy won the World Cup of Soccer, more than 100,000 members of Toronto’s Italian community danced in the streets surrounding St. Clair Avenue West and Dufferin Street, waving tri-colour flags and shouting “Viva Italia.” Other Torontonians joined in and the CN Tower marquee flashed the word “Italy” in response to the city’s largest spontaneous celebration. Today, the event is remembered fondly through photographs displayed in the restaurants and cafes, elegant boutiques, and professional offices of Corso Italia.
Italians are the largest cultural group in Toronto next to the British. More than 500,000 live in the area, residing in York, North York, Mississauga, Woodbridge, and Richmond Hill.
Italians have played an important role in Canadian history ever since Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) explored and claimed Newfoundland for England in 1497. Italian soldiers served in the military in New France, and among Toronto’s early pioneers was the family of Filippo de Grassi, a retired British army officer who arrived in 1831. Today, a street and a school bear the family’s name.
The first wave of immigration to Canada was between 1885 and 1924, when Italian men left the villages of southern Italy to work as seasonal labourers for Ontario’s railways, mines, and industries. Toronto’s first Italian neighbourhood was formed in the area around College Street and University Avenue known as “The Ward”—where Toronto General Hospital now stands. Early settlers worked in road construction and needle trades, and small businesses such as shoeshine parlours, restaurants, meat markets, and fruit groceterias. Entrepreneurs began manufacturing pasta in factories on York Street and Centre Avenue. By 1912, half of the city’s fruit dealers were Italian. The first Italian parish in the city was Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on St. Patrick Street, established in 1908. In the 1930s, Italian stonemasons and contractors provided the backbreaking labour that transformed Toronto into a metropolis with roads, sewer systems, sidewalks, streetcar lines, hospitals, and later, subway lines.
A second wave of settlers followed the Second World War, and in the 1950s, an Italian neighbourhood developed along College Street between Euclid Avenue and Shaw Street, as well as around St. Mary’s of the Angels Church at Dufferin Street and Davenport Road. Italian merchants formed a business association, and other organizations were established, including the Italian Immigrant Aid Society, which provided assistance to newcomers. Later COSTI was established to assist those immigrants experienced in a variety of trades to acquire Canadian credentials.
By the 1960s, the community began moving north and west to the St. Clair Avenue West district and the Downsview area. In Mississauga, Richmond Hill, and Woodbridge, the splendid homes and spacious properties developed by the Italian community during the 1970s and ’80s reflect the achievement of its members, who came to Canada seeking a better life for their families, as expressed in the Italian song La Casetta in Canada. The City of Vaughan, north of Toronto, has become a destination for the second and third generations.
Italian entrepreneurs and restaurateurs have left their mark on the city. Today, 70 per cent of the construction industry in the province is directed by Italian Canadians, including the Fidani family of Orlando Corporation, the Del Zotto family of Tridel Corporation, Fred DeGasperis of Con- Drain Company, and Marco Muzzo of Marel Contracting. Many second-generation Italian Canadians are contributing to the city’s professions as lawyers, doctors, and bank managers.
In 1966, Johnny Lombardi established Toronto’s first multicultural radio station; and in 1979, Dan Iannuzzi, publisher since the mid-’50s of the Italian newspaper,Corriere Canadese, founded MTV, a multilingual television network.
As early as 1885, Italian composers and musicians widened the city’s appreciation of opera and classical music. More than a century later the tradition is still carried on in events such as the Italian Culture Institute’s presentation Italy on Stage, a month-long showcase of Italian culture featuring music, theatre, dance, visual arts, and collections of Renaissance ceramics and rare Franciscan manuscripts.
Architectural monuments that stand at the corner of Lawrence Avenue West and Dufferin Street reflect a united effort by two generations of Italian settlers. The impressive Villa Colombo, with its blend of cobblestone and fountains, is a home for the aged. Next door the Columbus Centre, a multifaceted community centre containing an art gallery, restaurant, and fitness facilities, provides the venue for cultural and social expression by the community. Caboto Terrace and Casa Del Zotto apartments for seniors complete the campus.
NATIONAL DAY, June 2, celebrates the day Italians voted in favour of a republic following the Second World War. The Italian consulate usually hosts a reception, and a parade takes place in Corso Italia.
CHIN PICNIC. Listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “largest outdoor free picnic in the world,” the CHIN International Picnic was first held in 1966 at Toronto’s Centre Island. The picnic, usually held on the July 1st Canada Day weekend at the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds, has outgrown its Italian roots to include multicultural folklore performances, beauty pageants, marching bands, and international entertainment.
ITALIAN DAY, held the 3rd Sunday in August, was first staged in 1973 and takes place every summer at Ontario Place. The event features live entertainment, contests and games.
ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL, (1287 St. Clair Ave. W., Suite 7).
CORRIERE CANADESE AND TANDEM MAGAZINE, (Tel. 416-785-4300, www.corriere.com and www.tandemnews.com, 101 Wingold Ave). Editor: Paola Bernardi.
