Fond memories of the Roseland Operetta Club

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Let me say that many of us have left Roseland but we’ve never left behind the people, places or good times that Roseland gave us. The rich history and connection that we have carried with us these many years is borne out in the respect we have for many of those we knew in our youth who are now elderly. Among these “precious gems” from our youth that have always shined brightly when we recall them is the late Anne Ronzani.

Anne Ronzani (nee Lavarda), passed away June 5, one day before her 97th birthday. She was the wife for 61 years of the late Carl Ronzani, and mother of Richard C. Ronzani. She was the daughter of Elvira (nee Catto) and John B. Lavarda, and sister of Louis (Louise) Lavarda.

I first met Anne when she left me a voicemail about my column and a mention I had made of the Roseland Operetta Club. It turned out that Anne’s family played a big part in the successful transitioning of the club from a sports centered organization into a neighborhood opera company.

Anne was very proud of her father having been a founder of the organization and of the fact that whenever an opera was being rehearsed, many of the performers would assemble in the family basement to rehearse. In Anne’s honor, I’d like to dedicate much of this column to her beloved Roseland Operetta Club and its profound effect on those it touched with class and culture.

In the 1930s, the sports-oriented Roma soccer team was created as a source of camaraderie for the paesani of the Kensington / Roseland / Pullman neighborhoods. This group was very successful and at the end of many matches, the players and their friends and families would gather. These impromptu gatherings would eventually turn into a songfest featuring tunes from their early lives in Italy and eventually opera songs that many of the members knew.

With so much obvious talent, the members soon decided to expand into the music oriented Roseland Operetta Club. For a number of years, they rented the Venetian Hall at 139 Kensington until the member’s contributions covered the purchase of a building at 372 Kensington, which they converted into their clubhouse and performance center, complete with bocce courts with a phone number of CO4-9865 (just to bring back some memories).

The founders were Battista DalSanto, Louis Frigo, Felix Stella, Joseph Stella, Anthony Stella, William Carollo, Anthony Carollo, Joseph Bortoli, Frank Bortoli, Valentine Brazzale, Dominic DeVito, Charles Sola, Narciso DeMure, Emillio Valente and John Lavarda (Anne’s father).

The ROC presented many operas throughout the years. Through the generosity of Beverly Angio Carli, I have 11 of the original librettos. These include “La Bohemè,” “Carmen,” “La traviata,” “I pagliacci and “Rigoletto.” It’s obvious that the ROC wasn’t a mere group of amateurs but a talented troupe that never let the difficulties of an opera keeps them from creating a sophisticated presentation for their paesani.

There is a great photo from the ’30 or ’40s of the women members of the ROC dressed as men, I’m sure for a performance of some sort. They are very bold as they are holding drinks and cigarettes in a photo that was taken in someone’s living room. I hope that some of my readers might recall their parents taking part in some of the ROC events and performances.




Friend’s of Pullman Family Picnic

I’m sure you all recall the song line that goes, “It’s now or never, tomorrow may be too late.” Well, that definitely holds true for this event, which I’ve been writing about for months — It is finally here! For all of you who haven’t been able to find sufficient reason to come back to the area, for all of you are afraid to come back for a look-see, and for all of you who have come back and enjoyed yourselves: this is an opportunity not to be missed.

It has finally become a Pullman tradition that has evolved into a full-blown family event. Many families come down early and claim a two or three table wide space along the edges of Arcade Park to accommodate all of their friends and family. They will show up with their tables, chairs and food and drink just like the old St. Anthony Holy Name Picnics or the picnics the other Roseland parishes and organizations had. This ‘get there early to save a space’ attitude began a couple of years ago and is now a necessity.

This allows for a central location two which you can direct friends and family and that will serve as a base for those who wander the park to see who else they know. Many of the picnickers also take the time to tour the neighborhood, recall old haunts, and to see what has changed in Pullman. You’ll find that not much has changed to the front of many of the houses since we’ve long been declared a historic preservation area. In other words, Pullman looks the same and, if I might add personally, it is easy to reminisce to the point of imaging how things were when Pullman was first established in the 1880s.

