Hundreds of Italians and Italian-Americans lit up the Washington Hilton with sequins, fur and feathers Saturday night for the National Italian American Foundation's yearly gala. Among the guests: Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito; University of Connecticut's highly successful women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma; and two stars of the U.S. women's Olympic soccer team, Hope Solo and Brittany Viola. (Also: several priests.) Solo, dressed in black lace, was much in demand for photos from her fellow guests and was seen graciously posing for fans.
Sadly absent from the lineup of fabulously tuxedoed Italian men was one NIAF gala regular, model Fabio. Mike Piazza, who served as the evening's emcee, seemed particularly disappointed that the actor and romance-novel-cover regular was a no-show.
"Fabio aqui?" the former baseball all-star asked the crowd. "Fabio? No?" (Piazza peppered his hosting with enthusiastic Italian phrases, much to the amusement of one native Italian speaker at the Yeas & Nays dinner table.)
The evening was decidedly apolitical, with just one member of Congress in attendance (Rep. Frank Guarini, D-N.J.) and one brief mention of President Obama. General Patton was the only American political figure to draw much applause, when NIAF honoree Letizia Brichetto Arnaboldi-Moratti thanked the late general for saving her parents from the Nazis.