Italians know how to throw a party.
It was a black tie affair this past Saturday night at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington D.C. Long before plates of risotto were passed and awards were presented, the VIP cocktail lounge was the place to be. With a step and repeat adorned with journalists and flashing cameras right outside the door (where I stopped to strike a pose), you knew the night was going to be something special. Joe Piscopo was charming his way through an interview, and NIAF President John Viola was mingling with guests. And we hadn't even made it inside yet.
Inside the VIP lounge, glasses of prosecco were flowing, and it was a sea of chatter and tuxedos. Introductions were made, business cards exchanged, all until the lights dimmed, summoning the crowd to the main event.
While guests settled into their tables, which were set with antipasto and Lavazza cups (as Giuseppe Lavazza was an honoree this year), NIAF President John Viola and Joe Piscopo took command of the stage, and the gala awards commenced. The honorees (including film directors Anthony and Joe Russo and Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers) did a wonderful job of expressing how their Italian American heritage shaped their lives and had an impact on them.
Tony Renis, the honoree for excellence in music, performed his 1962 hit "Quando, Quando, Quando" to the original soundtrack. It was a song he coined as "the most important Italian song ever", as it has been performed by many artists more recently.
After the gala, it was time to dance. The music was pumping, the dance floor filled quickly, and drinks were flowing. It was a party that would go on well into the night.
While it was an evening of celebration, honoring accomplishments, and supporting all that NIAF does for the Italian American community, what really brought all of us together was the love of our heritage and our desire to pass the values and traditions of our culture down through the generations to come. Many of the honorees discussed the value of family and how their experiences growing up in an Italian American home influenced their lives and later success.
One of the many things that NIAF truly succeeds at is making all of the attendees feel like family, which is at the heart and soul of what it means to be Italian. NIAF embodies the importance of traditions and being proud of our upbringings and strong cultural ties that we identify with. Despite the fact that many of our families came from different regions of il bel paese, one thing brought us all together: we are proud to be Italian Americans.