Festival frames push for ‘Little Italy’
ITALIAN DAY: Coun. Melissa De Genova has plans for Vancouver to designate stretch of Commercial Drive
Hundreds of thousands of festival goers packed into 13 blocks of Commercial Drive on a sunny Sunday, and, from all reports no one went home hungry.
Vancouver’s Italian Day drew a crowd that organizers estimated at 300,000 people.
The celebration of all things Italian included food, music, dance, food, bocce and lots more food, all staples of the annual event.
But if some members of the local Italian community have their way, one thing that could change by next year is the name of the stretch of Commercial that hosts the festival.
Coun. Melissa De Genova was on hand Sunday, discussing a motion she forwarded last Tuesday that calls on Vancouver city hall to formally designate a stretch of The Drive as “Little Italy,” as it’s long been known to many.
“We’re just making something official that’s been unofficial for years here,” De Genova said Sunday.
De Genova, a first-term NPA councillor who celebrated her election win last November with cannoli from Commercial Drive, said: “Formally recognizing Little Italy is long overdue.”
De Genova, whose father grew up near Commercial and has family roots in Naples, said that while the area’s demographics have changed over the decades, it retains much Italian heritage and character. Her motion is expected to be on council’s agenda later this month.
Mayor Gregor Robertson, addressing the crowd from the stage, said: “Many of us, in Vancouver, for all our lives have called this Little Italy.”
Robertson said neighbourhood planning for Grandview Woodlands is in the “late stages,” and urged the audience to “stay involved” in the process “to take this neighbourhood into the future.”
Domenico Vicari, president of the Vancouver Calabria Association, also calls the neighbourhood Little Italy, though he moved years ago from Commercial Drive to North Burnaby.
The Calabria Association was one of several Italian cultural groups serving up grilled sausages on buns. When asked, each group declared its own regional specialty to be the supreme sausage.
Standing near the smoking grill, Vicari mopped his brow and squinted as he answered a question on whether a spiced pork Calabrese salsiccia on a bun could be compared to a ballpark hotdog.
“No, no, no, no no. Absolutely not. Of course not. No,” he said. “This sausage is the best of Italy, homemade.”
By early evening, Italian Day executive director Brunella Gaudio said this year’s event appeared to have brought out the biggest attendance ever for an Italian Day on The Drive, adding: “some people are saying it’s not just the busiest, but also the best.”
“Formally recognizing Little Italy is long overdue.” — Melissa De Genova
Coun. Melissa De Genova, left, used Sunday’s festival to promote her campaign to designate a stretch of Commercial Drive as ‘Little Italy.’ Randy Rinaldo, one of the organizers of Italian Day, displays a tattoo which includes a depiction of Italy’s flag. ’