Mississauga ITALFEST is pleased to present two awards to outstanding members of the City of Mississauga and Ontario.
Our “Johnny Lombardi and Family, Mississauga Italfest Heritage Award” and “The Louis Jannetta Mississauga Italfest Youth Heritage Award” are presented each year to recipients who are role models and leaders and who continue to celebrate and share their Italian culture and give back to the community.
The “Johnny Lombardi and Family, Mississauga Italfest Heritage Award” is presented annually to an Italo-Canadian role model and community leader and “The Louis Jannetta Mississauga Italfest Youth Heritage Award” is given with a bursary to a young recipient that endeavours to celebrate their Italian heritage with others.
The Louis Jannetta Mississauga ITALFEST Youth Heritage Award is in honour of the infamous life of Louis Anthony Jannetta; it represents a life of hard work and determination. Arriving from Italy at the age of 7, Mr. Jannetta started selling fruit off a cart in Toronto’s Little Italy and eventually became the Maître D of the world renowned Imperial Room at the Royal York Hotel – rubbing shoulders with royalty and famous stars! At a young age, he started the Canadian Italian Amateur Hockey League giving every Canadian-Italian a chance to play Canada’s national sport regardless of abilities and free of discrimination. In the name of The Jannetta Family, there is one (1) cash honourarium of $100 and a commemorative trophy presented at ITALFEST available to any youth (aged 13-25) that is of Italian heritage and promotes the Italian culture in our community. The award recipient must be a permanent resident of Mississauga, Ontario.
Louis Anthony Jannetta was born in Roccamandolfi, an idyllic town on the top of a hill in Italy.
When he was just one year old, his father left for Canada and Louis lived with his mother and six others in a 3 bedroom stone house. He fed the animals, collected wood and fetched water for the family, stomped grapes and rode bareback on donkeys!
In July of 1935, Louis, his mother and sister travelled by boat to Canada to join his father. They landed at Ellis Island and boarded a train for Toronto’s Little Italy. He worked from the day he arrived, selling fruit off a cart. He’d clean movie theatres so he could watch movies and dream about a different life. Lying about his age at 14 years old, Louis was hired as a busboy at the Royal York Hotel in Downtown Toronto! He went from busboy to waiter, waiter to Captain of the Black Knight Room, and then becoming the Maître D of the famous Imperial Room rubbing shoulders with royalty and huge stars.
Louis met his wife Corinne at the Palais Royale when she was just 15. Their love story lasted for over 63 years and, to date, has produced four children, 8 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
He loved sports almost as much as movie stars, and at a young age, he started the Canadian Italian Amateur Hockey League giving every Canadian Italian a chance to play Canada’s national sport – regardless of abilities and free of discrimination. The league was televised weekly and toured Europe twice.
After retiring from the Royal York, he opened his very successful restaurant, Louis Jannetta’s Place in 1994, running it until 1999. During this time, he wrote and published his infamous book, King of the Maître’d’s My Life Among the Stars, in 2007.
He received numerous awards for his work in the hospitality industry and for his never-ending charitable work for the community. Louis was even honoured by the Italian Business Men’s Association where Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito and friends toasted him.
He was a Knight of Malta and a member of Variety Club International participating in many of their fundraising and community outreach programs. He also starred in a number of TV shows and movies.
Mississauga ITALFEST, in his honour, presents the Louis Jannetta Mississauga ITALFEST Youth Heritage Award annually with a bursary to a young Italian-Canadian who is a role model and leader and who contributed to the fabric of Mississauga by volunteering or by trying to improve the lives of others.
The Johnny Lombardi Family Mississauga ITALFEST ™ Heritage Award is in honour of the late Johnny Lombardi, a man instrumental in promoting the Italian culture in the community through his work and personal endeavours. The Mississauga ITALFEST 2020 Organizing Committee is now accepting nominations. Criteria for the award are as follows:
One of the city’s best-known personalities, John Barbalinardo “Johnny” Lombardi was a pioneer in the promotion of Toronto’s cultural diversity. Born in Toronto to an Italian immigrant family, he became a self-taught trumpeter and entertainer before serving in the Canadian Army in the Second World War. Returning to Toronto, he quickly achieved success by appealing to the needs of the city’s rapidly growing Italian immigrant neighbourhoods – first as the proprietor of a grocery store, opened in 1946, then as an impresario of Italian entertainment.
In 1966, Lombardi launched two vital Toronto institutions: CHIN Multicultural Radio and the CHIN International Picnic. CHIN, the first station in Canada licensed to provide full-time multilingual programming, began in rooms above Lombardi’s supermarket at 637 College Street, and expanded into television in 1970. CHIN Radio now broadcasts in over 30 languages from 622 College Street. The CHIN International Picnic, now a three-day festival, annually attracts more than 250,000 people to celebrate Toronto’s cultural diversity.
Dynamic and generous, Johnny Lombardi received numerous awards for service to his community and his country, including the Order of Canada in 1981.