The Best of 2015!

The Best of 2015!

Photo credit: Janet Donovan

“I had a boyfriend who broke up with me and I was crying,” Fox News Anchor Maria Bartiromo told an audience of almost 2,000 at the 40th Anniversary of NIAF Gala at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel about a puppy love.  “I was so young and I remember saying to my mom, ‘Don’t tell anyone, I don’t want anyone to know this – just us.’ Well, she left my bedroom and went right upstairs and told my father, proceeded to call my sister, told my brother. And it was such a lesson for me because in my family my problem was everyone’s problem. I think as a kid, that had an enormous impact on me because I realized and I thought that I could do anything, because it didn’t matter; whatever I did, even if I failed, I had my family.”


John Viola and Maria Bartiromo    Photo credit: i-Italy

Italian life is all about La Familia. “This is the way that we were raised and this is the value of the culture that we celebrate tonight. It must have been so hard to leave a place where you had so much safety surrounded by friends and family,” she said of her ancestors, “but they had that much hopefulness and optimism that if you came to America you could start anew, create a better life for your family; and frankly that is exactly what they did.”

That Italian experience was backed up by others: That sense of family and family support that is one debt of gratitude we owe to our ancestors, and that is a legacy that not only supported our families, but was a great investment in America. “We have become fully a part of the American Dream,” said John Cavelli. “Those are terms that Governor Cuomo spoke very eloquently about at the Democratic National Convention. – that we are a part of the mosaic: ‘We can make it all the way with the whole family in tact.'” As for the boy that broke Maria’s heart?  As newly inducted NIAF Hall of Fame singer Connie Francis would say: Who’s Sorry Now?


La Familia

Pat Harrison, CEO of Corporation for Public Broadcasting suggested that if we hadn’t already, we should watch the PBS series called The Italian Americans directed by John Maggio and best described by PBS: “The Italian Americans reveals the unique and distinctive qualities of one immigrant group’s experience, and how these qualities, over time, have shaped and challenged America. For those that made America home, their struggle to maintain a distinct Italian culture was guided by remarkably powerful ideals of family that had always been at the center of their lives. In the Italian family, the needs of the collective came before the individual is a value system often at odds with American ideals of freedom and personal choice……..but it has left its mark on the American landscape.”

italian americans

Photo credit: PBS

The National Italian American Foundation reinvented its 40th Anniversary Awards Gala Weekend into an extravaganza of “song, homage to heritage, family ties and passion for food. The Foundation’s celebration of its 40-year milestone united Italian American and Italian cultures of the past with an eye to the future.” The NIAF gala was presented by Alitalia.

NIAF Gala honorees included Italian American musical singing legend Connie Francis, Richard E. Caruso, Ph.D., Steve Perillo, Alfred M. Rotondaro, Ph.D., Amato L. Berardi, Mario J. Gabelli, Franco Nuschese, Sergio Marchionne and Josephine J. (Gargiulo) Templeton, M.D.

Besides the honorees, the highlight of the evening was singing sensation Il Volo, an Italian pop trio consisting of singers Gianluca Ginoble (baritone), and tenors Piero Barone and Ignazio Boschetto.  Hollywood on the Potomac caught up with the group backstage prior to the gala where we talked about their world wide performances, how they joined Babra Streisand on tour, their prestigious win at the Sanremo Music Festival in Italy and their newly released album, Grande Amore.


Il Volo backstage

Prior to the Gala at the VIP reception we chatted with Joe Piscopo and Deana Martin who said of her late dad Dean Martin  “Its unbelievable. In fact, I just got chills,” she told us when talking about Dean and Frank Sinatra, “because they are so important. They were timeless and classic. Of course, dad and Frank were Italian, and here we are, we’re celebrating Italian Americans tonight. There was just something so wonderful about them. They were the best at what they did. They could sing, they could dance, they could act, they were charming, they were classic and timeless. I think that is what people have latched onto.”


Joe Piscopo with Laura Denise Bisogniero

The Red Carpet:

Justice Alito and Anita McBride

Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. and Anita McBride

Hollywood on the Potomac captured the night: