Monday, October 29, 2007

The National Italian American Foundation - Sure Throws a Heck of a Party

Ciao a tutti,

This year Chef Richard and I were invited to perform a live version of the "Filippo and the Chef" show at the 2007 NIAF (National Italian American Foundation) Convention in Washington, D.C.

I had been invited to perform at the Convention and Gala a few times before, but this was the first time with the "Filippo and the Chef" show which normally includes a
celebrity guest or two.

This show was a first all the way around. Not only was it a first for us to be performing it at NIAF, but we had four celebrity guests and Chef Richard and I on the stage all cooking and talking at the same time. There was Tony Lo Bianco, Jerry Vale, Deana Martin and Vince Ferragamo.

You would think that with the six of us Italian-American performers and "chefs" (every Italian I know, cooks) on stage, that it would be a free-for-all and that too many chefs would spoil the soup, but quite the opposite. It was beautiful and harmonious.

In fact, at one point, someone from the audience yelled out "Jerry, sing." Knowing Jerry wouldn't be up to that, I responded that when those of us cook we sometimes play the music of Jerry Vale. Now that we are watching Jerry cook, we should be singing for him." Not missing a beat, Jerry said, under his breath while stirring his Pasta Puttanesca, "Deana will sing."

Sure enough, as if on cue Deana started to sing "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometimes," one of her father Dean Martin's hits and a song from her own CD "Memories Are Made of This." And what do you suppose happened next? As if we were all following a script, one by one we all joined in, first Tony Lo Bianco, then Me, then Vince Ferragamo, Richard Lombardi, and finally, Jerry Vale started and the chorus of beautiful voices was complete.

The audience went nuts. Forget the audience, I went nuts. That was too much. How many people can say that they have sung with Jerry Vale, alone. But to be on a stage singing with Jerry, Deana, Tony and Vince and of course Richard, what a dream come true.

As you would imagine, the show went on much longer than planned. Between the joking and bantering and cooking, tasting and merrymaking, we all lost track of time, and no one was all the wise, in fact we were all having too much fun.

That is until the Director of the whole convention came up to the stage and handed me a handwritten note from the NIAF Executive Director, John Salamone, himself, that read, "Filippo, shut the show down, we need the celebrities for our auction."

Evidently, there was to be a celebrity auction going on at that point in another area of the convention that he himself was hosting and all the celebrities including the audience were all still at our show.

I know John, but I hadn't seen John throughout the whole convention weekend, and like a good Italian raised on guilt, I knew for sure it was because he was angry with me.

Of course it had nothing to do with him being the busiest person there. Then when I went to go pick up my tickets for the Gala and they weren't there, nor was my name on the list, I knew for sure he was angry.

Of course I went to the Gala and the tickets and my name were eventually found, but it wasn't until I finally made it to a private reception in John's suite at the end of the convention that we were able to laugh about the story I had invented in my head.

In all actuality, we were immediately invited back for next year's convention and we already talked about more time so that we can have all the Italian-American cooking and singing and chatting time on stage we can have.

Oh, and speaking of stories we invent in our heads, I forgot to mention another special moment that happened just before the show. I got to meet and speak with Yogi Berra. And while I was talking to him, he gifted me with a Yogi-ism, just for me.

Yogi came to the show, and I saw him in the audience so I went over to say hello, introduce myself and thank him for coming to the show. I sat and chatted with him a minute and before I left, I asked him if he would like to be acknowledged from the stage.

He asked me why I would do that? I told him "so that people would know that you are here." And here it comes. He said to me, very matter of factly, "They already know I'm here, because I'm here!"

There you go folks, my very own Yogi-ism, thank you Yogi! I laughed all the way up to the stage. What a great way to psyche oneself up for a show.

Needless to say, from the convention to the Gala, NIAF puts on quite a star studded affair and not only was a good time had by all, but much work got done too. Because we also had a "Filippo and the Chef" booth at the convention hall, I didn't get to attend too many of the conferences but the ones I did get to attend made me even more proud to be Italian-American.

Watching and listening to Italian-Americans making plans for the continuation of traditions and the betterment of our community and the world made me proud for our future.

And here's to the future of NIAF, see you next year!

Above are pictures of me with Gina Lollobrigida, Susan Lucci, Connie Stevens, Deana Martin, Jerry Vale, Tony Lo Bianco, U.S. Marines, Vince Ferragamo, Yogi Berra, the gang and I cooking in the convention hall, and opera singer Vittorio Grigolo and I. Below are some more fun pictures and fun people.


P.S. My only regret, (another "great" Italian trait or tradition, regret) was that I didn't get to meet actress Ellen Pompeo. I know I will have the opportunity soon, so I am okay with that. In the meantime however, here is the video that NIAF had made of her and her Italian roots as posted on (In English)

At table 31 at the NIAF Gala

With Actress Jodi London & NIAF's A. Kenneth Ciongoli

With Singer Alfio and Magic Beam President Nina Bueti

With Singer Alfio, Magic Beam President Nina Bueti and Serafina Scorcia

With the U.S. Ambassador to Italy Giovanni Castellaneta and Cav. Rosemary Licata and her sister.

