- Meet Our Board Members -
... our roots, our families, our service, our careers & our vision for Festa Italiana Raleigh ...
In Brief: Back & Forth About Us
- Where We Grew Up -
New York (4)
- Where We’ve Worked -
District of Columbia
- Our Heritage Provinces -
- Where We Now Live -
- Our Heritage Regions -
Anthony "Tony" Luise, Co-Chair & Operations
I was born in 1967 in Philadelphia, PA, the grandson of Angelo Mario Luiso of Siracusa, Sicilia and Angelina Maria Cecere of Mirabella Eclano, Avellino in the Campania region of Italy who settled in Boston’s North End in 1907. My father, Carluccio Antonio Luiso, also born in Siracusa, was a stagehand and mason, and my mother, Barbara Annabella DeCecco, is from South Philly. I spent my early years in the Italian section of Philadelphia, where I began to learn the traditions of cooking and baking with weekly visits to the Italian market there. Raised in a Roman Catholic environment, Sunday was reserved for Mass and a family get together filled with fresh pasta, fish, homemade gravy, meatballs, sfogliatelle, and very loud conversation with bocce. I further developed my culinary skills throughout high school, working in various restaurants as a cook and baker, enhancing my skills in Italian cooking.
I proudly served in the US Army from July 1984 to July 2009, holding positions in various aspects of training infantry, and even a stint as a cook in Darmstadt, Germany as a member of the US Army Culinary Arts Team. In 1987, I settled in Cary, NC where I continued applying my culinary skills. In 2001, after ending a deployment with the US Army Reserves, I founded Army of Painters, a successful commercial painting enterprise now operating in four states. In 2008, I opened South Philly Steaks and Dogs, hoping it would become a community restaurant serving the neighborhood foods I and many others enjoyed in the Northeast. After one year, the business failed due to location and my inability to manage both businesses at once.
In 2018, I was invited to become a founding member of Festa Italiana Raleigh, whose mission was to create an Italian style street festival as celebrated in other parts of the country, while supporting local charities. I have since been called on to apply my logistics skills to ensure a smooth execution of the event. My vision for Festa is to see that the Italian trades, cooking, and heritage as a whole do not get lost in the transitions of today’s society. I have also made a personal challenge to visit Italy whenever possible to reinforce and strengthen my own Italian heritage.
Fran Giannuzzi, Co-Chair & Merchandise Coordinator
I was born and raised in Upstate New York, living in an Italian community with an Italian church and an Irish church right next to each other. We celebrated the Feast of the Assumption every August 15 with an Italian street festival with all foods Italian, as well as music. That celebration continues still today – over 50 years later!
I am second generation Italian American, the proud daughter of June DeMaria and Francis Palermo. My mother’s family (surname Mauro) was from the town of San Donato di Ninea, Cosenza, Calabria and my father’s family from Paternopoli, Avellino, Campania. They both came over in the 1920’s with the surge of Italian immigrants and both settled in Binghamton, NY.
I moved to Raleigh, NC in 1992 when my husband, Bob Giannuzzi, was transferred with IBM. At our first residence, I served on the Home Owners Association Board and was recipient of the Volunteer of the Year Award through Wake County. I owned a business called In Fran’s Hands, where I took seniors to run their errands and help them get their groceries, ensuring their working children’s families that their parents could get out and about.
We moved to a Del Webb Community in Cary in 2009. While there, I served as president of the Calabria Italian Club and chair of the Guardian Angels program, supporting Wake County families in need at the holiday time for the past five years.
I am currently the President of the Triangle Sons and Daughters of Italy Lodge 2817 and have held various positions on the board.
I have two daughters and four grandchildren, and have spent many vacations with our families in Italy searching our Italian ancestry, even spending time in our parents’ and grandparents’ home towns.
As a founding member of Festa Italiana Raleigh in 2017, my vision is to continue to watch it grow and share our Italian heritage and culture with the Triangle area in our foods, entertainment, and arts.
Bob Giannuzzi, Secretary-Treasurer & Sponsorships
I was born in Syracuse, NY, the third son of parents Joseph and Antoinette (Pistilli) Giannuzzi, whose families immigrated in the early 1900s from Monopoli, Bari in the Puglia region and Campobasso in the Molise region--at the time, still part of the Abbruzzo region--of Italy, respectively. I was fortunate to have been raised in an Italian neighborhood with my grandmother and aunt living in the same house and several relatives residing nearby. Although shortchanged in not learning the Italian language, I was immersed in the wonderful culture and outstanding cuisine. I always looked forward to the several Italian feasts put on annually by parishes in the area.
