TORONTO — The foodservice and hospitality industry lost one of its giants with the passing of J. Charles Grieco on Jan. 29, 2019 at the Toronto Grace Health Centre. The former owner of La Scala Restaurant was an active leader in Toronto’s culinary scene for more than 35 years, first as the owner/operator of La Scala — a restaurant he owned and operated with his father — and then for years as the driving force behind the Ontario Hostelry Institute (OHI) (and the Gold Awards) and the Canadian Hospitality Foundation, where he helped raise millions of dollars through the years for student scholarships.
Grieco was a fixture at La Scala for many years, mentoring many of the industry’s brightest stars who passed through those restaurant doors. For decades, the eatery, situated on Bay St., set the standard for fine Italian cuisine. It was the place where Toronto’s politicos and CEOs brokered deals on a regular basis while eating some of the best Italian food served in Toronto. The restaurant was one of the first to serve risotto in the city, as well as a lineup of authentic, upscale-Italian fare.
With the closing of the restaurant in the early 1990s, Grieco turned his sights to the OHI, where he was a founding director, chair and president since 1977 and the Canadian Hospitality Foundation, where he served as managing director, working tirelessly to promote the health and vitality of the foodservice and hospitality industry, which he passionately loved and constantly tried to improve. In the past decade, Grieco was also instrumental — through the OHI, along with Bruce McAdams, assistant professor at the University of Guelph — in promoting the Top 30 under 30, shining the light on young professionals.
Grieco was recognized as a leading thinker on key issues facing the hospitality industry and participated in the provincial commission that led to the formation of the Vintners Alliance. His guiding principles always included improving the industry and making it stronger through professionalism and growth. He was a friend and mentor to many and tirelessly advocated for the best interests of the industry.
He leaves behind his wife Margaret and four sons (John, Paul, Joseph, Patrick) and their families. He will be missed by countless people in the industry.
Donations can be made to Salvation Army Toronto Grace Health Centre, Compassionate Care Unit or Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Prostrate Cancer Research.