By SANDY STEIN | THE PUEBO CHIEFTAIN
Custom touches create stellar socials with foreign flair for large and intimate gatherings.
“Our Story: The Italian American” themed the 11th annual Sons of Italy's early-March annual gala at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center's Jackson Ballroom. Nearly 400 supporters raised $2,000 for student scholarships at the event, which starred comedian Sebastian Maniscalco and was co-chaired by Gino Carleo and Al Spinuzzi.
Accordion players Margie and Mike Aman entertained Denverite Bob Taylor, Dorsey and Louie Carleo, Gina and John Panepinto, Michael Salardino, Fran and Ed Posa and Sandie and John Obrin, among others, during the cocktail hour preceding the serving of the traditional-style family menu. The meal featured antipasto, Italian salad, pasta with meatballs, sausage, roasted pork and pancetta. White-and-black-clothed tables were styled with Italian and American flags atop gold posts in centerpiece baskets filled with cheese, bread, grapes and garlic.
Personalized labels on wine jugs also decorated the table tops, denoting scholarship memorials with photos of donors and posthumous scholarship honorees. Framed photos of the donors and recipients were gifts to each scholarship winner.
The 19 students, who were honored with $750 academic scholarships and gift baskets of restaurant certificates and entertainment passes, arrived onstage accompanied by video presentations of their accomplishments. The organization has awarded more than $125,000 in scholarships at the galas, which also include a surprise presentation for the Italian Citizen of the Year.
John Carochi, state Sons of Italy Grand Lodge president, was given a plaque for his local, state and national leadership to promote Italian culture. A film reviewing Italian courage, pride, loyalty and professional successes was followed by Rich Foresta's humorous Italian language presentation, incorporating New York idioms and slang.
Maniscalco, who has performed in a variety of venues — from the Las Vegas Palms Casino to Jay Leno's “Tonight Show” — was absolutely hilarious with his quick-witted comments playing off audience localites Mike Occhiato, Barbara Fortino, Diana and Greg Armstrong, Dan DeRose, Sonny LeMaster and others. His ethnic humor hit home with Vivian and Frank Sagona, Jim and Ben Bacino, Tony Ianne, Amie and David Gohn and even the few non-Italian supporters.
Alice and Ori Birch, Joe Prutch, Anthony Andenucio, Tom and Nick Rusler, J.J. Patti and Jan and Ralph Williams were some of the high bidders for the 50 silent-auction items, which included an antique slot machine, autographed sports paraphernalia and books, jewelry, artwork, baskets and more. Actually, everyone there felt like a winner with the fine food, top entertainment and outstanding student recipients.
TRISH AND SCOTT SMILEY, Wynona and Wally Sullivan and Linda and Ray Kogovsek bid up the foundation dinner with honoree Judy Fonda for the silent-auction item at the annual Parkview Starlight Gala. Sharon and Keith Swerdfeger donated their exquisite Pueblo West home as the venue and Chartwell's donated the five-course Asian meal with an American twist.
The dinner took place on the same evening as the Sons of Italy fundraiser. The black-clothed long table was accented with bronze metal napkin rings holding the black linen napkins and bronze chargers under the ivory plates.
The centerpieces featured an octet of ivory square candles in a long, narrow bronze holder flanked with a duo of round ivory rose and calla lily arrangements, highlighted with bronze leaves.
Partyers, including Judy's husband Roger, enjoyed fruit and cheeses before the seated dinner that began with pea shoots, cucumbers and carrots wrapped in phyllo with lemon vinaigrette. The carrot ginger soup shooters were accompanied by Asian tofu croutons followed by black-and-white sesame-crusted halibut over shredded radicchio.
The nouveau cuisine, served on small plates, continued with a serving of hoisin grilled beef tenderloin and sushi tuna with eggplant batons. Dessert sushi with cookie chopsticks and sweet caviar served as the grand finale for the special evening of dining to start off the month for the generous group of folks.