The National Italian American Foundation offered a brief respite from a hectic week in politics this week with its Fifth Annual Congressional Bocce Ball Tournament, celebrating both a traditional Italian-American sport and the community’s ties to Congress.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., made an appearance along with Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who now works in the Trump administration in the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs. Several representatives from the Italian Embassy attended the event as well.
“I’m very proud of my Italian heritage,” Foxx, whose maiden name is Palmieri, said. Her grandparents emigrated from Italy in the early 1900s and settled in New York, where she was born.
The game of bocce is played with two teams. One team begins by throwing a small ball called a pallino onto a field of play. The teams then take turns bowling larger balls with the goal of getting as close as possible to the pallino. Teams earn points for each ball that is closer to the pallino than the opposing team’s balls.
Everybody of Italian-American heritage can essentially remember playing bocce with their family.
Alex Benedetto, director of communications for the National Italian American Foundation
“Everybody of Italian-American heritage can essentially remember playing bocce with their family,” said Alex Benedetto, director of communications for the National Italian American Foundation. “It’s an activity that both sides of the aisle love to come out and do.”
“I grew up playing bocce, in the yard, never on a court as nice as this, they’re always sort of makeshift courts, but even today my grandfather still has made a very nice court up in New York, and he plays competitively,” said John Viola, president of the National Italian American Foundation.
A busy evening on Capitol Hill kept many lawmakers who were scheduled to attend from participating, including co-chairmen of the Italian American Congressional Delegation Reps. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, and Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.
This year’s tournament was held on the roof of the offices of Venable LLP in honor of the late Mark Valente III, a former foundation board member and the chairman of its public policy and government relations committee. Valente, who died in August of last year, was the driving force behind the creation of the now annual bocce ball tournament. He was the president of Valente & Associates, a lobbying firm, and served in the Reagan administration.
“He loved this event, and he did so much for the foundation with our sponsorships and making the public policy program what it is today,” Benedetto said.
The National Italian American Foundation is a non-profit organization that seeks to be the voice of the Italian American community in Washington. The foundation offers grants, scholarships and congressional fellowships, and works to promote Italian-American heritage and culture.
“We’re essentially the Italian-American embassy in the U.S., if you will,” Benedetto said.
Anshu Siripurapu:202-383-6040, Twitter: @AnshuSiripurapu