Today hundreds of dignitaries, city leaders, and members of the Italian American community gathered at the corner of 19th and Q streets in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the many accomplishments of Diego D'Ambrosio, il Barbiere di Dupont, with the renaming of the 1900 block of Q Street as "Diego D’Ambrosio Way."
D'Ambrosio celebrates with his staff.
Since 1965, D'Ambrosio has operated Diego’s Hair Salon at the corner of 19th and Q in Washington's Dupont Circle neighborhood. The salon is a gathering place for the local community, with neighbors and those who work nearby having come to D'Ambrosio for 20, 30 and even 40 years for hair cuts. "It's a real crossroads," said Rev. James M. McCann, S.J., director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe and one of many loyal customers gathered on the sidewalk to wish D’Ambrosio well.
D'Ambrosio's salon on Q Street.
But despite his community activism, D'Ambrosio is better known for serving presidents, ambassadors, prime ministers, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, clergy and more. The walls of his small store-front salon are covered with photos of his impressive clientele, bearing witness to the unique access that mild-mannered D'Ambrosio has in this power-hungry town.
Hundreds gathered to celebrate D'Ambrosio's career.
"Heads of state, members of Congress, everyone comes here," said Bill Edwards, a client of D’Ambrosio’s for 39 years who recently retired as Hilton's area vice president of operations for the Mid-Atlantic region. "Look at all the pictures of all the powerful people on his wall…he's the only guy that keeps their heads straight.
"He’ll get emergency calls before a summit because he has to go fix someone’s hair," Edwards added with a laugh.
As if to prove that reputation correct, the audience at today's street-naming included Martha-Ann Alito, wife of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. (looking lovely in a wide-brimmed pink hat), Argentina's Ambassador to the U.S. Héctor Marcos Timerman, Nicaragua's Chargé d'Affaires Alcides Montiel, Venezuela's Ambassador to the U.S. Bernardo Alvarez, Madagascar's Ambassador to the U.S. Jocelyn Radifera, the Dominican Republic's Ambassador to the Organization of American States Virgilio Alcántara, and Judge Timothy Dyk of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s parents were also in attendance, as was the mayor himself.
D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (left) officially re-named the 1900 block of Q Street in honor of D'Ambrosio (right).
As D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty explained to the crowd, the street naming -- one of only three or four done by the city to honor residents who are still alive -- recognized D'Ambrosio’s service to the Dupont Circle community, his special role within the nation's capital and his many accomplishments since immigrating to America.
"As Diego just told me, it's very lucky for me that he's not running for mayor, with all these people here,” joked Fenty. "Diego is not only the most fantastic barber this side of Rome, but he is also a true Washingtonian, which is how he has come to be known as 'the Mayor of Dupont.' You can never have too many mayors."
Late last year when MTV's "Jersey Shore" first aired, NIAF joined other Italian American organizations in deriding it as a missed opportunity for presenting positive portrayals of Italian Americans. Now, amid talk of filming for the show's second season, one Italian American academic is taking a closer look at the origins and implications of the term "guido."
In a video created by i-Italy.org, Fred Gardaphe, a distinguished professor at New York's John D. Calandra Institute, traces guido culture to "Saturday Night Fever," and, even earlier, to silent film legend Rudolph Valentino. Rather than reacting to the label as offensive, Gardaphe urges the broader Italian American community to examine why young people are turning to "guido culture" as a source of identity.
"Italian American culture must take responsibility for having made the guido one way or another," Gardaphe says in the five-minute spot, "whether we did it intentionally or we did it by ignoring our Italian American youth and not giving them viable alternatives.
"I can tell you that the students that I teach at Queens College and the students that I used to teach at Stony Brook University, when they took my courses in Italian American studies, they saw a variety of ways of identifying as Italian Americans," Gardaphe continues. "These kids [the cast of "Jersey Shore"] suffer from not having had that variety. I bet you none of these kids have ever been to Italy. You pick them up and bring them to Italy, and you'll see how fast that guido attitude...will change."
