There may not be a vineyard in sight, but as summer eases into fall, an Italian tradition has returned to Ottawa’s little Italy.
A celebration of Italian wine and food, La Vendemmia – which translates to the grape harvest in Italian – which kicks off Monday night for its 13th year, dozens of restaurants are inviting local gastronomes to try the most authentic Italian cuisine in the city.
Despite the street construction – which will affect the festival for the second year – organizers are expecting more than 3,000 people to come out.
“The businesses are still accessible,” said festival spokesman Sean Moher. “It’s not like Italian Week, where they’re trying to get people out and walking on the street. We’re trying to get people into restaurants.”
While Italian Week celebrates Italian culture, Moher sees La Vendemmia as more inclusive.
“This is about people who love Italian wine and food, regardless of their heritage,” he said.
Aside from construction, the economy has also affected Preston Street’s restaurant business – some of which have reported a decline of 20 to 30 per cent, Moher said. But the way organizers see it, the festival is another opportunity for restaurants to reconnect with old customers and attract new ones.
The grape harvest tradition here remains alive and well.
“It’s the time of year in wine country that all the grapes are coming in, and the local Italian community starts to make wine from grapes,” said Moher.
Preston Hardware, for example, receives about 40,000 crates of grapes to sell to customers, he said.
While a charity grape stomp is one of the more colourful events planned, others include learning events, like an antipasti class, wine tastings covering different regions and a walking dining tour.