NIAF News Releases

*Alan Alda to be inducted in Italian American Hall of Fame**
*Isabella Rossellini to Award a NIAF Scholarship*


Contact:   Elissa Ruffino (NIAF) 202/939-3106 or

(WASHINGTON, D.C.— April 5, 2006) Mario Andretti, legendary racer, will receive a National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Special Achievement Award in Sports at the Foundation’s annual East Coast Gala on Tuesday, April 18 in New York City. The gala will be held at The New York Marriott Marquis Hotel with a reception and silent auction at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 p.m.

At the awards dinner, Mr. Andretti and other prominent Italian Americans will be honored for their outstanding leadership in business, government, and sports. Joseph M. Boitano, senior vice president and general merchandise manager at Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises, will receive a NIAF Special Achievement Award in Business. Rocco B. Commisso, CEO of Mediacom Communications, will receive the NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award. LTG Raymond Odierno of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is best known for commanding the division that captured Saddam Hussein, will receive a NIAF Special Achievement Award for Military Service.

Famed actress and model Isabella Rossellini will present a scholarship to an outstanding Italian American student and Jack Valenti will induct actor Alan Alda into the NIAF Italian American Hall of Fame. Actors Danny Aiello, Dennis Farina, and Tony Lo Bianco, along with sports great Yogi Berra, and Italian couture designer Renato Balestra, are among the Italian American celebrities attending the event.

Born in Montona, Italy, Mr. Andretti was introduced to race car driving when he witnessed the “Mille Miglia”, a thousand-mile race from Brescia to Rome and back to Brescia. In 1955, the Andretti family emigrated to the United States and settled in Nazareth, Penn. He began stock car racing at the age of 19 in 1959. Since then, he has been named Driver of the Year three times (1967, 1978, and 1984) and was named the Driver of the Quarter Century in 1992. His racing career spanned three decades and includes more than 100 major wins in different racing styles such as dirt tracks, drag racing , Formula One, Indy cars, midgets, sprint cars and sports cars. Mr. Andretti joined President George W. Bush’s delegation to the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, along with the Honorable Rudolph W. Giuliani, former mayor of New York City; Ronald P. Spogli, U.S. ambassador to Italy; and Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli, NIAF chairman.

The gala is chaired by Frank Petrilli, president and CEO of Nexxar Group Inc. Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo will perform selections from his self-titled CD during the event.

The gala will benefit NIAF scholarship and education programs. Attire: Business. For ticket information, contact Bonni Cellini at 202/939-3114 or or visit

NIAF is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., and dedicated to preserving the heritage of Italian Americans. To learn about our programs/events, visit

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