Despite arguing for more cultural options, Gardaphe does not believe that the term guido is by nature offensive, noting that, "In the wrong context, it can be derrogatory." He elaborates,"If someone says to me, 'Hey, you, guido,' I would take that as offensive. But if somebody says, 'Hey, I'm a guido,' Idon't think anybody should take that [as] offensive, except for maybe the kid's family if they don't like it."
Here at NIAF, one concern is that in today's media, perception is reality and that repetition of these negative stereotypes increase the perception that Italian Americans dress, speak and behave in a certain way.
What do you think?
Airports across Europe have been shut down by airborne ash emitted during this week's volcanic eruption in Iceland, and Italy is no exception. But -- as with many things -- Italians are experiencing the disaster differently depending on whether they live in the nord or sud, reports the BBC.
In a dispatch today from Rome, the BBC's Duncan Kennedy notes that while Italy's northnermost airports (particularly those in Milan) have been completely shut down, southern ones like Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci di Fiumicino and Aeroporto di Roma-Ciampino remain open.
However, arrival at an open airport does not guarantee an available flight to other European destinations. Instead, Kennedy notes that Rome's population is turning to creative travel solutions.
"Some taxi drivers in Rome have been taking passengers as far as Brussels, charging one euro a kilometre (or $1.33) - the distance being about 1,171 kilometres or 728 miles," Kennedy reports.
Because much of Italy's air traffic has been able to operate, he adds, the issue has not become as much of a political hot potato as it has in other nations. Click here to read more.
A recent ANSA article is reporting that a Brindisi shipbuilder's offer to start construction of fiberglass gondolas has been rejected by the City of Venice.
ANSA reports that Giuseppe Gioia's Cantieri Navali Brindisi shipyards claimed to be putting the final touches on a fiberglass prototype that perfectly replicates original wood gondolas while offering weather-resistant properties. But, Venice Ente Gondola says the traditional boats can only be made of wood and built by Venetian artisans using traditional techniques. Aldo Reato, head of a Venetian gondoliers association, is quoted as saying, "The idea of a 'plastic' gondola is unthinkable and I'm sure the whole world would agree."
A traditional gondola costs as much as 25,000 euros to make, while fiberglass models would cost significantly less.
According to the article, a typical gondola is made from pine, oak, cherry, walnut, elm, mahogany, larch and lime wood, while its oar is made from beech wood. The left side of the gondola is longer than the right side so the boat will not go leftwards at the forward stroke and thus keep on a straight course.
Would riding in a fiberglass gondola diminish the Venetian experience for you?
Residents of St. Louis now have a new option for researching their Italian American heritage. The Italian Club of St. Louis (ICSL) and the St. Louis Genealogical Society (StLGS) have joined together to form an Italian Genealogy Special Interest Group (IT-SIG).
For those interested in their Italian ancestry, this group will provide a forum to network, share genealogical research, and study as well as a way for members to preserve their Italian history, customs and traditions.
The group will hold its first meeting on Monday, May 10, 2010 at the St. Louis Genealogical Society Office, #4 Sunnen Drive, Suite 140, St. Louis, Missouri, from 7-9 p.m. All are welcome to attend, but please e-mail email@example.com to make a reservation.
Owned by mega-corporation Unilever, Bertolli frozen foods commissioned Logo -- the first national cable channel for gay and lesbian viewers -- to create a series of commercials targeting the Logo audience, Elliott tells readers of his Media Decoder blog. This latest ad (the third in its series) features Charlie Davis, host of Logo's travel series "Bump," driving through Italy and later enjoying a Bertolli Italian dinner with an actor who plays his boyfriend. The second spot, reports Elliott, won a Glaad Media Award in Advertising from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Both the Logo channel ads and other, more mainstream Bertolli ads run under the tagline "Italy is served."
Bertolli's ads capitalize on a basic fact that we at NIAF have known all along: people from all backgrounds appreciate Italian culture and cuisine!
