Fave fetes: Hilarious Houston matriarch upstages elegant models in chic Italian luncheon-runway show
Editor's note: Here's a look back at some of Houston's favorite society events.
When the inestimable Rose "Rosie" Carrabba took the stage at the Italian Cultural & Community Center Annual Fashion Show & Luncheon, it was clear that the stage — and the day — would belong to her.
Indeed, not even stunning models in swoon-worthy looks from Neiman Marcus could upstage the wise (and, as customers know, hysterical) wife, mother, grandmother, and matriarch of the Carrabba family restaurant empire, the tiny and mighty honoree of the event dubbed “Celebrating the Jewels of Italy.”
Standing next to her always-cool son Johnny Carrabba, Rosie immediately charmed the more than 300 guests at the River Oaks Country Club with a signature opening line, “Johnny told me not to tell any jokes today ... but I do not give a damn.”
That icebreaker set the tone for Rosie's mini standup comedy set. Joke 1 riffed on the classic line, "why buy the cow when you can get free milk?" Rosie, citing that "80 percent of women don't want to get married nowadays," updated the old adage: "They say, 'Why buy the entire pig ... just to get a little sausage?'"
With that, the entire ROCC ballroom erupted in laughter. Rosie's set riffed on marriage and colorful gags about men and women, a red-faced Johnny often wiping away tears of laughter — much like the audience.
But alpha male/restaurant godfather Johnny wasn't too proud to shed some tears while introducing his beloved mother, proudly noting that his insistence that Rosie is a fixture at his Carrabba’s Voss location is the best business decision he ever made. (Longtime diners recognize her as a gracious jokester who visits every table and as the namesake for the famed Rosie's Italian Cream Cake.)
Rosie, then, was the perfect honoree for the always glamorous, highly anticipated ICCC fashion show and luncheon, offering a distinctly warm, sincere, authentically Houston vibe and noting that her family's "Italian Way" was all about "God, family...oh, and food."
Next came a striking, NYC Fashion Week-worthy show from Neiman Marcus, starring top-tier models and clothing from Italian designers, all styled by local favorite Jeanne Ruberti. An Italian aria performed by soprano Bailey Bower also set the tone, while guests sipped prosecco and bid on silent auction items. A lucky winner scored glittering baubles from Tenenbaum Jewelers.
Jovial emcee Owen Conflenti, morning anchor at KPRC, kept the afternoon moving and gave a nod to luncheon chairs Sandra Porter and Gina Gusemano Leck for their flawless show. Esteemed cultural center executive director Erika Myers, upon thanking the crowd, wondered aloud how ICCC would top this show next year. (How, indeed?)
Adding to the star power, country singer Steve Tyrell surprised Rosie with a video greeting. A fitting tribute to Rosie, the clear and bonafide gem of a bellissimo day celebrating food, fashion, faith, and family — the jewels of Italy.
Spotted in the fashionable crowd: Cherri Carbonara, Leisa Holland-Nelson Bowman, Donna Vallone, Patti Murphy, Lesha Elsenbrook, Franelle Rogers, Marilu Garza, Philamena Baird, Cynthia Wolff, Mary Fusillo, Roz Pactor, Nicole Graham, Mary Bea Wickman, Elizabeth Smith, Molly Evans, Elizabeth Borski, Renee Jongebloed, Missa Sutton, Heather Almond, and many more.