Italian Society of Savannah

 

To cherish the recollections of our homes and the birthplace of ourselves and our forefathers, to promote good fellowship among Italians and their descendants in this their adopted City and Country, and to promote an appreciation of Italian arts, culture, and science.


About Us



Meetings and Events

The membership assembles five times per year - three quarterly dinner meetings and two major social events, including the annual Columbus Day Banquet in October and a Spring Social in early May. The meetings and events enable the members to celebrate their Italian Heritage while enjoying excellent cuisine, wine and fellowship.


Columbus Day Banquet

Savannah has several heritage organizations dating back to the turn of the 19th century honoring Italians, Irish, Germans, Scottish, Jews and English. Each of these organizations holds an annual banquet to celebrate its heritage. The Italian Society of Savannah holds its banquet in October and endeavors to bring accomplished individuals of Italian heritage and national prominence to address the members and guests. Some of the keynote speakers who have addressed our members and guests in the past include:

  • Joseph Sciame - national president of the Order Sons of Italy and Cavaliere in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
  • Frank Libutti, Lt. General (Ret) USMC - former Undersecretary for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Judge Anthony Alaimo - Senior U.S. District Court Judge and former WW II prisoner
  • Joseph D'Agostino PhD - former Christian Brother member of Catholic Order of Christian Brothers; former director alumni relations at Hofstra, American, and George Mason Universities
  • Paul Presley, PhD - former headmaster of Savannah Country Day School, former chairman of National Association of Independent Schools
  • Leo Pieri - CEO and Founder Lion Consulting; former director sales for Gray Company, the largest private owner of CBS affiliated TV stations in the U.S.
  • Father Angelo D’Agostino, SJ, MD - U.S. Air Force surgeon, psychiatrist, and founder/medical officer of Nyumbani AIDS Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya
  • Benjamin Palumbo - founder and president of Washington-based lobby firm Palumbo and Cerrel; former director of federal gvt relations for Philip Morris
  • Michael L. Pesce - Presiding Appellate Judge Supreme Court State of New York
  • Dr. Armand Citarella - Professor Emeritus, St. Michael's College, and expert on Medieval Italian History
  • Congressman Martin Russo - U.S. House of Representatives, Chicago Third District
  • Alex Perriello - President and CEO of Realogy Franchise Group, the world’s largest residential and commercial real estate brokerage franchise
  • Richard  Santagati - President Merrimack College
  • General (Ret) Peter Chiarelli - former Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, Commander Multinational Corps Iraq
  • John Viola - President, National Italian American Foundation (NIAF)
  • Andrea Ponsi - Architect, Florence, Italy
  • Joe Lombardi - COO, Gulfstream Aerospace 

 

The banquet is typically held on Friday or Saturday evening preceding Columbus Day at the beautiful Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa overlooking the Savannah River and skyline. The event is black tie, gentlemen only, and lasts from 6:30 pm to about 10 pm. The banquet is open to all members and their guests and averages 150 attendees. The purpose of the event is to celebrate our Italian Heritage while enjoying a superb menu, wines, entertainment, ambiance and comaradery.


April Social

"Festa Primavera" is the Society's annual spring event. It is an opportunity for the members to bring their wives or significant others. It is typically held on a weekend evening in late April or early May on the harbor lawn at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa or a similar venue. The event is less formal, which enables members and their guest to more casually interact and socialize with each other. The evening is replete with good conversation, entertainment, excellent food and wine, and beautiful views of the Savannah skyline. 


The Frank Finnocchiaro Memorial Scholarship Essay Contest

The Italian Society of Savannah has launched the Frank Finnocchiaro Memorial Scholarship Essay Contest for juniors in Benedictine Military School and St. Vincent’s Academy. A $1,000 scholarship, applicable toward senior year tuition, is awarded to the author of the best essay from each school.

The program was established in the memory of Frank Finnocchiaro, a founding members of the Italian Society of Savannah and a Bendictine alumnus, Class of 1944, as well as to promote an appreciation of Italin arts, science, culture, heritage and contributions to our nation.

An evaluation committee comprised of Italian Society members selects the winner from each school. The judges consider the depth of thought, the quality and presentation as well as the development of ideas. Theme and exposition carry the most weight, but command of vocabulary, sentence structure and spelling is also considered.


Ad Hoc Events

The Society also hosts regular golf tournaments, holiday dinners and other events that are scheduled throughout the year as additional opportunities for members to get to know each other and enjoy their heritage in less formal settings.


Officers 2013-2015

President: Scott Lauretti (scott.lauretti@guggenheimpartners.com)

Vice President: Dr. Richard Greco (plastixdoc@aol.com)

Treasurer: David Pelliccione (davidp@dgpcpa.com)

Chief Steward: Doug Giorgio III (dgiorgio@olivermaner.com)

Corresponding Secretary: Tom Gustinella (tomgustinella@bellsouth.net)

Recording Secretary: Blake Greco (bgreco@olivermaner.com)

Archivist: Robert DiBenedetto, M.D. (dibene@bellsouth.net)


Society Photographer

Tom Colasanto


Past Presidents

(Left to Right)

Robert DiBenedetto, M.D. - 2003 to 2005

Anthony Schopp - 2005 to 2007

Otto Aliffi - 2007 to 2009

Kim Iocovozzi - 2009 to 2011

Robert Schivera - 2011 to 2013


Founders
(Left to Right)
Frank Finocchiaro
Peter Chiofalo
Otto Aliffi
Robert DiBenedetto, M.D.

Founding History (By Robert Dibenedetto, M.D.)

In early 2003, Frank Finocchiaro, Otto Aliffi, Peter Chiofalo and Dr. Robert DiBenedetto met at Peter’s house to consider an attempt to resuscitate the Italian Heritage Society of Savannah which had been in existence for approximately 20 years. Savannah has had a long history of Italian organizations consisting of The Italian Club which was founded in the early 1940s and subsequently disbanded in 2012 and the previously noted Italian Heritage Society. Both of these organizations were co-ed. However, Savannah has had fraternal ethnic male organizations for many years. These organizations have become part of the cultural history and fabric of the city. The St. Andrews Society has been in existence since 1737 and the Hibernian Society was founded in 1812. The French Society, German Heritage Society, German Friendly Society and Jewish Harmony Club also have all been in existence for many years. The founders were impressed with the success and longevity of these ethnic societies whose calendar of events culminated each year in a black tie banquet celebrating their heritage. In view of this, it was decided to embark upon establishing an Italian Society which would be modeled after these organizations stressing the promotion of good fellowship among Italians and their descendents and the promotion of an appreciation of Italian arts, culture and science.


Subsequently, each of the founders contacted friends and former members of the previous Italian Societies and called an initial meeting at the Johnny Harris Restaurant. A group of 18 prospective members attended and decided to embark on establishing this Society. Over the next several months, bylaws were written, a logo was designed, Dr. Robert DiBenedetto was elected president, and additional members recruited. The preliminary work was finished in a few months and plans were made to hold the First Annual Columbus Day Banquet Celebration on October, 2003 at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa overlooking the Savannah River.


The four founders have been honored by the organization for their benevolence, vision and forethought in founding a vehicle for Italian Americans living in Savannah and the surrounding area to demonstrate their pride in their ethnicity and to take a place of prominence along with the other major ethnic male societies in the area.