The seventh annual Friends of Pullman Picnic will take place on Saturday, Aug. 1 from 1 to 8 p.m. in the Pullman National Monument District at Arcade Park. Event agenda: Noon to 1 pm., Kid’s Bike Parade around Arcade Park; games throughout the day; raffle tickets to support the event; food and beverages available for purchase; and live entertainment at the Hotel Florence south porch area. The day is always topped off with a 5 p.m. group photo which is taken in front of the Hotel Florence.

Weather permitting, I will be hosting a display of Roseland memorabilia for viewing, including the Roseland Operetta Club librettos and annual dinner booklets; many Fenger Courier yearbooks; St. Anthony celebration booklets; photos of Roseland/Pullman/Kensington; and some physical memorabilia such as an old Rose Bowl chandelier and a Sports Hall of Fame montage, and signage from the old Landmark Inn.

If you can’t make this event (and you better ahve a really good reason!) the Pullman House Tour which takes place on Oct. 10 and 11 is another great way to step back into the past. You can purchase your tickets in advance online or by mail. Prices are $23 adult, $20 senior, $20 all advance tickets by Oct. 8.

As a National Monument, Pullman has gotten national attention and residents from all of Chicagoland, its suburbs, and neighboring states are interested in its historic and preservation value and wish to personally visit. There are a limited number of tickets so if you think you might attend, you should go ahead and get the tickets now.

Feast of St. Anthony

The annual St. Anthony Feast Day Celebration was able to take place through the good graces of both God and St. Anthony! In between a rainstorm and intermittent rainfall everyone was able to enjoy a breezy day of sunshine, reminiscing and great food and music.

Jack Rossi, Beverly Angio Carli, Kathy Sandona, Mickey, Delia Garcia, Patricia Pinto and Tony Pitttacora did a great job with pasta and meatballs for all the former parishioners that came to enjoy a good time. Those of you who couldn’t make it missed out on receiving some blessed St. Anthony bread. There’s always the second Sunday of next year!

Contact me at 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756; or, or visit Roseland Roundtable on Facebook.


About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.

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  1. So great to read your column. Thanks.

  2. Lois D. Harring

    Thanks, C.J., for this article! I never knew that my Nonno, Battista Dal Santo and my Uncle Joe Bortoli, were co founders also of the Operetta club. I always wondered how my mother had a part in an operetta! She did not have a good voice!

  3. Michael (Panozzo) Podgorny

    Love what you are providing. I was a member of Casa for quite a few years. I just love to hear and see something and the history kept about the the Venato. My family is from Tresche Conca/ Asiago. My Nonno start working in Illinois during the season as in Peru and Marseilles. Eventually he moved to Kensington in 1911 and brought his whole family at the time to Illinois. Saint Anthony was our Catherdal, my parents moved to Dolton and St. Mary’s Parish. But we knew how to shop the old neighborhood. Pannettis for Choopa and breads, Frigos for sausage, Italian Wine and cheese for big staples and what a sub sandwich. Soriano music is where are started my drumming carrier. frank Bortoli was another part music wise. Flagg Brothers for shoes, etc. Oh you could just go on and on. Thanks and keep up the great work.
    Mike Podgorny

  4. Mary Pizzato from Manteno

    Enjoyed reading your article about Anne Ronzani and the Operetta. She was such a special lady.
    Marked my calendar for the up coming events in Pullman. Thanks CJ.

  5. I remember as a small boy, my mother and father taking me to the Operetta Club on the street car from 103rd and cottage to 115th street.
    I believe I recognize the man in the picture of the 1930, 1st from the right, second row as Frank Bortoli, my accordion teacher. I wonder if anyone could verify.
    Jack Cappozzo

    • Hi Jack, I just came across this article and you are correct…the man in the picture is Frank Bortoli. He was my father-in-law.

      Karen Bortoli

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