Macelleria Atlas – A Half Century of Serving our Neighbourhoods | By Jenny Reich
In the Midst of So Much “New” Stands a Half Century Local Business Serving Our Community
Macelleria Atlas, the butcher shop located at 800 St. Clair West, has been a fixture in the neighbourhood for the better part of a half-century. Owned and operated by Antonio Mazza, 72, and his wife Anna Maria, 62, this independent business began as a story about new beginnings, family, and love.
Antonio emigrated to Toronto with his family in 1967, seeking greater opportunities than were available in their small town in mountainous Calabria. The adjustment to this Canadian city proved too much for the senior Mazzas – but not so for their son. While his parents returned to their hometown, Antonio resided with an aunt and uncle on St. Clair who took him in like a son.
Meanwhile, Anna Maria, who also hailed from the same southern province, left for Canada to avoid an arranged marriage in 1971. Through connections with friends in Toronto’s tight-knit Italian community, she found herself living in the same triplex as Antonio, his aunt and uncle, and an abundance of cousins. Amid the lively, boisterous atmosphere and many home-cooked meals, love flourished between the two.
Antonio’s aunt, a warm and sociable woman with many contacts, helped her nephew find a job with a butcher just a few doors away from where Macelleria Atlas now stands. Mazza honed his skills for a decade before taking over the business in 1978. By this time, Antonio and Anna Maria were married and, like so many new Canadians before them, worked long hours while simultaneously raising their young family.
In the late 1970s, St. Clair West strongly reflected the surge of post-war Italian immigrants that settled in the city. The store, with its steadfast commitment to personalized service, value and quality, catered mostly to this clientele and quickly earned a loyal customer base. Over the years, many families have moved further afield, but still return to their old, trusted stomping ground to buy meats hand-cut to their particular specifications. The Mazza family even delivers to long-time patrons who find it difficult to make the trip.
Despite being stocked exclusively with fresh Ontario meat and demonstrated expertise in the trade, Macelleria Atlas has also evolved over time. In the face of competition and shifting tastes, Antonio and Anna Maria have broadened their offerings to appeal to a wider audience. Their daughter Angela, 30, officially came aboard in 2011 with experience in the food industry, a bubbly personality and fresh ideas. Recognizing that young families have less time to make hearty meals from scratch, they have added a number of homemade delicacies to their roster: Meatballs, lasagnas, sausages, cannelloni, tomato sauce, burgers, porchetta, soups, stocks and more are all prepared in-house. Using fresh ingredients, these dishes are based on traditional family recipes and, with advance notice, almost anything can be made to order.
By word of mouth, Mrs. Mazza’s cuisine has become increasingly popular. Customers, in the absence of being able to watch and learn firsthand from this veteran Nonna, can benefit from her advice and tips while getting their meat cut and seasoned.
For those who have not yet visited this modest local gem, its old world charm and strong family vibe sets it apart. Antonio, Anna Maria, and Angela eat lunch together every day, and Mrs. Mazza still hosts a big meal once a week for her four children, grandchildren and extended relations. Macelleria Atlas is the embodiment of these two main precepts of Italian culture – family and food – and represents a true labour of love.
Jenny Reich, a former Montréaler, has called St. Clair West home since 2008. After working in recruitment, admissions and alumni relations for McGill University, she took time off to become a full-time childminder. Now that her offspring are in school, her days are spent drinking champagne and consuming bonbons by the case. She is also a freelance writer and editor.