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Brilliant Italian Women
A Message From The Publisher

The success of the Italian community of California could have not been possible if it hadn't been for the immense contribution that Italian and Italian-American women--starting with opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini--have made (and continue making) to the culture of innovation, experimentation, and social progressivism that characterizes California. With the following article series, the Online Almanac celebrates the contributions made by Italifornian Women of note to the rise of our community and the mystique of California as the land where dreams come true.  


Paolo Pontoniere


By Francine Brevetti
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Marie Dalldorf, a native of Liguria, spent much of her career teaching business and adult vocational courses in a variety of settings. Vocational competency has been her focus for private and nonprofit organizations.

She graduated with a master’s in vocational education, administration, and curriculum from San Jose State University. 

Dalldorf taught business courses at Foothill College where she created a curriculum for students entering health fields. She became director of education overall programs there and received the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award. Eventually, she joined the American Institutes for Research where she directed and managed multifaceted projects. Her work led her to support litigation research projects that supported Title VII equity employment lawsuits. She retired as a senior research scientist.

For the US. Dept. of Education, she developed a guidebook for employers of disabled persons. It was published by Aspen Publishers. 

She continued to teach at Foothill College “because teaching was my first passion and I wanted to get back to it.”

”I never lost sight of my Italian heritage and I began looking into volunteer opportunities,” she says. She connected with the county Santa Clara’s sister city program with Florence, Italy, and was appointed commissioner for its effort to promote the exchange of art, culture, education, and technology between the people of Santa Clara County and the province of Florence. Unfortunately, she rues, the onset of COVID has put many of these efforts on hold. She is eager to see the program revived. 

Dalldorf serves as corporate secretary of the Italian American Heritage Foundation. Under its aegis, she started a scholarship in honor of her parents “and to pay it forward for another Italian student.” 

She continues to spread her love for the Italian language by offering virtual Italian classes two nights a week. “These classes afford me the opportunity to be closer to my Italian heritage and have helped me keep in touch with a language I love,” she says.


Although not of Italian parentage, Leilani Latimer enjoys Italian citizenship. She spent much of her career working in Italy and for Italian divisions of international companies. 

She is a specialist in ESG, or Environmental, Social, and Governance, the non-financial factors that contribute to a company’s growth.

“The recurring theme in my career has been to take something nascent and grow it,” Latimer says. “In 2007 the CEO of Sabre, then a $3 billion global company serving the travel industry across four business verticals and 60 countries, asked me to develop and lead sustainability for the organization.”

To assume this position with authority, she went back to school and got a degree in Sustainable Management at Presidio Graduate School, while building the organization's ESG programs. This included launching the first-ever Green Hotels program with Travelocity (one of Sabre’s properties), and the industry's most precise carbon calculator for travel. 

“I also held a role on the Board of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council for five years.” 

Shortly after she and her family moved to San Francisco, her husband Fabio Ficano joined Jeff Capaccio*, in kicking off the Silicon Valley Italian Executive Council.

She became a SVIEC member, and later also joined the Business Association Italy America and the Italian Cultural Institute.

”I have been afforded the opportunity to meet various Italian delegations when they are visiting the Bay Area and looking to engage with local professionals. We speak Italian at home as do my children,” Latimer says.

“In the future I would love to bring my ESG, Silicon Valley and Italian expertise to an Italian company board,” she says. 

*see footnote in Polese story


Kim Polese’s Italian father and Danish mother were creative people who encouraged her interests. When she was 10-11 years old, her mother would take her to visit the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. There she loved to “converse”  with the computer program called ELIZA. The interactive dialog stimulated her interest in computational science. 

Since then Polese has been at the birth of seminal computer breakthroughs such as Java for Sun Microsystems, one of the most popular programming languages used to create Web applications and platforms. 

Eventually,  she became cofounder and chairman and CEO of created Marimba, now BMC. This online platform “provides secure updating and management of software and data for millions of devices, appliances, and vehicles, “ she is proud to say. 

Seven years ago she cofounded and is the chairman of CrowdSmart, a tool  which melds human and artificial intelligence to offer the best choices in investments. She is delighted that CrowdSmart is turning human conversation into predictive computational models.

Behind all her innovations Polese acknowledges the brilliance of the teams she has worked with. “It’s amazing what happens when people feel free to express what they think and then are open to learning from other people,” she says. 

Polese stays in touch with the regional Italian American community. A long-time friend of the late Jeff Capaccio*, she responded when he invited her to join the Silicon Valley Italian Executive Council. 

Polese makes it a point to meet Italy’s consul generals as they are assigned here. “My dad would be so proud. He was very proud to be Italian. I am thrilled about the flourishing of cultural celebration of being Italian in the Bay Area.

*Jeffrey Capaccio was counsel in the Litigation Practice Group of Carr & Ferrell and active in Italian American activities. 


The word impresario is usually reserved for men of extraordinary achievement in the entertaining arts.

Celine Ricci deserves that name.

The native of Florence, Ricci has been an opera singer in Europe and in United States. A mezzo soprano, she calls music “my spiritual mother.”

Here in the Bay Area she created in 2013 Ars Minerva,,  an opera company “to continue to play music that is forgotten and never played,” especially music of the baroque era of the 17th  and 18th centuries.  

Her recent production of Messalina was the work of composer Carlo Pallavicino in 1679 and librettist Francesco Maria Piccioli. 

The marvelous voices that sang this sex romp on a nearly bare stage were supported by striking projections and humorous costumes. All under her direction.

Ricci admits that starting an opera company presents Sisyphean challenges with fundraising the most basic of them.

Fundraising is a test for any nonprofit. But for baroque opera, even more so. “It's not easy because so many people have the stigma of early music as being dusty. But to me early music is more interesting than what came afterward.

“What I like in early music is that the women characters are much more strong than those that come after which are more conservative to me when women cry all the time. In baroque opera the women are always in action; they have a mission.”

The next project for Ars Minerva will appear in October 2022, the Neapolitan opera Astianatte by Leonardo Vinci written om 1825/

She meanwhile also teaches voice at the San Francisco Girls Chorus. Ars Minerva in collaboration with the girls' chorus will produce Vivaldi’s Juditha Triumphans in the spring of 2023.

Ricci’s vision for Ars Minerva is to expand to six productions a year and tour throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. At the same time she hopes to establish classes on early music, singing, instruments, costume making and set design.

“Yes, it's crazy. Let's hope for that,” she says.

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