cafe diplomatico toronto

Cafe Diplomatico closes temporarily to mourn the death of its founder

Cafe Diplomatico is closing down temporarily to mourn the death of its founder, Rocco Mastrangelo Sr.

Mastrangelo died on Apr. 26, according to a post on the fabled restaurant's Ins. He was 88 years old.

Connie Mastrangelo, who now runs Cafe Diplomatico with her husband Rocco Mastrangelo Jr., says it was "not a COVID death" but in a way was also "because of COVID."

According to Connie, Mastrangelo was still coming to Dip every day for lunch until lockdown, and when everything shut down, he got stuck at home. She says he loved to work, and sit at his usual table and take in the crowds, and that losing it all was a blow.

Rocco was born in the small town of Anzano di Puglia in 1933, and immigrated to Canada in 1957 to help out his parents and brother who had already come over.

Already having tried his hand at opening an Italian gift shop at 598 College selling jewellery and Italian products, in 1967 he turned what Rocco Jr. thinks used to be a tailor's shop into Casa de la Moda, a store selling imported Italian clothing.

The clothing turned out to be out of budget for the Italian immigrants living in the area.

In the spring of 1968, he turned it into espresso bar Cafe Diplomatico, selling coffee made using freshly ground beans, house-made gelato, alongsiude meals family members would make at home and bring in. It was one of the first businesses on the street to have a patio, and the patio has remained one of its signatures throughout the decades.

Rocco Jr. says he was "basically emulating what was their culture in Italy. You have all these coffee bars, they put tables literally in the middle of street."

"People can come and talk and meet and that's very key to Italian lifestyle," says Connie. "Everyone else in Toronto kind of liked that idea too."

Rocco Jr. says his father's "drive for business was always connected to Italian culture," with Rocco Sr. also having opened lots of other Italian businesses including a cinema and several businesses along St. Clair, another hub for Italian culture in Toronto.

Connie and Rocco Jr.'s favourite memories of Rocco Sr. are how he was so particular about espresso he would even get behind the bar to show new staff how it was done, and how he made people feel special from the moment they walked through the door at Cafe Dip. 

A live stream of the funeral mass and cemetery committal service will take place on Friday Apr. 30, 2021 at 10:30 a.m. for anyone who wishes to view the service. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Heart & Stroke foundation in memory of Rocco Sr.

Cafe Diplomatico will reopen for takeout and delivery on Friday at 3 p.m.

Lead photo by

Family of Rocco Mastrangelo Sr.

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