TORONTO -- The patriarch of a family-run bakery in Toronto’s west end is dead following an ongoing battle with COVID-19.

In a post to SanRemo Bakery and Café’s Instagram page Thursday, the Bozzo family confirmed that Natale Bozzo had died after six weeks in hospital.

“He fought very hard, he was in good health prior to this, and we learned of his failing health through very difficult phone calls from the hospital and thankfully we were able to say goodbye,” the post reads.

Born in 1945, Bozzo immigrated to Canada from Italy at the age of 15.

He started working in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood at Sicilia Bakery on College Street before opening SanRemo Bakery with his brothers in Etobicoke in 1969.


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Bozzo would become the sole owner of the bakery located at Royal York Boulevard and Simpson Avenue in the 90s with his three sons.

He would later retire, but the family said Bozzo would often “help out around the bakery as it was his passion.”

“He was an incredible baker, and most hardworking man we know. He was resilient and resourceful. He was kind and a friend to all,” the family said in the post.

Well-known for its Italian-inspired dishes and over-the-top desserts, the Etobicoke staple was forced to close its doors on Jan. 22 after four employees, including Bozzo, tested positive for COVID-19. They reopened for business on Feb. 6.

The bakery said at the time that it was working with Toronto Public Health and following their advice on how to move forward.

In the weeks that followed, Bozzo's condition deteriorated in hospital, according to his son, Robert.

"We put him on the ventilator," he said speaking to CTV News Toronto on Friday. "He made that choice to go which, you know, he was scared."

The family said that Bozzo’s death will be followed by what they describe as an “inexplicable time of grieving.”

“He said the secret of baking was to put a pinch of love into everything, and we’ll be missing that pinch in ways we can’t describe.”

On Thursday night, Premier Doug Ford expressed his condolences.

"My condolences go out to Rob, Nick, Ed, and the entire family of Natale Bozzo, a true local champion who followed his passions," Ford wrote. "A family-owned business, the SanRemo Bakery and Café has been a staple in Etobicoke for many years. God bless the Bozzo family."

Toronto Mayor John Tory, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Leafs President Brendan Shanahan also paid their respects to the Toronto baker.

"My deepest condolences go out to Natale Bozzo’s family," Tory said. "The owner of Etobicoke’s legendary SanRemo’s Bakery, Natale was a beloved member of the Etobicoke community and will be dearly missed."

"Very sad to hear about the passing of Natale Bozzo, growing up just a few blocks away, SanRemo Bakery was always part of our celebrations and special occasions," Shanahan tweeted Thursday night.

SanRemo was open for pickup Friday and customers were eager to share what Bozzo's legacy meant to them.

Stephen Ruth said he visits the bakery every day. "It's like home, it's community, family, I know everyone and all the employees," he said. 

After picking up a pizza, Liz Roy said, "It's the heart and soul of this neighbourhood."

Bozzo was 75.