The recently re-organized Pannese Society did more than generate revenue and exposure last Thursday night during a dinner and fundraiser at Ciara Restaurant and Lounge.
“We were sold out!” said Louis Spremulli, a Johnston resident who, along with his wife Carla, created excitement for the Pannese Society’s rebirth after a trip to Panni, Foggia, Italy last year. “This was a huge success; I can’t tell you how excited we are with tonight’s turnout and the enthusiasm of all these great people.”
More than 150 people of Italian-American heritage filled the Ciara Restaurant for a night that included an educational experience about Panni, Foggi, Italy and a buffet dinner prepared by executive chef and co-owner Steven Catanzaro.
“I can’t believe the people who are here,” said Michael Barone, a construction company owner who is Catanzaro’s partner at Ciara. “What a great show of support for our Italian-American heritage.”
Spremulli gave what State Senator Frank Ciccone called “an impressive PowerPoint presentation about life in Panni.”
As soon as people entered Ciara Restaurant and Lounge, located at 678 Killingly Street in Johnston, their eyes were directed to nearly a half-dozen wall-mounted televisions with a still shot of the Village of Panni encircled in a red heart.
“That’s pretty clever,” said Barone, who shared serving duties with Catanzaro and made sure the buffet was always filled. “I guess people will know where the Society’s heart is after tonight.”
After being introduced by Charles Mansolillo, who served as the night’s emcee, Spremulli went into the PowerPoint presentation that continued showing still shots on the televisions while he explained how people are actually living in Panni.
“Many people were very surprised to learn about how up-to-date they are with schools, government and cultural events,” said Spremulli, adding he and his wife got the idea to re-organize the Pannese Society while visiting the village last year. “We’re also planning on offering our presentation to other Italian-American organizations.”
Spremulli’s father, Joseph, serves as the non-profit’s current president.
“The Pannese Society by-laws only allow members of Pannese decent through family and marriage. Members can come from anywhere in the world, as long as they can connect on our web page, pannese-society.org,” Spremulli said. “Our key to make this work is to have an interactive website with special links and information that only our members access.”
Spremulli did say, however, “we may have to make some by-law changes to open some areas for expansion and we will work on that and other items in the coming months.”
The Spremullis’ visit to Panni, Foggia, Italy not only supported the Pannese Society’s re-organization, it gave what President Joseph Spremulli called “new life to our group that has been dormant since the early 1900s. Even the saint was missing from Holy Ghost Church [on Federal Hill in Providence].”
The Pannese Society now has a small office in Providence, and the membership consists of about 15 people of Pannese decent, however, judging from last Thursday night’s turnout, that will soon change dramatically.
To date, the Society has received support from people like Ciccone, Gary Paplauskas, Ron Cece, Catanzaro, Ken Mills and Carla Spremulli.
“We’ve even been blessed with some special gift sponsors who want to support Italian culture,” said Louis Spremulli.
Those businesses are: Ciara Restaurant and Lounge, Nino’s Pizza, Caserta Pizza, Silver Lake Pizza, The Original Italian Bakery, YPSC Women’s Auxiliary and The Lighthouse Restaurant.
For more information about the Pannese Society, call Joseph Spremulli at 213-3678 or Louis J. Spremulli at 374-4590.
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