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Borough Italians honored at annual Mill Basin gala

Book smarts: Scholarship recipients Erica Castrogiovanni, Maria Francesca Giordano, Matthew Kessler, Julia LoCascio, Cameron Locks, Sophia Mellace, Brandon Paunetto, Nicholas Zerg, Gianluca D’Onofrio, and Filippo Gallo enjoyed the awards they took home at the Federation of Italian-American Organizations award gala.
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They passed the pasta — and the prizes!

Some of the borough’s most civically minded Italians partied at the Federation of Italian-American Organizati­ons’ 41st-annual gala at El Caribe Country Club in Mill Basin on April 8. The organization’s executive director said the event went off without a hitch because they were able to honor some of the borough’s most deserving residents.

“It’s about bringing everyone together and raising funds, and it was perfect — great food and music,” said Nancy Sottile, who lives in Bensonhurst.

Attendees chowed down on beloved Italian classics — including pasta, meat, and fish entrees — and danced the night away to new and old Italian and American tunes from the 1950s through today. And some were honored for their service to the community: doctors Gary and Mark Sherman received the Distinguished Leadership and Community Service Award, and defense attorney Joseph Tacopina received the Distinguished Italian-American award, which recognized his success over his long career.

Tacopina, who grew up in Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay and now lives in the far-away land of Connecticut, said he was proud of both his borough roots and the contributions he was able to make through his career.

“Brooklyn is the greatest place in the world to grow up — it gives you grit, character, and pride,” he said. “[The award] meant a lot for many different reasons — first and foremost, I’m very proud of my Italian heritage and of all the ancestors who paved the way for me and other Italian-Americans to be able to do what we’ve been able to do in this country.”

Other luminaries present included Matilda Cuomo, wife of the late former governor Mario Cuomo, and actor Tony Lo Bianco, who attended with his wife, Alyse. Nutritionist Gianluca Mech, who created the popular namesake diet, was honored for his work fighting obesity in teenagers and senior citizens, and he even gave out fifteen diet plans as a gift to overweight seniors.

A group of ten college-bound high school seniors — Erica Castrogiovanni, Maria Francesca Giordano, Matthew Kessler, Julia LoCascio, Cameron Locks, Sophia Mellace, Brandon Paunetto, Nicholas Zerg, Gianluca D’Onofrio, and Filippo Gallo — also each received $1,000 scholarships to finance their higher educations beginning this fall.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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