frank vetere

Toronto man behind popular pizzeria and do-it-yourself sundaes has died at 96

My father, Frank Vetere, passed away this week. He was 96 years old.

He was born in Toronto to Italian immigrants. His father was going to be a successful entrepreneur. He first had a fruit stand and then a second one and then a fruit store but tuberculosis struck him down at a very young age, when my father was only 3 years old.

His mother then had to struggle to support three little boys but they moved in with her parents and my father's grandfather basically became a surrogate father.

My father always felt sorry for his mom, being a widow. He recently told me how when he got his first job, working with boxes in a hot basement warehouse, he ran home and gave his mom that whole dollar and 27 cents.

He said when she went out on a date, and he was 18 years old, he waited for her at the streetcar to make sure she did not have to walk home alone at night.

He started out at Tip Top tailors as just a mail boy, but the executives were so impressed by him, he made his way into the offices very quickly and became an accountant and within just a few years, Vice-President.

He learned and admired from Ben Dunkelman. He met my mom there and their love story began. It was not always easy being Italian, right after the war but my father never let that stop him.

When he left Tip Top Tailors, he began Red Barn. It was successful for awhile but once Foodex was formed then he went into business and brought Ponderosa Steak House to Canada, followed by of course Frank Vetere's Pizzeria.

frank vetere

The signage for Frank Vetere's Pizzeria. The restaurant was known for its pizza, Italian sandwiches, burgers, pasta and an all-you-can-eat salad bar. The chain was later sold to Pizza Hut. Photo via Linda Vetere.

Note that the do-it-yourself sundaes were his idea! He retired early, and then joined the Horseman's association which he loved and was responsible for getting benefits and better housing for the jockeys. My father was a very detailed and efficient man.

He was a very successful man, and started from scratch but remained humble. I listened to him every night at dinner when he explained what went on at the office, I listened intently and must be the reason I also went into my own business.

His career is one thing but let me explain what a father he was.

When I was very young, I knew I was protected. He was this big strong man. I wanted him to hold my hand, not my mom because he held it tight.

He was always about fun, taking me to Leaf, Blue Jay games, Disney, the EX where we would eat corned beef sandwiches together. He made jokes all the time and I would never stop laughing. He always paid attention to me, would make everything a game and fun.

When we would drive somewhere, he said "I am the pilot and you are my navigator" After dinner every night when I was a child, I would go into his den, where we would watch all the game shows together. Most nights we played cards together, taking turns at solitaire.

frank vetere

Frank Vetere enjoying his retirement. Photo via Linda Vetere.

All his kids were special to him, but he would always say to me "you are my beautiful little girl" He even said that to me 3 weeks ago. Even though I am a 54 year old grown woman, I still went to him for advice, he was still in essence, holding my hand tight.

He loved my husband from the moment he met him. I think he reminded him of himself. Strong, logical, sensible, kind, family man and with an entrepreneur spirit. My children adored him. I think he adored them even more.

Every conversation he had with me, he always said, your children are so amazing. He was proud of them but always added that myself and my husband did a great job. But that was dad, he was always positive, uplifting.

He loved how I reminded him of my mother, especially after her passing, it helped to feel she was still alive in me.

I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that both my parents are gone now but I know they both led long and full lives.

When I think of him, I think about his love of horse racing, his black Cadillac, his white shoes, his cigar, his unmistakable presence that would make everyone petrified even though he was a teddy bear, his strong voice that he had even up until a few weeks ago, his positivity and the fact that he was decent to everyone, all 96 years of his life.

I could count on him for anything, he never disappointed me. He loved his wife and his children so much that it would be impossible to love more.

He had four children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He had two wonderful brothers, Norm and Stan who have passed away before him.

I will miss him dearly but I am glad I have an impeccable memory. For me, he really was the greatest father one could have, I can't imagine it being any better.

Daddy, I love you.

This article about Frank Vetere was contributed by his daughter, Linda Vetere.

Lead photo by

Linda Vetere

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