Women of the Italian American Club of Hilton Head

Italian American Club

Toss out any preconceived notion of what an Italian-American woman should be like. The Italian-American Club of Hilton Head (IACHH) powers that be, passed a rule a few years ago declaring… NO RULES (ta-da!) regarding one’s ethnic heritage when applying for membership to the club. That’s right, you read it here first. You don’t have to be Italian to join the Italian-American Club.

One must be Italian at heart, though! That is how they get around that little detail. And, apparently, that is easy criteria, because if you love to eat, laugh, argue, hug, drive around in a convertible without losing your cigar to the wind, drink wine, laugh, argue, throw parties, walk closely huddled together talking in whispers like you’re planning the Bay of Pigs, then talk loudly over everyone else, eat more, laugh more, argue more, drink more wine, give to charities, laugh, eat, and argue some more.... If you like to do all of this, in no particular order, then you must be Italian. Get the picture? And by golly, from that point on, membership grew. Go figure.

Now, with the Seventh Annual Italian Heritage Festival looming large (Saturday Sept. 17; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. See the ad on page 75 for details), how do we define the lovely women who prop up the club that helps prop up the Hilton Head community of non-profits and scholarship funds? Creatively and without boundaries, of course!

We’ll start with the most powerful master of the universe, Our Lady of the Vine, Karen Dicciani, who serves wine at all the events. All bow down before her, while acknowledging that theirs is not to reason why, as long as the pinot grigio is chilled and the Chianti is not.

And if you don’t want a picture of YOU having a total blast posted all over the Internet, well then, definitely, DON’T come to any of the monthly IACHH social events, where the Club’s official paparazzi, Amy Lee Hamilton (who moonlights as an Irish hairdresser), and Linda Peterson, (also making ends meet as a Malaysian banker), will ambush you with flashbulbs and technology so fast, you might forget that you don’t want your picture taken. And you’ll be relieved to note that most of the photos taken are posted on social media live at that very moment for everyone to see.
“We are a diverse group of folks and that adds to the uniqueness of our club,” says Amy Lee. Gee, do you think?

Then there is Mellow Michello-Jello. But that’s just her stage name. Her real name is Michelle McNear of the Clan Jello-shots. She is worshipped with the same awe as the Lady of the Vine, bringing her mysterious frozen elixirs to outdoor events, which helps fuel the menfolk—and womenfolk—as they work. Not to worry, however. The lovely and fair Nicole, of the Tribe Tassone, keeps order at several of the Club’s events. Ever the gracious host, Nicole, wife of another former IACHH president, Chris, enjoys helping out with the annual Spaghetti Dinner and the Zinfandel Experience Wine Tasting. She has been involved in the club for more than six years and has seen it grow from 50 to 150 members strong. “The members are truly amazing people with big hearts. It’s great to be able to make a significant impact on our community while celebrating our Italian Heritage,” says Nicole with, of course, much aplomb. And aplomb, is the word, if you have been smart enough to sign up for some of the silent auction items before someone else gets them. Barbara, of the House of Paletta, directs the silent auction charge for the festival each year, which is no small undertaking.

Fortunately, she has the assistance of Wendy Malawi, IACHH secretary, who helps with the organization of the auction items. Wendy runs fast, and far, and can leap over tall buildings in a single bound. We think Wendy might be a secret superhero because she takes the minutes at the board meetings, and she doesn’t leave out a single word even when the president (that would be my husband, Johnny D), tells everyone what they can do with their opinions. I mean she includes all of it!

Of course, she doesn’t have to include the swear words in the minutes anymore. We know this because, Meredith of the Bannon Esq. House provides the IACHH with the legal counsel necessary for Wendy to feel relieved of having to record any and all of Johnny D’s expletives, or “perceptions” as he calls them. And that Meredith is what’s called a smart cookie. According to Meredith, it’s important for the Italian-American Club of Hilton Head to still have members of Italian descent.
“It’s all fine and good to have people walking around our meetings from other countries, because they’re fun and they have good hearts. But we still need to have people that you know… have ancestors… y’know, that were maybe…from Italy,” she said.To which Nancy Traina Sulek raised her hand and said, “I am proud to be 100% Italian. I admire the strong leadership of our group which accomplishes great things for Hilton Head.” And Christina Belen from the art colony known as Tribe Triad, exclaimed, “Yeah! Let’s make a poster!”

So, if you want to experience some of what the Italian-American Club offers, go to the Italian Heritage Festival, honoring the Feast of San Gennaro. And don’t fuggetaboutit!

The Women of the Zeppole:
To work this event, one needs about 17 T-shirts to change into, and out of, while laboring over a deep fryer. Annemarie Kinsky, Michelle Esposito, Constance Coyne, Danielle McWhorter and Joan McDonough sweat it out each year over a deep fryer in 95 degree heat during the annual festival in September, making famous fried Italian pastries known as zeppoles. Says Joan, “I am proud to tell my friends in both South Carolina and New York about the donations the IACHH makes to local charities.” Connie Coyne donates her artwork to the Club’s silent auctions, while Danielle creates gift baskets and contributes to the spaghetti dinner.

Italian American Club image

Annual Festival Honoring San Gennaro
The Italian Heritage Festival held annually at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn, grows from year to year in leaps and bounds. Last year, there were close to 4,000 attendees with the help of Barbara Paletta, Karen Dicciani, Elana Logan, Elizabeth Carpinteri and Alina Porcelli.

A Zin Experience
A fabulous evening of wine and hor d’oervres held at sunset on the beach at the Omni Resort in Shipyard. Special assistance comes from Nicole Tassone, Carmen DeCecco and Stefanie Burns.

Italian Open Golf Tournament
Shaking it and serving it are far more strenuous than swinging it. These girls know how to drive it all home at the annual golf tournament: Christina Belen, Sandy Lembo, Linda Peterson, Michelle McNear, Danielle McWhorter.

Italian Heritage Festival
Saturday, September 17, 2016
from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Honey Horn
For vendor information, call Paul Caimano at 412-897-1148 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or , even better, if you just want to really drive Johnny D. crazy, that whole day, call him at (401) 524-1416 and, tell him, “Hey Johnny, I just saw Carmen chasing Sam around the golf course off-leash! How does he know to stay away from alligators? Tickets at the gate are $6, Kids under 10 free, No pets. Lounge chairs encouraged.


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