British Columbia

Love Italian food? Here are 4 ways to celebrate Italian Heritage Month

Italian Heritage Month is being celebrated all month long in Vancouver, and our food columnist has some highlights.

Food festivals, cooking lessons and community markets are all possibilities in June

If Italian cuisine is one of your favourites, check out these highlights from our food columnist. (Julie Van Rosendaal )

Vancouver is celebrating Italian Heritage Month throughout June, and On The Coast food columnist Gail Johnson has some dining options to help you mark the occasion.

"You can't celebrate Italian culture without food being front and centre, right? It's such a defining part of that country's identity," Johnson told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

Johnson's first pick is the month-long Mangia Vancouver festival, which she compares to a mini Dine Out Vancouver.

Local restaurants like Cibo Trattoria, Via Tevere Pizzeria, Campagnolo, Campagnolo Roma and Poor Italian are offering set or special menus with a variety of Italian foods.

Her next pick is the Italian Top Chef Showcase at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel on June 22.

Master Italian chef Pino Posteraro, executive chef of Cioppinno's Mediterranean Grill and Enoteca, will take on Angus An, executive chef of Maenam Thai restaurant in an Italian cook-off.

"[An] loves cooking Italian food at home, so it could be some heated competition. But he and Posteraro are friends and it's all in good fun," Johnson said.

"Several products are being flown in from Italy for the cook-off, such as hazelnuts and white anchovies. Guests will start off with a cocktail reception featuring cheese and cured meats. Then they get to enjoy a six-course dinner prepared by An, Posteraro, and Fairmont Pacific Rim exec chef Nathan Brown."

But if you're looking for a more hands-on experience, Johnson highlights the Italian Cultural Centre's cooking classes, like the June 26 one with Verona native Roberto Saletti.

"On the menu is ravioli — participants will make the egg dough from scratch then fill it with ricotta and spinach. Saletti will teach people how to make a butter and sage sauce to go with it," Johnson said.

"Making pasta from scratch may seem intimidating, but in fact once you see how it's done, it's actually quite easy. And it's a lot of fun too."

Finally, the Italian Cultural Centre is hosting Il Mercato community markets once a month through the summer. The kickoff event is June 16.

You'll find fresh produce, olives, salami and other Italian fine foods plus pasta-making demonstrations and live music.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast