Little Italy aids earthquake victims

When a group of 40 people arrived spontaneously at St. Anthony’s Soccer Club on Sunday, Sept. 18 to enjoy an Italian brunch, the special event’s organizer was thrilled, bustling around to accommodate them among the 200 others already in attendance, including Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and other municipal and provincial politicians.

Trina Costantini-Powell, president of the Congress of Italian Canadians, organized the buffet brunch at 523 St Anthony St. to raise funds for those affected by the recent devastating earthquake in Italy. 

Pasta all’Amatriciana, the fundraiser’s featured dish, is named after the Italian town of Amatrice, one of the worst-hit communities when the 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Italy on Aug. 24. Nearly 300 people lost their lives, and thousands were left homeless.

The earthquake killed many children who were vacationing with their families before school started. The money will help surviving children returning to school, and families who are facing cooler nights while living in tents, Costantini-Powell said. 

Once recognized as the birthplace of many great chefs, Amatrice, about an hour northeast of Rome, now lies in ruins. It’s where nearly 80 per cent of all casualties occurred. Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto were other towns most affected. 

The day after the earthquake, local restaurants Trattoria Caffè Italia and Vittoria Trattoria approached the congress with the idea of serving Pasta all’Amatriciana for the relief effort, said Costantini-Powell. For each plate served, $2 went to the survivors’ fund.

“There have been other earthquakes in Italy, where they’ve come together in the same way as this,” said Ottawa-area MPP and Ontario Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli, who grew up in Little Italy. 

“They just do it naturally, because it’s family to them.” 

The Italian community in Ottawa was relatively untouched by the quake, with no reported loss of life among family members. But the response to help was immediate, said Costantini-Powell. 

“They’ve pulled this fundraiser literally within a month,” said Watson.

City councillor Rick Chiarelli said the event was incredibly well organized. 

“It’s a large venue and it’s packed,” he said. 

Ottawa Centre MPP and Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, was also in attendance with his family. 

“Italian Canadians love Canada, but they also love their home country. You see that with the singing of the two anthems,” said Watson. “These kind of fundraisers that are taking place across the country are going to make a big difference and help these men, women and children rebuild lives.”

Costantini-Powell estimated that the fundraiser raised close to $9,000, taking into account door tickets, silent auction, raffle tickets and private donations. The amount far surpassed her initial goal of $5,000.