More than 720 National Italian American Foundation leaders, supporters, guests and honorees enjoyed an evening of wining, dining and accolades at NIAF’s 2012 East Coast Gala April 12, held at the legendary Italian Renaissance-inspired Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City.
The evening began with a cocktail reception where attendees mingled and La Casa Grande Tobacco Company artisans hand-rolled cigars for guests.
After a moving invocation by Auxiliary Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of the Diocese of Brooklyn, singer Christina Carlucci sang the U.S. national anthem and famed Italo-Australian singer ALFIO sang “Fratelli d’ Italia,” Italy’s national anthem.
From the podium, the gala’s mistress of ceremonies, Hon. Patricia de Stacy Harrison, NIAF vice chair and president and CEO for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, introduced Gala Chairman Gerard S. LaRocca, NIAF board member and chief administrative officer, Americas, Barclays Capital.
NIAF’s President Joseph V. Del Raso, Esq., welcomed the guests to the Foundation’s annual dinner acknowledging the welcome presence of the evening’s guests from New York’s financial world. “Tonight’s gala is a great success!” said Del Raso. “We broke the mold with support from the financial industry. We brought together outstanding global leaders to honor our past but more importantly to plan for our future.”
Harrison kicked off the awards ceremonies by first presenting NIAF’s Special Achievement Award in Business to Art Certosimo, Senior Executive Vice President of BNY Mellon, who recalled his ancestors’ immigration from Naples. As award-winning journalist Maria Bartiromo accepted NIAF’s Special Achievement Award in Broadcasting/Media, the CNBC Anchor and NIAF Board Member expressed how “honored, grateful and humbled” she was and thanked NIAF for bringing everyone together at the Gala.
As guests dined, prosciutto-and-mozzarella salad followed by prime roast filet of beef with Sauce Perigourdine and grilled yellow polenta, the Foundation honored Frank D’Amelio, Executive Vice President, Business Operations and Chief Financial Officer at Pfizer Inc., with its Special Achievement Award in Financial Management, and Dean Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., Dean of the Gabelli School of Business and Dean of the Business Faculty at Fordham University, with its Special Achievement Award in Education.
Writer, director, producer and Academy Award-nominated actor Chazz Palminteri accepted NIAF’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Entertainment and brought the audience to its feet talking about his bus-driver father, Lorenzo, who inspired Palminteri’s success and his one-man-show “The Bronx Tale,” and how “the real fabric of the Italian American community is the working man.” The Bronx-born Palminteri also said that at his lowest moment professionally he recalled his father’s motivational words that turned his life around: “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”
Adding to the evening’s excitement were performances by “American Idol” finalist Pia Toscano, who sang her hit single “This Time” and a melody from her new album, and longtime NIAF friend ALFIO, whose has graced NIAF stages often with his throwback crooner-style vocals.
Among the Gala’s special guests were former Governor of New York Mario M. Cuomo and former New York first lady Matilda Raffa Cuomo, who served on NIAF’s Board of Directors; Italy’s Consul General in New York and the Gala Honorary Chair Hon. Natalia Quintavalle; U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm; New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn; as well as NIAF’s Vice Presidents in the Greater New York region Susan Paolercio and Nicholas R. Caiazzo.
Highlights of the evening included John M. Viola, NIAF’s newly-appointed Chief Operating Officer, announcing the Foundation’s new collaboration with the Italian Cultural Foundation at the Casa Belvedere in Staten Island. “Now NIAF will bring Casa Belvedere’s innovative Italian arts and cultural programming to NIAF’s extensive network throughout the United States and abroad,” said Viola.
The streamlined, business-attire Gala was in many ways unprecedented. Lasting just under two hours, it grossed more than $553,000 toward the Foundation’s philanthropic and educational programs. “A night like this, in these difficult economic times, is a testament to strength of our organization and the commitment of our supporters. When planning the gala, we anticipated 500 guests. By the time we were forced to close registration, we had more than 720 enthusiastic supporters in attendance to celebrate with us,” said Viola.
Among the many generous supporters of the Gala, Pfizer and Casa Belvedere were the East Coast Gala Presenting Sponsors. Barclays Wealth, Barclays NETS Alliance, BNY Mellon, Jackson Lewis LLP, Pepper Hamilton, Fordham University, BD Development LLC, Deloitte LLP, The Nasdaq Stock Market, Guarini & Guarini, and Virtu Financial joined NIAF as platinum sponsors.
The entire evening was a huge success. If you missed it, make plans now for NIAF’s West Coast Gala on June 21 at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel.