News / Vancouver

Vancouver celebrates Italian Day and 'Little Italy' designation on Commercial Drive

About 80% of the businesses in Vancouver’s Little Italy are owned and run by Italians.

Part of Commercial Drive was closed to cars Sunday afternoon for Vancouver’s seventh annual Italian Day celebrations.

Wanyee Li / Metro Order this photo

Part of Commercial Drive was closed to cars Sunday afternoon for Vancouver’s seventh annual Italian Day celebrations.

Thousands of Vancouverites showed up at the seventh annual Italian Day on Commercial Drive Sunday as the city officially designated the area as Little Italy.

This year’s theme was “Mangiamo!” or “Let’s eat!” and centered around Italian’s passion for food. The street was closed to cars and storeowners set up booths along the road, selling everything from spaghetti and meatballs to Italian-made shoes.

“We do this every year and every year I help out,” said Reza Moradian, whose brother is the chef at Arriva Ristorante, an Italian business that has been a landmark on The Drive for more than 25 years.

“It’s always busy,” he said proudly, pointing out the line up of people who were waiting for a scoop of steaming hot pasta. The line stretched down the block.

Reza Moradian, whose brother works as a chef at the restaurant Arriva, says he helps his brother out on Italian Day every year.

Wanyee Li/Metro

Reza Moradian, whose brother works as a chef at the restaurant Arriva, says he helps his brother out on Italian Day every year.

The restaurant is one of many Italian businesses on Commercial Drive celebrating the naming of Vancouver’s Little Italy, an eight-block stretch of Commercial Drive that centers on 1st Avenue.

About 80 per cent of the businesses in that area are owned and operated by Italians, according to Melissa De Genova, the NPA city councillor who brought forward the Little Italy motion in April. 

Many in Vancouver have called the area Little Italy for decades but De Genova said it was important to her personally that the city gave it an official designation.

“Being of Italian heritage, this is a special day for me and my family as well. My grandfather came here as an immigrant from Italy and it was a struggle for him,” she said.

“Today, its about moving forward, its about teaching the next generation about Italian heritage.”

Vancouver police directed traffic at Commercial Drive and 1st Avenue to ensure the road remained closed to cars.

Wanyee Li/Metro

Vancouver police directed traffic at Commercial Drive and 1st Avenue to ensure the road remained closed to cars.

Many dignitaries, including the Consul General of Italy and the Italian Ambassador to Canada were present for the celebrations, Sunday.

“It’s a truly historic day, as we celebrate over 50 years of Italian heritage and the official Little Italy designation on Commercial Drive,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

The city may install more Italian-markers on The Drive in the future, such as red, green and white crosswalks, according to De Genova.

Restaurant staff from The Dime served spaghetti and meatballs Sunday in celebration of Italian Day.

Wanyee Li/Metro

Restaurant staff from The Dime served spaghetti and meatballs Sunday in celebration of Italian Day.

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