Since 2008, Isabella Rossellini’s acclaimed Sundance Channel series "Green Porno" has examined the sex lives of insects, sea creatures and other unlikely romantics. On April 20, her new series "Seduce Me" -- inspired by “Green Porno” -- will premiere on SundanceChannel.com, examining the courting habits that serve as a prelude for mating ducks, bed bugs, cuttlefish, salmon, snakes and more.
Launched in 2008, "Green Porno" used a short film format, featured papier-mâché sets and starred Rossellini as the subject of each episode. Whether dressed as a soon-to-be-decapitated praying mantis, a defecating earthworm or a cadaver serving as a temporary nursery for fly offspring, Rossellini approached her subjects with offbeat humor that drew rave reviews.
In a recent interview with MovieLine Rossellini relates that although mating can be fascinating, the sex talk in "Green Porno" and "Seduce Me" is really a hook to entice viewers to learn about animal behavior.
"When I decided to make films about animals, I knew that people were probably more interested in sex than just animals," she is quoted as saying. "I figured that films about how animals mate would be more popular -- and I was right!"
Rossellini writes, directs and stars in each episode of "Seduce Me," which is currently slated to air five two-minute episodes. The acclaimed actress is also a board member of the Wildlife Conservation Fund, former NIAF honoree and longtime Foundation supporter.
Following its April 20 online debut, "Seduce Me" will be available on Video On Demand beginning May 5 and premiere on Sundance Channel on May 25. Episodes of "Green Porno" remain available on SundanceChannel.com.
In a Frugal Traveler blog post a few days ago, Matt Gross of The New York Times comments more about his experiences writing his April 11 look homemade cuisine, "Mangia, Mangia!" More specifically, he talks about one ingredient: Abruzzo's surprisingly spicy chili peppers.
Gross writes, "During several meals, a dish of spice went round the table as a condiment -- sometimes dried and crushed, other times crushed, dried and soaked in oil. While this in itself was not unusual, what was surprising to me was that they were actually spicy. I mean really spicy. Even one of my friends, who is part Thai and knows spicy, considered them powerful."
So, Gross asks, what gives? Or, "...why do the Abruzzese, so far from the global chili belt, like truly hot peppers?" What's your take?
The month of May will be a busy one here at NIAF, with two key events providing opportunities for our members to celebrate their heritage and reconnect with the Italian American community.
On May 15, 2010, NIAF will host its Texas Gala at The Adolphus hotel in Dallas. This cocktail-attire event, which includes a silent auction featuring rare sports memorabilia, will honor several prominent Italian Americans who have contributed to Texas's growing Italian American community.
Accordingly, the Foundation will honor Jay Lombardo of Lombardo Custom Apparel with a NIAF Special Achievement Award in Fashion; Bruno Mascolo, co-founder of Toni & Guy hair products, with a NIAF Special Achievement Award in Business and the Arts; Mike Modano of the Dallas Stars Hockey Team with a NIAF Special Achievement Award in Sports; and Victor "Vic" Salvino, dealer principal of Texas Kenworth Co., with a NIAF Special Achievement Award for Humanitarian Service. Additionally, Bruno Mascolo’s brother Gaetano Mascolo, also a co-founder of Toni & Guy, will receive a posthumous NIAF Special Achievement in Business and the Arts.
Not two weeks later, on May 26, 2010, the Foundation will host a NIAF Night in New York, a star-studded, cabaret-style evening at the Hilton New York that will celebrate both New York's vibrant Italian American community and the nightlife that makes the Big Apple such an alluring destination.
This event does not feature honorees, but instead will include performances by the cast of "Jersey Boys" and Italian singing sensation Alfio in addition to a silent auction. Look for special guest Frankie Valli, a former NIAF honoree and the original Jersey Boy.
We encourage you to attend these events and look for other ways to connect with NIAF in the coming months. Visit www.niaf.org for more information about all of NIAF's programs.
In "A year after Italy's earthquake, residents rebuild on their own," an April 11, 2010 op-ed article in The Washington Post, Georgetown University Italian Department Chair Laura Benedetti examines how the destruction in L'Aquila continues to affect residents' lives. She provides a glimpse of life in L'Aquila not often covered by major media.
