North of Long Tail

A documentary photo series celebrating Lake Erie
For the month of June, see the exhibit live at Wychwood Barns Artscape.

Anthony – Kingsville

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In 1967, at the age of 19, Alex (Anthony’s father) immigrated to Canada with his family from Ceccano, Italy. A year after arriving, Alex’s father, who was only in his 40s, passed away unexpectedly. This tragedy left Alex as the “man of the house” tasked with helping his mother raise his brother and two sisters in an unfamiliar country. Immediately he started working as a bricklayer— a job he would work hard at all his life. While laying bricks, he spotted Rose, who was out working in the field next door. Rose was born in Essex, Ont. to parents who emigrated from Italy. After Alex introduced himself, their love story began.

Their son, Anthony, was born and raised in Kingsville. He cherishes his childhood memories of fishing off Lake Erie’s shore, picnicking in the park, and watching sunsets with his father on the boat.

Anthony <div class='right-container'> with a friend, and his brother Alex <div class='left-container'>, fishing in Lake Erie.

Anthony (right) fishing in Lake Erie, with a friend (middle), and his brother Alex (left).

Anthony started working in the restaurant industry at the age of 15. His first job was as a dishwasher and pizza maker at a local Italian restaurant. Anthony began to dream of one day opening his own restaurant.

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Before opening his restaurant, Anthony worked as the head chef for seven years at Leamington’s Roma Club (an Italian Heritage club). When he left, the staff gave him this gift.

(bottom) Before opening his restaurant, Anthony worked as the head chef for seven years at Leamington’s Roma Club (an Italian Heritage club). When he left, the staff gave him this gift.

The Kingsville train station was opened in 1889 by Hiram Walker, an American entrepreneur and founder of the Canadian Club distillery in Windsor, Ont. The station was part of a rail line from Windsor to Kingsville that allowed wealthy Americans to travel to the new Mettawas Resort and Casino. The roundtrip fare at the time was 80 cents, and upon arrival, guests rode to the resort grounds by horse and carriage.

Anthony shows an old advertisement for The Mettawas Resort.
Janet, Anthony’s wife, holds a teacup from the Mettawas Resort

(left) Anthony shows an old advertisement for The Mettawas Resort. (right) Janet, Anthony’s wife, holds a teacup from The Mettawas Resort.

The resort proved unprofitable, and in 1902, only a little more than a decade after it opened, The Mettawas Resort closed. The Kingsville station continued to be used for passengers, then for freight until being abandoned in the 70s. It was restored in 1990 by the Essex Region Conservation Authority but remained empty.

Anthony saw this historic building as a fantastic opportunity.

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An original door of the Kingsville station reading “Ladies Waiting Room”.
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(top) Anthony and Janet in front of the Mettawas Station Restaurant. (bottom left) An original door of the Kingsville station.

With his wife Janet, a fellow Kingsville native, Anthony approached the conservation authority with a unique proposition. They wanted to lease the station and turn it into a restaurant. In 2008, Anthony’s dream came true when they opened Mettawas Station, an Italian-Mediterranean fine dining restaurant. Chef Anthony is in the kitchen, and Janet works the front of the house. According to Anthony, “She’s the boss!”

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Alex actually laid the bricks and helped restore the stonework on the old Kingsville Station.. Alex passed away in 2019, and Anthony misses him “immensely

(top) The old Kingsville station baggage room is where chef Anthony’s kitchen is now located. (bottom left) A photo Anthony took of his father Alex out boating on Lake Erie with him. (bottom right) Alex actually laid the bricks and helped restore the stonework on the old Kingsville Station. Alex passed away in 2019, and Anthony misses him immensely.

A central focus for their restaurant is on local produce, meats, and fish. For this reason, Anthony is concerned about Lake Erie’s well-being.

“When people come to the area, we want them to try our local fish, and we are proud of it. To not have it and be able to share that with guests would be sad.”

Anthony serves perch and pickerel
these days. He rarely has whitefish available, and never serves smelt anymore (it isn’t available). Anthony has noticed that fish prices are going up, which he figures is due to the lack of abundance.

