David Witter

David Anthony Witter is a Chicago public school teacher and a freelance writer and photographer. Along with William Dal Cerro, he is the author of "Be-Bop, Swing and Bella Musica: Jazz and the Italian American Experience." He has also written "Oldest Chicago" and "Chicago Magic, A history of Stagecraft and Spectacle." His work has appeared in Fra Noi, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Living Blues, New City, Chicago Reader, Bay Area Music Magazine, Primo, Ambassador and Italic Way. He also has entries in "The Italian-American Experience, an Encyclopedia," and "BluesSpeak, The Best of the Chicago Blues Annual."

Pallatto’s new CD views life through a mature prism

Joanie Pallatto and her husband, Bradley Parker-Sparrow, are primarily jazz artists, but their influences include bossa nova and other Latin sounds, world jazz, the Great American Songbook, and even a little pop and Beatles-inspired rock. All of these influences are present in Pallatto’s latest release, “Accidental Melody,” which features music and lyrics exclusively written by Pallatto. “Surrender” blossoms into a seven-minute introduction of the project’s theme — a philosophical look at life as one reaches middle age and beyond. This exploration continues in songs like “The Melody of You,” “Don’t Ever Look for Love,” “In the Middle of Life” and …

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Gullo celebrates 50th as opera house’s resident barber

A half century at any job is something to celebrate, but Sam Gullo is marking five decades as the barber at one of Chicago’s most iconic buildings, the Civic Opera House, home of the Lyric Opera. Gullo and his family arrived in Chicago from Caccamo, Sicily, in 1961. “I came here with my father and brother,” Gullo says from his shop on the 15th floor of the historic building. “My father worked in Chicago for two years, then returned to Sicily to bring us back. We first settled at Ohio and Leavitt streets.” Gullo learned his trade from his older …

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Cabaret Queen Denise Tomasello

Embracing the Great American Songbook while fellow high schoolers were dancing to ’70s rock, Denise Tomasello has emerged as Chicago’s quintessential chanteuse. Known as “Chicago’s Queen of Cabaret,” Denise Tomasello has been entertaining audiences in many of the area’s finest venues for decades. After a nearly three-year hiatus from show business, this acclaimed chanteuse is once again taking to the stage with her stirring interpretations of the Great American Songbook. Tomasello is a native of Melrose Park, where she attended Proviso East High School. Her mother worked at Amling’s Flowerland, and her father was a delivery driver for the old …

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Artist Carlo Beninati

A commercial artist for Fortune 500 companies early in his career, Carlo Beninati emerged as the go-to portrait painter of the previous century’s sports legends. While some may experience an occasional “brush with greatness” in their lives, artist Carlo Beninati has spent a lifetime “brushing greatness,” creating portraits of the legendary sports figures of the 20th century. Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Mario Andretti, Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Derrick Jeter are among the countless luminaries Beninati has captured on canvas. Using bold colors and impressionistic backgrounds, Beninati depicts the prowess and charisma of his …

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Standup comedian Tom Dreesen

Lifting himself out of poverty by his own bootstraps, Tom Dreesen made it to the very pinnacle of standup comedy by staying in touch with his humble roots. Tom Dreesen grew up in a shack with no hot water, started working at age 10 and, as a young comedian, slept in a car for three weeks. In that very same lifetime, he appeared on “The Tonight Show” more than 60 times and spent 13 years riding in private jets and limousines as the opening act for Frank Sinatra. Like the Sinatra song “My Way,” Dreesen — who is half Irish and …

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Multi-genre singer Diva Montell

From arias to anthems, standards to stadium rock, Diva Montell takes almost any musical style and makes it her own. Blessed with a powerful soprano voice, Montell’s talents brought her to a crossroads early in her career when she had to weigh what was in her heart against the expectations of others. That journey began at birth. “Yes, I was born with the name Diva,” Montell says. “My mother, Concetta Ferreri, was an opera singer who performed with the Apollo Opera Company, The Midwest Opera and other venues,” she continues. “After she was married, she had four children but continued …

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Entertainment legend Tony Ocean

Three decades and 8,000 performances later, Tony Ocean continues to chart his own musical course, attracting legions of fans in the process. As Tony Ocean belted out the final notes of “My Way” to a roar of applause on May 29 at the Des Plaines Theatre, he surveyed his band onstage and his wife and family in the audience and, amid a shower of roses, wiped a tear from his eye. And why not? Ocean had just finished his 8,000th performance. There has been plenty of glitz along the way: a run in Las Vegas, a performance in Aruba, and …

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Rock icon Dion DiMucci

One of the last great performers from the golden age of rock ’n’ roll, Dion DiMucci has recaptured the spotlight by embracing his musical roots. Dion DiMucci is a living legend known worldwide for hits that span decades and generations, like “Teenager in Love,” “Runaround Sue,” “The Wanderer” and “Abraham, Martin and John.” One of the last great performers from the golden age of rock ’n’ roll, DiMucci is still playing and recording at age 82. On his most recent release, “Stomping Ground,” the rock hall of famer is joined by Bruce Springsteen, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Frampton, Mark Knopfler, Billy …

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Arezzo Jewelers finds a new home on North Ave.

After 20 years at its expansive space on Harlem Avenue near Belmont in Chicago, Arezzo Jewelers has found a perfect fit at its new location on North Avenue in Elmwood Park. “We needed an update, and we found out that it was easier in the long run to create a new space for ourselves,” says Michael Spilotro, who co-owns the jewelry store with his wife, Jeannie. The move also ushers in a greater role for the Spilotros’ son, Vincent. With a graduate gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America and an apprenticeship with a master jeweler under his belt, …

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Business is a family affair at Spizzico

Entering its 25th year of operation, Spizzico Pizza & Pasta was at a crossroads. With a host of options available to the owners of the Elmwood Park dining landmark, the path forward was nevertheless clear: Keep it in the family. “We’ve been in business since 1996,” co-owner Rocco Spizziri says. “My parents (Tito Sr. and Edvige) had this building on North Avenue, and when my brother (Tito Jr.) asked if he could put in a pizza place there, my dad let him.” Thus, Spizziri Company, aka Spizzico, was born. Known for its double crust pizza and other casual Italian fare, …

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