Tina Valentino

Gioacchino’s celebrates 40th anniversary

Jack and Nella Curatolo, owners of Gioacchino’s Ristorante in Bellwood, have been welcoming residents from across Chicagoland — and around the world — into their humble Italian “cucina” for decades. This year marks the 40th year of an American success story — perfecting family recipes and making stuffed, pan and thick pizzas; pasta entrees; panzarotti and other Calabrese-inspired dishes the choice of distinguished food critics such as the late Pat Bruno as well as countless customers. Despite the long hours of tremendously difficult restaurant work, Nella and Jack forged on, adding to their menu, never cutting corners or compromising quality …

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Custard’s last stand: Zeppole

Steeped in tradition and rich in the masterful way that four generations have preserved, Lezza Spumoni & Desserts in Bellwood create confectionary wonders from recipes that originated in the small Neapolitan town of Nola, Italy. Salvatore Lezza held on firmly to those recipes when he set up shop in Chicago in 1905. He teamed up with his cousin and opened the Ferrara Lezza Co. in the Taylor Street neighborhood, creating confections, cakes, authentic cannoli and uniquely genuine spumoni that would become his legacy. Squeezed out of the city by the University of Illinois expansion, the company moved to Bellwood in …

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Folks with a gift for giving

As I write, it seems much too early to think about Christmas. Having just returned from Sinsinawa Mound in Wisconsin, founded by Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP, the colors of autumn surrounding the “home of the young eagle” combined with the anticipation of news from Rome about his Beatification are both breathtaking. I may have missed taking part in the Columbus Day Parade, but walking on the hallowed Mound grounds, holding Fr. Samuel’s penance chain in my unworthy hands, is a celebration of Italian heritage all by itself. Praying with the chain, I boldly asked for miracles for friends and relatives; …

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An emancipating trip to the Delta

Dominican University in River Forest has always blazed new trails in study abroad opportunities for its undergrad students as well as alumni. From London and Florence to China, El Salvador and Poland, Dominican has opened doors, and consequently, the minds and hearts of fortunate travelers, to innovate concepts and lasting experiences. Recent years have been no exception. Sociology and Criminology Department Chair Dr. Janice Monti has blazed yet another trail, albeit a dustier one, much closer to home: The Delta Blues Tour. The only northern school to offer this kind of civil rights and blues experiential learning activity, Monti has …

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Pitching in, whatever the weather

“Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning.” — George Carlin, 1937-2008 If you think its butter but it’s not, it’s Chiffon. In that part of my brain that stockpiles all useless trivia, I still remember this commercial from the 1970s that featured Mother Nature getting fooled… and not liking it, so she angrily summoned up some lightning and thunder to make her point. I realize that Oscar Wilde was right on the money when he said, “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” How true. But Wilde was spared …

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Mickey’s stands the test of time

As Big Box stores and restaurant chains lock their doors on a daily basis, it makes you wonder if they couldn’t learn something from people like Mickey and Ann Sangiacomo who, with a little money and a lot of hard work, put their hot dog stand in the Vienna Hall of Fame… and their children on the road to success. Mickey Sr. didn’t rely on overpaid real estate consultants to help him choose the location at 635 Mannheim Road in Bellwood in 1959. In fact, the parcel he envisioned as a used car lot was nothing more than a vacant …

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Borsato Museum a national treasure in Northlake

Very few people even know it exists. A national museum of timeless and exceedingly valuable treasures sits relatively unviewed and unappreciated in suburban Chicago. Over 100 pieces of incomparably vibrant and colorful porcelain statuary, created by one of Italy’s and the world’s most renowned sculptors, are housed in suburban Northlake, thousands of miles from bustling Milan, where they were painstakingly created by the hands of Antonio Borsato. Located inside Casa San Carlo Retirement Community, 420 N. Wolf Road in Northlake, the National Borsato Museum is a familiar site for staff and the nearly 200 residents.  “We feel it is such …

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A visit with author Luisa Scala-Buehler

You will find recurring themes in my columns: tradition, Dominican University, Italian Americans and unsung heroes. In this particular column, all of the above might apply. It had been too long since I had savored the early-morning calm at my alma mater Rosary College (now Dominican University) in River Forest. Waiting for Luisa Scala-Buehler to arrive, a veritable floodgate of undergraduate memories opened, as they usually do when I am at Dominican. I try to always take a moment to bask in the glow of epic experiences and magnanimous moments on that campus that would provide the moral compass for …

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Scudiero’s rolls with the changes

Despite the fact that I am a full-blooded Italian-American who has been writing since 1982, I can’t help but feel like one of the “new fish” getting off the bus in the movie the Shawshank Redemption. Being invited to write for Fra Noi is almost as ominous as my first moments in freshman P.E. class, trembling in my one-piece gym suit and cowering as our instructor, with totally unnecessary bias, warned the entire class to be afraid of the girls from Melrose Park. For the most part, I am proud to be a lifelong Melrose Parker, having lived among rich …

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Support the cause to canonize Father Samuel!

There are few things we know for certain in this life, with the exception of death and taxes. But I have learned, especially in recent weeks and months, that there is at least one other certainty: when people rally together for a cause and make their voices heard, things will change. Egypt, the Tea Party and elected officials in Wisconsin, for example, all know this to be true. So I take my case to you, the people — Italian Americans and other descendants of hard-working immigrants, residents of the Midwest, Roman Catholics, graduates of Catholic schools, students of history, theology, …

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