"After the disaster, the government's response, led by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, was fast and feverish. The outskirts of L'Aquila were turned into construction sites to build temporary homes for thousands of displaced people. Italian flags were wrapped around the balconies, and dazed families moved into the new housing -- featuring amenities from ironing boards to linens to food baskets with local specialties -- to find a note of welcome from Berlusconi.
But the building frenzy had its downsides. Privately owned land was requisitioned, and the landscape surrounding L'Aquila, which had largely been preserved for generations, metamorphosed into urban sprawl. The hastily built apartment complexes scattered what used to be a close-knit community over a vast territory, with inadequate infrastructure and no social venues. In the meantime, the medieval downtown, which used to be home to 16,000 people and more than 1,000 restaurants, shops and offices, remained eerily quiet and inaccessible."
Benedetti goes on to detail how former L'Aquila residents have been angered by recent revelations that developers sought to profit from the disaster. Their response, she notes, has been to mobilize and begun clearing rubble from L'Aquila's city center themselves.
"With the anniversary of the earthquake, a new urgency has brought together people of all ages, social status, and political and religious beliefs," writes Benedetti. "They claim the city center as necessary to their identity and sense of belonging, and they ask to be an active part of the reconstruction. On Easter Sunday, the Aquilani prepared their traditional meal of bread, salami, hard-boiled eggs and wine. This year, though, they did not eat it at home. They brought it to the main square and shared it with other families in their town."
Click here for the full article.
Yesterday's New York Times features an article, "Mangia! Mangia!", by travel writer Matt Gross about the delights of eating in private homes rather than restaurants when visiting Italy.
In the past, that may have been hard to accomplish for travelers without Italian family or friends to visit while in il bel paese. But now, Gross shares, an Italian organization called Home Food is connecting travelers and individual Italian families as part of an effort to preserve and showcase everyday Italian cooking. (Caution: Home Food's Web site is slow today, perhaps thanks to interest generated by the aforementioned New York Times article.)
"From Piedmont in the north to Sicily in the south, from cities like Florence and Milan to hamlets like Abbateggio, Home Food seeks out exceptional home chefs, puts them through a training course and dubs them Cesarinas — little Caesars, emperors of the kitchen," Gross writes. "Then, a few times a month, the Cesarinas host dinner parties at which they open their homes to strangers."
According to Gross, interested eaters register with Home Food, pay a membership fee of 3.50 euros for foreigners (about $4.60) and then check monthly listings for interesting meals. Once a meal is selected, diners pay for their dinner of choice, with fees ranging from 34.90 to 39.90 euros per person.
"Would you like goose-meat salami in Lombardy?" he writes. "Fried chicken bones with red chicory in Emilia-Romagna? Rabbit in a pot in Tuscany? All are part of dozens of meals on offer throughout April..."
It all sounds delicious to the staff here at NIAF. But is this something you would do?
Italy's right-wing Lega Nord party, which pursues a limited immigration policy, has now turned its sights to the cuisines of Italy's ethnic minorities, according to reporting by Benedetta Grasso on i-Italy.org.
Under the slogan "Si alla polenta, no al cous cous" ("Yes to polenta, no to cous cous"), Luca Zaia, Minister of Agriculture, promoted restrictions on the cuisines of other ethnicities, saying that in Italy there is "the need to protect local specialities from the growing popularity of ethnic cuisine."
In Trieste, the town's mayor (also a member of Lega Nord) ordered every ethnic restaurant in the city to serve traditional Italian dishes or face closure, reports Grasso. In Lucca, the only food allowed is Tuscan and restaurants where it will be served must respect Italy's architectural and historical traditions -- meaning they are not permitted any kind of ethnic display, Grasso notes. Meanwhile, in Treviso, the Moroccan community was forbidden to organize a street fair as part of an effort to create the largest cous cous plate in the world and win the Guinness World Record.
Proponents say these moves preserve local cuisine. Opponents say not-so-subtle racism is at work. What's your take?
Click here to read Grasso's full article on i-Italy.org.
