The National Italian American Foundation’s 42nd Annual Gala Honoring the NIAF 2017 Region of Honor Sicily

The Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington D.C. will be swathed in festive colors of red, white and green November 3-5, 2017, when the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) celebrates its 42nd Annual Gala Weekend.

“This year’s event will pay tribute to the region of Sicily with an activity-filled program of people, places and things that reflect the timeless traditions Sicily has been known for over the generations,” said NIAF President John M. Viola of NIAF’s 2017 Region of Honor.

The Gala Weekend begins on Friday, November 3, when NIAF University offers introductory sessions in “all things Italian” that are free and open to the public. Want to learn la bella lingua? Take an introductory class taught by the Italian Cultural Society of Washington, D.C. or attend an Italian cooking demonstration by expert chef and cookbook author Domenica Marchetti. Delve into the history, language and culture of Sicily with expert Dr. Gaetano Cipolla. Educate your taste buds as Gianluigi Dellaccio, the gelato genius of D.C.’s Dolci Gelati, demonstrates how to make gelato and scoops free samples! And much more! Seating for NIAF University sessions is limited.

Then, get ready to raise the roof! NIAF’s annual Anniversary Gala Kick-Off celebration, the evening of November 3, features Italian and Italian American talents on stage who will burn down the dance floor. “The evening is one of the Gala Weekend’s highlights,” said John M. Viola. “We will be celebrating Sicily as the Region of Honor with favorite celebrities, including Lena Prima, Carmelo Sorchi and ALFIO on stage, singing the tunes Italians know and love with dancing well past midnight.”

Custom Italian cocktails will be served at the open bars. Guests can also look over silent auction items which will include trips to Italy, five-star hotel stays and extraordinary products reflecting Italian design and craftsmanship. Open to the public.

On Saturday, November 4, Expo Siciliana will showcase entertaining, educational and commercial offerings of Italian American and Sicilian exhibitors. From the best Italian wines and Sicilian vodka to breath-taking Italian automobiles, curated tours of Italy, free samples of Italian culinary artistry, and espresso like those brewed at cafés on the streets of Taormina, this is the largest Italian Festival every year in the Nation’s Capital.

And there’s more! Visitors can learn how to trace their heritage, apply for dual American Italian citizenship or plan a vacation to Italy with experienced tour operators. Play the traditional Italian pastime bocce ball, practice dancing traditional Sicilian steps or learn about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. Sicilian Marionette performer Tony DeNonno will pull the strings on playful Sicilian puppets; Mike’s Deli from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx will once again bring complimentary boxed sandwich lunches (available while they last); and the NIAF Wine Tasting will again offer remarkable Italian wines for tasting and purchase.

Expo Siciliana visitors can also view films by winners of the inaugural Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum and sit in on a reading and book signing by Stephen Talty, author of “The Black Hand,” a non-fiction book about the early-1900s terrorist secret society and the heroic Italian American NYPD detective who fought it. Expo Siciliana is free and open to the public.

Concluding the events of November 4, the NIAF Gala Reception will be followed by the 42nd Anniversary Awards Gala, a seated, black-tie Sicilian dinner recognizing honorees who have achieved special distinction and reflected pride of the Italian and Italian American communities in their outstanding accomplishments. Emceed by Fox News Business journalist Maria Bartiromo and NIAF President and COO, John M. Viola, this is an evening not to be missed.

The annual (and infamous) After Hours Party will feature everyone singing traditional music and dancing the tarantella. A Sunday Mass, conducted in Italian, will be celebrated the morning of November 5, at the Holy Rosary Church in Washington, D.C. For more information on all NIAF Gala Weekend events, visit