Anthony serves perch (left) and pickerel (right) these days. He rarely has whitefish available, and never serves smelt anymore (it isn’t available). Anthony has noticed that fish prices are going up, which he figures is due to the lack of abundance.

Anthony’s inspiration for cooking comes from both of his Italian grandmothers, Rosa and Giovanna.

“My grandmothers both made amazing authentic Italian recipes.”

Baby Anthony on the knee of his maternal grandmother Giovanna.

Baby Anthony on the knee of his maternal grandmother Giovanna.

A couple of the dishes on the menu that Anthony is most proud of are the rack of lamb (marinated and grilled to perfection with garlic, olive oil, and rosemary), the perch & chips, and their many kinds of pasta (rigatoni arrabbiata, spaghetti and meatballs, tortellini carbonara, etc.).

Photo credit: Colin Boyd Shafer for Environmental Defence

If Anthony had to choose one dish that means the most to his family’s story, though, it would be the gnocchi aria (handmade potato dumplings smothered in their homemade rich bolognese sauce). When they first opened their restaurant, Anthony’s grandma Rosa made all the gnocchi by hand. After she passed away, Anthony’s mother Rose took over and still makes all the gnocchi today.

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Both Anthony and Janet’s daughter and son have worked at the restaurant. Still, Anthony has accepted the fact that neither of them will continue the family business. Their daughter is studying plant genetics, and their son wants to work in video game design.

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Anthony’s son, Sebastian, who is 19 and serving at the restaurant. Here he holds“the Greek Pie,” a pizza featuring spinach, feta cheese, artichokes, and roasted red peppers.

Anthony’s son, Sebastian, who is 19 and serves at the restaurant. Here he holds the Greek Pie, a pizza featuring spinach, feta cheese, artichokes, and roasted red peppers.

In 2010, Anthony started the nonprofit “Eat, Drink, Dine Kingsville” with other local restaurants to help promote the dining district in Kingsville and tourism.
This is a tattoo Anthony got after his father passed. It’s based on a sticker Anthony’s dad, likely found funny, bought in Italy, and had on his car’s glove box. Anthony explains how the literal translation is “Give it to me or get out”, but is better translated as “What I give to you, you reciprocate”.

(left) In 2010, Anthony started the nonprofit “Eat, Drink, Dine Kingsville” with other local restaurants to help promote the dining district in Kingsville and tourism. (right) This is a tattoo Anthony got after his father passed. It’s based on a sticker Anthony’s dad, likely found funny, bought in Italy, and had on his car’s glove box. Anthony explains how the literal translation is “Give it to me or get out”, but is better translated as “What I give to you, you reciprocate”.

Tourism is essential to Anthony’s restaurant’s survival. Attractions like Point Pelee National Park, the region’s wineries, and recreational activities on the water, keep people coming to the area from all over North America. Without a beautiful, healthy Lake Erie — as a draw to tourists — Anthony knows Kingsville, and his restaurant would suffer greatly.

Anthony and Janet take a selfie while enjoying a sunset over Lake Erie on their boat.

Anthony and Janet take a selfie while enjoying a sunset over Lake Erie on their boat.

Today, Mettawas Station is consistently rated as the number one place to eat in Kingsville. Anthony and Janet have no plans on ever leaving the shores of Lake Erie. They continue to feel passionate about sharing all the local offerings with the guests that visit their restaurant.

Anthony and Janet stand in Mettawas Park on Lake Erie, the original location of the Mettawas Resort.

Anthony and Janet stand in Mettawas Park on Lake Erie, the original location of The Mettawas Resort.

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STORIES FROM THE LAKE

Patricia – Pelee Island

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Heidi – Pigeon Bay

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Take Action

Lake Erie and the millions of people who rely on it for their drinking water, local jobs, and so much more need your help.

The health of Lake Erie continues to decline. Action is needed more than ever to restore its health for current and future generations.

You can make a difference. Here’s how you can help protect the lake and support the people who are closely connected to it.

EXHIBITION BY: documentary photographer COLIN BOYD SHAFER in collaboration with ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE

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