A Taste of the Italian Harvest

BY Susan Hallett TIMESeptember 15, 2014 PRINT

In Italy, La Vendemmia refers to the time of year when the grapes are ripe and ready for harvesting. Once harvested, family and friends gather to celebrate with an abundance of food and wine. 

For the second year in September, Sala San Marco in Ottawa’s Little Italy hosts a group of restaurateurs and wine importers to show off Italian foods, with an emphasis on Southern Italy, including Calabria and Sicily. 

This annual food and wine show follows in the tradition of Ottawa’s version of La Vendemmia—harvest celebrations that traditionally took place along Preston Street (aka Corso Italia) in September. 

The show is hosted by Maria and Tony Zacconi, owners of the Sala San Marco Banquet & Conference Centre. They got a helping hand when they took over the business from Tony’s parents Gina and Joe Zacconi, who emigrated from Calabria in the early 1960s. 

Visitors to Sala San Marco will experience traditional home-made and New World cuisine in the setting of an Old World market. Samples from more than a dozen restaurant menus, pastry shops, and various vintners, as well as the Sala’s own menu selections, will be available to taste.

The following recipes are courtesy of Gina and Tony Zacconi.

Gina’s Famous Tomato Sauce

  • 1 litre (4 cups) pureed San Marzano (a variety of plum tomato) or roma tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, chopped 
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil, divided
  • 4 – 6 basil leaves, chopped 
  • Salt and pepper, if desired

Place 50 ml (1/4 cup) oil, onion and garlic in saucepan and brown lightly. Add tomatoes, and salt and pepper if desired. Let simmer gently for around 30 minutes, then add basil and more olive oil and simmer gently for another 10 minutes.

Artichokes Calabrian Style

  • 4 artichokes 
  • Half a small onion, chopped 
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped 
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) pepper
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) parsley, minced 
  • 250 ml (1 cup) bread crumbs
  • 25 ml (2 tbsp) grated Romano cheese 
  • 25 ml (2 tbsp) water
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil plus 25 ml (2 tbsp)

Cut off stalks and tips of artichokes and remove some of the tough outer leaves. Slice off the bottoms so each will stand up in the baking dish. Spread the leaves. Mix the onion, garlic, parsley, cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Moisten with 50 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil and 30 ml (2 tbsp) water. Fill each artichoke with the mixture. 

Place in a baking dish, sprinkle with 25 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil and add 30 ml (2 tbsp) water to the the dish. Bake in a slow oven 160º C (325º F) for 45 minutes or until the bottoms of the artichokes are soft to the fork. Serves 4.

Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings, and Doctor’s Review, among others. She is currently the European editor of Taste & Travel International. Email: 

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