Mike Piazza, former professional baseball catcher of the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers, and Louis P. Carnesecca, legendary coach of St. John’s University’s basketball team, were honored on April 28 during the annual New York Gala of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) at the Italian Renaissance-inspired Cipriani on 42nd Street. During the cocktail reception, the managing director of Freeh Group International Solutions LLC, Joseph R. Guccione, was honored too. He received the second-annual Mario M.Cuomo Award in Public Service, that recognizes Italian American public servants
who are known for their passion and active work in serving the Italian American community. “My parents instilled in me the values of public service to make a difference and improve communities”, Guccione said. Later Joe Piscopo, celebrity ambassador of NIAF, kicked off the show as master of ceremonies, singing Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York.
Before and during the dinner, opera singers sang American and Italian national anthems, besides a tribute to Luciano Pavarotti with O Sole Mio and Mistero. Actors Chazz Palminteri, Michael Badalucco and Tony LoBianco, baseball managers Ken Aspromente and Bobby Valentine, the third baseman Bob Aspromonte and the senior vice president of the Denver Nuggets, Pete D’Alessandro, were among the celebrities taking part in the Gala together with the Consul General of Italy in New York Francesco Genuardi, accompanied by delegates of Piemonte, the Foundation’s 2016 Region of Honor. After thanking the Foundation’s New York committee and the evening’s sponsors, Gala Dinner Chairman Gerard S. LaRocca introduced Linda R. Carlozzi, Patricia de Stacy Harrison and Anita Bevacqua McBride, all women serving on the Foundation’s Board of Directors: they spoke about the late Honorable Marie L. Garibaldi, NIAF executive vice president and former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice, who passed away last January. “We lost an exceptional, elegant woman and we mourn her loss,” Carlozzi said.
The most awaited moment arrived with the assignment of the NIAF Special Achievement Award in Sports to Carnesecca, included in the Hall of Naismith Basketball of Fame and Piazza, who recently entered the Baseball Hall of Fame, who commented: “I am so grateful and proud to be Italian and want to thank NIAF as an organization for its work”.
Finally, the event closed with the words pronounced by NIAF’s President and Chief Operating Officer John M. Viola, who thanked all the sponsors and guests for their strong support saying: “We Italian Americans are the luckiest people in the world. God Bless America, Italy and all of us”.