You can’t celebrate La Bussola’s 40th Anniversary without noting Luigi Coccaro’s significant role in its evolution. After his birth in Kelowna, his parents – La Bussola co-owners Francesco (Franco) and Chef Lauretta Coccaro – stopped into their fine Italian restaurant even before taking him home.

(pictured: Luigi Coccaro doing what he loves best – studying wine)

Along with his sister Ersilia he learned about cooking in the restaurant and on annual family pilgrimages to Valle dell’Angelo, Salerno, Italy, where his parents were born. Luigi left the Okanagan for awhile and graduated from University of Alberta with an Arts degree, majoring in Romance Languages. In 2006, Kelowna’s call was irresistible and he started working his way up within the family-run restaurant. La Bussola is noted for its amazing wine list started by Franco and Luigi passionately maintains that distinction. In 2010, he completed the Diploma in Wine and Spirits (WSET) and concurrently his Certified Sommelier (Sommelier Guild of America). In 2012, he completed a business degree at UBC Okanagan Campus. With his brother-in-law Dr. Costas Schulze, Luigi attends New York City wine events annually.

His drive to enhance the business resulted in innovations such as the wine list on a computer tablet. The touch-screen allows customers to navigate the award-winning wine cellar menu of some 950 wines, set aside favourites and check out the sommelier’s selections. Dedicated to La Bussola’s range of customers, Luigi still provides a traditional hard copy list. He introduced social media into the restaurant repertoire to share news of special tastings and events. Active in the community and as a Downtown Kelowna Association director, he’s keen to boost the core’s vibrancy. Watch for a second Coccaro eatery equipped with a Forno oven from Naples. A casual gastropub serving comfort food and featuring craft and unique beers, it’ll offer breakfast, Thursday to Sunday.

~ Roslyne Buchanan