Il Mercato: Vancouver’s first Italian market

If you are looking for a place to purchase a diverse range of Italian food and products, look no further than Il Mercato, Vancouver’s first Italian farmer’s market. Brimming with a host of Italian themed vendors as well as other local vendors, the market will have something to tantalize your taste buds.

Wendy Hainstock, coordinator of the market, says the goal was to promote the Italian community and a cultural themed market not been done before in Vancouver. Located at The Italian Cultural Centre, the market has an estimated 30 to 50 vendors according to Hainstock.

“We wanted to get more Italian vendors and create the look of an Italian plaza,” says Hainstock.

The Italian Cultural Centre is also the only hot food vendor at the market. Executive Chef Nevada Cope designs the menu with their catering manager. Cope says they serve five to eight quintessential Italian dishes such as: arancini (stuffed rice balls), pasta and sausages to name a few.

“We want stuff that can go out really quick,” says Cope, who has been cooking professionally for 10 years.

Cope says they also partner with Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society, which is a garden operating out of Vancouver Technical Secondary School and run by students.

“We try to use organic produce whenever possible,” says Cope.

Adding a little extra flavour

Nonna Pia’s Balsamic Reductions is a new vendor to this month’s market. Natasha Strim and her husband Norm have been making their own balsamic reductions for 15 years. After successfully selling their goods at

Marco and Fulvio Damiani with some of their products at the Heights Market. | Photo by Naomi Tse

Marco and Fulvio Damiani with some of their products at the Heights Market. | Photo by Naomi Tse

local markets, Strim and her husband quit their full time jobs and dedicated their time to the new business (aptly named after her husband’s mother).

“My husband learned to cook from his mother,” says Strim.

Nonna Pia’s currently sells nine different flavours of balsamic reductions, with the classic reduction being the most popular. The couple imports the balsamic vinegar directly from Italy, and for added flavour reduces it in steam kettles with fresh fruits and herbs. According to Strim, this process takes 10-12 hours.

“We don’t use any thickening agents, unlike some other products in the market,” says Strim.

After being in business for nearly four years, the couple had the opportunity to be on Dragon’s Den this year. Their episode will air on Nov. 19.

Food conscious connoisseurs

Keep an eye out at the market for high quality award winning products from Damiani’s Fine Foods. Marco Damiani and his father, Fulvio, have sourced the finest Italian products from Italy and brought them to the Lower Mainland.

After working in sales for a period of time and attending business school in Italy, Damiani and his father started their family business two years ago. The Damiani family has roots in Italy that go back 350 years and Damiani’s father, who is an olive oil connoisseur, wished to return to their family business, growing and producing olive oil.

“We try to find products that are organic, natural and non-GMO, and we try to source from small to medium producers,” says Damiani.

Damiani believes organic and natural products taste better, and makes sure customers get to taste test products before they buy them.

Natasha and Norm Strim sitting on some pallets of their balsamic reductions | Photo courtesy of Natasha Strim

Natasha and Norm Strim sitting on some pallets of their balsamic reductions | Photo courtesy of Natasha Strim

“We have very niche items and a lot of our product lines are new to Western Canada or even North America,” says Damiani.

Of these niche items, Damiani says up to 80 per cent are award winning or from award winning producers. Their products ranging through handmade pastas, olive oils, sauces and jellies can be found at the Italian market.

The Italian Market runs every third Friday, from 3–7 p.m., at the Italian Cultural Centre. The 2014 season will end on Nov. 21. For more information, visit