NIAF Holds Fifth Annual Congressional Bocce Ball Tournament


Alex Benedetto
National Italian American Foundation

 (WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 25, 2017) For the first time in five years, the rain held off, and the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) was able to hold its Fifth Annual Congressional Bocce Ball Tournament outdoors. The tournament, held in memory of former NIAF Board Member and Chair of the Foundation’s Government Relations and Public Policy Committee Mark Valente, featured 10 teams of participants from NIAF, the Embassy of Italy, and the Italian American Congressional Delegation.

Venable LLP hosted the event at their Massachusetts Avenue location, on their gorgeous rooftop bocce court, with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle coming together to enjoy the much-beloved Italian game. Valente, who served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, before starting DC lobbying firm Valente & Associates, came up with the idea for the tournament.

“Unfortunately, Mark could not be here with us, but his spirit is here. This is an event that he cared deeply about and it’s another manifestation of our heritage,” said John F. Calvelli, NIAF vice-chair and co-chair of the Foundation’s government relations and public policy committee.

“We kind of forget that bocce is who we are. It’s one of the sports that we created and I think on many levels, it’s kind of interesting to literally be on top of one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington, D.C. looking out at the Washington monument and playing a game of bocce.”

The victorious team at the end of the competitive tournament was father-son duo Sam and Jon Vitale, of Maryland-based Corporate Document Solutions, with the Embassy of Italy team coming in a close second.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.) stopped by for the event, a favorite of hers, telling media she was very proud of her Italian heritage, with her grandparents emigrating from Italy in the early 1900s and settling in New York.

Also at the event were Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and Public Liaison Assistant to President Trump; Mauricio Greganti, deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Italy; Robert E. Carlucci, NIAF vice-chair; Anita Bevacqua McBride, NIAF Board member and co-chair of the Foundation’s government relations and public policy committee; Louis Tosi, NIAF Board member; and Joseph D. Lonardo, NIAF Board member and NIAF general counsel.

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and protecting the Italian American heritage and culture. Based in Washington, D.C., it is the major advocate for nearly 25 million Italian Americans, the nation’s fifth largest ethnic group. To learn more about the Foundation and become a member, please visit