While Vancouver’s Chinatown is a top tourist attraction and the Little India neighborhood draws plenty of visitors, few people realize that Vancouver also has a Little Italy. Although the city’s Italian population has dwindled over the years, the Commercial Drive neighborhood has long had a strong Italian presence. This Sunday, June 6, Commercial Drive will celebrate its heritage with Italian Day 2010.
Streets will be closed to traffic and filled with vendors selling pastas and sausages. This is the city’s first Italian Day since 1982, so expect big crowds hungry for some authentic Italian cooking and culture. Here are five reasons to check out Italian Day on Sunday.
1) The food. Expect Italian delights that go way beyond pizza and meatballs. Authentic regional cuisine will be prepared by Italian societies representing specific areas such as Calabria and Puglia – Think gnocci, polenta and rich tomato sauce. And local merchants will be grilling up sausages and other street foods.
2) The performances. On a special stage set up on East Second Avenue, you can check out Sicilian dancers, Italian sword fighting demonstrations and even opera. Feel free to act out your favorite scenes from the Sopranos to add to the drama.
3) The contests. A stage on Grant Street will be the scene of an Italian culinary Olympics. Competitions planned include pizza tossing, pasta eating and even grape stomping. Judges will also award prizes for Vancouver’s best tiramisu.
4) The displays. Boring exhibits on Roman history and Italian heritage? Nope. Organizers have set up a series of crowd-pleasing displays, including an exhibition of Italian cars, a tribute to the Vespa and a showcase of Italian bicycles.
5) It’s all car-free. Because Commercial Drive will be closed to traffic, expect a true carnival atmosphere – with people from the neighborhood and beyond thronging the street for a day of eating, drinking and soaking up la dolce vita. If you attended any of Vancouver’s car-free days last year, then you know that the mood is festive and spirits are high.