brio toronto

A popular Italian soda is actually made right here in Toronto

There's a certain Italian soda that's super popular in Toronto, but you might not realize it's actually made right here in town, not overseas.

You can be forgiven for the misconception with the classic Italian look, feel and of course taste of our beloved Brio. While it seems like a product that might hail from Europe, its history in Toronto stretches all the way back to 1957.

brio toronto

That's when three Italians came to Canada, but found they missed the flavour of their drinks from home, especially chinotto. It's a very particular flavour that comes from from a sour, bitter orange grown in Italy and Malta.

brio toronto

They started off selling drinks imported from Italy, but in 1959 they decided to try making their own version of their favourite chinotto, even without any experience in soft drink manufacturing.

brio toronto

To this day, Brio is still manufactured at its original factory location at 40 Arrow Rd.

brio toronto

Danny Manafo, who worked at Brio for 55 years mainly as a plant manager, tells blogTO they had the idea to introduce the products from Italy and start selling them here.

There was a lot of Italian immigration to Canada at the time, and people wanted the drinks they were used to back home.

brio toronto

They started out specializing in home delivery, with their new Brio drink brought to the local Italian community via what people used to call "pop trucks."

brio toronto

The company also started producing an equally popular Mio Gasossa lemon-flavoured beverage.

brio toronto

Brio and Mio were sold in supermarkets starting in the 1960s, reaching Quebec by the 1980s and are now available all over Canada.

brio toronto

Manafo says you can even find it some places in the U.S. sometimes, where people want to buy specialty drinks or where there are strong Italian communities, and that the drink goes especially well with Mediterranean foods, pizza and pasta.

brio toronto

In 2017, Brio made a major shift by introducing new aranciata, aranciata rossa, limonatta and gasossa flavours.

brio toronto

They even came out with "hard" Brio in 2018 in the original chinotto flavour with vodka.

brio toronto

All the flavours are still made using imported ingredients, and Manafo says Brio has plans to expand to other markets especially the States.

So if you're hoping more Brio is in your future, odds are this is only the beginning of this legendary Toronto soda's story.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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