Media, community leaders rally around Dante luncheon

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Ron Onesti, Jennifer Lyons, Jo Ann Serpico and Antonio Romanucci

The Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans marked the 700th anniversary of the passing of Dante Alighieri with a standout media luncheon on Sept. 14. Galleria Marchetti in Chicago was bursting at the seams with journalists, elected officials and community leaders who had come to honor CBS President and General Manager Jennifer Lyons and Chicago attorney Antonio Romanucci. Lyons was the recipient of the divine poet’s namesake award, while Romanucci accepted the inaugural Dominic DiFrisco Lifetime Achievement Award.

Seated at the dais along with the honorees were past Dante Award recipients Dina Bair, Greg Caputo, Janet Davies, Mary Laney, Vince Gerasole, Alan Krashesky and Larry Wert. Also at the head table were John Idler, Allison Pure-Slovin and Lissa Druss, all of whom had received the Filippo Mazzei Award, given in years past to luminaries in the world of public affairs.

Rounding out the dais were Italian Consul General Thomas Botzios and his wife, Elisa; JCCIA President Ron Onesti, Executive Director Jo Ann Serpico and Scholarship Chairman Doug Olson; Avanti Group President and master of ceremonies Pasquale Gianni; Columbus Day Parade Co-Chairs Jeffrey and Lisa Sanfilippo; the Rev. Richard Fragomeni, rector of Our Lady of Pompeii; and National Italian American Foundation President Robert Allegrini.

Onesti opened the program by saluting members of the media, proclaiming, “They are the unsung heroes who must keep their composure during the most difficult of times. We thank you for your commitment to the truth.” Gianni sang Dante’s praises; Serpico thanked the Marchetti family, owners of the Como Inn and Galleria Marchetti, for their hospitality over the decades; and Olson presented this year’s John Fischetti Scholarship to University of Kentucky journalism major Nicholas Carlucci.

Gianni fondly recalled his grandfather, the late Dominic DiFrisco, who ran the event for nearly a half century, then turned the microphone over to Romanucci. “I was really thrilled when so many people asked me, ‘What’s the 7 on your lapel?’” Romanucci shared. “The No. 7 is something that I work for every day of my life, and that’s justice. The 7 represents the seventh amendment, and that’s the right to a civil jury trial.”

Lyons was introduced by Bair, a longtime friend and former co-worker at WGN-TV, who spoke of the honoree’s unflagging courage and integrity. Lyons noted, “During my 28 years in Chicago, I have attended many Dante luncheons and feel touched to join the ranks of all of these esteemed journalists who I’ve long admired. I loved (hearing Dominic’s) stories of service. He exuded pride and love of family, faith and community: something I share deeply.”

— Photos by Pat Specchio

Article and photos provided by the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans


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