For Ernesto Rizzi, owning his own business was not only a testament to his enterprising spirit, but also a celebration of his Italian roots.

“He was a lover of food, the band U2, and such a practical joker,” said Luisa Magnan, Rizzi’s sister. “He loved his Italian heritage.”

Rizzi owned the Dolce and Banana food truck and died unexpectedly last year at 37 years old. Magnan, who lives in Parkdale, is helping organize an evening of laughter and opera to raise money toward a fund in his name at the University of Alberta.

She said her brother never moved away from his childhood neighbourhood.

“The kids grew up in Norwood. He came there as the youngest of four when he was three months old,” said Magnan, explaining he built a home near his family home.

Their parents first emigrated to Montreal from the south of Italy, then moved to Edmonton’s Little Italy area in 1979. Eventually Rizzi and his mother sold homemade pasta and sauce through her business, Pasta by Caterina.

In their vendor profile for Caterina’s food booth at the Marketplace at Callingwood noted the mother and son team “make a little bit of everything from fresh pasta, sauces and pesto to pies and mini cheesecakes. … Business runs in the family and Caterina noticed there was a real need for fresh pasta, so it was only fitting that they start sharing the family pasta by selling it.”

By 2013, Rizzi was ready to open his own business.

“He started looking around for a truck, and bought one in 2014. So he had it for three summers,” said Magnan. “He loved it—took it to farmers markets, festivals.”

At the University of Alberta, the Ernesto Rizzi Memorial Fund will cover travel expenses for the School in Cortona program, which sends students to Tuscany to study courses suitable to its unique setting and history. Courses include Renaissance art, Roman civilization, and political science.

Rizzi attended the Cortona school in 2002. After his death, his fellow students thought of starting the memorial fund. Then Sandra Fitzpatrick, whose son went with Rizzi on two trips to World Youth Day, learned about the fund and wanted to help. To that end, she’s organized an evening with The PreTenors, a renowned trio of professional singers.

The PreTenors have gained an international following since first meeting in 1995 at an Edmonton choir rehearsal. Just don’t expect their names to be exact: Luciano Paparazzi, Placebo Domingo and Jose Whocarras are accompanied by Zubin Maytag on piano.

“Think opera and comedy,” said Magnan. She and Fitzpatrick wanted a light hearted performance. They made a perfect choice.

“Because they are so comedic, and that’s what my brother was. He always wanted to make people laugh,” said Magnan. “It’s a great way to remember him.”

The PreTenors’ performance is on Oct. 28 at the Century Casino Showroom on Fort Road. The $55 tickets are advance purchase and include a prime rib buffet. A silent auction in support of World Youth Day is also planned.  

Call 780.473.4115 or email to purchase tickets or for more information.

People can donate directly to the Ernesto Rizzi Memorial Fund by contacting Julian Solberg at 780. 492.4811 or

Featured Image: Ernesto Rizzi’s food truck, Dolce and Banana, went to farmers markets and festivals across the city. With Rizzi (above) is his sister Luisa, who helped. | Supplied