Jim Distasio

Jim Distasio is an award-winning writer, director, editor. His documentary “Sawdust: Life in the Ring,” about the Zoppè Family Circus, was an official selection at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and the River’s Edge Film Festival. His documentary “5,000 Miles From Home,” about the impact of World War II on Chicago’s Italian-American community, earned two local Emmys on six nominations. Distasio earned a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where he currently serves as an adjunct lecturer. His writings have appeared in numerous publications, including Chicago Tribune Magazine, American Profile, Vine Line and Fra Noi.

Autism pioneer Dr. Valerie Scaramella-Nowinski

Raised to value service above self, Dr. Valerie Scaramella-Nowinski has dramatically improved the lives of countless children on the autism spectrum. For parents of children on the autism spectrum, and those impacted by similar developmental disorders, the worst four words you can hear are “don’t expect too much.” So much of the uncertainty facing these families is owed to the broad nature of autism. It’s not a single, uniform disorder, but rather an umbrella diagnosis comprising a range of conditions affecting speech, the sensory system and social interactions. Some neurodiverse children may have a small communications delay compared to their …

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“Chicago Med” star Torrey DeVitto

After years of living from project to project, Torrey DeVitto finally has a home base in one of Dick Wolf’s famously long-running series. When the hit drama “Chicago Med” returns to NBC later this year, the doctors at the fictional Gaffney Chicago Medical Center will face off against the same coronavirus pandemic their real-life counterparts have been grappling with since March. Actress Torrey DeVitto, who plays the brilliant emergency pediatrics specialist Dr. Natalie Manning, says the show won’t time jump or ignore current events. Instead, the crown jewel of executive producer Dick Wolf’s “One Chicago” franchise will embrace its creator’s …

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Local media legend Vince Gerasole

After making a name for himself spotlighting feel-good stories on local TV news, Vince Gerasole is bringing his talents and passion to bear on behalf of the Archdiocese of Chicago. A few years back, Vince Gerasole, the beloved general assignment reporter for CBS 2 Chicago, took one of those mail-in DNA tests you see advertised on television. The Pittsburgh native, who proudly traces his ancestry to Abruzzo and Calabria, was ecstatic to discover he was 85 percent Italian, with a smattering of other European descent to round it out. Gerasole, who speaks Italian fluently and worked as a teacher and …

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“Legacies” star Danielle Rose Russell

Acting professionally since the age of 13, Danielle Rose Russell has shared the big screen with the likes of Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper on the way to a starring role on TV. Like so many others, Danielle Rose Russell is spending these socially distant days largely at home. With filming on the second season of her hit CW show “Legacies” cut short due to coronavirus lockdowns, the actress says she’s been enjoying her first extended run of free time in years. She has spent it in her native New Jersey with family and friends while awaiting a start date …

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“Cooking with Nonna” creator Rosella Rago

Proud of her dual Italian and American roots, Rosella Rago has made a career of deliciously blending the two with her beloved grandmother by her side. Rossella Rago, the culinary entrepreneur and host of the delightful instructional web series “Cooking with Nonna,” says her passion for food began just as you’d expect — when she was a little girl looking to lend a hand with Sunday supper. “I remember spending hours in the kitchen just watching my mom, nonna, and great aunts all cooking and talking,” Rago says. “But I was so young they wouldn’t let me touch anything.” Relegated …

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“FBI” star Jeremy Sisto

Best known as the pencil-wielding team leader on the CBS hit drama “FBI,” Jeremy Sisto has steadily built an impressive acting resume thanks to a devotion to the sorts of details that bring his characters to life. Telly Savalas had his lollipops. Peter Falk had his trench coat. And Jeremy Sisto has his pencil. Appearing on the hit CBS drama “FBI,” now in its second season, Sisto’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jubal Valentine commands an elite team of investigators in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York field office, and he does it all while spinning, chewing and pointing …

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Star Wars star Gina Carano

After making her mark as a mixed martial artist, then toiling in the trenches as a working actress, Gina Carano landed the role of a lifetime in the ongoing “Star Wars” saga. If you’re professional fighter-turned-actress Gina Carano, what do you do when one of Hollywood’s biggest directors asks to meet? Well, like any good Italian American, you bring a bottle of wine to the meeting, of course. And not just any wine, Carano told Fra Noi in an exclusive interview. This particular vintage was one that holds a special place in her heart because it comes from the Sonoma …

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Unintended tenor Giorgio Berrugi

Giorgio Berrugi was making a name for himself as a concert clarinetist until an impromptu serenade sent him on a completely different career trajectory. Giorgio Berrugi’s unlikely career as one of opera’s most electrifying upstarts is proof that second acts aren’t just for the stage. The 41-year-old tenor, whose voice has been celebrated by opera critics and fans for its bright and full-bodied Italian sound, has ascended into rarefied air in little more than a decade. Berrugi has performed for some of opera’s most esteemed houses — including the Royal Opera House in London, Lincoln Center in New York City …

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Transcendent tragedian Maria Agresta

Fueled by her affinity for Italian opera’s great tragic heroines, Maria Agresta recently returned to Chicago to play the role that launched her flourishing career. With a candle in hand, a poor seamstress searching for a light enters the life of a poet in 19th century Paris. They fall in love, they spar, they reconcile, and finally they mourn a shared flame extinguished far too soon. It’s beautiful. It’s heartbreaking. It’s quintessential opera. Giacomo Puccini’s “La bohème,” which first premiered in 1896, initially received tepid reviews. But the critics didn’t do much to halt the opera’s meteoric rise, and more …

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WW II photographer Tony Vaccaro

Too young to join the Signal Corps, Tony Vaccaro defied his superiors and spirited a $47 camera into the teeth of battle, taking some of the most gripping photos of World War II while charting the course of his professional life. Huddled alongside his fellow infantrymen in a transport speeding across the English Channel, Private First Class Tony Vaccaro didn’t know he was headed to Omaha Beach on June 18, 1944, a little more than a week after the D-Day invasion had commenced. Before boarding the ship, Vaccaro’s superiors sternly warned the American soldiers that anyone caught taking pictures would …

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