NIAF President Robert Allegrini

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A dedicated community leader and standout public relations professional with deep Chicago roots, Robert Allegrini has been tapped to helm one of the nation’s preeminent Italian-American organizations.

Like many Italian-American offspring of the Greatest Generation, Robert Allegrini had to find his way back to his roots. His mother was born in Italy, as were both of his paternal grandparents. But Allegrini’s father was a decorated veteran of World War II and a patriotic American who downplayed his ethnicity both at home and in public. He went off script at a key point in his son’s life, though, and that made all the difference in the world.

“When I was 10, we traveled as a family to Italy, and as we wandered through the Colosseum in Rome, he took out his Swiss Army knife and dislodged a pebble from one of the walls, probably violating a dozen Italian laws regarding the defacement of antiquities in the process,” Allegrini recalls. “He pressed it into my hand and said, ‘Hold onto this because it represents the Roman heritage that flows through your veins.’”

Today, as Allegrini steps up to the presidency of the National Italian American Foundation, that moment looms large.

“I hadn’t given much thought to my heritage until that day, but I sure have given it a lot of thought since then,” Allegrini says. “It really awakened my interest in and appreciation for all things Italian and set me on a path that has led me here.”

The first major step along that pat was a graduate fellowship to the University of Florence in Italy, where he studied foreign affairs subsequent to receiving a degree in public relations from Northern Illinois University. After that, there was no turning back.

He was an early member of the Young Adults Division of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, serving as the organization’s executive director from 1987-90. He founded the Chicago chapter of the Accademia Italiana Della Cucina in 2000 and served as president of the Italian-American Chamber of Commerce from 2009-12.

Currently, Allegrini is the honorary consul for the Republic of San Marino for a five-state jurisdiction in the Midwest, and he was named the co-chairman of the Milan-Chicago Sister Cities program in February 2021. His service to the Italian-American community was honored by the republic of Italy in 2002, when then-President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi conferred upon him the title of Commendatore in the Order of Merit.

Before the NIAF board of directors named him president in May, he had served as a board member since 2007 and as executive vice president from 2017-21.

“When people ask me why I’m such a strong supporter of the foundation, I tell them the reason is simple,” Allegrini explains. “It’s because the mission of the foundation conforms to my worldview, and that view, simply put, is that the world would be a better place if only it were a bit more Italian.”

Allegrini’s steady ascent to one of the top spots in the Italian-American community has been paralleled by his rise through the ranks of the hospitality industry.

A job as a management trainee for one of the local Regent hotels in 1986 led to executive positions at Regent, Swissôtel, Hyatt and Hilton, culminating in a decade as vice president of communications for the Americas with Hilton. In 2016, he was named one of 25 extraordinary minds in hospitality marketing by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International.

“Robert brings a unique combination of business acumen, managerial expertise and passion for our mission to preserve, promote and protect our Italian-American heritage to his new position as president,” NIAF Chairman Robert E. Carlucci says. “Moreover, his knowledge of the Italian language and culture will further NIAF’s goal of remaining the preeminent organizational bridge between Italy and the United States of America.”

Founded in 1975, the National Italian American Foundation is dedicated to “preserving the Italian-American heritage and culture, promoting and inspiring a positive image of the legacy of Italian Americans, and empowering ties between the United States and Italy,” according to Allegrini.

As the foundation’s new president, he is charged with overseeing day-to-day operations, administering programs, conceiving of new programs, raising funds, planning cultural and fundraising events throughout the country, and serving as a spokesperson for the venerable organization.

That’s no small task, especially given how much the organization accomplishes in a given year. Chief among its many initiatives, the NIAF:

  • presents hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships annually;
  • funds college-level Italian clubs through its Campus initiative;
  • sends 20 young adults to Italy each year through its Voyage of Discovery program;
  • supports up-and-coming cinematographers through the Russo Brothers Film Forum;
  • bestows sizeable grants to a wide range of Italian-American projects;
  • provides online and in-person programming on a variety of topics, including dual citizenship, genealogy, food and wine;
  • works closely with the Italian American Congressional Delegation on legislation affecting the community;
  • places outstanding college students and recent graduates in offices of delegation members through its Congressional Fellowship program;
  • spearheads events on Capitol Hill through the Frank J. Guarini Public Policy Forum;
  • designates a “Region of Honor” in Italy each year and plans a variety of economic and cultural exchanges to the region;
  • and hosts an annual gala honoring outstanding individuals in a variety of fields.

Despite the pressure of his many responsibilities, Allegrini hopes to find time for some ambitious goals of his own.

“My chief aim is to raise enough funding between gifts, bequests and memberships to make the foundation operationally self-sufficient as soon as possible,” he says. “Then all the funds raised from the foundation’s many events and activities can be used purely for programs to benefit the Italian-American community.”

Allegrini is also intent on expanding access to subject matter that conveys Italy’s vast cultural legacy.

“That involves building NIAF’s grant program and supporting more worthy projects such as books, films, plays, websites, exhibits and apps that showcase the diverse aspects of Italian and Italian-American heritage and history,” Allegrini explains. “I won’t be content until all Italian Americans know the full richness of their heritage and the rest of the country knows who we are, too!”

For more information about the National Italian American Foundation, visit

The above appears in the July 2021 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.



About Paul Basile

Paul Basile has been the editor of Fra Noi for a quarter of a century. Over that period, he and his dedicated family of staff members and correspondents have transformed a quaint little community newspaper into a gorgeous glossy magazine that is read and admired across the nation. They also maintain a cluster of national and local websites and are helping other major metropolitan areas launch their own versions of Fra Noi.

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