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Gala Dinner Dance & Award Ceremony Celebrates Italian Excelence for 48th Year

On the evening of February 20, 2014, the American Society of the Italian Legions of Merit held its 48th Annual Gala Dinner Dance & Awards Ceremony.


Held under the High Patronage of the President of the Republic of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, this special black-tie event took place in the heart of New York City: the elegant Grand Ballroom of the five-star, world-renowned Pierre Hotel.


The ASILM Gala is organized every year to celebrate the members of the Society with an evening of music and dancing, socializing and exquisite food and wine. Moreover, the Gala serves to highlight Italian excellence throughout the world by showcasing the best of Italian cuisine paired with fine wines donated by the top Italian wine producers, as well as by its awards ceremony.


This unique ceremony marked Italian excellence in a variety of fields, including art, medicine, business, politics and jurisprudence as it celebrates prominent individuals who have made enormous contributions, both in Italy and in the United States. It features the presentation of two prestigious awards of the Society: the Grand Award of Merit (the highest award given by ASILM) and the Medal of Merit.


The Grand Award of Merit is specifically presented in recognition to individuals whose accomplishments, dedication and leadership have influenced and improved many lives, and whose renown is worldwide.


This year, the awards ceremony honored four extraordinary leaders in their fields with the “Grand Award of Merit”: Cav. del Lavoro Giovanni Rana, founder of the Rana group and one of the most famous food producers in all of Italy; Dr. Silvia Formenti, Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center; Hon. Patricia de Stacy Harrison, President and CEO of Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and Mr. Francesco Cafiso, who received the award on behalf of the many contributions of Sicilian jazz musicians in the music style’s development and diffusion throughout the world.


Previous recipients of the award include Hon. George W. Bush, former President of the United States; H.E. Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic; Hon. Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; Gr. Uff. Ronald Spogli, former U.S. Ambassador to Italy; Comm. Dr. Fabrizio Michelassi, Surgeon-in-Chief at New YorkPresbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center; and Cav. di Gran Croce, Hon. Arnaldo Pomodoro, the Italian artist whose works stand prominently throughout the globe, from the Vatican Museums to the United Nations in New York.


The Medal of Merit, the first of its kind offered by ASILM, is given to members who have actively supported the Society and its many activities. This year’s Medal recipients were: Mayor of Turin, On. Piero Fassino, and Cav. di Gran Croce, Hon. Frank Guarini. Previous notable recipients include: Uff. Hon. Marie L. Garibaldi, Cav. Irma Jaffe and Comm Sirio Maccioni.


Besides the ceremony, another highlight of the evening’s program was the three-course dinner that was, under the supervision of Giovanni Rana, prepared by Chef Nicola Valle, Executive Chef of Rana Pastificio & Cucina. Further enhancing the evening, the pasta dinner was paired with some of the finest Italian wines donated by the wine producers, who were in attendance at the Gala.


The Gala began with a reception in the Garden Foyer, a stunning space with hand-painted murals from Versailles and lit by antique chandeliers that provide a warm setting for ASILM members and their guests upon arrival. Members then entered the Grand Ballroom where, as part of tradition, they listened o the national anthems of Italy and the United States before joining in a toast to the presidents of both countries.


At the conclusion of the awards ceremony, members were invited to enjoy and dance the night away to the live songs of Panorama Music. The dance music was geared towards all ages, and will range from jazz standards to current top 40 hits.


The Gala’s program, which follows last year’s successful one, devoted much prominence to the memorable awards ceremony and the honorees, the outstanding Italian wine and cuisine, and the presence of distinguished members and their guests.


For photos of the event, click here.