Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending the Italian American Chamber of Commerce Midwest’s annual gala. I was able to shrug off my usual business casual attire to don a tasteful little black dress, higher heels, and sparkly jewelry. Besides enjoying quietly playing dress up that night, I knew going in that this year’s four honorees each had a personal connection to me, too.
The Hilton Chicago hosted the cocktail hour in the Normandie Lounge, with fine wines, passed appetizers, piano music, and windows overlooking Michigan Avenue and Grant Park. The dinner was held in the beautiful Grand Ballroom. FIAT Chicago provided various models of the 500s which were scattered about the room. I know. Cars in a ballroom… so cool! Live music, amusing auction items, featured Italian wines, and friendly chatter in English and Italian filled the rest of the space.
Robert V. Allegrini, with Hilton Worldwide, was the first honoree of the evening. As a longtime hotel man, we were sure we’d met at an industry event of some sort, but which is hard to say. Since the Italians have long been known for their hospitality and with Commendatore Allegrini’s rich Italian blood, it makes sense he would be so at ease in the hotel world. Smiling and kind as always, his speech shared his passion for the tourism industry and got me fired up to encourage the world to travel, particularly to Italy of course!
The second honoree was Prof. Emilio Iodice, of Loyola University Chicago and John Felice Rome Center. Select Italy has employed a number of John Felice Rome Center alumni, as well as hosting several interns from their alumni. So while not an alum personally, I know the program is wonderful and life altering (in a good way). In his speech Prof. Iodice also mentioned the island of Ponza, a former Select Italy Travel and Leisure Dream Destination and a place which has a special place in my heart as well.
Connie’s Pizza is a staple at any number of sporting events in Chicago, as well as the freezer aisle here and beyond. So when I saw James Stolfe, the legendary store’s owner, was being honored, I got hungry and excited. Oddly enough, I continue to tweet and think about pizza on a daily level. Maybe I always do, but is funny to become aware of it. In any case, at the dinner, what charmed me more than anything were the two introductory speeches by Mr. Stolfe’s sons. The love and respect that poured forth with each word out of both their mouths was more than heartwarming. And from what they shared, their father’s speech was appropriate: brief, for a man of many actions but few words, gracious, humble, and thankful.
Last and hardly least, was the “Entrepreneur of the Year” award given to Mario Tricoci. I can hear a collective smile spread on the face of many Chicago area raised ladies (and maybe men). I had my first highlights and “Jennifer Aniston” cut done at the Tricoci spa in Oak Brook. I have many friends who have been educated to some beautiful degree in his universities and many who continue to use their salons exclusively. To rub elbows with him and his wife last Thursday was thrilling. I was also pleased with how eloquently he spoke not only of his industry but of business management in general. A favorite note was that he had been careful to surround himself with a team of people smarter than he is. I’ve heard this quip from many an executive but from Tricoci it seemed to be more truthful in the recognition of the talents of others. I couldn’t help but parallel this to Select Italy’s team and how the passion of our founder Andrea Sertoli brought together diverse talents with unified vision.
The honors doled out, it is worth note that the evening would not have been so successful had I not enjoyed meeting with a number of entertaining and enlightening members of the community. My table-mates all came from diverse backgrounds including pallets, cars, machine parts, and translation services. The president of FIAT of Chicago himself put me in one of those adorable vehicles in the dining room after dinner. I’m still scheduling coffee with a number of the new and strengthened amici and am already looking forward to next year’s event.
Congratulazioni agli onorati e grazie al IACC-Midwest per una serata stupenda!