I hold graduate degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from Syracuse University, as well as an MBA from Duke. I moved to this area when transferred to the Research Triangle area in 1992 and, ultimately, retired from IBM in 1997, after working in product development here, and in Endicott and Owego, NY, and Tucson, AZ. After a brief stint at Nortel Networks, I had my final career stop in North Carolina state government in customer service and project management oversight, retiring in 2014.
In the late 1980s, I was a member of the Sons of Italy Lodge in Endicott, NY, where I served as recording secretary before moving here. In 1994, I joined the Triangle Italian American Heritage Association where I have held several board positions, including president, and chaired several committees. I am currently Treasurer of Triangle Sons and Daughters of Italy (TSDOI), where I am also a past president. Both of these local organizations give me an opportunity to help maintain a positive image of Italians through our community service.
Our two daughters grew up around their Italian American relatives, experienced the culture, and have even studied the language. Our four grandchildren all have an appreciation of our heritage, and have been and are youth members of TSDOI.
I am honored to be a co-founder of Festa Italiana Raleigh since its inception and look forward to present awesome events highlighting our culture, entertainment, and food. Equally important is our philanthropic mission to raise funds for worthy local charities.
Devin Giovacchini, Media & Public Relations
I was born in San Francisco, CA to Linda VanDyke and Jack Giovacchini. My paternal Grandfather, Caesar (Caspare) Giovacchini, immigrated with his family to the San Francisco Bay area in 1912 from their home in Castelfranco di Sotto, Pisa in the Toscana region of Italy. He realized the American Dream by becoming a journeyman butcher and butcher shop manager. My paternal grandmother, Elsie Amelia Carrara, was born in San Francisco to immigrant parents from Ghivizzano, Lucca in the Toscana region.
She and my grandfather bought a home in San Francisco and had a notable backyard neighbor, Rosalia DiMaggio, Joe DiMaggio’s mother. Growing up, I had limited exposure to my Italian grandparents; however, the time I did spend with them showed me much about Italian culture. My grandparents always had a garden, containing fruit trees and the ubiquitous Italian cypress surrounding their home. My grandmother always went to the refrigerator when we first arrived to visit, I was constantly told to “mangia.”
I served in the US Navy for 24 years, starting as an aircraft sheet metal mechanic. My first duty station was Naval Air Facility Washington D.C. at Andrews Air Force Base, assigned to the aircraft transient line, servicing VIP aircraft and virtually every type of aircraft the Navy flew during that time. It was during this assignment I had the privilege of being part of the ground crew and flying in a hot air balloon commemorating the 75th anniversary of Naval Aviation. My first assignment in the Navy was capped off with the opportunity to march down Pennsylvania Avenue for the Inauguration of our 41st President, George H.W. Bush. It was during this time, I met and married my wife, Gina Michele.
After a break in service, I reenlisted to become a career recruiter with assignments in Sacramento, CA, Raleigh, NC, Norfolk, VA,, and Memphis, TN. In 2004, I was asked to transfer to Naples (Napoli), Italy to teach transition topics to separating military members. This assignment was most rewarding in that it allowed me and my family to connect and learn about our Italian heritage, traditions, and customs.
It was during these four and a half years, our youngest daughter, Amelia was born in Italy. She was named after my bisnonna, Amelia Bertucci. With my wife, my oldest daughter, Paulina, and my daughter, DeAnna, we learned much about regional food, history, language, and the generosity and warmth of the Italian culture and people. There will always be a place in my heart for dear friends, family, Napoli, Campania, and Italy.
In 2009, I retired from the Navy, and in 2010 I began a career as a real estate broker, servicing Wake County. I have served on multiple boards, including the board advisory committee for the Wake County school board, currently serve on the Coldwell Banker HPW Foundation, and since 2018, I am an active member of the Festa Italiana board.
Throughout my life, I have gained a tremendous appreciation for what Italian Immigrants, like my family, have endured, overcome, and contributed to this country. I am extremely proud to be an American of Italian descent, and, with Festa Italiana Raleigh, I feel an overwhelming obligation to pass on to others what my family and I gained by living, breathing, and eating the Italian culture for nearly five years. Through our festival, I hope to educate, celebrate, and pass on to the next generation what it means to have Italian heritage.
Hank Dickson, Volunteer Coordinator
I was born in White Plains and lived there my first thirty years, until I moved to the Triangle in 1994. My education includes a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pace University in New York City and a Master of Science degree from Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. My work career includes numerous customer service and operations management positions with MCI Telecom, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, and my current employer, Duke Energy.
