Canadian Magazine Industry News
23 January 2014,     TORONTO
LEO magazine celebrates Toronto restaurant scene
If Peter Mazzotta were an entrée, he would be linguine with artichoke hearts, in pesto, with sundried tomatoes and grilled chicken.

More than 20 years ago, he was the first customer at Toronto’s Spacco restaurant. The waiter asked what he wanted, and, after looking at the menu, Mazzotta described this linguine dish, which the kitchen custom-made for him. Mazzotta became a regular, always choosing this meal. “Pasta di Pietro” soon became popular with other diners, earning a spot on the menu for five years.

Founder Peter Mazzotta says LEO magazine is not meant as a money-making venture
Founder Peter Mazzotta says LEO magazine is not meant as a money-making venture

It’s fitting. The former advertising executive has always had a passion for food—he was cooking full-course meals for his parents and seven sisters at age nine. And now, with his new monthly magazine, LEO (Let’s Eat Out), he hopes to promote Toronto’s finest establishments.

This is Mazzotta’s first time publishing a magazine. He has no aspirations to be a premier writer. He’s conducted feature-length interviews for LEO, published in a question-and-answer format, but eventually he just wants to write the publisher’s letter, he said. Some may wonder how many letters he’ll be able to write. An unstable economy has seen many print publications shrink, migrate online or shut down all together. And restaurants aren’t always stable, either.

But Mazzotta has been planning this publication long before the economic downturn of the last half-decade or so. He’s been working on the magazine, mainly informally, for 26 years. During his first week at a Toronto advertising agency, he was taken to lunch every day. Mazzotta was impressed. It made him want to tell the stories of the “unsung heroes” who, in his estimation, make Toronto one of the top five global restaurant destinations.

Peter Mazzotta
Peter Mazzotta
In 2009, he was let go from Euro RSCG Life, now Havas Life, where he was a vice-president. That “golden handshake” gave him the chance to make the magazine a reality. In July, complimentary copies of LEO magazine appeared in select Toronto restaurants. Another issue circulated in December. The first paid issue will hit Chapters and Indigo stores across the GTA this week, and readers can get a year-long monthly subscription for $61.

The reception from the restaurant community has been overwhelmingly positive, said Mazzotta. But he also knows people are baffled by the thought of starting a print publication in these uncertain times. In an interview in mid-December, he addressed the question without it even being asked.

“When I first came up with the idea, there was no digital nothing,” he said. And his vision of the magazine hasn’t changed much from the original idea in 1987. “This digital revolution that we’re in, it’s only strengthened my ambition to do a print magazine.”

Forget paywalls. LEO’s website doesn’t include any articles. Its social media presence is a Facebook page with roughly 2,000 likes.

Mazzotta isn’t opposed to digital media. But with so much online, he needed to distinguish his publication from others. That meant sticking to print. “(LEO) has been a very tactile project: something that you have to feel, touch, breathe, smell, flip, put away and then bring back—never throw away,” he said.

Besides, he said, restaurants and print magazines are similar: they provide people a place to relax. (According to Magazines Canada, the average reader spends about 40 minutes with a magazine, compared to seconds scanning online.)

“This is not a money-making venture. It was never meant to be a money-making venture,” explained Mazzotta. Look no further than the back cover. It is free of ads, and always will be.

To continue reading this story, head over to J-Source where it was originally published.
— Meagan Gillmore
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