Casa Italiana is the heart and soul of the Italian and Italian American Community in Washington, DC. From Italian language classes, to cultural events, wine tastings and food festivals, to the newly inaugurated Italian American Museum of Washington, DC (IAMDC), Casa Italiana Sociocultural Center Inc. promotes the Italian culture and preserves Italian American traditions.
Casa Italiana originally opened its doors on March 22, 1981. Scalabrinian Fr. Caesar Donanzan, who was instrumental in establishing the project and leading its funding, envisioned a center for the Italian-American community to provide services and opportunities for socializing and presenting the best of Italian culture in the Nation's Capital. The first significant activity at Casa Italiana was the establishment of the "Scuola Italiana" or Casa Italiana Language School. Holy Rosary finally also had a place to host large social events for the community.
By the end of the 1980s, the Italian language school was outgrowing Casa Italiana. In 1989, Fr. Donanzan received permission to expand the footprint of Casa Italiana by building an Annex behind the Casa and the Rectory. The so called School Annex was officially opened on September 17, 1992. That same day, the Statue of Christopher Columbus, donated by the Lido Civic Club, was also unveiled in the Church's courtyard.
In 2014, a real estate development project, Capitol Crossing, began the building of the 7-acres area behind the Casa and the Church. In 2017, the Rectory and the old School Annex were demolished. A new and expanded structure, with additional space for Casa Italiana, the rectory, an outdoor piazza, and parking spaces, was completed in 2020.
On June 6, 2017, anticipating the expansion and renewal of Casa Italiana, Fr. Ezio Marchetto led the establishment of separate non-profit organization, the Casa Italiana Sociocultural Center (CISC), Inc. Joseph Lupo, who was then president of the Casa Italiana Language School, became its first President. The formal establishment of this separate entity opened a new chapter in the history of Casa Italiana. As stated in its article of incorporation, the mission of CISC Is "to promote, preserve and care for programs and cultural activities of the Italian-American community and present the best of Italian culture to the larger society through educational, historical and cultural Italian programs."
CISC accomplishes its mission by hosting and supporting, throughout the year, diverse events and cultural activities and other social gatherings. CISC has established an Archive to house historical papers donated by local Italian Americans and the Lido Civic Club. CISC has also established the Italian American Museum of DC (IAMDC), to showcase, preserve and share the contributions that Italians and Italian-American have made in our Nation's Capital.
The IAMDC was inaugurated on December 15, 2020. CISC President Francesco Isgro called it “an historic day for our Italian and Italian American community.”
In 2022, CISC established an Italian American Legacy Research Program to provide grants and internships to college students to engage them to study, research, and write about the contributions made by Italians and Italian Americans in the Washington, D.C. area.