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Frankie’s feeds the need at local hospital

Frank Conforti of Frankie’s Deli in Oakbrook Terrace and Dr. Tim Fendon of Good Advocate Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove have been friends since childhood. When coronavirus patients began pouring into the hospital’s emergency room, Conforti didn’t hesitate to lend a hand. “The day it started, Tim called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re all working 16-hour shifts, and we can’t leave. Can you drop off 20 lunches?’” Conforti says. “He offered to pay, but I said, ‘No way. With everything you’re doing for us, it’s the least I can do for you.’” The individually bagged lunches magically appeared, complete with ...

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Bartucci turns lemons into limoncello

Like every other local restaurant, BarTucci’s on Harlem Avenue has been hit hard by the pandemic. With business slowed to a crawl and inventory sitting in coolers, owner Gino Bartucci stepped out onto the street in mid-March with bagged lunches that he distributed for free to Chicago Streets and Sanitation workers. Bartucci has stayed afloat since then by selling meals to curbside customers. Meanwhile, he has broadened his generosity to embrace first responders and health care workers, as well as veterans and the homeless, bestowing more than 5,000 meals to date. “Our most important priority right now is taking care ...

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Old Neighborhood Club goes to bat for veterans

The Old Neighborhood Italian American Club takes Memorial Day very seriously.  On the last Monday in May, for 12 years running, members have faithfully gathered around the veterans’ fountain and monument in front of the Near South Side club for services that include a color guard, taps, and a wreath-laying and flag-raising ceremony. Unable to do so this year because of the lockdown, the club decided to pay its respects by providing the staff and residents at Hines VA Hospital with 100 free meals on the Friday before Memorial Day. Capri Ristorante in Burr Ridge was commissioned to prepare and ...

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Local groups gather online during pandemic

Organizations around the world are convening electronically in response to the coronavirus outbreak, and local Italian-American groups are no exception. Board meetings via Zoom and similar apps are commonplace, and virtual gatherings for cultural, business and social purposes are on the rise. The conversational Italian group I Ciceroni meets via Zoom from 7-8:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month. (Kathryn Occhipinti, 800-257-9877) The Chicagoland Italian American Professionals hosts a Leads and Referrals Virtual Breakfast via Zoom at 7:30 a.m. every Tuesday. (Salvatore Sciacca, 312-617-5031)  

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Fricano daughters offer NW suburbs signs of hope

They began popping up all over the Northwest suburbs like daffodils in the spring: lawn signs offering words of encouragement like “Smile,” “Hope,” “Believe,” “Trust in God” and “We’re all in this together.” First there were a handful, then a few dozen. At last count, there were more than 500, all created by a quartet of daughters looking to spread a little sunshine during these dark times. “My kids were all home from school, and everybody was a little bit down,” explains Itasca resident Peter Fricano Jr. “As they were making the signs, they started to feel really good as ...

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Ron Giordano lends a hand across the border and back

In the course of a 50-year career at Huntley-based H.S. Crocker, Ron Giordano has helped turn a money-losing plant into an award-winning operation. He is now CEO and president of a business that specializes in food packaging, producing items such as foil lids for yogurt containers and individual-dose pharmaceutical products. His remarkable career achievements are mirrored by his philanthropic drive. As a volunteer for the Chicagoland Radio Informational Service, he has read the news to the visually impaired, and as a member and past president of the Columbian Club of Chicago, he has organized fundraisers to assist more than 70 ...

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Literary symposium takes to the internet

IA Literati, a celebration of local Italian-American authors and books, will move to an online platform this year. Typically held in the Italian Cultural Center at Casa Italia in Stone Park, the literary seminar will be presented via Zoom in two back-to-back sessions starting at 10 a.m. on June 13.  Participating authors include John Cavallone, Mary E. Matury Gibson, CJ Martello and Marcella Bernard, with Fra Noi Associate Editor Fred Gardaphe serving as the keynote speaker. This year’s seminar will be dedicated to the memory of poet, essayist and translator Joseph Tusiani. For details, email casalibrary@gmail.com.  

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Swiss guard stands watch over St. Peter’s at Casa

Thanks to a donation from local businessman Gino Bartucci, a member of the pope’s elite Swiss Guard now watches over the model of St. Peter’s Basilica at Casa Italia — or so it would seem. The model has been on display on the third floor of the Italian Cultural Center for decades, but the uniform was in storage until Bartucci donated a mannequin from his Harlem Avenue gift shop, La Bomboniera. A longtime supporter of the Casa, Bartucci previously donated a G. Armani ceramic presepio for display in the cultural center’s John Cadel Art Gallery.    

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Farella launches couture bridal fashion house

Cara Maria Farella opened a couture bridal fashion house last year and wasted no time bringing her work to the runway. The 27-year-old staged her first collection, Il Tesoro, in January at Chicago’s Kimpton Gray Hotel. The collection features rich fabrics embedded with gemstones, pearls, crystals and forged metals. Unusual for her industry, Farella not only designs her dresses but fabricates them on her own commercial production loom. Farella graduated from the Chicago Academy of the Arts High School and UK’s prestigious Central Saint Martins and Chelsea School of Art and Design.  

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Festa chronicler goes to bat for la banda

Back in the heyday of la festa, hundreds of Italian patron saint festivals graced America’s urban landscape each year, and many major metropolitan areas boasted at least one feast band. Most of those celebrations have disappeared, along with the bands that enlivened them, but the music will play on thanks to Marcantonio Pezzano. The veteran festa chronicler is assembling a trove of photos, oral histories and sheet music into a booklet, CD and archive preserving the Italian feast band tradition. To make a donation, click here.

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