NIAF Philadelphia Testimonial Dinner 2023 Review

NIAF proudly hosted its third annual Philadelphia Testimonial Dinner on Monday, May 22, 2023, at the Union League of Philadelphia to honor the Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Nick Sirianni and the Chief Security Officer and Senior Advisor to the General Manager of the Eagles, Dom DiSandro.

The event recognized the significant contributions of both Nick Sirianni and Dom DiSandro, as Italian American leaders in sports, by bestowing upon them the NIAF Jerry Colangelo Sports Excellence Award. As Italian Americans, they have played instrumental roles in leading the Philadelphia Eagles to the 2023 Super Bowl, making them deserving recipients of this special recognition. Proceeds from the dinner program and live auction, which featured coveted items and experiences with the Eagles will benefit the NIAF Education & Scholarship Program.

The evening’s festivities commenced with a cocktail reception in the Lincoln Lounge and Lincoln Memorial, followed by dinner in the Lincoln Hall. Once seated, guests dined on a three-course menu inclusive of house-made crepe lasagna and chicken Milanese, and a custom silky chocolaty dessert of Cremeaux dressed with the Philadelphia Eagles logo.

Opening the awards ceremony was Anthony DiSandro, Jr. Esq., NIAF Dinner Chair and NIAF Board Officer & Secretary.  DiSandro expressed his special thanks to the NIAF Philadelphia Board Members (Chuck Lynch, Gary Silvi, Dom Caglioti, and Dino Petriolo and the Dinner Committee (Hon. Frank Giordano Dan DiLella, Frank Mattei and Joe Del Raso). Further, DiSandro acknowledged the generous support of many sponsors including Carmine Berardi co-owner of Viniamo for the wine and the Philadelphia Eagles organization.

“What an honor it is to recognize Coach Sirianni, who took the Eagles to the Superbowl, but more personal to me, is to acknowledge my cousin, Dom DiSandro, who has worked behind the scenes for 25 years for the Eagles and has been an integral part of the teams’ success,” added DiSandro. To kick off the evening’s festivities, DiSandro asked the audience to direct their attention to the screens for to learn about the great work of NIAF.

Following the video, NIAF President Robert Allegrini took the stage and conveyed, “What a pleasure it is to be here to pay tribute to two gentlemen, who represent the most Italian of American football teams, the Philadelphia Eagles, and we are justifiably proud,” said Allegrini.  “There’s a wonderful Italian community here and tonight it is indicative of that fact – the tremendous support that has come out to honor Coach Sirriani and Dom DiSandro is really heart-warming to see. The eagle is the most Italian of all birds. The Roman Legion conquered under the sign of the eagle and two millennia later the Eagles in Philadelphia are still conquering and so I say congratulations,” added Allegrini.

Allegrini continued to express as depicted in the video that at the heart of NIAF’s activities is celebrating and promoting the Italian culture and heritage in America and serving as a bridge between Italy and the United States. NIAF does this by providing almost $1 million dollars each year in scholarships, grants, and heritage travel, as well as by supporting opportunities, that can unite Italians and Americans.

Moreover, Allegrini thanked the generous support of the Platinum Sponsors (Hill & Co. and KMPG LLP), Gold Sponsor (La Speranza Charitable Foundation) and all of the Silver Sponsors.  Also, he extended a special thank you to Angela Carlino Milani, COO of Carlino’s Specialty Foods, Inc., for donating olive oil as departing gifts.

“Philadelphia has always opened its heart to NIAF and the two biggest reasons are NIAF Board Members, Union League Members and great Eagles fans, Joe Del Raso and the Hon. Frank Giordano,” said Allegrini.

At the podium, Hon. Frank Giordano, NIAF Board Officer and Executive Vice President of Government Relations shared the Union League of Philadelphia’s history and its connection to NIAF. “As you came in this evening, you may wonder, why is the Italian flag flying in front of the Union League? It’s obvious, we are here tonight with NIAF and our two honorees are Italian, but the Union League has a history that goes back to its founding in 1861, but one of the most important reasons is our Italian American President of the Union League and NIAF Board of Director, Dan DiLella,” added Giordano.

NIAF Chair Emeritus, Joseph Del Raso, Esq. noted that NIAF has a long and symbiotic relationship with the Union League of Philadelphia. “It is one we cherish and especially tonight with our sports personalities, not to mention all of our civic leaders, successful business personalities, and others involved in the world of arts and culture, that we are so proud to be associated within our organization,” said Del Raso.

DiSandro returned to the stage with a heartfelt presentation of the NIAF Jerry Colangelo Sports Excellence Award to his cousin, Dom DiSandro. The guy that is usually behind the scenes took the stage and thanked the NIAF Board, his family, and Eagles organization for all their love and support.  “What a great night to celebrate the Italian culture,” said DiSandro.  “A special thank you to my parents, two of the hardest-working people I know. They are the epitome of the American dream, so thank you both for setting the example of how to provide for my family,” added DiSandro.

The room rose to standing applause as Dick Vermeil, former Head Coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and the 2022 recipient of the NIAF Jerry Colangelo Sports Excellence Award took the stage to present the 2023 Award to Coach Sirianni. “Nick has done an unbelievable job taking his football team to the Super Bowl in two years – what an amazing accomplishment,” said Vermeil. “It just magnifies the quality of a coach he is and as he moves forward, he will win more games,” added Vermeil.

In Sirianni’s acceptance speech, he said he was blessed to be here to receive such an honor and thanked the NIAF Board; his family and especially his father, who he followed into the business; and the Eagles organization for all their love and support. “I couldn’t thank the fans in this city enough. I am honored when I am told you fit in well to this city because of your fire and passion,” said Sirianni. “You always want as a coach to play in front of people who really care and this city cares so much about the Eagles,” added Sirianni.

Closing the program, NIAF Board Member Frank Mattei thanked Coach Sirianni and Dom by saying, “You’re not just being honored tonight for what you have accomplished in sports, but really how you achieved your success – for how you cared and mentored the team and for that reason we have recognized you this evening,” said Mattei. Thank you for bringing that bright light, it’s the true key to success,” added Mattei.