| Stephen Holt interviews Leo Spralia at Joso's, one of Toronto's top Seafood restaurants, during the Toronto International Film Festival as broadcast on the Stephen Holt Show. Sept.'02. The restaurant serves food prepared in Dalmatian way from Croatian coast. Owned and operated by Leo and Shirley Špralja and founded by Joso Špralja in the 1960′s, Joso’s restaurant has achieved continuous success of over 36 years in business and is considered a landmark of the Toronto hospitality scene. It has been visited by numerous celebrities, like Mike Jagger, Paul Newman, Jose Feliciano etc. |
Stephen Holt interviews Leo Spralia at Joso's, one of Toronto's top Seafood restaurants, during the Toronto International Film Festival as broadcast on the Stephen Holt Show. Sept.'02. The restaurant serves food prepared in Dalmatian way from Croatian coast. Camera & Editing Milton Van Der Veen.
Owned and operated by Leo and Shirley Špralja and founded by Joso Špralja in the 1960′s, Joso’s restaurant has achieved continuous success of over 36 years in business and is considered a landmark of the Toronto hospitality scene. It has been visited by numerous celebrities, like Mike Jagger, Paul Newman, Jose Feliciano etc.
Joso's Restaurant in Toronto
Owned and operated by Leo and Shirley Spralja and founded by Joso Spralja in the 1960′s, Joso’s restaurant has achieved continuous success of over 36 years in business and is considered a landmark of the Toronto hospitality scene. It is truly a unique dining experience which transports guests to the warmth and beauty of the stunning Dalmatian coast. An all encompassing, sensual journey… guests are lured into a collection of Joso’s lifelong artistic expressions. A feast for the eyes, ears and mouth, one finds themselves surrounded by voluptuous female forms, Adriatic Sea motifs and a multitude of gold and bejeweled trinkets on every wall, shelf and corner. From the depths of the kitchen and to your table arrives a dazzling array of fish species from across the globe, each carefully and knowledgably described by your server. Prepared with the utmost care and simple, traditional flavours your meal is presented in all of its natural beauty, a delight to share with friends or to keep all to yourself.
In 1967 the founders of Joso’s restaurant, (Joso and his wife Angiolina) bought a little coffeehouse business at 71 Yorkville that Joso had frequented as a patron and performer. It was here that he had his entertainment career ”breakthrough”, meeting his partner in performance Malka. Their duo, became a singing sensation, traveling the world performing as the Canadian “Sonny and Cher”.The little coffeehouse was renamed Joso’s Cafe amidst the bohemian beatnik culture of Yorkville in the 70’s. It was there that Joso offered guitar and singing lessons by day and at night he and Angiolina would run the coffee house. Joso would perform for his patrons as would visiting international artists like Jose Greco, Liberace, Nana Mouskouri , Harry Belafonte, Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, Jose Feliciano, Joni Mitchell and many others.People were drawn to Joso’s cafe for the unusual art, beautiful music, espresso coffees, pastries, sandwiches and charismatic hosts. Conservative Toronto meant no liquor was in sight however the odd patron would pop a bottle from their pocket to share!When the house was full, things were okay but the winters were long and cold and so were the profits.
Joso was born in 1929 as the only child of a fisherman’s son from Zman, Dugi Otok and raised by his mother in the Dalmatian coastal town of Zadar, Croatia, a small walled medieval city on the Adriatic sea. As a young child Joso had an intrinsic understanding and connection to the sea, which heavily influenced his development as an artist. It was pre-world war 2 , a very difficult time for everyone as the impending threat of war loomed. At the time of his birth, food was scarce and it was not uncommon to be breast fed until 4 years of age. Later in life, he would declare this fact as the influence for creating the very well endowed and curvaceous female forms that exist on the walls of the restaurant.
Leo Spralja was born in Zadar, Croatia in 1953, the youngest son of Joso and Angiolina’s two children. Leo’s passion for music began at the tender age of 9 when he began playing the guitar. He immigrated with his family to Toronto, Canada at the age of ten where he began his studies with Eli Kassner a renowned classical guitar teacher, who would continue to tutor Leo for the next 15 years. Leo would go on to win numerous awards for his expressive and extremely technical interpretations of classical music. His insatiable appetite for new forms of expression blossomed into a love of Flamenco music in his early twenties which led him to travel and live in Spain. Here he immersed himself in the Flamenco culture where he became fluent in the language and the style. Leo’s mentor has always been his father Joso, artistically and otherwise. Once the family acquired the restaurant Leo was thrown headfirst into the work and lifestyle of being a restaurateur. Guests could always find Leo cooking, serving, greeting and even serenading patrons with Joso on the restaurant floor. Married to Shirley with two children; Marko and Olivia whom now follow in his footsteps working in the restaurant today. Shirley became an integral part of the management of the restaurant and was tutored in the art of hospitality by the restaurant matriarch Angiolina. Together they now own and operate the business.
Joso Špralja, Leo Špralja, Elena Špralja-Sladini
Formated for CROWN by Darko Žubrinić
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