Book Review: Chronicles of an Ottawa Chestnut Lover

Luciano 02By: Dana Stephenson

Chronicles of an Ottawa Chestnut Lover features an endearing look into the lives of the people who walk through Ottawa’s Byward Market expressed by its unique writing style that is almost as unique as the man who wrote it. These chronicles capture the fleeting day to day experiences of Luciano Pradal and reminds us all to slow down and savour the chestnuts. Full of opinions, musings and a lot of facts about a particular brown nut, Pradal shares a truly human experience in English, French and Italian. The beautiful pictures and recipes for various chestnut inspired dishes are a surprising bonus that set this whimsical story apart.

Excerpt: Everybody Likes Them

“Eugene is a disabled person. His body is racked with pain. We can’t touch him or he will scream in pain. He came to see me in his wheelchair that he controls with his head. He calls from across George Street:

“Luziano! Luziano! Castagne!”

I prepare and wrap up 5-6 chestnuts for him and I place them in front of the dash of his wheelchair. He thanks me and he goes into the Rideau Mall where someone will peel them and put them in his mouth.

He loves them! He doesn’t miss one day when I am in the Market.”

Luciano Pradal was born in Vittorio Veneto, north of Venice, Italy. In 1966 he imigrated to Ottawa, where he worked as a “Stationary Engineer” for many years. Upon retirement he became a guide for the Italian tourists that visit Ottawa.

He co-founded the “Associazione Trevisani di Ottawa” and, as President, he promoted many cultural activities in the Italian community. He was also very active with the Boy Scouts of Ottawa, participating in bicycling treks to Washington, the Georgian Bay Region and to L’Ile de la Tortue in Haiti, where they established a bicycle repair shop. For this he was awarded twice the Annapurna Badge by the Governor General of Canada.

Pradal has collaborated in the setting up of the exhibit “Presenza” at the Canadian Museum of Civilizations, as well as with the local Italian Newspapers, L’Ora di Ottawa and Il Postino, where many of his articles on Italian Canadian artists and craftsmen have appeared.
During the winter months, on weekends, you can now see Luciano Pradal in the Byward Market where he is known as the “Chestnut Roaster Guy” of Ottawa.

Excerpt: The Italian Community of Ottawa

“I love the Italian community of Ottawa. I love being part of it and at every occasion that presents itself to me I make myself available to promote the culture and the values of our community.

It occurs very often that there are social and cultural activities in which I participate with pleasure and contribute in the best way I possibly can.
On November 4th we celebrate the Italian National Unity and the Italian Armed Forces.

Organized by Angelo Filoso, President of the Italian Community Center, there was a beautiful ceremony on November 4th with a solemn mass, parade of flags of the different Associations, the Police and the Firefighters band of Ottawa. Also present were H. E. Meloni the Italian Ambassador in Canada, and a very large crowd. It was cold but the people stayed until the end of the ceremony during which the played the Canadian and the Italian National Anthems, and they laid the wreaths at the monument of the fallen soldiers in Piazza Dante, in front of Saint Anthony’s Church.

A few days earlier, Angelo Filoso asked me if I was available to serve some roasted chestnuts to the people present at the celebration. I accepted without hesitation and on November 4th I was there, in Piazza Dante, early in the morning getting ready to roast chestnuts.

Once the ceremony ended, Rina Filoso and Lena Buffone came beside the fornella to begin distributing the freshly roasted chestnuts, three to each person.

We surprised everyone. Caldarroste? Roasted chestnuts? Incredible! They couldn’t believe it!

Rina e Lena, sometimes were very popular during the distribution of the chestnuts... Naturally there were those who wanted more... Naturally! They were so good!

Once everyone had his/her share, there were a lot of chestnuts left over. Rina and Lena hurried to take them to the church basement where everybody gathered for coffee and cookies. Needless to say the chestnuts were the favourite besides everything else that was also on the tables!”