I am married for 30 years, with two children. My son is a North Carolina State graduate, now married, and living in Fuquay Varina. My daughter is currently a junior enrolled at East Carolina University. My maternal grandparents came from Italy in the early 1900’s. My grandfather (my mother's father), Giacomo Massaro, came to the US in 1907 via the SS Prinz Oskar. He grew up in Luzzano, Benevento in the Campania region, and came here alone at the young age of 16 seeking a better life. My grandmother, Giovannina Massaro (though not related, she and my grandfather, Giacomo, already shared the same surname before their marriage, a phenomenon not all that unusual in village culture) from the same home town as her future husband, came here with her family in 1912 at age 15 via the SS Taormina. Both settled in White Plains, NY. They were seven years apart in age and did not know each other in Luzzano, but met in White Plains. They were married in 1914. They lived the American dream in White Plains and never returned to their homeland. Giacomo was a member of the White Plains Antonio Meucci Lodge of Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America.
Most of my civic activity has been in political circles. I served as a Holly Springs Councilman for sixteen years, 1997-2009 and 2013-17. Some may say that I was in politics for sixteen years, but I handled my duties as a public servant, not a politician. As a councilman you are called upon to represent the council in various local and regional committees. During these sixteen years, I was the council representative to the Holly Springs Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, Triangle J Council of Government, and the Wake County Growth Management Task Force.
As a private citizen, I continued to work with the town of Holly Springs as a member of the Holly Springs Transportation Comprehensive Plan Committee as well as the Sugg Farm Master Plan Steering Committee. Currently, I serve as the Chairman of the South Wake Landfill Citizens Committee and on the Town of Holly Springs Landfill Committee.
Joe DeStasio, Sponsorships
I was born and raised outside of New York City to Italian parents. My maternal grandparents both immigrated to the US from Vico Equense, Sorrento in the Campania region of Italy. My paternal grandmother immigrated from Bari province in the Puglia region. My paternal grandfather was born in New York City to two Italian immigrants from Napoli in the Campania region. I was raised immersed in Italian tradition, culture, and, most importantly, food. My first job was in an Italian seafood restaurant, where I worked every weekend and every summer throughout high school doing everything from cleaning dishes, to waiting tables, bartending, and cooking.
I left the area to study electrical engineering at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY, where I also enrolled in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. Upon graduating with my BSEE, I was also commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Air Force and was assigned to the air force base in Los Angeles, CA. I served five years as an officer in the Air Force, working on studies across various satellite program offices and in the Ballistic Missile Defense Program Office--the follow-on of President Reagan's Star Wars initiative--rising to the rank of Captain before receiving an honorable discharge.
I met my wife, Shawn, who is also of Italian descent, a few years later. We have three lovely children: Talia, Mia and Dominic, all of whom are being raised with the same Italian traditions as Shawn and I were. Before moving to Cary, NC eight years ago, I obtained an MBA from UCLA with a focus in Finance. At that time, I started my career in commercial real estate, holding positions in development, land acquisition and asset management. Since moving to North Carolina, I have been able to "get back to my Italian roots" a bit more by joining the Triangle Sons & Daughters of Italy and the Paesano Dinner Group-- a group of 20 or so gentlemen who are all of Italian descent and work in some capacity of the local real estate industry.
I am honored to serve on the Board of Directors for Festa Italiana Raleigh. I hope to be able to contribute my talents to continuing this wonderful tradition of putting our Italian heritage, culture, music, art, and food on display for the people of the Greater Raleigh and Triangle area to experience and fall in love with--with the goal of making the Festa better each year and continuing the event for generations to come.
Loreins “Larry” Vellani, Entertainment & Media Relations
A professional administrator, fund-raiser, teacher-scholar, and performing artist, I have led private and public organizations, performed on theater and concert stages, and taught at research and liberal arts institutions in the Midwest and Southeast for more than forty years.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the Ohio State University, with degrees from Ohio State and Indiana University in history, education, and public administration, I have built and led research, educational, policy development, direct service, and performing arts organizations in Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina, and have provided contractual service and consultation through VellaniAssociates℠ in fifteen US states, two Canadian provinces, one Italian region, and one Mexican state.
