News about the impending closure of a beloved Italian buffet is crushing hearts all over the Greater Toronto Area this week — crushing them like San Marzano tomatoes in a zesty pasta sauce.
But hope is not yet lost for Markham's Frankie Tomatto's.
A longtime fan of the 25-year-old restaurant has started a GoFundMe campaign to "Save Frankie Tomatto from closing during COVID19."
"This all-you-can-eat pasta and salad place at Woodbine and Steeles has been with us for 25 years and now it is closing down because of COVID and self-serve buffet restrictions," writes organizer Sherry Wang, referring to a rule under Stage 3 of Ontario's reopening plan that currently prohibits buffets from operating.
Like many GTA locals, Wang holds the Italian-themed restaurant and its famous 55-foot-tall leaning tower close to her heart.
"I grew up in Scarborough and Markham. This place has been a very special restaurant for my family," she writes. "When it comes to celebration, going to Frankie Tomatto makes me excited always. The food and service had always been good."
The campaign has earned by a small fraction of its $25,000 goal so far, but Wang hopes that the funds she does raise can help Frankie's and its 137 employees pull through the rest of the pandemic.
"Reality told us it was time to say goodbye," said owner Hal Roback to blogTO earlier this week of his business, which opened in 1995. "It's been a great run."
Roback said that, while he "wasn't planning on going out this way," COVID restrictions and a lack of support from the building's landlord have made it difficult to maintain a 15,000-square-foot restaurant where large group gatherings and family meals make up about 50 per cent of all business.
Not only are self-serve buffets still banned in Ontario, but the provincial government has also put a cap of 50 people on all indoor gatherings.
It remains to be seen if even a very successful online fundraiser can offset these gargantuan challenges for the business, but for Wang, it's worth a try.
"I hope we can help to save them because it's not just a restaurant, it's a community," she writes. "It means family, love and togetherness."
As it stands now, Frankie's is scheduled to close after one "Last Supper" on Saturday. The one-of-a-kind restaurant will be giving away free pizzas in its parking lot (one per car) and donating $1 for each to the Easter Seals.
by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO