Basil Russo Knighted by Italian Dignitary in Cleveland’s Little Italy

Oct 16, 2023 1014

Hon. Basil Russo was formally inducted as a “Knight of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy” on Sunday, Oct. 8. The Order, established in 1951, is the highest-ranking honor of the Italian Republic. The official ceremony took place in Little Italy at Angelo’s Nido Italia, where Russo earned the Cavaliere dell’ Ordine al Merito della’ Repubblica Italiana distinction; it is the most senior and important Italian order of merit bestowed by the President of the Republic of Italy.

Allegra Baistrocchi, the Consul of Italy in Detroit, traveled to Cleveland to conduct the presentation and carry out this rare honor. “I have the honor and the privilege of standing before you to celebrate one of the very important Italian Americans, if not the most Important, in my opinion,” said Baistrocchi.

“[The knighthood] is awarded for merit acquired by the nation in the field of literature, the arts, economy, public service, and social, philanthropic and humanitarian activities; and for long and conspicuous service in civilian and military careers…clearly, Basil covers a whole slew of these different sectors in which you could be getting this honor.”

Russo has accomplished these goals through his leadership as National President of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations ( and as President of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (

“I feel a sense of gratitude to our motherland, Italy, for creating the strong culture and values that made my parents and grandparents such good people. I believe the reason this investiture is so important to me is because it instills in me the belief that I have lived my life in a way that would make my parents and my grandparents proud of me,” said Russo. 

More than 100 distinguished guests and dignitaries attended the event in support of Russo, a former judge, attorney and Cleveland City Councilman.

Watch the ceremony, and view an extensive photo slideshow, here.

SOURCE: Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organization

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