Ilaria Baldan from the local Italian Chamber of CommerceWant to learn more about Vancouver’s Italian community?

We catch up with Ilaria Baldan from the local Italian Chamber of Commerce to find out how to enjoy the best of Italy right here at home.

BCL: Tell us about yourself and what ICCC West does.
IB: 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.

BCL: Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Italian community in Vancouver?
IB: In the '50s, Italians represented one-fifth of Vancouver's population—something that is very hard to imagine today! However, the Italian community throughout the Lower Mainland is still 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 '60s and '70s. To maintain the culture and traditions from back home in an era with no Internet or cellphones, Italians funded various groups, depending on the region of Italy they were coming from. Today, there are still 27 active societies in Vancouver.

BCL: You have big event coming up, what is it and what can we expect?
IB: The Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada – West (ICCC West) is turning 30 this year, so we are celebrating with ‘La Grande Festa’ (The Big Party), a deluxe gala dinner that is open to its members, partners, and the public on Thursday, September 29 at 6 p.m. at the Coast Coal Harbour hotel in Vancouver, with partial proceeds to benefit Variety – The Children’s Charity. The gala dinner will open with a keynote speech from honorary guest Coach Vanni Sartini from the Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club.

La Grande Festa or ‘The Big Party’ will feature an evening full of surprises and delights, with a superior culinary experience that includes an exclusive menu inspired by authentic Italian products from different regions of Italy, premium Italian wines, guest gift bags with authentic Italian products, door prizes, a silent auction of Italian-made and designed items, as well as a top prize by ICCC West sponsor and Premium Member, Air Canada, two business class tickets to Rome and five-nights accommodation in Italy.

BCL: How can we connect with the authentic Italian culture in Vancouver?
IB: Definitely join us at to our monthly networking events, the “Ombreta” meet-ups, hosted each time at a different Vancouver Italian restaurant or café. You can find the calendar of events on our website. Also, we created two different maps featuring the best of Italian design and fashion in Vancouver (the Italian Design Map), and on the Italian Food Map, a guide to finding the most authentic restaurants and buying authentic Italian food and wine in Western Canada.