E-Storia

A shared history

E-Storia is the story of Italian Immigrant families that have settled in Montreal since the late 1800's.

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Sabino Grassi
EPIC Québec

Images may not be reproduced without the permission of Casa d'Italia CCPI

"From high school, university and onwards, my Italian origins have been with me constantly."

From Gildone to Belgium to Canada

Francesco Grassi, the youngest of four brothers first left Gildone, Campobasso when he was barely sixteen years old. Italy's involvement in World War II had reached a decisive moment, and his two older brothers agreed to join the war effort. Once the War was over, Francesco immigrated to the coal mines of Belgium. Not quite eighteen years old, he returned to Gildone with knowledge and experience that would later serve him in realizing his next migration project. Upon his return home, Francesco began to court Maria Giuseppe del Balso whose beauty and strength captivated him.

The abounding miseria disseminated amid mountains of rubble of destruction led many men, women and families in the Italian South to pack their bags and leave home in search for work. Some immigrated to Italy's Industrial Triangle, others to European countries, and many considered Canada, Australia and Argentina their destination of choice. In the case of the Grassi brothers, Francesco and Michele joined their extended family in Montreal, while Giovanni and Giuseppe gravitated to Argentina. Equipped with a good knowledge of the French language and a strong support from family members and other Gildonesi, Francesco felt quickly at home in Montreal. With the city's postwar economy booming, construction sites abounded everywhere. Strong arms were in demand. Francesco worked hard, but he never forgot his love, Maria Giuseppe. A marriage by proxy was subsequently arranged. On their wedding day, while Francesco worked on a construction site in Montreal, Maria Giuseppe happily stood on the rooftop of her home in Gildone for the photographer to take a photo as proof of their marriage. In 1955, Maria Giuseppe joined her husband in Montreal and within one year, Sabino was born. The birth of Sabino's sisters, Pasqualina (Pat) and Antonietta followed shortly after as Francesco Grassi's housing projects expanded into Montreal neighborhoods especially welcomed by recently arrived Italian families.

Formative Years in Montreal

At Laurier MacDonald High School, Sabino Grassi maintained high grades and a strong involvement in student activities. Following the required two years of Cégèp at Vanier College, he enrolled in McGill's Commerce undergraduate program where he especially delighted in marketing and real estate courses. Between 1975-1978 at McGill, he resurrected the McGill Italian Student Society, and as an active President, he successfully developed a following among the thriving Italian student population. In his last semester at McGill, an extraordinary work opportunity in commercial real estate was presented to Sabino. After two years at Cytren Construction, he worked for Immotec Realties as a real estate agent, and in 1985, he founded his own company, Alliance Realties. From then on, separate companies in real estate development, brokerage, construction and management came into being and his firm EPIC Québec was born.

A Return to Italy, a Life in Canada

In the late 1970s, three Italian-Canadian young men returned to their native towns of Molise and Sicily. Here, Sabino and his close friends dove into geographies of familiarity and adventure where "every night la passeggiata occupied the towns' main street." Following this trip, Sabino understood more in depth the land of his ancestors. He returned to Italy time and again with his lovely wife, Clara Gentile, and their three children, Francesco, Sabrina, and Cristina.

Despite his own success, Sabino remains in awe over his father's lifetime achievements: "I find it extraordinarily impressive what my father was able to do. He went from farming land in Italy to building homes in Canada."