House Aide Excited to Welcome Everyone to Italo-American Club

The National Italian American Foundation and nascent Italian American Congressional Staff Association are teaming up Thursday for a meet-and-greet featuring food, drink and just a touch of nostalgia. The Wine-Off Tasting event is scheduled to take place in Rayburn 2168 from 6 to 8 p.m. and is open to all congressional staff. In addition to hosting House lawmakers Lou Barletta, R-Pa., Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, and Steve Stivers, R-Ohio — all of whom an event planner said have expressed interest in attending — the informal gathering is expected to introduce the Capitol Hill community to the budding staff association. Geoff Browning, who works for Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., is acting president of the group — a vote of confidence he’s taken very much to heart. “I was lucky to grow up in a big Italian family in Massachusetts, but I worry my cousins and I were the last generation to grow up with that kind of cohesion,” the old softie told HOH, recalling joyous holidays spent surrounded by loved ones. “I hope we can rekindle some of that on the Hill, in a way that has nothing to do with politics.” Browning credits former colleague Ivana Brancaccio, who left Congress just a few weeks back to take a gig with Kutak Rock law firm, with bringing IACSA into being (“The vision was hers,” he stressed.), but noted he’s been shoring up support ever since. “Thus far my presidency has consisted of contacting friends and colleagues, putting their names on a big spreadsheet, and determining exactly what traditions will define this association going forward,” Browning shared of the ongoing outreach. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We have a lot to be excited about.” And ethnicity will not preclude participation in the organization. “This is not limited to Italian-American staff — anyone can join. We’re a big-tent family,” the self-styled diplomat explained. To that end, Browning is looking forward to fashioning as all-inclusive an entity as possible. He’s currently involved in locking down attendees for the inaugural organizational meeting but can’t want to roll out the red carpet to others in the coming months. Tentative activities include: regular happy hours (timed to “the first House ‘fly-out’ day of each month,” he said), family-style dinners (“We can go to D.C.’s Italian restaurants”), venturing out to art exhibitions and concerts, educational endeavors (“We can hold events where staff learn Italian from college students studying the language”) and much, much more. “Really, the sky is the limit. And I think it will really depend on who signs up, and what they think we should do as an organization,” Browning asserted. Those interested in joining the fold can look forward to a spirited evening. An NIAF aide said a trio of local wine purveyors (Rodman’s, Via Umbria and RWK Imports, to be exact) would be supplying the party with: Zardetto Prosecco, Ruffino Chianti, Ravenswood Vintners Blend Chardonnay, San Pietro Pinot Grigio, 2008 Alice Bonaccorsi Val Cerasa Etna Rosso and Tabarrini Adarmando, among other featured pours. See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.