The Italian American Political Coalition honored a pair of local dynamos at its annual Heritage Celebration. Leyden Township Assessor Al Biancalana received the coalition’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the event, and DuPage County board member Sam Tornatore received the group’s William Paca Award. The following profiles were provided by the sponsoring organization:
Albert J. Biancalana Jr. is a native of west suburban Elmwood Park and has dedicated his life to the betterment of his community. He is the eldest son of Albert and Helen Biancalana and has two brothers, Jim (Judy) and the late Bob (Rose). He and his late wife, Arlene, were married in 1959, raising three children in Elmwood Park — Al (Laura), Jeanne (John) and Tony (Trayce) — who gave them eight beautiful grandchildren: Meghan, Erin, Anthony, Nick, AJ, Sophie, Jack and Audrey. He is a son-in-law to the late Luigi and Elsie Antognoli and a brother-in-law and uncle to many.
In 1929, Al’s father opened an ice cream parlor on Grand Avenue in Elmwood Park, later moving the business down the block and renaming it Al’s Place. In 1948, the business evolved into Al’s Restaurant. Al joined the business in 1957, at which point the menu was expanded to include pizza and Italian specialty items.
Shortly after, brothers Jim and Bob joined the family business. Over the years together, they expanded their footprint, adding a banquet hall that they called The Elmwood House. In 1973, they built the Villa Verde room, and in 1994 they closed the restaurant and built the Elmcrest Banquet Centre, later renamed Elmcrest Banquets by Biancalana. The Biancalana family was in business for 90 years, making it the oldest family business in Elmwood Park. Al and his brothers were truly invested in providing excellence to their community. The business was sold in 2019 and remains a banquet hall, now run by a remarkable family who continues that tradition.
Al not only dedicates his life to his family and business but also to serving his community. His volunteer involvement and dedication to his town and Italian heritage are endless. He was the Co-Founder of the Elmwood Park Civic Foundation with Angelo “Skip” Saviano and Board President and General Chairman of the Taste of Elmwood Park, which over the course of 17 years raised more than $500,000 for scholarships and various village organizations and projects. Al has served as a Board member of the Triton College Foundation since 1993 and was President from 1995-2001. Elected a Leyden Township Trustee in 1989, he was appointed Leyden Township Assessor in 2003 and is currently serving his fifth four-year term.
Additional leadership roles have included Chairman of the Elmwood Park Planning Commission (1984-89), President of the Mount Clare/Elmwood Park Chamber of Commerce (1976-81) and current President of the Elmwood Park Senior Citizen Complex. He is a member of the Mount Clare/Elmwood Park Chamber of Commerce, Cook County Assessor Association Board, Illinois Restaurant Association, Moose Lodge #398 and Mount Clare/Elmwood Park Lions Club, where he’s been active since 1961.
Sam Tornatore is a 28-year resident of Roselle in DuPage County. He is married to Marcia, retired Superintendent of Itasca School District 10, and is the very proud father of Ali Tornatore Ablan, married to Greg. Born, raised and educated in Chicago, Sam is the son of the late Nicoletta and the late Peter Tornatore, and brother to Steve and Pete.
Sam has been a member of the DuPage County Board since 2012, serving as Chair of the Development Committee, which deals with the county’s building and zoning issues. He has also served as Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and the Legislative and Government Affairs Committee.
In 2013, Sam was appointed by Governor Quinn and was subsequently re-appointed by Governor Rauner and Governor Pritzker to the Board of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, which oversees affordable housing throughout the state. He currently serves as Secretary of the IHDA.
In 2015, he was appointed by DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin to serve on the Board of the DuPage County Health Department. He was elected President of the Health Department in 2018 and continues to serve in that capacity. He has also served as a Bloomingdale Township Trustee and as a Village of Roselle Trustee and member of the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
Sam is an attorney with an office in Bloomingdale and clients in DuPage, Cook and surrounding counties. He has served his profession for 40-plus years as President of the Justinian Society of Lawyers, President of the National Italian American Bar Association, and a member of the Assembly of the Illinois State Bar Association and DuPage County Bar Association.
Sam has donated his time and talents to the Italian-American community in a variety of ways. He is a founding Board member of the Italian American Political Coalition and a recipient of the IAPC’s Distinguished Service Award. He is also a founding member and former President of the Chicagoland Italian American Charitable Organization (CIACO), which has given approximately $1 million in donations to needy families as well as scholarships to deserving students over the past 20 years.
He is involved in his community through his membership in the Bloomingdale and Roselle Chambers of Commerce, formerly serving as President of the latter organization. He has coached youth basketball and soccer at the Roselle Park District as well as at St. Walter’s Parish and is a mainstay at the Taste of Roselle and Bloomingdale’s 50 Men Who Cook.
Sam has been named Business Person of the Year by the Roselle Chamber of Commerce as well as Man of the Year by CIACO. He has also received Mentoring, Leadership and Award of Excellence recognition from the Justinian Society of Lawyers, as well as the Distinguished Service Award from his alma mater, The John Marshall Law School.