Edward & Donna Pasquale


The Life Story of Edward and Donna Pasquale

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Edward Pasquale was born in 1897 in Prezza, in the Province of Abruzzo, Italy. Five years later Donna Bernardo was born in Bolognano, Italy. Donna and her family moved to the Ward in 1904 when she was just two years old.

Edward Pasquale was born in 1897 in Prezza, in the Province of Abruzzo, Italy. He had 4 siblings: Pamphilo, Enrico, Anthony and Vincenza.   Edward was bright so the prospect of tending the family’s flock for a living held little appeal to the ambitious young man. The family was poor and job opportunities in Prezza were few so, in 1912 the family decided they would leave Italy. Denied entry into the United States, the Pasquales instead came to Canada. Brothers Pamphilo and Edward lived in the Ward as young teens. In 1917,  the brothers founded Pasquale Brothers on Elm Street to cater to the growing Mediterranean community in the city. They wanted to bring Italian culinary traditions to Canadian tables and along the way would become the country’s leading distributor of Mediterranean-style ingredients and products.

A year after opening the store, Edward married Donna Bernardo. Donna, also born in Italy, moved to the Ward in 1904 when she was just two years old. Her family came from Bolognano, Italy. Like the Pasquales the Bernardos moved to Toronto in search of a better life.  Donna met Edward while working in a cigar factory and the couple married in May 1918 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel on St. Patrick Street, just west of the Ward. Donna was just 16 years old. As was common at the time, the family lived in the apartment above their storefront. They had 5 children, with 3 living into adulthood. While Donna managed affairs at the shop, Edward made deliveries across the city. During their first years in business he would ride on the streetcar to make deliveries to clients, among them the King Edward and Royal York hotels.

During WWII the Pasquales were fortunate enough to receive the last container of olive oil to arrive in Toronto before an embargo was placed on products arriving from Italy. After the shipment ran out, they became one of the first companies to sell sunflower oil produced in Canada.

During the war, Edward managed to avoid the fate of his two older brothers, Pamphilo and Enrico, who spent 3 years imprisoned in an internment camp in Petawawa, Ontario along with hundreds of other German, Italian and Japanese Canadians deemed enemies by the state.

Following his release, Pamphilo relocated to Montreal, while Edward continued to  run the family business with his three children and son-in-law, Henry Madott. The business relocated several times before settling into a location on King Street East, which they purchased outright, adding “Downtown” to the business name.  Edward moved the business one last time to Keele and Highway 7 before it was finally sold to IMASCO which permanently changed the name to UNICO to reflect the product line.

Henry Madott died of a heart attack on March 31, 1979 after watching a Toronto Maple Leafs’ game against the Minnesota North Stars. Edward died the following year.

“When my grandparents were growing up in the Ward they only ate meat at Easter. My grandmother had 10,000 recipes for beans and eggs because that’s all they could afford.”

– Anna Marie Kalcevich, granddaughter of Edward and Donna Pasquale

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