Although I’ve been to Ottawa a few times I had no idea it had such a thriving Italian population. On our tour with C’est Bon Cooking I met Luciano. He recently started selling sweet roasted Italian chestnuts just outside La Bottega Nicastro in Byward Market
Chestnuts can be found in most European cities but I have never seen it in Canada. Luciano immigrated from Italy in 1966 and was retired until he went to Milan for a tourism conference and saw someone roasting chestnuts in a fornella, a small oven on a cart fired by lump hardwood charcoal. He took photos of it and had the same type of cart made here.
The real attraction here is speaking with Luciano, he knows all there is to know about chestnuts and shares that they were called the meat of the poor and that it is an Italian tradition to make a wish when you peel the shell.
You can buy roasted chestnuts at $5 for about a dozen or 25 cents for a sample.
Luciano says he doesn’t want to encourage people to drink but he recommends eating the chestnuts with some aged cheddar and nice red wine and I cannot disagree with that.