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Each region of Italy has its own ways of preparing food for feast days and holidays and, whenever possible, these traditions were kept.  Frank Spinelli, owner of Edmonton's Italian Centre, inspects the grape harvest to ensure quality for his customers.  Photo courtesy of Il Congresso.In Edmonton, regional societies sprang up and continued some of these traditions.  Families sought out farmers who could provide fresh pork for sausage making and lambs for roasting.  Grapes were imported for wine making.  Women competed to produce the best possible versions of recipes handed down from mother to daughter.  There were special Easter breads, a whole range of baked goods for Christmas involving honey, almonds, liqueurs and other mouth-watering ingredients, as well as the baccala [salt cod], which is the basis of the Christmas Eve meal when meat is not eaten.  

The post-war wave of immigration brought families in sufficient numbers to create a demand for imported foods from Italy.  Both Edmonton and Calgary developed specialized Italian grocery stores that catered not only to the immediate community but all lovers of Italian food.  While in the 1950s, Italian food was considered Mr and Mrs Giovanni Bincoletto visit the Italian pavillon during Edmonton's Heritage Days in 1985.  Photo courtesy of Il Congresso. "smelly," by the late 1960s and early 1970s, everyone was beginning to love things Italian.  The Italian Centre Shop begun by Frank Spinelli became the purveyor of these goods.  In Alberta, the appointment of Giovanni Bincoletto as the first Vice Consul from Italy added momentum  to this trend.  Vino novello festivals (particularly the one at Lake Louise), visiting chefs from Italy and a range of other activities promoted Italian goods.

There was a critical mass of buildings and neighbourhoods to give Edmonton's inner city an Italian flavour.  The procession to Santa Maria Goretti in June and the social activities around that day as well as the Giovanni Caboto Festival drew hundreds of people to the area.  While the majority of Italian-Canadians no longer resided in the inner city, they came in to shop, to go to church, to celebrate weddings and baptisms, and to grieve at funerals at the church.  The church, for many, is still the heart of the community. Calgary, even though it has the population to warrant a "Little Italy," lacks this.  Perhaps, the movement of families to the suburbs happened too soon before a "Little Italy" could solidify.

The love of the land and gardening was another aspect of cultural life from the homelaFrank Mastronardi's in his garden.  Photo courtesy of Frank Mastronardi.nd that was preserved.  While the growing conditions were markedly different from Italy, keen gardeners viewed it as a challenge.  In inner-city neighbourhoods in Edmonton and Calgary in the 1950s through 1970s, an Italian household was recognizable by the luxuriant garden with its six and seven-foot high poles on which climbed runner beans.  Rows and rows of vegetables-romaine lettuce and radicchio, zucchini and cucumbers, fava beans, exotic peppers and eggplant, peas and potatoes as Roma tomatoes in Frank Mastronardi's garden.  Photo courtesy of Frank Mastronardi. well as prize tomatoes (the pear-shaped Roma tomatoes were a favourite)  gave the impression of an earthly paradise.  These formed little green oases in an urban landscape.  While few Italians in Alberta became market gardeners, the desire for fresh produce motivated them to seek sources directly on the farm and to frequent the city market.  In Edmonton, they also stimulated the Hole family to open up their fields to Italians who would come and pick peas and beans. 

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