Casa Italia shines spotlight on Albert Belmonte

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Casa Italia honored Albert Belmonte as Man of the Year on Feb. 9 at Alta Villa Banquets in Addison.

The following profile was provided by the sponsoring organization.


If you listen to Al Belmonte, you’d think that Casa Italia chose the wrong guy for their 2019 Man of the Year.

“When they asked me, I thought they were joking,” Belmonte says. “I feel honored and a little floored.”

But if you talk to anyone else in the community, you’ll know that the Casa got it exactly right.

“He’s a man who knows where he’s needed and steps up to the task, and when he offers his help, he’s got it taken care of,” says 2019 Gala Chairperson Lisa Perkins. “Everybody who knows him loves him. He’s a gentleman and a friend.”

A cornerstone of the Calabrese community, he has been involved in the Feast of San Francesco di Paola since its inception 37 years ago, and he has been active in the Calabresi in America Organization for more than two decades.

A longtime CIAO board member, he has been running the group’s monthly meetings for 16 years. He’d be a shoe-in for president, according to Perkins, who currently holds that post. “If I ran against him in an election, he would win,” she assures.

So why hasn’t he run? “The president is the first to get shot,” Belmonte jokes with his trademark deadpan humor.

Membership in the Chicagoland Italian American Charitable Organization and the St. Anthony Chapter of the IANU Foundation round out his community involvement.

Belmonte is best known as the proprietor of Belmonte Brothers Florist, a fabled enterprise that has been beautifying the Chicago area for more than eight decades.

The business was founded on Taylor Street in the early 1930s by Belmonte’s dad, Umberto, whom everyone knew as McGee, and his uncle Victor.

McGee and his wife, Louise, had three children — Mary, Frances and Albert — whom they raised near Chicago and Laramie avenues.

“My dad was a florist and my mom was a nurse, and they were as different as night and day,” Belmonte recalls. “My dad was a typical Taylor Street gentleman, rough but with a big heart, and my mom was gentle and giving.”

Belmonte grew up in the florist shop, which his father moved to 6264 W. North Ave., and he started working there right after high school. He joined the business full time after attending Triton College and graduating from Northeastern University, and he’s never looked back.

“What can I say? I enjoy the business, and I enjoy working with the customers,” he explains. “It’s a business, but you create so much beauty and so much happiness. It’s a great way to make a living.”

“I especially love it when we’re busy,” he adds. “You get a call in the morning and they need something by 2 o’clock and boom, you gotta get it done. It’s like extreme sports, except with flowers!”

The company does everything from Mother’s Day bouquets to weddings for 700 guests, and their funeral arrangements are the stuff of legends. “We’ve done them in the shape of bingo cards, the state of Illinois, a bottle of Guinness,” he says. “You name it, we can make it happen.”

Belmonte does everything from the heart, whether it’s organizing a CIAO meeting or donating corsages to a dinner dance.

“San Francesco, the Calabresi, CIACO, the Casa, they’re like big extended families to me,” he says. “I love being a part of it.”

Belmonte is just as happy to be a part of his own extended family, which includes his daughters, Nicole and Natalie, and their children; his nephew, Michael, who’s like a son to him; and his partner of 30 years, Sharon, and her children.

“Family is everything, right?” Belmonte says. “I’m looking forward to celebrating this honor with all of my families, all of the friends I’ve made along the way, and all the new ones I’m going to make that night!”

About Fra Noi

Fra Noi produces a magazine and website that serve the Chicago-area Italian-American community. Our magazine offers our readers a monthly feast of news and views, culture and entertainment that keeps our diverse and widely scattered readers in touch with each other and their heritage. Our website offers a dizzying array of information drawn from every corner of the local community.

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