Matt Rai is the general manager of the nearly-three-decades-old institution known as Lina’s Italian Market. Rai joined the Lina’s family four years ago with the challenge of raising the bar for the authentic, internationally inspired market, opening up Calgarians to new foods and new experiences while providing Italian-Calgarians with the foods they love. As GM, Rai oversees a staff of chefs and bakers and fills the market with exceptional and otherwise-hard-to-find items. In doing so, he is reconnecting Lina’s with the principles it started with 28 years ago. Lina’s has expanded to three locations in the city, including one on Elbow Drive and the Supermercato location on 130th Avenue S.E.
Here are 10 of Rai’s favourite things in Calgary.
“Great vibe, wicked area, Inglewood is the best. The pizza is so consistent and from the ingredients to the crust to the expertise, they really have it all.”
“Every time I need to make up with either my mom or my wife, these are the guys I go to.”
“A super-talented artist who uses spray paint to do amazing murals. One of Mayor Nenshi [in Toronto] is pretty popular and my favourite is the one of the Rat Pack. You’ll see his stuff all around the city.”
“Hassan [Nasser, the owner] and I went to high school together. He is an internationally recognized stylist and his shop is filled with people I know.”
“Megan [Szanik] does a great job, similar to Lina’s, of finding great brands and clothing that mean something to her.”
“Something I aspire to is to give back to the community the way Jim and Sue [Hill] have with the Esker Foundation. It is amazing what they have offered to the community in building the foundation.”
“A super cool, psychedelic band here in the city. To know a band and watch them grow and then be recognized in Australia and Europe is really neat. It was great to see them close out the night at the King Eddy.”
“We do a lot with Annex sodas at Lina’s. It’s a great partnership. I served them at my wedding. Their Moscow Mule and Dark and Stormy are maybe the best in the city.”
“I am a tech nerd and we want to develop apps for Lina’s. These guys are virtual reality revolutionaries in Calgary. They use VR tech to educate and share with Calgarians, and it’s amazing stuff.”
“[Through them] we were able to get customized furniture sourced from Montreal, Italy, etc., to fit perfectly in our condo. It’s not like the stuff you see every day. It is unique and different.”