On Sunday, January 19, 2020, I attended the annual Epiphany Celebration Honoring Three Wise Women, organized by the National Organization of Italian American Women (NOIAW). The event held a luxurious brunch at the New Haven Lawn Club in New Haven, Connecticut. Like the Epiphany Celebration, NOIAW hosts many memorable events throughout the year in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Washington DC. Their mission is “to unite and connect women through Italian culture and heritage.” They do so by organizing cultural and networking events throughout the year and by offering scholarships or mentoring programs to female college students and young professionals.
The event started in the foyer, where guests were greeted and checked in at the front desk. For about an hour, everyone had the opportunity to network while sipping on bellinis and view items that were up for auction. For this event, the auctioned items included an Italian cultural trivia party hosted by Carla Gambescia – the author of La Dolce Vita University, or free lunch at the lawn club, and many more.
Once everyone had the opportunity to bid on their auction pieces, we all went into the beautiful main hall for brunch. Pat Tinto, NOIAW president of the Connecticut region, gave a warm welcome speech to kick off the event. The Honorable Rosa L. DeLauro, Congresswoman of the 3rd district in Connecticut, presented the awards to the three honorees and gave an inspirational and heartfelt speech, as she recognized the past honorees. While these impressive women stepped on stage, guests enjoyed their scrambled eggs over Italian bread with asparagus and tomatoes.
The three women honored this year were Dr. Jacquelynn Garofano, Vittoria Pace, and Melissa Pellegrino. Dr. Jacquelyn Garofano is currently the program manager of the Margaret Ingels Engineering Development Program, a new development program for top engineers. She earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Southern CT State University and a master’s and doctoral degree in materials science and engineering from UConn. She holds many honors and achievements, including eleven technical publications, one U.S patent award, and has three patents pending. She was recognized as a Woman of Innovation by the Connecticut Technology Council and was featured in the Connecticut Magazine and Hartford Business Journal in the Forty under 40 list. In 2018, she was recognized by the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal fund for advancing women and girls in STEM. In 2019, she was named one of the most influential women of the year for Youth Development Champions by the CT Rivers Council.
Vittoria Pace is the Vice President of Auto and Property Claims at the Hartford. She has her B.A. in International Political Science from the Catholic University of America and holds her M.B.A in International Business from the University of Hartford. Vittoria sits on the Board of the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut and is also a member of the Board Directors Executive Committee and Chair of its Advocacy Committee. Just recently, Vittoria was chosen to be on the Board of directors for the Jordan Porco Foundation.
Melissa Pellegrino is the owner and chef of Bufalina Wood Fired Pizzeria in Guilford, Connecticut. Before adventuring in the restaurant business, Melissa and her husband wrote two Italian cookbooks: The Italian Farmer’s Table and The Southern Italian Farmer’s Table. In the past, she worked as assistant director for the Fine Cooking Magazine and has previous experience from working in agriturismi in Italy. Melissa was inspired by her Italian American mother and grandmother and followed her passion for Italian cuisine into her career.
The brunch was not only a fun and fulfilling affair, but also incredibly motivating to be in the presence of so many influential women. It was fascinating to hear the stories behind the honorees and all they had accomplished. I was able to meet others with the same aspirations, and I can’t wait to attend the next NOIAW event!