Industry Leaders Honored in New York City

Contact: Elissa Ruffino, 202-939-3106,


*CBS Correspondent Alexis Christoforous Emceed NIAF Gala 

(Washington, D.C. – April 7, 2014)  Industry executives Joseph Brancato of the global design firm Gensler; Carmine Di Sibio of EY (Ernst & Young LLP); Mary Ann Esposito, renowned chef and television personality; and Lt. Gen. USMC (ret.) Frank Libutti of PS&S Global LLC, were honored at the National Italian American Foundation’s (NIAF) New York Spring Gala on April 3, 2014.

 During the cocktail reception, guests were served the famous Bellini cocktail under the towering marble columns at the legendary Italian Renaissance-inspired Cipriani 42nd Street.

NIAF’s Chairman Joseph V. Del Raso, Esq., welcomed everyone to the Foundation’s annual dinner. “Tonight I know I speak for everyone at NIAF, when I say we are thrilled to have all of you here this evening,” Del Raso said.

Besides welcoming honorees and guests, Del Raso spoke about the NIAF Ernest L. Pellegri grant of $500,000 that was awarded to the University of Maryland. “We are so proud of their project, ‘Between Washington and Ancient Rome: The NIAF Pellegri Program on Roman Antiquity and its Legacy in America,’ and excited with all the opportunities for students to conduct research, pursue fellowships that will support the study of Latin and ancient Roman archeology and civilization,” Del Raso added.

The gala’s mistress of ceremonies, Alexis Christoforous, CBS news correspondent, was warmly welcomed by the more than 500 guests. “Buona sera i miei amici, I am proud of my Greek and especially my Italian heritage tonight,” she said. Christoforous thanked gala chairman Gerard S. LaRocca, a member of NIAF’s Board of Directors and chief administrative officer, Americas, Barclays Capital, for making the NIAF gala a spectacular event and the Foundation’s New York committee for its support of NIAF’s mission in New York.

Before the guests dined on Italian specialties including fresh Burrata with marinated pear tomatoes and micro basil, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn gave the invocation.  Singer, songwriter and world champion whistler Michael Barimo sang the U.S. national anthem and “Inno di Mameli,” Italy’s national anthem.

At the podium, Christoforous kicked off the awards ceremony introducing Carmine Di Sibio, global managing partner—Client Services at EY, who received NIAF’s Special Achievement Award in Financial Services. NIAF recognized his 28-year career in the industry. He spoke about his strong Italian roots as well as his father who was born in Trigento, outside of Naples. He thanked LaRocca, his family and staff for joining him that evening. “It’s important for all of us to remain connected to Italy,” he said.

Joseph Brancato, managing partner at Gensler, received NIAF’s Special Achievement Award in Real Estate and Design. His mission is to improve people’s lives by partnering with clients to make cities more livable, more efficient, and more engaging. At the podium, Brancato asked the question, if his heritage had anything to do with his achievements in architecture. He went on to explain how his uncle, high school teacher and professor at the University of Maryland had an impact on his successful career. “What they all had in common was they were all Italian Americans,” he said.

Chef Mary Ann Esposito’s hit culinary TV program Ciao Italia is one of America’s longest running cooking programs. For her authentic cooking style and passion she received NIAF’s Special Achievement Award in Culinary Arts. “Food is the great connector, the common denominator without it there is no history,” Esposito said. She explained that her cooking show “brings a positive image of Italians to the rest of the world.”

Lt. Gen. USMC (ret.) Frank Libutti, CEO and president of PS&S Global LLC, the environmental remediation and alternative and renewable energy firm, received NIAF’s Special Achievement Award in Military Service. Libutti dedicated 35 years of his life to a career in the military.  “When I am honored, I am humbled,” said Libutti. “To my family, I say ‘hoorah’ as in the Marine Corps,” he added. He closed his acceptance speech with “God bless NIAF, God bless the United States of America.”

NIAF’s President and Chief Operating Officer John M. Viola spoke about the energy and passion in the room. “If everyone goes out and shares the experience you had tonight with your Italian American friends and family, it makes us a stronger community, a more prosperous neighborhood and a more supportive family,” Viola said.  “That is how we will keep our culture alive.”

Joining the honorees and guests were Italy’s Consul General in New York, Natalia Quintavalle; actor Tony Lo Bianco; New York City’s Deputy Commissioner, James Gennaro of the Department of Environmental Conservation; representatives from Italy’s Lombardy region, NIAF 2015 Region of Honor, as well as NIAF’s Vice Presidents in the Greater New York region Susan Paolercio and Nicholas R. Caiazzo.

To close the evening’s festivities, Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses, an eight-piece brass-infused swing band, came to the stage and performed some of their famous songs including, “Jump, Jive, and Wail” and “Just a Giglio.” Louis Prima Jr. is the son of the legendary Louis Prima.

The NIAF New York Gala proceeds support the Foundation’s philanthropic and educational programs. NIAF thanks this year’s presenting sponsor EY (Ernst & Young LLP).

Italics Recap of the New York Gala

i-Italy’s Recap of the New York Gala

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the heritage of Italian Americans. Visit