Maria, thank you, and grazie mille to NIAF for this honor. Congratulations to the other award recipients for their well-deserved recognition, too.
Being here tonight surrounded by my family and some of my closest friends and getting to share a delicious meal is the true essence of being an Italian-American.
My mother’s parents, Attilio and Albertina Bertugli, were two of the most influential people in my life. When I was a kid, they lived about six miles away from us, and every Sunday, we would go to church together. Afterwards, we’d come back for dinner and then the cousins would play all afternoon.
What more could you want?
I wish Attilio and Albertina could be here tonight. My grandmother had a saying, "stana tupe benne," which means "from everything comes some good."
Those are words that she lived by. No matter what happened, she found something positive to take away from it.
On a recent trip to Italy, my grandmother’s optimism washed over me. I visited the courtyard where she and my grandfather first met and fell in love in the little town of Sassuolo.
I’ve never felt more at peace. Or at home. Or more connected.
At the base of the Duomo in Florence, there’s a little cafe. Early one morning, an older gentleman and I were having a cup of coffee.
Have you ever watched an Italian drink a cup of coffee?
In that moment, there is nothing more important in the world. They savor the experience. The past and the future seem far away. Now is all that matters.
In our world of division and distraction, we should find time to enjoy the journey and remember that each day is a gift from God.
Sometimes, it’s easier said than done. There are many things that make my heart ache today. The unnecessary pain and suffering of working people. The artificial walls being built between us. The isolation. The greed.
But, I am comforted by the great blessings of my life. A beautiful wife. Children and grandchildren who bring me more joy than words could ever describe. The most loyal friends a guy could ever ask for. A job where I can truly make a difference. And every once in a while, branzino with a side of linguini.
My grandmother had it right all along. Stana tupe benne.
Thank you, and God bless you.