Beloved Cafe Diplomatico founder and community leader Rocco Mastrangelo Sr. dies at 87

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Rocco Mastrangelo Sr., founder of Cafe Diplomatico, died peacefully at the age of 87 on Monday, April 26, 2021. (Cafe Diplomatico - image credit)
Rocco Mastrangelo Sr., founder of Cafe Diplomatico, died peacefully at the age of 87 on Monday, April 26, 2021. (Cafe Diplomatico - image credit)

Rocco Mastrangelo Sr., the founder of Cafe Diplomatico, one of Toronto's most beloved restaurants and patios, has died at the age of 87.

With a passion for Italian culture, cinema and music and an "immensely generous heart," the entrepreneur and impresario was a pillar in his community, his obituary said. He died Monday.

Mastrangelo worked hard alongside his father and brothers to open the College Street cafe in 1968, one of the first Italian-owned cafes in Toronto, establishing their vision of a classic Italian bar where patrons could gather over espresso, biscotti and gelato.

Between 1945 and 1970, more than 400,000 Italians migrated to Cananda and the majority settled in Toronto, says a Heritage Toronto commemorative plaque displayed outside the restaurant. Cafe Diplomatico quickly became a place for newcomers to meet, socialize and speak Italian.

Cafe Diplomatico was Mastrangelo's most proud and dearest accomplishment, said his son Rocco Jr. and daughter-in-law Connie in a statement.

WATCH | Beloved Cafe Diplomatico founder Rocco Mastrangelo Sr. dies at 87:

The restaurant was among the first to introduce the concept of outdoor dining to Toronto and set a high standard for food service, with Mastrangelo spending most days working there.

"Many of you may have met him sitting at this favourite 'table #19' for lunch," said his family's statement. "This is where he liked to sit in order to ensure the quality of the espresso and service."

Cafe Diplomatico was known for attracting crowds of fans to watch soccer games, and was especially packed when Italy played, said Little Italy BIA treasurer Maria Galipo, who described the restaurant as a staple of the neighbourhood.

She knew Rocco, who helped found the BIA, since she was little girl and described him as "larger than life" and a "visionary."

Rocco Mastrangelo Sr. will be remembered for his generous heart and 'stern but steadfast love' for his family, his obituary said.
Rocco Mastrangelo Sr. will be remembered for his generous heart and 'stern but steadfast love' for his family, his obituary said. (Mastrangelo family)

"He was one of the pioneers of this neighbourhood," she said.

Mastrangelo was born in Anzano Di Puglia, Italy on Aug. 19, 1933, said his obituary. He was married to his wife Viriginia for 62 years and raised three children with a "stern but steadfast love."

"He passed on his valuable skill and work ethic to both us and staff alike. We will miss him dearly," his family said.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Mastrangelo's funeral will be livestreamed for family and friends on Friday.