Lou Carlozo

Lou Carlozo is award-winning journalist who spent 20 years reporting for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Chicago Tribune. He began writing for Fra Noi in 2007, and claims maternal and paternal southern Italian lineage. The monthly Lou&A columnist and a music reviewer/writer, his work has appeared in Reuters, Aol, The Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor and news outlets around the world. In 1993, he was a Pulitzer Prize team-reporting finalist for his contributions to the Tribune’s “Killing Our Children” series. He resides in Chicago with his wife of 21 years, a hospital chaplain, and their teenage son and daughter.

Museum founder Marianna Gatto

As executive director of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, Marianna Gatto has made it her life’s work to celebrate L.A.’s rich and largely unknown Italian legacy. Los Angeles is all too well known for its Hollywood heavies, rock stars and thriving Latino culture. But as Marianna Gatto will gladly tell you, Italian roots run rich and deep there in ways unlike any other American metropolis. Gatto, who serves as the executive director of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, dreamt of forming the institution that she now runs ever since first setting foot in an abandoned Italian …

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Digital baseball cards innovator Chris Vaccaro

Chris Vaccaro created a digital-age dynasty at Topps that built on the glory days of America’s most legendary baseball card company. If we’re lucky, we live out childhood dreams in adult careers, the preeminent example being the Little Leaguer who makes the starting lineup of a major league baseball team. While Chris Vaccaro never swung a bat at Yankee Stadium, he hit a grand slam when he became editor-in-chief and digital director at the Topps Company. Having collected sports cards as a kid — thousands of them — Vaccaro already had a heartstring attachment to the Topps product. Yet as …

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Documentary maker Gia Marie Amella

From the canals of Venice to the vineyards of Piedmont, Gia Marie grmella is hot on the trail of uncommon Italian stories.   If you were to pick a current documentarian for the subject of a documentary, Gia Marie Amella would be a smart choice. Together with her partner, Giuseppe “Beppe” Mangione, she’s the force behind Modio Media, a production company that first came to the attention of the Italian-American community with the 2007 release of “And They Came to Chicago: The Italian American Legacy.” In the intervening decade, Amella has pursued an ambitious production schedule that’s equal parts frenetic …

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Commedia dell’arte queen Chiara Durazzini

  A student of commedia dell’arte since her college days in Bologna, Chiara Durazzini champions the art form here in America through her troupe, Pazzi Lazzi. As a champion of commedia dell’arte — an Italian theatrical tradition with roots in the 1500s — Chiara Durazzini is used to hearing theater aficionados confess their ignorance. In some cases, not even Italian Americans quite know what it is. At least that’s what they say, anyway. As the Florence native likes to tell people, “If you think you haven’t seen commedia dell’arte, maybe you have — and just didn’t know it. Shakespeare based …

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Memoirist Chandi Wyant

  A trek along a medieval pilgrimage route in Italy moved Chandi Wyant from personal tragedy to spiritual triumph and an award-winning memoir. Italy has no shortage of stunning historic roads (think Appian Way), but when it comes to pilgrimage routes, few can match the Via Francigena. It owes its existence to a little-known abbot named Sigeric who, after John XV named him Archbishop of Canterbury, forever marked the trail by writing about the 80 mansions he stayed in (and perhaps partied at) along the way. Fast forward to 2009, when historian and world traveler Chandi Wyant tackled the path …

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Electric conductor Emanuele Andrizzi

  Passionate about opera in general and lesser known Italian works in particular, Emanuele Andrizzi has set his sights on launching the Midwest’s first opera festival. Conductor, composer and pianist Dr. Emanuele Andrizzi caps his emails with the declaration of another Italian artist, World War I-era writer Gabriele D’Annunzio: “Ama il tuo sogno se pur ti tormenta,” or “Love your dream even though it torments you.” It’s a refreshing tonic to the somewhat mushy 21st-Century mantra “do what you love.” And it defines Andrizzi’s steady path toward artistic mastery. Grit and persistence characterize Andrizzi, who started learning his craft, honing …

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Animal rescuer Leo Grillo

    Arriving in Hollywood in 1979 to pursue his dream of becoming an actor, Leo Grillo’s life was transformed by a dream of a completely different sort. The majestic creature came to Leo Grillo in dream after dream after dream. Not that those visions meshed exactly with his occupational dream at the time. It was 1979, and Grillo, the new kid in town, was working hard to get his Hollywood career off the ground. Then came a plot twist straight out of Tinseltown. For no specific reason, Grillo embarked on a road trip to Bakersfield, some 100 miles north …

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Crusading sculptor Walter S. Arnold

With gratitude, grit and generosity, Walter S. Arnold is on a mission to save an Italian cemetery’s incredible, endangered works. To see Michelangelo’s sculptures of the Unfinished Slaves — a 16th-century project meant for the tomb of Pope Julius II, but abandoned when the money ran out — is to behold figures clenched in an eternal, tortured struggle to break loose from the marble that encases them. They bear mute testimony to what the artist once said, that he worked to liberate forms imprisoned in marble: that his job was simply to remove the extraneous. And many sculptures must be …

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School music advocate Suzanne D’Addario Brouder

Her family has made music strings for hundreds of years. As head of the D’Addario Foundation, Suzanne D’Addario Brouder toils to make music education possible for underserved kids. Imagine growing up among music royalty, the guitar-string makers to the stars. These days, the roll call of artists using D’Addario strings includes the likes of Keith Urban, Dave Matthews, Joe Satriani, Al Di Meola, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits — and if you’ve got a few hours, we could supply you a list of hundreds more. Is it fair to say that the D’Addario family — which has been at this …

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Filmmaker Kirsten Keppel

A first-time filmmaker, she took her passion for an Italian-American tradition to the finals of a prestigious national cinema competition. There are many who feel they have a film inside of them, but few who have the vision and gumption to make that dream a video reality. And for those who get at least that far, the results often bear an amateurish, awkward stamp. Given those obstacles, Kirsten Keppel’s emergence as a documentary filmmaker is, indeed, the stuff of movie legend. Keppel turned her fascination with ancestry into artistry in her 2017 documentary “Ringraziamenti: The Saint Joseph’s Day Table Tradition.” …

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