Anthony “Nappy” Napolitano stood at the podium inside the historic and nationally famous Italo-American Club of Rhode Island in Providence Monday night and declared, “the greatest contribution I have made to this club is George Lazzareschi Jr.”
That statement set off one of many standing ovations, as Napolitano and Lazzereschi embraced on a night people celebrated their Italian-American heritage during the Italo-American Club’s changing of the guard. Master of ceremonies Lawrence J. Mancini hosted the event.
For the past 10 years – five of which Napolitano served as president – “Nappy,” as he’s affectionately known, has been the face of the nation’s oldest Italian-American club. It was founded in 1896 and has for years been housed in the one-time Berarducci Funeral Home on Broadway.
Lazzareschi, a Johnston resident who grew up in Providence near the club, graciously accepted the gavel from his friend and mentor Napolitano. Congressman David N. Cicilline administered his oath of office.
“I am humbled and honored to now serve as your president and look forward to continued success,” Lazzareschi said. “I am confident that together we will be an asset in serving the members of the Italo-American Club for years to come.”
The popular and always-smiling Lazzareschi, who is the veteran director of public safety for Providence, then issued a heart-warming “thank you” to Nappy for his service as president, adding: “It was a pleasure to work by his side as vice president and I am thankful for his wisdom and never-ending guidance and direction.”
Lazzareschi then announced, “on behalf of myself, the officers and members, we appreciate all his dedication to the club and look forward to his continued service as ex-officio of the Italo-American Club.”
Speakers like General Treasurer Seth Magaziner stressed that groups like the Italo-American Club “are so very important in today’s society,” and Attorney General Peter Neronha added, “this is a great place and a great, great organization.”
It was an equally extraordinary evening for not only Lazzareschi, but four Johnston residents who were sworn into prestigious positions by Mayor Joseph Polisena.
Headlining that list and making Italo-American Club history was Donna Folcarelli, sister of Johnston Town Councilwoman Linda Folcarelli. She is the first women to ever be elected as an officer and will serve as secretary during the coming year.
“Donna is very proud of her Italian heritage,” Mancini related while noting she has been a club member for nine years.
Three Johnstonians – Stephen Mallane, Gina Sabitoni-Arakelian and Peter Montaquila Jr. – were sworn in as board members along with Joseph Cinquegrano, Michele “Michael” DiPaolo and Ronald Desiderato Jr.
Likewise, Thomas Norato and Robert Vellucci took the oath of office from North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi and will serve as vice president and treasurer, respectively.
The evening concluded with upwards of 150 people enjoying dinner, which was prepared by chefs Anthony Ricamo and Salvatore Cefaliello of Maria’s Cucina, Federal Hill’s newest eatery.
Maria’s Cucina is owned and operated by state Rep. Gregory Constantino and Chris Spetrini, a one-time La Salle Academy standout.