This post is also available in: Italian

Do you think we’re talking about a building contractor? Mistaken!

Tony Malizia is one of the major builders of cultural bridges between Italy and Canada, involving many young people from both sides of the ocean.

He also builds machines for the food industry.

But how do you become a builder of cultural bridges?

It all started when Tony left a wonderful but very poor territory, the Val di Comino, to go to Canada. But he never forgot Settefrati and its Sanctuary of the Madonna di Canneto.

Settefrati- Santuario Madonna del Canneto by Tonino Bernardelli

Settefrati – Sanctuary of the Madonna del Canneto by Tonino Bernardelli

A valley that seems to come from a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, where each hill has its own castle, where the wine is fragrant, the wheat is high and the cheese is a real treat.

But the valley is located just behind the mountain of the Abbey of Montecassino and the Gustav Line, and the Second World War had brought hunger and the need to go look for a safer place to live.

During the battle of Montecassino, his mother was 7 months pregnant and already had 2 boys and 1 baby girl. His father died as a civilian victim during the last days of the retreat of the Germans from Montecassino, through our Comino Valley.

Sunset over Settefrati by Tonino Bernardelli

Tony’s story: from the Val Di Comino to Canada

Their arrival in Toronto in Canada is almost from a textbook. He read an announcement in which they were looking for technicians and sent his candidacy to the consulate. It was accepted in less than 30 days.

He was 21 years old and already had a wife and daughter Diana, while his son Eddie would be born in Canada.

Tony had studied and his skill, combined with a traditional Italian technical education from the San Lorenzo Institute in Aversa, immediately highlighted him and made him increasingly valuable.

He worked in the food machinery sector and as a machinist he became head of department, and in 1970 he was already Production Manager.

His high technical skills made the company grow rapidly to triple its turnover. The company was sold to a large American multinational corporation (Cherry Burrell) which designs, builds and distributes equipment for the food industry worldwide.

Tony found himself among the key managers, and in a short time was promoted to Plant Manager, responsible for the entire engineering and manufacturing department. At 26, he began another phase of his career in managerial plant planning.

But knowing about his independent spirit, in order not to let him go, they offered him shares in the company and Tony became director, shareholder and member of the board of directors until 1984, when his partners decided to sell the company.

Another, much larger, multinational took over and after a short period he was appointed Vice President and became responsible for all design operations for the food industry and for production in North America.

A position of great responsibility that led him to direct, in addition to the Toronto plant, also one in Wisconsin, USA and projected him internationally as a member of the group’s ‘mergers and acquisitions’ task force.

He had reached the highest level ever dreamed of, he had a splendid career, but Tony had an even greater desire and dream. He wanted to create a special company that would, from the design up to the engineering, create mechanical equipment for the food, pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries.

He made his dream known to the managers of the company by giving proper notice and in 1988 at the age of 44 he created ADM Stainless Inc. which can be read as an acronym of his name or that of his wife and sons. Today the company is managed by his son Eddie with the administrative support of his daughter Diana.

When he decided to start his own business, that’s when he started building his bridges. But first another story and a special meeting.

Talking to Tony, about his encounters in the industrial world, he told us about his admiration for Callisto Tanzi, a giant of the milk industry worldwide and the founder of Parmalat.

They had met as an industrialist and a supplier of industrial processes, and from this a collaboration and mutual respect was born, which brought technical and financial advantages to both.

The first meeting had taken place at the New Orleans milk fair where this mutual understanding  brought Parmalat to North and South America, a cooperation that came with high quality processing plants built by ADM Stainless Inc.

A milestone that would lead to great global credibility and merging proposal of ADM with the world of Parmalat. A fusion that Tony was able to deflect while remaining independent and essential.

Perhaps it is precisely this combination of commercial intuition and technological knowledge that made the milk giant grow in the first phase of its history on the American continent, before financial ‘drunkenness’ destroyed everything.

Many entrepreneurs like Calisto Tanzi have appreciated the great and always innovative quality of the machinery and the innovations that Tony’s ADM Stainless brings every day with new ideas and technical solutions. A search for total perfection that identifies them as “Solution Providers”. Today Eddie and Diana are already at the creative service of those industries where the spirit of technological innovation has not gone missing.

But let’s go back to the bridge builder. Between Settefrati in Val di Comino and its Italian community in Canada.

Immediately, as soon as he arrived in Canada, Tony was the co-founder of the Pro Settefrati Committee, to promote the traditions of the Comino Valley and for the devotees of the Madonna di Canneto, a shrine that every year sees around 60,000 people from 3 regions go on pilgrimage to Settefrati during the month of August.

In 1968 the Pro Settefrati committee (including the young 24-year-old Tony as committee secretary) with the cooperation and support of the famous Settefratese Domenico Vitti, built a copy of the statue of the Madonna. This allowd them to repeat the pilgrimage from Settefrati to Canneto at the Mary Lake Monastery of the Augustinian Fathers, about 50 km north of Toronto.

The monastery is located in an area of ​​over 320 hectares, with a lake and a landscape that emotionally reminds a little of the Canneto Valley in Settefrati. A great place to combine culture, tradition and religion in the soul of the devotees of the Madonna di Canneto.

The years, generations passed, and in the family a new need arose. The little ones were no longer Italian immigrants, they were Canadians with Italian roots. So the Pro Settefrati committee became the Canneto Society Inc, with the hope of widening horizons. Although this did not happen from the unification of the Italian and Canadian vision of Italy, its culture and traditions didn’t quite merge at first with those of North America.

Their visions and feelings towards Italy were different, but Tony wanted the young Italian Canadians to know how to draw strength and benefit from their Italian roots and, in particular, from the Comino Valley.

In 2018 Tony, with the complete support of the community, decided to take control of the Canneto Society and began approaching the second and third generation of Italian / Settefratesi / Canadians to awake in them the desire to rediscover their origins and love for the town they belonged to.

In Italy the young people did not really feel at home, but the strength came from the intersection of Canada and Italy and a bridge had to be built between the two cultures. A bridge born from the fusion of these two cultures, among which the original Valcominese would (and will) have to grow and nurture.

Want to be surprised? 80% of the members of the Canneto Society belong to the 2nd and 3rd generation. The intercultural, intergenerational, interspatial bridge.

The bridge for the future.

And now it’s up to us to observe who will be willing to cross this bridge from each of the two sides, and maybe tell some stories to help them enter their new culture. The Canadian culture for young Italian people and the Italian culture for Canadians.

This is why for his activity as an Italian-Canadian bridge builder and for his cultural enrichment and promotion of Settefrati, Tony Malizia has received the Town Ambassador of Settefrati Award.

Claudia Bettiol

IT Ingegnere, futurista e fondatrice di Discoverplaces. Consulente per lo Sviluppo Turistico dei Territori, specializzato nella sostenibilità e nella promozione culturale dei piccoli territori e delle piccole imprese. Ama i cavalli ENG Engineeer, futurist, joint founder of Energitismo and founder of Discoverplaces. Consultant for the development and promotion of the Touristic Development of Territories specialising in sustainability and in cultural promotion of small places and small enterprises. She loves horses