The 23-year-old United States international had a taste of the English top flight as a teenager during a season-long loan spell at Hull, but having completed a B£6million switch from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar to the Black Cats in July, has returned with greater experience and know-how.
However, Di Canio insists that alone will not be enough as he attempts to forge a partnership with Steven Fletcher.
The Italian told the Sunderland Echo: "Now I need him to show that he can be one of the attractions in this league.
"He has fantastic potential, but he has to transfer that potential into reality. You do that by working very, very hard in football, otherwise it is difficult.
"I know it is difficult - Jozy found it difficult in this division a few years ago when he was very young, but he needs to use that experience as motivation to do better this time around.
"That should spark his desire and his ambition to prove that he wasn't just an average player in this league.
"He might think it was a case of wrong time, wrong team last time he was here and he can prove that by making a real success of his time at Sunderland.
"Now he is at the best place and if he trains hard and learns, then he can do well."
Altidore scored his first Sunderland goal in a 4-2 Capital One Cup victory over MK Dons last month, but is still to open his league account, although he came close to doing so against Arsenal on Saturday.
Indeed, the American thought he had scored after shaking off Bacary Sagna's wrestling hold, only to discover that referee Martin Atkinson had blown the whistle before he stabbed the ball past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.