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Gov. George Pataki congratulates honoree
Chazz Palminteri

Pataki, Gargano Endorse
Idea Whose Time Has Come

Story by Tim Boxer
Photo by Rob Rich

MERICAN society owes a great deal to its Italian immigrants. Just ask George Pataki, New York’s esteemed governor who is quite proud of his heritage. He was the highlight of an inaugural dinner for the Italian American Museum.

The event at The Plaza was sponsored by the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute of Queens College. The fundraising effort will underwrite the first museum dedicated to preserving the cultural contributions of Italian Americans.

“This is an idea whose time has come,” declared Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, museum president. The Rev. Monsignor George J. Cascelli called it “long overdue.”

“There are many ethnic museums here – German, Greek, Jewish, Swiss – but no Italian museum,” said Laura Savini, vice president of WLIW-TV. “Yet the Italians are the ones who literally built New York.”

Charles Gargano, chairman of Empire State Development Corporation wholeheartedly agreed as he introduced the governor.

“He [Pataki] shares with us our Italian heritage,” Gargano said. “He and I traveled to Italy where he met the relatives of his maternal grandfather.”

Pataki spoke lovingly of his roots. He went to Reggio di Calabria where his maternal grandfather was born.

“I saw the dirt cabin he was raised in. At 12 he came to America, which to many meant New York. He raised a successful family and had a grandchild who is the governor of the State of New York.”

“That’s the Italian American experience. Italian Americans led this city and state to great heights.”

Pataki enthusiastically endorsed the museum, which called “an absolutely critical part of our city.”

e honorees for the gala were Lawrence E. Auriana, president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation and chairman of Federated Kaufmann Funds; Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, owner of Felidia’s Ristorante and author of Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen; actor Chazz Palminteri, and Guy J. Velella, senior assistant majority leader in the New York State Senate.

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