Where was Gina Lolobrigida? The longtime perennial star of the National Italian American Foundation’s annual gala was nowhere to be found this year. It’s hard not to adore someone painting and sculpting at school and became an actress by mistake … I’ve had many lovers and still have romances.” (She is 82.) We missed her. Another favorite, Yogi Berra, was also MIA. That did not, however, stop Cafe Milano proprietor Franco Nuchese from hosting a lavish gala eve dinner where Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi starred as the nation’s most powerful Italian- American woman. Moving graciously between guests, she got to enjoy some down time after most of the other guests had left.
On the list: Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, newly-arrived Italian Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, Anita McBride, and Bob Johnson.
On the menu: orecchiette con melanzane, provola e pomodoro, filetto di vitello farcito ai porcini e bardato alla pancetta con schiacciata di patate e broccoletti. Translation: Great Italian food.
Star power heated up the Saturday night gala at the Hilton Washington where Italian actress Carla Gugino of “American Gangster” and “Entourage” fame was awarded the entertainment award presented by Connie Britton of “Women in Trouble.” It turns out that the two know each other well. “Its truly an honor and surprisingly emotional to receive this award from my best friend,” Gugino said before noting “there are two kinds of people – Italians and those who wished they were.”
It’s no secret that Italians are into food. Following through on that theme, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich received the humanitarian award. The “Queen of Italian-American Cooking,” as she has been called in the New York Times, has a culinary empire that includes four critically acclaimed restaurants, her own PBS cooking series, cookbooks, and radio shows. Also honored: Massimo F. d’Amore, CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, and Napolitano.
With 2,000 Italian and Italian- American guests filling the cavernous ballroom, you can imagine the audience’s reaction when singer and songwriter Antonello Venditti performed hits from his album “Che fantastica storia è la vita.” (Vendetti, the son of a policeman known for his anthemic ballads, is also famed for speaking out against corruption and drug use.)