Q&A

Philly Museum founder Michael Bonasera

A native of Brooklyn, Michael Bonasera has invested countless volunteer hours in the creation and running of the History of Italian Immigration Museum in Philadelphia. Michael Bonasera is the designer, builder and curator of the History of Italian Immigration Museum in Philadelphia. A mechanical engineer by trade, Bonasera, 69, has poured thousands of volunteer hours into the museum, which is part of Filitalia International, a nonprofit that promotes and preserves Italian heritage, language and customs throughout the world. He spoke with Fra Noi about how he started the museum, its mission and how it has evolved over the last decade. …

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Theologian and author John Cavadini

A man of faith as well as letters, John Cavadini teamed up with his daughter to co-author a book that makes the lives of saints accessible to young and old alike. “Saints: A Family Story” is a collection of affectionately told and gorgeously illustrated narratives of 34 holy men and women. The title is fitting, given that the saints are “presented as a ‘Family,’ living in many different times and places,” according to the authors, the father-daughter team of John and Catherine (Katie) Cavadini, who wrote the book for friends and family. While the book is written for children, its …

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Homeboy Industries CEO Thomas Vozzo

A high-powered corporate executive for most of his career, Thomas Vozzo took a leap of faith more than a decade ago and dedicated himself to helping former gang members turn their lives around. As a middle-class kid who went on to forge a successful career in the corporate world, Thomas Vozzo hardly had anything in common with former gang members who’d been to prison. And yet, Vozzo has thrived personally and professionally in his role as CEO of Homeboy Industries, a nonprofit in Los Angeles that provides job training and support services to formerly incarcerated people who want to leave …

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Fermilab scientist Anna Grassellino

A summer intern at Fermilab in Batavia in the early years of her career, Anna Grassellino now heads one of the country’s major quantum research initiatives based at the lab. Nearly two decades ago, Anna Grassellino spent the summer as an intern at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, which sparked her interest in research. After rising to the top of her field, the Italian-born scientist now serves as director of the National Quantum Information Science Center at Fermilab, the same place where it all started. Her groundbreaking research has earned her a multitude of awards, most recently the 2023 New Horizons …

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Historian Jessica Dello Russo

A proverbial knock on the door of a historical society in Boston led Jessica Dello Russo across the ocean to explore the burial practices of one of ancient Rome’s most storied minorities. The ancient catacombs of Rome — underground tunnels with slots in the walls where early Christians were interred — are well known to most connoisseurs of the Italian capital. Perhaps less known is the fact that there are also Jewish catacombs there and elsewhere in Italy. Jessica Dello Russo, who in January earned a Ph.D. from the Vatican’s Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology in Rome, is an expert …

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Podcaster Dolores Alfieri

Viewing her connection to her Italian heritage as a superpower, Dolores Alfieri has devoted most of her professional career to celebrating those strong ties. From working as director of Italian affairs for the Office of the Governor of the State of New York to co-developing a podcast that celebrates the Italian-American experience, Dolores Alfieri’s professional and creative endeavors are a testament to her belief that a strong connection to one’s heritage is “a superpower.” Alfieri was instrumental in securing a place on the National Register of Historic Places for the Columbus statue in New York City’s Columbus Circle. Her work …

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NIABA elects Sommario president

Recently elected to the presidency of of the National Italian American Bar Association, Frank Sommario dedicated his career to shining a positive light on his heritage and his profession. Justice may be blind, but Chicago attorney Frank Sommario has a clear-eyed view of his duties as an American attorney of Italian descent. “I want to show that Italian Americans continue to contribute to the legal system in a positive way, despite the stereotypes that our community has endured over the decades,” he says. “It makes you work harder because you know you not only represent yourself, your firm and your …

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Getting to know Sondheim

A political reporter by trade, Paul Salsini parlayed a fascination with one of America’s great musical minds into a long-running newsletter and now a book. Paul Salsini was a journalistic mainstay in Milwaukee for decades, serving as a reporter and editor for The Milwaukee Journal for 37 years and as the Wisconsin correspondent for The New York Times for 15. While his coverage gravitated toward government and politics, he nurtured a longtime fascination with one of the greatest musical writers of all time: Stephen Sondheim. Not satisfied with admiring the maestro’s work from afar, Salsini reached out to him in …

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Italian Trade Agency Director Marco Verna

If you just bought an Italian product from your local grocery market or bookstore, chances are Marco Verna and his staff at the Italian Trade Agency helped put it on the shelf. Have you ever wondered how so many delicious Italian cheeses, pastas, sauces and wines show up in your local supermarket? It’s a little bit of magic created by an agency of the Italian government with a local branch located right on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. Marco Verna arrived from Italy last September to head the Italian Trade Agency in the Windy City. Known in Italy as ICE (Istituto per …

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Curricular revolutionary Diana Hartmann

An educator of Italian descent, Diana Hartmann is spearheading a drive to introduce Italian-American history into grade and high school curricula across the state. In this era of ever-expanding inclusion, Italian Americans have long been the odd community out. That may soon change in Illinois if Diana Hartmann has anything to do with it. An educational administrator of Italian descent, Hartmann has watched as books about Italian and Italian-American history and culture have disappeared from the shelves of school libraries. Last fall, she took action to reverse the trend. “I wanted to make sure that our contributions and experiences received …

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