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Calgary's People, Part 1

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Through my various roles in Calgary I meet some diverse and fantastic people, each with a great story. I will write about them from time to time. Today, my friend, Marco Abdi.

Marco's story starts off in far away Africa, Somalia to be exact. With moves to Italy and Dubai, Marco settled in Cowtown in 1981, a very black man in a very white town. His contribution to the cultural diversity of this city have been enormous. We have indeed come far since 1981. Cultural events from Afrikadey to Carifest now regularly dot the social scene in this oil-rich haven. Calgary in 2011 is now a cosmopolitan city of one million people of many cultures and backgrounds.

When he came here, he had very little and found a job as a caretaker in a small medical building in the Calgary community of Bridgeland. The job paid $800 a month and he found a house across the street from the medical building his employers happened to own. Thirty years later the house remains a Bridgeland fixture as LaBrezza Ristorante.

When Marco met his future wife Filomena on the number 9 bus, things really fell into place for him. As well as being head over heals in love, LaBrezza Ristorante was born shortly thereafter. It is a combination of his mother in laws recipe's and Marco's infectious personality that made it a winning combination. Often you will hear Marco say, "Would you like an ocean view", which always gets a chuckle in land-locked Calgary. The logo is a sailboat, and "lacrezza" is Italian for "breeze." We can always imagine an ocean view can't we?

Marco became friends with Calgary legend Ed Whelan which he still talks about daily. "Ed was not about what can you do for me, but what can he do for you?" Marco says. Some outside of Calgary, may recognize Ed's name from Stampede Wrestling. Ed attained the city's love for what he did outside his work as a broadcaster, always ready to help a good cause and good people. Marco still continues the great work Ed started giving to causes and helping with fundraisers. This led to Marco becoming citizen of the year in 1995.

The '80s were good for the restaurant. Many of the Calgary Flames players would dine there, often thought of as owners they were there so often. The restaurant was across from the Calgary General Hospital and had a brisk lunch business. The hospital was imploded and lead to some lean times. The Community of Bridgeland is now developed back to a bustling inner city community.

Abdi has also developed another business, bridging Calgary's Oil business with his friend the Sheik in Dubai as the North American business rep. He travels back a few times a year helping Calgary companies do business in Dubai.

Marco's is but one story in a vast city of one million stories. I hope to share more of them with you soon.