Beef ‘N Bird – 40 Years of Bringing People Together

Jerry Toppazzini loved working with his family and enjoyed entertaining all the people who came into the Beef ‘n Bird over the years.

Forty years ago, on April 11, 1977, Jerry Toppazzini and his family became the owners of the Belvedere Hotel. Anthony Toppazzini, Jerry’s son, was 15 at the time and remembers excitedly envisioning a hotel like the former Caswell Hotel on Regent Street which was Sudbury’s largest at the time. When the family trooped into the former Belvedere Hotel on Lorne Street they were confronted with the black and red carpeting throughout the main floor and rooms for rent on the upper level. Despite their reservations the whole family got behind Jerry and began working hard on what 40 years later has become one of Greater Sudbury’s oldest locally owned neighbourhood sports bars – the Beef ‘n Bird.

It didn’t take long for the family to change the dubious decor and open up the bar and restaurant that had once been divided into a “Men’s” side and a “Ladies and Escorts” side to begin turning it into the ode to hockey history that it has become today. Work on the exterior of the building began in the early 80s as the hotel became the Beef ’n Bird Tavern and was decked out in the  Boston Bruins’ gold and black colours.

Jerry Toppazzini Family

Zellio, Norma, Ted, parents Gina and Peter, Delphy and Jerry Toppazzini.

Jerry Toppazzini was born in Copper Cliff to Peter and Gina Toppazzini. Peter was a welder with Inco in the mechanical department until he retired in 1965. He started out in his parents’s family business Toppazzini Bakery, up the hill in Copper Cliff which was opened by his father in 1904. Jerry had  two older sisters, Norma and Delphy as well as an older brother Zellio who was the first to make it to the NHL, and one younger brother Ted who chose to further his education even though he was set to be drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Though the Toppazzini brothers were all immersed in hockey none of their offspring gravitated to the sport. It was left to Jerry’s sister and aunt to keep the Toppazzini hockey tradition alive with NHL brothers Grant and Paul Mulvey, sons of his aunt Annie, and Delphy’s grandson Justin Williams who is a three time NHL Stanley Cup winner.

Beef N Bird Jerry Foster Hewitt

Jerry Toppazzini and Keith Cleland, of the Copper Cliff hockey team who were in Toronto in 1946 to compete in All-Ontario midget league are listening as Foster Hewitt of hockey broadcast fame explained the Maple Leaf Gardens layout.

Jerry Toppazzini, with his brothers and friends played hockey growing up playing through the ranks of the Copper Cliff hockey teams before starting his hockey career in 1948 where he played for St. Catharine’s and the Barrie Flyers in the OHA. In 1952 he was drafted by the Boston Bruins where he set many records. In total, he scored 163 goals and had 244 assists in 783 career games and played in the 1955, 1958 and 1959 All-Star games before retiring in 1968. Jerry started a summer hockey school in Copper Cliff in 1962 and taught hundreds of kids the rules and how to play hockey. According to Cheryll, “Dad insisted it was never about him. He continued mentoring kids, especially those who didn’t have a father figure.”

Jerry Toppazzini Men's Wear

Jerry Toppazzini in his men’s wear store located on Elgin Street during 1960s.

It was at this time that Jerry ventured into the clothing business. Jerry Toppazzini Men’s Wear was located on Elgin Street beside Demarco’s Sports and sold fine men’s wear including Samuelson Suits under the “Jerry Toppazzini” label. Jerry would play hockey fall and winter and then work along side his partner Lino Vendramin in the store during the summer months of the 1960s. He eventually sold the store to Lino.

Sudbury Wolves Coach Jerry Toppazzini

As coach of the Sudbury Wolves Jerry Toppazzini was named OHL coach of the year.

He took up coaching in 1973 with the AHL Springfield Kings in Massachusetts and in 1975 became the coach of the Sudbury Wolves. Jerry was named OHL coach of the year with the Sudbury Wolves in 1976 receiving the Matt Leyden Trophy and bringing the Sudbury Wolves to the finals for the OHL Championship. He mentored many future NHL players and coaches during his years as coach of the Sudbury Wolves.

Dolly and Jerry Toppazzini

Jerry and Dolly Toppazzini shortly after their marriage in 1954.

Jerry married his wife Dolly (Cecile Joncas) and together they raised 4 children –Cheryll, Mark, Anthony and Lino. After living in many cities over the years, Jerry and his family moved back to Sudbury in 1975 and made their home here once again. The kids were all in their teens when Jerry purchased what was to become the Beef ‘n Bird. From the beginning Cheryll’s responsibilities included the office and the financials, Mark took care of the bar and building maintenance, Anthony worked on special projects as manager and Lino worked the bar and the kitchen preparing food for the restaurant and off site catering services offered. Lino, though still part of the family business chose to pursue his dream of becoming a golf pro, graduating in San Diego, California, and has since settled in Calgary where he is the room manager at the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino in Kananaskis, Alberta.

Beef N Bird making Porketta 1940s

The Beef ‘n Bird has a long history that’s entwined with the great taste and scent of porketta. Here some members of Toppazzini Bakery staff are preparing porketta back in the 1940s.

