Home / Author Archives: Pam DeFiglio

Author Archives: Pam DeFiglio

A lifelong writer. Pam DeFiglio works as an editor at the Chicago Tribune Media Group/Pioneer Press. She has won two Chicago Headline Club awards for previous work as an editorial writer and features writer at the Daily Herald. She also won National Federation of Press Women awards for Chicago Tribune news features on immigrants, and has worked in public relations at a university. She loves Italy and all things Italian, thanks to Nanna and a magnificent college year in Rome. She's grateful for all the people working to celebrate Italian culture in Chicago. Contact her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/pamdefiglio/

Windy City shows Chiaverini the love

Miles of charm and a winning on-air chemistry with co-host Val Warner have contributed to eight years in the spotlight on “Windy City Live.” Ryan Chiaverini projects such a warm, affable presence as the co-host of the ABC7 talk show “Windy City Live” that as I waited to talk to him, I wondered whether he acts that way in real life or whether it’s just a persona for TV. A moment later, he bounded into his office with a big smile, a proffered handshake and a friendly gesture motioning me to sit on a sofa. During a round of chitchat, ...

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Loyola launches groundbreaking Italian American studies program

A sixth-generation Italian American with a profound connection to her roots, Carla Simonini, Ph.D., arrives in Chicago next month to lead Loyola University’s Italian-American Studies program. Complimenti! It took five years, a massive fund-raising campaign that netted $500,000 and a historic commitment by Loyola University of Chicago, but our metropolis finally has an Italian-American studies program to call its own. Though the program is based at Loyola, which matched the $500,000 to create a $1 million endowment, organizers say it also belongs to the local Italian-American community, which will be invited to participate through a variety of outreach efforts. These ...

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New theater troupe stages stirring debut

One of the most stirring moments in “Piano Piano: Stories From My Father,” comes when an Italian-American man tells how his immigrant father went in search of food during the Great Depression. The church’s food pantry ran out before he could get any, but on his way home, he saw a “for lease” sign and leased a grocery store, which helped get his family get through the Depression. The play takes place as a conversation between Rocco Chrisfotano, played by Antonio Brunetti, and his daughter Roxanne Christofano Pilat. She plays herself in the Italian American Theatre of Chicago’s debut production, ...

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Capriati re-imagines Italian radio

After 25 years of hosting an Italian radio show in Chicago, Pasquale “Pat” Capriati was ready to shake things up a little. Capriati, who also performs with the Chicago-area Italian band Diamanti, decided to double the length of his show, Domenica Insieme, from one hour to two, add John Conenna as co-host and sprinkle more English-language conversation into the mix. The show airs Sundays from 9 to 11 a.m. on WCKG 1530 AM radio. “John was a guest on the show, and I told him he had an open invitation to come back,” Capriati says. “He’s been coming every week for the ...

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Casa instructor Giovanna “Jackie” Dimetros

It only seems like Casa Italia’s popular language and cuisine instructor, Giovanna “Jackie” Dimetros, is leading a double life. Some people know her as Giovanna and others as Jackie, she has inexplicably English and Greek surnames, and people aren’t certain whether she’s a cooking or Italian teacher or both. But she is in fact one delightful Italian-born Chicagoan who integrates all these identities. The story begins during World War II. An American Army officer, Major Jack Spears, a Chicago native stationed in Tuscany, fell in love with his future wife Miranda in the town of Livorno. After they married, they ...

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Singer Cory Bolletino

Growing up blind and with a variety of medical conditions, 27-year-old Cory Bolletino of Mount Prospect attended mainly special needs schools, and occasionally had to sit out of school for medical reasons. He didn’t have much of a chance to make childhood friends, he says, so his world centered around his mother Veronica, father Rick, and music. “The way I used to relax was through music. Music was my best friend,” says Bolletino. “It will always be my best friend.” He has spent years listening to singers like Andrea Bocelli, Julio Iglesias, Marco Antonio Solis and Camilo Sesto, and likes ...

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Fiasche family spreads the word about nduja

In only three years, Antonio “Tony” Fiasche has led the effort to pluck nduja, a spreadable salume, from the obscurity of a small Calabrian town and make it something of a sensation in the gourmet world. The Wall Street Journal and foodie magazines have been salivating over it, and chefs worldwide are inventing ways to use it in pizza, vinaigrette, aioli, arrabiata, marinara, hollandaise and more. The skyrocketing acclaim of Fiasche’s company, Nduja Artisans, has engendered plans to open a gourmet deli just west of the Loop in the near future. But like many success stories, Fiasche’s began decades earlier. ...

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Linguistic entrepreneur Gianluca Butticè

When Gianluca Butticè moved from his native Sicily to the U.S., he faced the challenges of learning English and American culture. Surmounting that learning curve inspired him to make the journey easier for others. So after spending the past several years teaching Italian, he is branching out into offering tours of Italy that encompass language and culture in a mutually enhancing way. “I know the doors that are opened when you learn a new language,” he says, explaining that traveling, learning the culture of a country and learning the language can all reinforce each other. Butticè, 41, believes everything he ...

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Addison Trail instructor Judie Vitiritti-Lynch

At a recent awards banquet, Judie Vitiritti-Lynch was so engaged in talking to her former students that she didn’t hear the emcee announce her name. A colleague prompted her to walk up to the podium, because she had won the Italian Consulate in Chicago’s first-ever Midwest Award for Leadership in the Teaching of the Italian Language and Culture. “I was stunned, because I was up against some very good people, and everyone was so deserving,” recalls Vitiritti-Lynch, who became Addison Trail High School’s first Italian language teacher in the early 1990s and pioneered the program. In her first year, she ...

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Adult language instructor Kathryn Occhipinti

Growing up in an Italian-American family, Kathryn Occhipinti experienced the Italian food, the emphasis on togetherness and the practicing of the Catholic faith. But she felt one piece of her heritage was missing: the language. Her grandparents and parents would converse in Italian, making it even more of a mysterious to her. After completing her medical training, she spent years studying the language, writing books and teaching classes in conversational Italian. She gears her efforts toward adult learners with a desire to travel to Italy. “Today, people are trying to understand where they came from, and the language was really ...

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