JOHNNY LOMBARDI’S ITALIAN VARIETY SHOW, CITY-TV, Channel 57, c/o CHIN Radio/TV International, (Tel. 416-531-9991, 622 College St). Sunday, 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
LO SPECCHIO, (Tel. 905-856-2823, www.lospecchio.com, 160 Woodbridge Ave., Unit 101, Woodbridge). A weekly tabloid. Also publishes the monthly magazine Donna. Editor: Sergio Tagliavini.
STUDIO APERTO, Television Program on OMNI Television, CFMT-TV, (Tel. 416-260-0047, 545 Lakeshore Blvd. W). Tuesday to Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.
TELELATINO NETWORK INC., (Tel. 416-744-8200, 5125 Steeles Ave. W). Daily, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
CHIN RADIO/TV INTERNATIONAL, (622 College St., M6G 1B6, Tel. 416-531-9991.) The broadcasting system provides information and entertainment for more than 30 linguistic and cultural communities—only Vatican Radio broadcasts in more languages. The centre provides 24 hours a day of radio programming and 13 hours a week of television programming. Contact: Ali Bidabadi.
The Venitian Ball is held annually in Toronto. Participants enjoy the masked revelry for which Venice is famous.
Italian programs on CHIN 100.7 FM include:
ITALIA BY NIGHT, Monday, 1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. Host: Giorgio. Tuesday to Friday, 12:00 a.m to 3:00 a.m. Host: Giorgio. Saturday, 12:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Host: Franco Valli. Sunday, 12:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. Host: Franco Valli.
SPORT PROGRAM, Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Host: Alfonso Ciasca.
SU DI GIRI, Monday to Friday, 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Contact: Fiorella and Franco Valli.
Italian programs on CHIN 1540 AM include:
ATTENTI A QUEI DUE, Saturday, 10:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m. Host: Ornella.
CANTA NAPOLI, Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Host: Alfonso Ciasca.
IL SABATO DEL VILLAGIO, Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Host: Ontario Sarracini.
ITALIAN FOLKLORE, Saturday, 3:00 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Host: Italo Kuci and Salvatore. (Folklore from various regions of Italy.)
MUSIC OF YOUR LIFE (ITALIAN STYLE), Monday to Friday, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Host: Nico Navarra.
PER VOI TUTTI, Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Host: Vittorio Coco.
RAI (from Italy), Monday, Thursday, 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.; Friday, midnight to 1:00 a.m.
TUTTO TUO, Monday to Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Host: Ornella.
WAKE UP ITALIAN STYLE, Monday to Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Host: Vittorio Coco.
WEEKEND ITALIAN, Sunday, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
VENETO FEDERATION, (Tel. 905-851-5551, 7465 Kipling Ave., Woodbridge).
CANADIAN ITALIAN BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TORONTO, (Tel. 416-782-4445, 901 Lawrence Ave. W).
COSTI-IIAS, (Tel. 416-658-1600, 1710 Dufferin St). A non-profit community organization initially organized to assist Italian workers in the construction industry. Today, it provides a number of educational and social welfare services for Italians and other immigrants. President: Mr. B. Suppa.
COLUMBUS CENTRE, (Tel. 416-789-7011, 901 Lawrence Ave. W). Home to the Canadian Italian Advocates Association; Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association of Toronto, (Tel. 416-782-4445). President: Mario Cinelli.
ITALIAN CULTURAL INSTITUTE, (Tel. 416-921-3802, www.iicto-ca.org, 496 Huron St). Under the jurisdiction of the Italian Foreign Office, this Institution promotes Italian culture through lectures, exhibitions, and conferences. Housed in an 1879 Queen Anne style building with Palladian elements. Director: Carlo Coen.
THE NATIONAL CONGRESS OF ITALIAN CANADIANS (TORONTO DISTRICT), (Tel. 416-531-9964, www.canadese.org, 756 Ossington Ave), is the voice and unifying force for more than one million Italian Canadians. Originally called FACI (Federation of Italian Canadian Clubs and Associations), it is an umbrella for more than 55 associations, sports clubs, village clubs, and churches. It holds seminars on Italian history and has played an important role in the development of Villa Colombo and other community activities. President: Anthony Carella.
VILLA CHARITIES INC., (901 Lawrence Ave. W., M6A 1C3, Tel. 416-789-7011, www.villacharities.com), was established in 1971 as a charitable community organization that has developed, raised money, and built and operated the Columbus Centre, Villa Colombo, and others. President: John Gennaro. Director: Palmacchio Di Iulio.
There are more than 300 incorporated and unincorporated social and regional Italian clubs in the city:
FAMEE FURLANE—TORONTO, (Tel. 905-851-1166, 7065 Islington Ave., Woodbridge). The largest and most organized regional Italian club has meeting rooms, club rooms, a restaurant, and senior residences.
SOCIETA FEMMINILE FRIULANA, (7065 Islington Ave., Woodbridge). A women’s group with over 800 members. Activities include theatre groups, library exchanges, picnics, and bowling. President: Susan Giust.