A arge poster of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is tacked up on his wall. “I am a huge soccer fan. Napoli is my team,” Cavallaro says, adding that both his parents were born near Naples. “My dad brainwashed me when I was a kid. Every week, we would go to a café to watch the soccer match. It’s been in me ever since.”
Besides Cavallaro’s personal Italian-decorating, he can often be seen around the office with an espresso in hand (he even brought an automatic espresso machine to the office), and sometimes turns heads with his fashion-sense. Although you can’t always see them on TV, Cavallaro occasionally wears funky shoes to accompany his sleek suits and ties. He was even voted one of the “Best Dressed TV Personalities” this year in the now defunct Montreal Mirror.
But there is much more to Cavallaro than his love of soccer, coffee and fashion – which sounds so “Italian cliché.” Many may not know that before being a weather specialist, the 54-year-old started his broadcasting career as a radio DJ – working across the country.
Cavallaro landed his first job in the Maritimes, as the drive-home host. “I started working in 1980 in New Brunswick. I must have been the only Italian in Sussex,” he says chuckling, adding that he had to change his last name. “I was Frank Collins. Collins was easy to pronounce... and then I couldn’t be Franco Collins. So it became Frank, and Frank always stuck since then. Only my mom and my very close friends still call me Franco.”
Cavallaro had fun on the air with his new name. “Everytime I played Phil Collins, I hinted that I knew him…and people believed me,” he says laughing. By 1984, Cavallaro got his last name back when he returned to Montreal to work for CFCF 600 radio.
He then moved to Manitoba and Ontario, before coming back to Quebec. It was 1988 when he entered the world of television.
“I got my first weather job at Météo Media,” Cavallaro says. It wasn’t long before he got a call from CFCF, to be a fill-in weatherman. But before going on air, Cavallaro had to get rid of one thing – his moustache. “I was told I had to shave it – to look younger and less mafioso.” He did, and by 1998, Cavallaro became the full-time weatherman. He brought his personal Italian touch, creating the everpopular Zucchini Contest. Every summer, Cavallaro would ask viewers to submit pictures of the longest zucchini growing in their garden.
He says this all started thanks to his nonno. “My grandfather grew a four-foot zucchini. I brought it to work one day and showed it on the air. That’s how it all started,” Cavallaro says. “It was very popular, and people still remember this contest.”
Cavallaro also won the highest honour a weather presenter could ever wish for. In 2001, when he was in Paris for an annual Weather Conference, Cavallaro won the title of “Best Weather Presenter in the World.” Cavallaro worked at CTV as an award-winning weatherman until 2008. He then joined CBC – where he’s still bringing you your forecast on the evening TV newscast, as well as on CBC Radio One’s morning and drivehome shows – Daybreak and Homerun.
“There are not many Italians in the business,” he says. “In a city like Montreal, with such a big Italian community and so much going on, there should be a few more, but it’s still nice to see more and more Italians working in the media.”