A NIAF media forum this week at Villanova University featured ESPN's Sal Paolantonio advising soon-to-be college graduates in business, communications, journalism and marketing on how to reach their highest potential.
NIAF photo. (From left) NIAF Executive Vice President Salvatore M. Salibello, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio and NIAF Senior Executive Vice President Matthew DiDomenico, Sr.
During his speech, Paolantonio encouraged students to make and keep promises as they pursue careers. After a question-and-answer session, students were asked to write down their promises and then share them with the group.
Held under the auspices of the Frank J. Guarini/NIAF Media Forum, the event was one of many that bring together members of the media, NIAF supporters, business leaders and students to discuss their Italian heritage.
A participating media panel also included CBS 's Jon Hitchcock and Pat Ciarrocchi, Fox's Sue Serio and Philadelphia Inquirier Joe DiStefano. Special guests included Villanova University's head coach Andy Talley and former NFL player Vince Papale.
A NIAF grant helped support the making of "Beyond Wiseguys: Italian Americans & The Movies," a documentary examining portrayals of Italian Americans in Hollywood film.
The film features interviews with Frank Capra, Jr., Fred Gardaphe, Isabella Rossellini, Susan Sarandon, Marisa Tomei, Stanley Tucci, NIAF founding member Jack Valenti and "Beyond Wiseguys" executive producer John Turturro, in addition to many other prominent Italian Americans.
Now you can help NIAF by purchasing a DVD copy of "Beyond Wiseguys" at the discounted NIAF price of $20 plus $2.95 for shipping and handling (total cost is $22.95). Proceeds from the sale of these DVDs will directly support NIAF and efforts to increase knowledge of our cultural heritage.
To purchase your copy today, visit www.psfp.com/store.htm or send a check to Center for Independent Productions, 579 Broadway, Hastings-on-Hudson NY 10706. Be sure to mention the promotional code: NIAF.
What are your favorite film moments depicting Italian Americans?
Interested in what is taught in
The conference is intended to provoke a radical re-thinking of those studies, what they mean, their methods and how they are related. Keynote speakers include a panel of prestigious academics from the
Panel discussions will be held at
For more information, or to register, call the
Visit the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Penn., through August 1, 2010 to view "Ancient Rome & America", a showcase of the cultural, political and social connections between ancient Rome and modern America.
Bust of George Washington portrayed with a Roman drape over his clothing. c.1817. Courtesy American Revolution Center.
This exhibit features more than 300 artifacts from Italy and the United States, bringing together a never-before-seen collection from Italy's leading archaeological institutions in Florence, Naples, and Rome, paired with objects from more than 40 institutions in the United States.
Print out and present this page at the National Constitution Center box office now through August 1, 2010 to redeem the $2 off discount towards adult admission to Ancient Rome & America at the National Constitution Center. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for senior citizens, $12 for children between the ages of 4-12 and free for National Constitution Center members and children under the age of 4.
For more information, visit www.constitutioncenter.org.
There was no typical donor to the NIAF Abruzzo Relief Fund, which yielded nearly $800,000 for the victims and communities affected by last April's earthquake in Abruzzo. Contributors ranged from a 96-year-old man living in Philadelphia to large philanthropies.
But certain organizations and individuals formed the backbone of NIAF's generous response to this tragedy. As we observe the one-year anniversary of Italy's Abruzzo earthquake, we feel it is important to call attention to their generosity.
