Scene in D.C.: Alito for Italian Culture, Meridian Ball

National Italian American Foundation Gala
Mark Del Russo, COO of Audi of America, with his son, Anthony, 11. Father and son were on stage together when Del Russo received the achievement award in business at the National Italian American Foundation Gala on Saturday night. Del Russo said his son represented the next generation of Italian Americans. Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Mark Del Rosso is passing along Italian-American traditions to his 11-year-old son, Anthony.

The art of enjoying “a proper cannoli” is one of them.

Anthony and his dad, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Audi of America Inc., were onstage at the Washington Hilton Saturday night when Del Rosso received the achievement award in business from the National Italian American Foundation.

The organization celebrated its 37th anniversary gala with a veal-and-pasta dinner for 1,500. Tiramisu and wines from Statti and Librandi added to the European flavor.

Italian Americans “embody the social sensitivity of Italy,” said Letizia Moratti, in red Odicini and diamonds.

The former mayor of Milan, the first woman to hold this office, received the NIAF’s special achievement award in philanthropy for her work as president of the Friends of San Patrignano, which rehabilitates substance abusers from all over the world.

“In the long term, I’m optimistic,” she said about the state of the European economy. She added that she wished more Italian businesses would develop corporate giving programs, or “social ventures,” as U.S. companies do.

Italy’s minister of foreign affairs, Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, lauded the inclusion of Italian-language education in U.S. schools, adding that exposure to Italian culture is a key ingredient of his foreign policy.

Ferrero Group

Ralph Izzo, the chairman of Public Service Enterprise Group, accepted NIAF’s award in science and technology. Giovanni Ferrero, the chief executive of the Ferrero Group, was honored for his role in international business. Ferrero SpA president Francesco Paolo Fulci, Italy’s former ambassador to the United Nations, accepted the award on his behalf.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito joined the honorees on stage for the program with Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero, whose wife, Laura, in a nod to her homeland, wore Giorgio Armani, a former NIAF honoree.

Other guests included Salvatore Zizza, chairman of Metropolitan Paper Recycling, and Fernando Napolitano, founder and president of the Italian Business & Investment Initiative.

Meridian Ball

Friday night’s 44th annual Meridian Ball at the beaux-arts Meridian House created some unusual couplings.

Former Michigan Governor James Blanchard, now co-chairman of government affairs for DLA Piper U.S. LLP, laughed heartily with Patrick Durkin, managing director for Barclays Capital Inc.

Blanchard is a keen Obama guy, and Durkin is a top fundraiser for Romney.

They found common ground joking about the “Saturday Night Live” skits poking fun at undecided voters.

Panama Ambassador Mario Jaramillo danced with Leila Mol Beale, the wife of Barbados Ambassador John Beale.

The Meridian International Center fosters global dialogue through programs and initiatives with the government and private sector. The ball is the culmination of the annual Meridian Global Leadership Summit.

Before they congregated at the ball, guests attended small dinner parties at the home of an ambassador.

Swiss Ambassador Manuel Sager said he served lamb with vegetables grown from his garden. He attended the ball with his wife, Christine.

General Dynamics Corp. Chief Executive Jay Johnson served as co-chairman of the summit and ball. He hit the dance floor with his wife, Sydney McNiff Johnson, clad in navy Monique Lhuillier.

Guests who weren’t nibbling desserts or dancing were relaxing in the courtyard where an early autumn chill called for luxurious layers.

Viktoria Metzner, the wife of American Continental Group managing partner David Metzner, wore a regal fur-trimmed beige wrap.

Other guests included Representative Joe Crowley, New York Democrat, Kendell Pease, vice president of government relations and communications for General Dynamics, and Theodore Austell, vice president of government operations for Boeing Co.

(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater, Lili Rosboch on art.

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