At the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), every month is Italian American heritage month, but October in particular holds a special place in the Foundation’s heart as it is the month of the annual NIAF Anniversary Gala Weekend.
For over 40 years, the weekend has brought thousands of Italian Americans and Italians from the across the U.S. and around the world to Washington, D.C. for an event-packed weekend that truly lets the Italian American heritage shine.
NIAF’s Gala Weekend gets better with each year, and this coming October is no different! Our 41st Anniversary Gala Weekend, which runs October 14-16, 2016, starts with our Friday “NIAF University,” a new concept, free and open to the public, where guests can dig deeper into their Italian heritage.
Learn the basics of la bella lingua with a language lesson from the Italian Cultural Society of Washington, D.C.; enjoy a delicious cooking demonstration with cookbook author Domenica Marchetti; take a history lesson on gelato and learn all there is to know of the delicious Italian delicacy from recently crowned World Gelato Champion Gianluigi Dellacio of DC-based Dolci Gelati; and discuss the importance of discovering your Italian roots with Genealogy Roadshow (PBS-TV) Co-Host Mary Tedesco.
The excitement continues into Friday evening, with the NIAF 41st Anniversary Kick-off celebration, featuring singer Lena Prima and friends. Guests will experience the NIAF Region of Honor, Piemonte, while dancing the night away and sipping on custom Italian cocktails. The evening also includes an amazing selection of silent auction items and guests can also bid on once in a lifetime live auction opportunities. Doors open at 9 p.m. for this ticketed event, with a full house expected!
Ahead of the Kick-off celebration, use your Friday entertainment ticket to take part in the NIAF Dine Around, and enjoy specially priced prix fixe menus at some of the District’s best Italian restaurants. For the full list of participating restaurants and menus, visit www.niaf.org/gala.
The following day, wake up and arrive early to NIAF Expo Italiana, the always popular day-long event, free and open to the public that showcases the best of Italy. Enjoy the familiar tastes, sights and sounds of Italian American life and mingle amongst the Italian and Italian American exhibitors. Sample an array of food, drinks, coffee, and sweets provided by NIAF’s premier partners and spend time with brands you love and new ones to discover.
Also on Saturday, bring your thoughts and opinions to the always lively “Ieri, Oggi, Domani,” the annual state of the community discussion with NIAF leaders and special guests. At this year’s discussion, NIAF is proud to present, for the first time nationally, a special forum on the status of many of the Little Italys in the U.S. NIAF Vice President and Chair of the IALC John Calvelli, and Marco Li Mandri, CEO of New City America, a company that has managed and overseen the incredible growth of San Diego’s Little Italy in this century, will address the critical juncture that our historic portals of entry for Italian immigrants are experiencing today.
Afterwards, be sure to stick around for the complimentary old fashioned sandwich lunch, provided by NIAF partners at the world famous Mike’s Deli, direct from Arthur Avenue. Then, grab a seat early for the highly anticipated meeting and discussion with Anthony and Joseph Russo, the directing geniuses behind the “Captain America,” franchise. The brothers, who are being honored later in the evening at the NIAF Awards Gala, will discuss the art of film making and take questions from the audience.
Later in the afternoon, join NIAF, for the Italian American Leadership Council (IALC) Forum on Dual Citizenship, with My Italian Passport and participants from various Italian American organizations. The panel will discuss the problems and benefits surrounding dual citizenship and the Italian American vote, with audience participation highly encouraged as always!
On Saturday evening, grab your bow tie and gown for the main event, the NIAF 41st Anniversary Awards Gala, honoring special members of our Italian American community who have made significant contributions to society. This year’s impressive honoree list includes Hollywood film directors Joe and Anthony Russo; Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Office Stefano Pessina; and Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks Pro Football Hall of Famer Franco Harris.
Always full of surprises and special guests, the Awards Gala has become a staple of the Washington social calendar and an event surely not to miss! After the Gala, stick around for what is arguably the most famous Italian party in America, the NIAF After Hours Celebration. Untie your bowtie, take off your heels, and sing along to music you grew up to back in the Italian neighborhoods and beyond, with live music by singer/songwriter Ciro Di Lorenzo.
The entire weekend is a way to celebrate and promote our beautiful Italian American heritage, and something we at the Foundation look forward to every year. We hope you join us! For an updated full weekend schedule, ticket purchases and more, visit www.niaf.org/gala.