Major donors included:
The Abruzzo Molise Heritage Society
Accademia Barilla & Mario Rizzotti
The Aiuto Foundation/Sons of Sicily
The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees AFL-CIO District Council 37
Associazione Nazionale Carabinieri di New York
Mitchell & Etta Cannon Family Fund
Carnival Cruise Lines/Seaborne
The Chrysler Foundation
The Generoso Pope Foundation
Hon. Frank J. Guarini
The Italian American Historical Society of Connecticut
The Italian American National Hall of Fame
The Italian Club of Tampa
The Italian Grand Council of Westchester
The Italian Hospital Society on behalf of Domenico Mignone
The Italian Welfare League
Italy Relief Fund
Il Circolo Florida
Barbara & Gary Marshall
Pepper Hamilton LLC of Philadelphia - Employees
Peninsula Italian American Social Club
The PGA Tour on behalf of Fred Couples
POM Wonderful Roll Giving Employee Charitable Program
The Rosati Charitable Fund
John F. Scarpa
The Susan Sarandon Charitable Foundation
Finally, NIAF's Abruzzo relief efforts would not have been as successful without the many benefit dinners, auctions and other events held across the U.S. Organizers included Alicart Restaurant Group, Tutta Pasta restaurant in Hoboken, N.J., Vito's Ristorante & Pizzeria in Southern Pines, N.C., and Italian Wine Merchants/Domaine Select Wine Estates. Additional thanks goes to Italian entrepreneur Pierluigi Zappacosta, whose generous support of a NIAF auction in San Francisco benefited our Abruzzo relief efforts.
Pictured above, some of the displaced University of L'Aquila Students who were brought to the U.S. to complete their studies with NIAF's help. (Top row, left to right) Angela Scanzano, Antonella Imperiale, Berardo Artieri, Carla D'Amato, Giuseppe D'Arcangelo, Margherita De Luca, Nicoletta Giordani, Paola Di Giampietro, (Bottom row, left to right) Sara Gemini Piperini, Viviana Festa, Eugenia De Laurentiis, Lidia Rommeri, Luca Lugini, Luigi Tonti, Marco Mettiamo and Valerio Paoni.
Following the earthquake in Abruzzo, the following academic institutions partnered with NIAF and the U.S. State Department to bring 52 displaced University of L'Aquila students to the U.S. to continue their educations.
Sierra Nevada College
University of Miami
University of New Mexico
University of Pittsburgh
CUNY -- College of Staten Island
Westchester Community College
Robert Morris University
In preparing for their trip to the U.S., many of the above former L'Aquila University students eloquently wrote to NIAF about how the earthquake changed their lives. "One day you have all, and one day you have nothing," wrote Annalibera Schiavo about her sudden change in fortune. "I remember that night," wrore Giuseppe D'Arcangelo."People were in the streets dressing with the clothes they had taken while they are running away from their homes." "During that night I lost my cousin and her sons, my father lost two uncles and his cousin and her daughter," wrote Nicoletta Giordani, who was at home with her family in L'Aquila when the earthquake struck. "I also lost a lot of dear friends and relatives. During that night I lost my city, and I lost my place." "Everyone has lost someone or something in this earthquake..." wrote Sara Germini Piperini. "Unfortunately, not all of my friends were alive, and [some] of my friends had parents under the debris while others had lost relatives and friends...but I hope one day to see L'Aquila rebuilt, and respect shown for all of the people that died." "After this horrible experience I have learned to appreciate everyday life and all the small things," wrote Carla D'Amato. "You really only understand their true value when you risk losing them. I've also realized the importance of enjoying every single moment of your life."
In preparing for their trip to the U.S., many of the above former L'Aquila University students eloquently wrote to NIAF about how the earthquake changed their lives.
"One day you have all, and one day you have nothing," wrote Annalibera Schiavo about her sudden change in fortune.
"I remember that night," wrore Giuseppe D'Arcangelo."People were in the streets dressing with the clothes they had taken while they are running away from their homes."
"During that night I lost my cousin and her sons, my father lost two uncles and his cousin and her daughter," wrote Nicoletta Giordani, who was at home with her family in L'Aquila when the earthquake struck. "I also lost a lot of dear friends and relatives. During that night I lost my city, and I lost my place."
"Everyone has lost someone or something in this earthquake..." wrote Sara Germini Piperini. "Unfortunately, not all of my friends were alive, and [some] of my friends had parents under the debris while others had lost relatives and friends...but I hope one day to see L'Aquila rebuilt, and respect shown for all of the people that died."
"After this horrible experience I have learned to appreciate everyday life and all the small things," wrote Carla D'Amato. "You really only understand their true value when you risk losing them. I've also realized the importance of enjoying every single moment of your life."?xml:namespace>