With NIAF President Sal J. Zizza

With Radio host John Griffeth and husband to Deana Martin

With friend Serafina Scorcia

With Singer Rose Bonanza and Dame Dorothy Nocita

With Singer Alfio and Magic Beam President Nina Bueti

With Mrs. Susan Sanzi

With His Excellency Rev. Pietro Sambi Representative of the Vatican in America

With Singer Cristina Fontanelli

With NIAF's Kristy Pappalardo

With NIAF Chairman Frank Guarini and friend Sera Scorcia

With Actress Jodi London

With Longtime Fan Daniela Mansella

With friend Sera Scorcia and Singer Alfio

At table 31 w/ Tony Cicoria

With PBS Predident and Chief Executive Officer Patricia de Stacy Harrison

With Ron Onesti

With friend Serafina Scorcia

Table 31 at the NIAF Gala, Chef Richard Lombardi and wife Elaine

With Magic Beam President Nina Bueti and friend Sera Scorcia

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I Was Bored - So I Bought Myself An Aston Martin

Ciao a tutti,

I can't remember the exact phrase of how she said it because I just when I heard it I couldn't stop laughing, but it was something like that. What happened was that I got a call from my friend Caruska and she was inviting me to her house for a party. I must have asked what was the occasion, and she said something like, "I was bored, so I bought myself and Aston Martin."

Well, count me in, I said, that's reason enough for a party as far as I am concerned. This was the first call like this I have ever gotten, but I trust it won't be the last, at least not from her. She is one of the most amazing women I know. She is Caruska as in Caruska the designer Caruska almost synonymous to "yoga wear," and more. You can learn more about her at

So off to the party I go. What does this have to do with being Italian? Everything always has to do with being Italian, at least in my life. I am sure if I wanted to stretch it, I could find someone at the party who was Italian, at the very least. But I could do better than that.

Here I was minding my own business enjoying this amazing party, when all of a sudden in busts her beautiful niece and her niece's friends, a troop of actors, all buzzing with excitement.

They had just come from the theater where they had all been in a play including the playwright himself, Kevin Kramer, and Caruska's niece, called "Bacciarelli," at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica.

The play, is a play within a play, about Gordo and his college buddy who write a play to impress a girl and freak out when the characters inexplicably come to life. The play is based on a game called, "Bacciarelli," which is thought to have been originated by Scotch-Irish and Italian immigrants in the mills of Western Pennsylvania near the turn of the century.

The fast paced game of mystifying hand gestures swept the region by storm during the late 1950s and early 1960s where underground matches wowed the rowdy and often stupefied crowds who had gathered to see burgeoning legends such as Knuckles Norris, Ned Longbecker, and the upstarts Swissvale Three.

During the 1970s, however, just as the game seemed to be breaking away from it's local roots, rumors of organized crime involvement and cheating scandals splintered the Bacciarelli community and the game never recovered.

The play was on it's last run and I never got to see it but I sure would have wanted to. From their enthusiasm and that of the critics, it seems, it would have been a fun experience. So, that is the Italian connection but had I searched hard enough I could have found many more I am sure but I was there for a good time.

Oh, I forgot, there are Italian connections with the Aston Martin too, various models and various movies, etc. But in case you are not familiar with the car, it is the one used in 007 movies and is, one could say, a cousin to the Ferrari.

Above you see Caruska and I modeling the car. The party was in full swing when I got there so we couldn't just abandon everyone and go for a spin, but I can't wait until we do. Below those there is a picture of the actor troop and I somewhere behind them. And finally, some pictures taken with and by some people at the party.

Thank you Caruska for giving me a clue of what to do next time I am really bored. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to be soooo bored, I'll have to by a Lamborghini!

A presto,


P.S. This video that I found on is perfect for this post. This guy and his father were so bored, they drove to Italy from London to visit an Olive Tree. And the part that makes it so perfect is they did it in an Aston Martin. (In English)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Everybody Wants to Be Italian" - World Premier Film in Hollywood

Ciao a tutti,

I was invited to the premier of the film "Everybody Wants To Be Italian" at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood the other night. I went with Chef Richard my co-host in the Filippo and the Chef show, and his wife, Elaine.

We all had a great time because not only was the film really well done and enjoyable we got to meet most of the actors before on the red carpet and afterwards at the reception. I would recommend the movie to anyone, young and young at heart.

When the crowd around Actress and Model Marisa Petroro cleared, I got to chat with her a minute. It is amazing how her look completely changes with her hair straight compared to how she had it in the last post at the Feast of San Gennaro. Regardless, all her looks work really well if you ask me, or if you ask anyone for that matter.

In the movie she reminded me of an Italian movie actress from days gone by, she had that kind of a look and comportment, that was so beautiful to see.

All the actors were very good, and the lead, Jay Jablonski, I kept thinking he had to be Italian. I got to speak with him after the show, and that's him and I pictured above. But it turns out he is half Italian. I expect to see him in many, many more movies as the lead after this.

He was that good as was the beautiful co-star Cerina Vincent who also sported another sexy look other than the one in the movie. That is her pictured at the top of the post with Jason Ipson and I.

I complimented the director Jason Todd Ipson for a great job. He even got Penny Marshall to step into a cameo role. I told him that Penny had told me to tell him that she wanted to see a copy of the film since she wasn't going to be able to make the premier. I hope she got it and liked it as much as we all did.

Pictured below is actress Judith Scarpone who is and was a mother character on and off screen as you can see in these pictures.

Following are pictures of some more of the cast including John Enos III and Zak Lee as well as some friends like actor Ed Lauter and of course, Chef Richard himself.

P.S. Enjoy this short clip I got off of of the premier reception of "Everybody Wants to Be Italian."