Italy goes Hollywood.
The National Italian American Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to preserving the heritage of Italian-Americans. Former new York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, received standing ovations from the 3,000 guests attending the foundation's 32nd Anniversary Awards Gala at the Hilton Washington & Towers.
Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese gave an emotional tribute to Jack Valenti, a NIAF founding member. Scorsese announced the creation of the Valenti Institute, which will fund Hollywood internships for young Italian-Americans interested in pursing careers in film.
Ellen pompeo, star of the ABC drama Grey's Anatomy, received an achievement award and paid tribute to her grandparents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Gesualdo, Italy.
And, of course, there was a video tribute to Luciano pavarotti, with remarks by legendary actress Gina Lollobrigida. Vittorio Grigolo, an opera tenor trained under Pavarotti, entertained the audience, which included such luminaries as actress Susan Lucci, baseball legend Yogi Berra, and former NFL player Vince Ferragamo.
Earlier in the day, First Lady Laura Bush delivered the keynote address at a special luncheon and received the foundation's Special Achievement Award in Literacy in recognition of her efforts to help America's youth.
Kudos to Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli, NIAF chairman, and all his amiche for a bello celebrazione.