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Author Archives: Lissa Druss

Lissa Druss is founder and CEO of Strategia Consulting, a government relations and business relations and crisis communication firm. She is a regular contributor on television and radio stations, offering perspective on crisis events and public affairs issues. She spent 21 years as a television journalist and is a nine-time Emmy award winner. She holds the title of Cavaliere dell’ Ordine della Stella d’Italia; serves on the boards of Milan-Chicago Sister Cities International, the Get Growing Foundation and the Italian American Human Relations Foundation, and is chairman of the Jarrett Payton Foundation. She works with the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii and the JCCIA, and is a member of the National Italian American Foundation.

The fight of our lives

We are stronger together than apart. There is no greater testament to that fact than the multiethnic coalition that has rallied to reverse the Chicago Board of Education’s decision to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The removal of Columbus Day is not just about Italian Americans. On the evening of Feb. 26, while most of us were welcoming home our children from school or sharing dinner with family or friends, the Chicago Board of Education usurped Columbus Day. Poof. It was gone faster than your Nonno could pinch your cheek and let go. And why? Because the community ...

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Community bids addio to Dominic DiFrisco

“How ya doing kid?” … “I have shoes older than you.” … “These God-damned cell phones.” … When you read these phrases, you only hear one person: Dominic DiFrisco. Dominic was a loving husband, father, grandfather, father-in-law, brother, uncle, brother-in-law and godfather to many. As he would say in Sicilian dialect, “sangue mio.” My blood. Dominic’s other family members were the countless worldwide friends and colleagues that he would laugh, mentor and share with any hour of the day or night. There literally wasn’t a corner of the world where Dominic didn’t know someone. He was born Nov. 14, 1933, ...

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State realty group names award after Bernardoni

The Illinois Realtors has created the Brian A. Bernardoni Political Advocacy Award in honor of its local government affairs director. The award is based on the outstanding contributions of a Realtor or affiliate member in public policy political and/or legislative advocacy. It’s rare to have an award named after someone while they actually are still working in the field, but according to Michael Cabonargi, commissioner of the Second District on the Cook County Board of Review, Bernardoni’s experience makes him very deserving of this honor. “Brian has been a respected leader in Chicago’s real estate community for many, many years, and ...

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Serrelli’s Finer Foods

As you walk up to the gleaming new storefront on North Avenue in Galewood, a large automatic sliding door sweeps open and you hear, “Welcome to Serrelli’s. It’s our grand re-opening today.” And grand it truly is. For nearly 80 years, Serrelli’s Finer Foods has been a grand name in the industry that’s guaranteed to bring a smile. From the first grocery store that Louis Serrelli opened at Western and Huron in 1934, the Serrelli family has been all about great products and friendly service. “When my grandfather came over from Calabria in the 1930s, he had the philosophy that ...

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Bertolli’s River Pizza

There is an old saying in Italian culture: “Families are like a fortress.” Tucked away in west suburban River Forest are two small businesses started by an Italian immigrant who wanted to create a fortress for his family and a business for his five children. Frank Bertolli is the proud owner of Bertolli’s River Pizza and Frank’s Deli, located at 7973 and 7971 Lake Street respectively. All five of his children — Carlo, Tony, John, Nora and Marilda — have had a hand in Bertolli’s success. Bertolli was born in 1949 in Mola di Bari. He came to the United ...

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Calabria Imports

When a young man works behind a deli at age 15, does he dream one day of owning it? Pat Roberto did. Most high schoolers work evenings, weekend and summers mowing lawns, babysitting or painting homes. But Roberto’s part-time job blended his Italian heritage with his quest for the future. “I had jobs here and there at Calabria Imports,” describes Roberto. “I always had the time in the summer to work at the store behind the deli, as a stock boy or a cashier. I grew up in it.” Spending the majority of his extracurricular life at Calabria Imports set ...

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Tuscany Distributors of Illinois

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.” Michael Mangini wholeheartedly agrees. When you’re sipping a Chianti at your favorite local ristorante, chances are good that it was made available by Mangini’s company, Tuscany Distributors of Illinois. After all, Mangini’s company distributes about 200,000 bottles of wine a year in the Chicago area alone. “We are the exclusive distributor for 230 different Italian wines,” Mangini explains. “Our wines come from all over Italy: Sicily, Lombardia, Venice, Naples, Bari and, of course, Tuscany.” Mangini was introduced to the wine business by a friend who owns Tuscany ...

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Aqua Fiori

Celebrating 25 years in business is a quite an accomplishment. But when you hear the founder of the company is only 42, you have to ask, “How did he do that?” Meet Gino Fioravanti. A River Forest native, Gino is celebrating his silver anniversary in the irrigation and landscape lighting trades. Gino was a regular teenager growing up. He was a star on the Oak Park & River Forest High School wrestling team and got along with everyone. But he was far ahead of his classmates when it came to entrepreneurial spirit. Going into his senior year, Gino and classmate ...

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Vintage glass artisan Victoria Onorato

Extremely talented artists are born with a gift, and sometimes that gift isn’t realized until later in life. Case in point? A retiree from the City of Chicago is now a nationally recognized heirloom glass artist who is using her talents to keep her Italian heritage alive. Victoria Onorato always knew she loved art. Her uncle, Vito Davi, was a world renowned sculptor and Onorato was always amazed with what he did with his hands. “From my upbringing, I had something artistic influencing me,” recalls Onorato. “When I was a little girl, I was always getting into trouble for playing ...

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Fasano Pies

Italians aren’t really known for baking pies. When it comes to sweets, things like cannoli or biscotti are what usually come out of an Italian kitchen. But Peter Fasano’s family must be doing something right. Fasano Pies has been in business in the Chicago area for four generations. Our story begins in 1927, when Italian immigrant Joseph Fasano Sr. started loading trucks for Wagner Pie Co. As a dedicated employee, he worked his way up to driving and selling pies on a route he started from scratch. “Why pies? My grandfather just loved, loved, loved the pie business,” says Peter ...

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