I am the immediate descendant of emigranti emiliani, whose families have lived among the Reggio Emilia and Modena provincial border farming communities in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy since at least the late 1400s. My grandfather, Leonida Tranquillo Vellani, a tenant farmhand, emigrated to Ohio from the comune of Cavriago, Reggio Emilia in 1913 aboard the SS Niagara. His spouse, Virginia Aldina Reverberi, and my father’s four elder siblings, followed in 1915 aboard the SS America, funded by my grandfather’s frugal life-style and back-breaking work on the steel foundry floor, first at Buckeye Steel Casting and later at Bonney Floyd Steel Company in Columbus, OH, where he helped guide the flow of molten metal into steel casting and transfer ladles.
My early interest in traditional Italian song was fueled by my relationship with Leonida, and my aunts Desolina Vellani DiNucci and Emma Vellani Soiu. The Reverberi and Vellani families were from the Po River plain in the traditional Emilia region, source of a rich tradition of community singing and the home of one of Italy's most famous traditional singers, Giovanna Daffini (Mantova Province), and her accompanist spouse, Vittorio Carpi (Reggio Emilia Province). Leonida was an avid community singer with a repertoire of traditional, as well as anti-clerical and syndicalist songs and aphorisms. As a teenager, I preserved some of Leonida’s and his daughters’ songs on audio tape. A chance meeting with world-renowned folklorist and scholar, Alessandro Portelli, at the Highlander School in New Market, TN in the early 1980's helped me to understand more fully the unique, rich legacy I had gained from my family, and inspired me to continue my study and performance of Italian traditional melody and song.
I continue to collect melodies and lyrics from family and friends reflective of the reality of the uprooted and resettled. Growing up in the Hilltop Community of Columbus, OH, I learned how to sing in Latin before I could read in English. A solo and ensemble musician, my musical performances draw upon source material from lands and peoples on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as the waters of the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico. I am a co-founder of the acoustic-electric, roots, rhythm, and roll music ensemble, Mebanesville, performing “music without borders from the roads we travel” since spring 2000.
I have shared my life and work with my collaborator and spouse, Margaret L. “Peggy” Boswell, a native of Alamance County, NC, since we began our relationship in the spring of 1980. We have lived together in Mebane, NC since spring 1995, and are the proud parents of our son, Ben, resident in Raleigh, NC, and our daughter Ginny and her husband George, and their son/our grandson, Ezra, resident in Winston-Salem, NC. My wife, children, and I all enjoy dual citizenship in the United States of AMerica and the Italian Republic.
After my family, I could not be prouder to have been honored as the 2017 Outstanding Italian American in NC by OSIA Lodge 2817, Raleigh, NC in recognition of my contributions to the study, promotion, and popular performance of Italian and Italian-American folk and contemporary music throughout North Carolina. A co-founder of Festa Italiana Raleigh, Inc., I am a long-time, at-large member of the Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America.
I envision Festa Italiana Raleigh’s annual celebrations and fundraising efforts growing to a weekend of cultural and philanthropic events, anchored in a “street fair” experience, while expanding into other forms of exhibition, including seminars, panels, film screenings, and quality art, craft, and cultural mercati, celebrating world-wide Italian culture and the values of creativity, quality, craft, beauty, family, and cultural humanism.
I envision our Festa operations leading to the development of an ever-growing, community-based network of individuals and organizations committed to celebrating world-wide Italian culture.
Shelley Berardinelli McPhatter, Regulated Beverages
My mom, Quintilla or “Quin”, is firstgeneration Italian American. Her mother, Euphemia DiRocco, and father, Antonio DiRocco, came over from the Province of Chieti, in the Abruzzo region in Italy, when they were 10 and 18, respectively. They married and eventually settled in Mariana, PA. My grandfather worked in the coal mine, and my grandmother stayed home. They had four children: Ann, Dominic, Achille, and Quintilla.
My father is Russian and French Canadian, and was born in Canada. His mother and father divorced when he was very young. His mother married Joseph Berardinelli when my father was very young, and Joe adopted him. He was raised with an Italian upbringing in Cokeburg, PA.
I grew up in Washington, PA, about 30 minutes south of Pittsburgh. I went to a Catholic School in Washington until the 8th grade. My mom has continued many Italian traditions, such as making homemade biscotti, gnoochi, ravioli, and other Italian dishes and desserts.
We grew up going to festivals in Pennsylvania and always enjoyed the Italian festival in Pittsburgh. I brought my family to Festa Italiana the first two years and am honored to be part of the Board of directors, responsible for growing this event and strengthening the Italian heritage in Raleigh and the region!
I am a mom of three: Morgan and Sydney, 18, and Andrew, 15. I am remarried to David White and serve as president of BridgePoint General Contracting in Durham, NC.