Lydia Di Francesco – Chair of the Board
Lydia Di Francesco is a second-generation Italian-Canadian and is the CEO of Fit + Healthy 365. She holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Ottawa. Lydia is a regular TV guest expert on CTV and Rogers TV and has been published in national and local magazines. Lydia has been an Ottawa resident for the past 20 years with involvement in many community organizations, including being on the Italian Week Board for the past 3 years. Lydia employs her skills in strategy, relationship building, community development, and logistical organization to oversee the execution of the festival.
Rachel McDonald – Treasurer
Rachel McDonald is a Chartered Professional Accountant working as a Senior Accountant Tomlinson Group of Companies. She has experience providing high-quality accounting, taxation, and business advisory services to corporations, organizations and individuals in a vast array of industries. Rachel holds a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) in Accounting from the University of Ottawa. She has previously volunteered as Finance Chair for the uOttawa Relay for Life in support of the Canadian Cancer Society.
Erica Principe – Secretary
Erica is a dynamic and driven marketing and communications professional with 3 years of experience in the field. She doubles as a full-time marketing and communications officer at the Telfer School of Management and a part-time PR student at the University of Ottawa. Her area of interest includes social media, content creation, digital marketing, events, and project management. Erica, a third-generation Italian-Canadian, started volunteering with Italian Week Ottawa in 2019 in a marketing communications capacity to help promote the festival and its events on social media. She is passionate about her heritage and all it embodies leading her to continue working with the festival and to officially join the board this year as its Secretary. She holds a diploma in Public Relations from Algonquin College and is one semester away from completing her Honours Bachelor of Arts with Specialization in Public Relations.
Brunella Buscicchio was born in Naples, grew up in Potenza, Italy, and recently immigrated to Canada. She holds a Master’s degree for Curators in Contemporary Arts and Architecture Museums from La Sapienza University in Rome. Passionate about Italy’s art and culture, Brunella’s recent work has included installation projects by Italian artists in partnership with the Ottawa Art Gallery, the Italian Embassy in Ottawa and the Italian Cultural Institute in Toronto. She worked for a decade at Incontri Internazionali d’Arte, a historic art association in Rome, where she met and worked with many international artists and critics. She has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pisa. Brunella has many interests, including cinema and literature, and she loves cooking traditional Italian recipes.
Tony Mariani has been involved in the Italian community for over 20 years, including being President of Italian Week from 2016-2017. He is the President of Mar Gard Builders Limited who specializes in commercial construction both locally and internationally. Tony has an outstanding track record in all aspects of business growth and management, from promotion and sales to financial control and team leadership. He has handled all aspects of general business management with responsibilities ranging from strategic planning to performance evaluation.
Jody Saurette is a life-long Ottawa resident with a passion for Italian culture, especially Italian cuisine. He is currently an Applications Analyst for TD Bank and is a Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class in the Naval Reserve currently serving as Coxswain of HMCS CARLETON here in Ottawa. He has served in the Naval Reserve for 29 years.
Cassie Wang began her career in public accounting, she brings extensive experience in strategic finance, internal audit, and M&A for companies in various growth phases. She serves as a director of the Italian Week Board of Directors to help with the planned growth. When Cassie first came to Canada, she stayed in an Italian home and fell in love with the culture, people, and food.
Jessie Zapata Crookall
Jessie Zapata Crookall is a highly skilled Training & Programming Specialist. Currently, she is working with Baffinland Iron Mines to create and improve training & development programs on Baffin Island with a keen eye on safety and leadership development. Prior to relocating to Ottawa, Jessie planned, organized, and coordinated high profile events along with weekly programming for over a decade. Additionally, she led multiple groups and created multicultural programming for Macalester College Admissions, advising the Board of Trustees, and contributing to the creation of Macalester’s Department of Multicultural life. She has lent her expertise to several clubs and non-profits to successfully execute events and cultural programming requiring exceptional attention to detail, creativity, and resourcefulness. Growing up in the most diverse city of the United States, Houston, Texas, Jessie’s passion about working with a variety of cultural groups comes honestly. Engaging with people from all over the world is something that she treasures and enjoys. Jessie deeply feels that recognizing diversity, sharing our traditions, and celebrating heritage is vital to strengthening our community while allowing space for our most authentic selves.