About Marianna
Photo of Marianna Gatto

Marianna Gatto is the executive director and cofounder of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA), a historian and author with two decades of experience in public history, non-profit leadership, museums, and education.

Gatto has served as the executive director of the IAMLA since 2010, and oversees exhibitions, fundraising, education, development, programming, and advocacy. Gatto authored and curated the museum’s permanent exhibition, an award-winning exhibit that examines the 200-year history of Italian Americans in the region and nation. Gatto’s involvement in the museum project began in 2005, and in 2008 and 2009, she spearheaded a campaign that secured substantial public funds to renovate the Italian Hall, the historic building in which the IAMLA is located.

Gatto’s research focuses on Italian Americans in Los Angeles and the West. Her book, Los Angeles’s Little Italy, was released in 2009; her second work, Beyond Little Italy: Italian Americans in Los Angeles, is forthcoming. Gatto’s writings are featured in several publications and she has appeared in various films, including the PBS series The Italian Americans, Finding the Mother Lode: Italian Americans in California, A Little Fellow, and La Cucina Italiana in Los Angeles. She has also consulted for the Discovery Channel, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, National Geographic, and Netflix.

Among the temporary exhibitions she has created for IAMLA are A Real Boy: The Many Lives of Pinocchio; Woven Lives: Exploring Women’s Needlework from the Italian Diaspora; The Sicilian Cart: History in Movement; Italianità: Artists of the Italian Diaspora Explore Identity; Leo Politi’s Los Angeles-Works of Love and Protest; and Fantasy World: Italian Americans in Animation.

Gatto has collaborated on local and national initiatives, including the historic designation of Tuna Canyon, a WWII-era detention center for Japanese Americans and Italian Americans. As a public scholar she speaks before corporations, universities, and government entities, including the Department of Homeland Security and Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. In 2008, Gatto created the museum’s signature event, Taste of Italy, an upscale food and wine tasting. She also researches and writes the histories of the museum’s elite cadre of donors known as the Founding Families.

Gatto began her career as an educator in one of the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of Los Angeles. She then worked as a museum administrator for the City of Los Angeles, overseeing matters pertaining to history, preservation, and education.

A lifelong resident of Los Angeles, Gatto attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and California State University Los Angeles, graduating magna cum laude with degrees in social science and history before beginning her graduate study in history and earning a teaching credential in secondary education. Gatto also has a master’s in education. Gatto cochairs the Museums and Cultural Institutions Committee for the Conference of Presidents of Italian American Organizations and has consulted for many non-profit organizations.

Gatto’s work has been recognized by the State of California, and in 2021 the Italian republic awarded her the Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy). In 2023 she was invested as a dame in the Constantinian Order, one of the oldest orders of knighthood. Gatto is a dual citizen of the United States and Italy. She resides in Los Angeles and has an adult son, Damian, who is a city planner specializing in historic preservation.