Over the years the bar has become known for its legendary Porketta games on Saturday afternoons which has grossed more than half a million dollars for the families of the Copper Cliff Minor Hockey League. The Toppazzini family have always been generous supporters of Greater Sudbury’s local businesses. The coveted porketta is provided by Tarini Brothers Meat Market and the bread is from Regency Bakery. Always community minded, especially when it comes to sports teams, the Beef ‘n Bird welcomes sponsorship for hockey, baseball, darts, pool and many more teams helping to make belonging to a sports team less expensive and ensuring that all kids have a chance to play. In addition, the Toppazzinis, through the Beef ‘n Bird, have helped raise funds for Maison McCullough Hospice (previously Maison Vale Hospice), the Sam Bruno Pet Scan Fund and the Sudbury Food Bank to name just a few of the local organizations that have benefitted. Funds are also raised through the Beef ‘n Bird’s annual golf tournament which will be celebrating 28 years this June – it’s always a sellout, so if you are planning on attending reserve your team’s spot soon.

 

Beef N Bird Porketta Staff

Volunteers who take the time to help out with Saturday afternoon Porketta to help raise funds for Copper Cliff Minor Hockey. Over half a million dollars has been grossed over the last 13 years.

Since Dolly first opened the kitchen at the Beef ’n Bird, the restaurant has always offered traditional homemade favourites from clubhouse sandwiches to wings and fresh soups and salads for lunch and dinner. Crowd pleasing party platters are available all day long. Beef ’n Bird also offers a complete catering service for groups of all sizes. From business lunches to birthday parties, weddings and sports’ banquets, Beef ’n Bird can provide everything from appetizers to full course meals and dessert. Beef ’n Bird’s spacious hall upstairs is also available to host your event.

Beef N Bird Bar Staff

So many great people have worked at the Beef ‘n Bird over the years and have become great friends of the Toppazzini family including these current members who help keep the Beef n’ Bird bar and restaurant running smoothly.

Live entertainment has always been part of the Beef n’ Bird’s menu too. Originally the tavern featured country and western bands. Over the years and with Jerry’s kids’ influence the Beef ‘n Bird start expanding into a variety of musical genres helping to give local artists and bands a venue to showcase their talents. Every once in a while you can experience a ‘blast from the past’ as local rock and roll bands that got their start playing at the Beef in the 1970s and 1980s can be found reuniting for an evening of entertainment and nostalgia. Keep in touch with all the musical and other events happening at the Beef ‘n Bird on their Facebook page.

Beef n Bird Anthony Cheryll Mark

Anthony, Cheryll and Mark Toppazzini are carrying on the family business today.

Family came first to Jerry and Dolly. Mark’s son Phil and Anthony and Racheal’s daughters Julianna and Abigail were Jerry’s pride and Joy. Cheryll recalls growing up in a family of endless hugs and “I love you” and even though the whole family worked together, Jerry once even wondered if the family wasn’t close enough suggesting the idea to his wife and children that perhaps they should purchase a 5-plex so all their families could all live together. Dolly Toppazzini passed away in 1997 which left a huge hole in the family. Jerry died 13 years later at the age of 81 after a short illness. Fittingly his life celebration, at his request, was held at the Beef ‘n Bird where his family and friends gathered together among all the memorabilia of his hockey career to share stories and and acknowledge the loss of an amazing husband, father, gradfather and friend.

In the album below you’ll find some more photos of Jerry Toppazzini and his family along with some memories from his hockey career.

Jerry Red Carpet Boston Garden Closing 1994.jpg
Jerry Toppazini Hockey Card.jpg
Lino New Year's Eve at the Beef.jpg
Memorial Cup Champ.jpg
Beef N Bird Flyers Team.JPG
Dad's 80th with the kids.jpg
Beef Golf Tournament.jpg
Beef Mascot Golden Bruin.jpg
Beef N Bird Cheryll's Wedding.JPG
Beef N Bird Dolly Cooking.JPG
Beef N Bird Jerry Dolly Honeymoon.JPG
Beef N Bird Jerry Doug.JPG
Beef N Bird Jerry Golfing.JPG
Beef N Bird Jerry Mark Phil.JPG
Beef N Bird Mark Porketta.JPG
Toppazzini Family Knoxville.jpg
Behind the Wolves Bench.jpg
Dad & Cheryll New Year's Eve at the Beef 1981.jpg
Dad, Richard, Dumart 1994.jpg
Dinner pre game.jpg
Happy Birthday Lino.jpg
Jerry & Dolly L.A. Blades Award 1966.jpg
Jerry Red Carpet Boston Garden Closing 1994.jpg
Jerry Toppazini Hockey Card.jpg
Lino New Year's Eve at the Beef.jpg
Memorial Cup Champ.jpg
Beef N Bird Flyers Team.JPG
Dad's 80th with the kids.jpg
Beef Golf Tournament.jpg
Beef Mascot Golden Bruin.jpg
Beef N Bird Cheryll's Wedding.JPG
Beef N Bird Dolly Cooking.JPG
Beef N Bird Jerry Dolly Honeymoon.JPG
Beef N Bird Jerry Doug.JPG

For more information about the Beef ‘n Bird give them a call at 705-675-7833 or visit their Facebook page.

In 1911 a three minute call to North Bay cost .45¢.
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