With the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada West set to host their annual gala on September 29, we chatted with executive director Ilaria Baldan to learn more about Italian culture in Vancouver and Western Canada as a whole. —Noa Nichol
Please tell us a bit about yourself to start. Also, what role does the Italian Chamber of Commerce play in Vancouver?
My name is Ilaria Baldan, I am the executive director of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada West (ICCCWest). The Chamber has operated since 1992 as a private, non-profit, membership organization with the mandate of enhancing business, trade and investment exchanges between Italy and Western Canada. It is our mission to promote and bring more Made in Italy to Western Canada.
Today we’re talking about all things Italian! Could you tell us a bit about Vancouver’s Italian community, its history and its current state?
The Italian community in all of the Lower Mainland is very active and dynamic! The largest wave of Italian immigration took place after WWII, with the highest concentration of Italian residents and Italian-owned businesses being in the areas of Commercial Drive and East Hastings Street, in the 1960s and 1970s. Nowadays we see a new wave of immigration (which I am myself part of), which moves to Vancouver with completely different objectives compared to the past, as well as a very different educational background and skillset. These “new Italians,” form part of our multicultural Canada, and maintain close contact with Italy on a daily basis, thanks to modern technology, and to accessibility to transportation “across the pond” that was unthinkable of back in the 1960s.
What are some fun, public Italian events and happenings that we can look forward to attending throughout the year?
This year is a very special one for our Chamber so for sure our La Grande Festa—the celebration of our 30th anniversary on September 29! Every year the Chamber also organizes Italian restaurant weeks in June, the Week of Italian Cuisine in November, and the Italian Design Week, coming up soon from October 27 to November 3, a week-long of events hosted by local showrooms of Made in Italy interior design and fashion products.
What are some favourite local Italian businesses you think everyone should know about?
I can think of some fantastic small businesses that are featured on our Italian Design Map, like Bertacchi Italian Hat Crafter for example—a true piece of Tuscan craftsmanship in the middle of Gastown!
Everyone wants to know: when a real Italian wants an excellent, authentic Italian meal, what local restaurant do they book a table at?
I know, right?! And that is exactly why our team created the Italian Food Map, a guide to finding the most authentic restaurants and buying authentic Italian food and wine in Western Canada.