The Kelowna Canadian Italian Club was founded in 1966 with 21 members who meet regularly at their hall on Lawrence Ave.
President Joe Iafrancesco and members Clelia Bertolani, Emma Rantucci and Romi Marcanio spoke with the Capital News about Italian culture and history in the Central Okanagan.
Q: How did the Italian society form?
Rantucci: My dad in 1965 started wanting to get together with the Italians. He had immigrated to Canada in 1952 at 48. He started collecting names of people who wanted to belong and they needed 21 members of a society to register. It was just trying to get the members together to have a place to meet and at first it was each other’s homes and in 1999 after much searching, we heard that this (hall) was coming up for sale. That’s how it started, it was really to promote the Italian heritage, culture and conditions.
Q: Why is the hall so important to the society?
Iafrancesco: We needed some place to go because at one time we were going from place to place. When this place became available we had a little money in the bank so we bought it. We hold all our meetings here, at one time we had our dancing group performing in here, our language classes and several other small events. We started our monthly dinner here now almost seven years ago.
Q: What goes into prepping the monthly meal?
Marcanio: There are two girls, they usually do the shopping a day before or two days before. If we make a lasagna, we start on Friday and cook for Saturday. Usually, we make pasta, vegetables, antipasti, desserts so it’s quite a preparation and everyone seems to enjoy it.
Q: What would you recommend for a traditional dish to try?
Marcanio: We made some Gnocchi once, it’s flowered potato, that’s it. It’s like a little dumpling, you boil, and you serve with spaghetti sauce and cheese.
Q: Do you know the reason why Italians came to Kelowna?
Rantucci: Well I know why my dad came, he was a farmer with two daughters and he had a brother who came out here in 1909 and a sister in 1912 and wanted to join them for a better life. It took him a long time because he didn’t want to come out here by himself.
Q: How many members does the club have today?
Iafrancesco: We have 180 families and out of that we have probably 15 single members.
Q: Can anyone join the club?
Iafrancesco: The constitution says that if you’re of Italian origin or married to an Italian or Italian born.
Q: Besides the hall has there been any significant changes to the club?
Iafrancesco: The change is no different than any other club, the membership is getting old but lately we are trying to encourage young people and in the last couple months we’ve encouraged a meet and greet for business people.
Q: How do people get involved with events?
Iafrancesco: They can visit our website and we do them right here at the hall and they are really good events to promote your business.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to be out in the community and share your heritage?
Iafrancesco: It’s no different than other culture clubs in town, at one time we had the multicultural society, now it’s no longer available to us so we have to act on our own. You should be proud of your heritage and your grandparents and how you got here because you have to look for the future and any heritage is worth keeping.
Bertolani: My husband was one of the founders, along with Emma’s dad who is my uncle. He was interested in developing the Italian and continuing the Italian heritage because it was lonesome, sometimes, our way of living.
Rantucci: A lot of the farms were started by Italians and they’re still here. It’s something that we want to and need to keep going. I’m really proud of my Italian heritage.
In April, the Italian club will put on its monthly dinner, April 14 at 770 Lawrence Ave. La Bella Tavola cooking classes open April 6. In September, the club will put on its annual Grape Stomp Sept. 23. For more information on the club’s events visit http://www.kelownaitalianclub.com/.
Every two weeks, the Capital News will feature a different culture as part of the video segment for Carli’s Cultural Connections. To get involved email email@example.com.