Judge Coco to serve as SACA president

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The Sicilian American Cultural Association has elected the Hon. Gloria Coco Esq. as president.

Judge Coco and her fellow SACA officers will be sworn in by the Hon. Frank Orlando Esq. at a dinner meeting on Feb. 22 at Monastero’s, 3935 W Devon Ave, Chicago. SACA Chaplain the Rev. Charles N. Faso, OFM, will present a program on the history of Carnevale at the meeting, which will start with cocktails at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 for members and $35 for non-members and guests.

Joining Judge Coco as officers will be First Vice President Lauretta Berg, Second Vice President Joseph Monastero Jr., Executive Director and Treasurer Dino Porto, and Secretary Martha Monastero.

Led by Chairman Paul Ciminello, the SACA board includes Katherine Amari O’Dell Esq., Joseph Bottalla, Sam Cannizzaro, Catherine DiVenere Ciminello, Professoressa Anna Clara Ionta, Edward Manzo Esq., Joseph Monastero Sr., the Hon. Frank Orlando Esq., Josephine Porto and Rose Mary Ragano.


Hon. Gloria Coco, President

A retired supervising judge of the Domestic Violence Section of the First Municipal District of the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Gloria Coco has an extensive theatrical resume that includes stage, television and film credits.

Prior to her appointment to the bench in 1991, Gloria was an attorney with the Department of Buildings for the City of Chicago, where she created and directed the Department’s Code Enforcement Bureau. She also served as deputy chief of the Illinois Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, as well as special assistant attorney general, creating the state’s first felony prosecution system to combat unemployment insurance fraud. She began her legal career as a prosecutor for the Cook County State’s Attorney.

Gloria was appointed judge of the Circuit Court in 1991, serving in the Domestic Violence Division since 1994 and as supervising judge of the Division from 1997 until her retirement in 2007. As supervising judge, Gloria oversaw five courtrooms handling approximately 53,000 domestic violence cases per year from the city of Chicago.

Gloria has been extremely active in the legal community, holding countless positions of importance on the local and national level, and actively participating in the education of judges and members of the legal profession. She was the first woman president of the Justinian Society of Lawyers, earning an Impresa Award from the Women’s Division of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans and a Leonardo da Vinci Award from the Illinois Grand Lodge of the Order Sons of Italy in America.

While serving as a judge, Gloria pursued her interest in the arts, graduated summa cumlLaude from Northwestern University’s School of Communications with a degree in radio, television, film and theater performance in 2004.

Among the plays she has penned is “The Passages of Grace,” about her family’s harrowing experiences on Ellis Island. She recounted the story in the chapter she wrote for “Italian Women in Chicago,” edited by Dominic Candeloro.

Her numerous television credits include roles in “Southland,” “The Defenders” and “Parks and Recreation.” She has acted in “Public Enemy” staring Johnny Depp as well as several indie films, and has done commercial work for the likes of Coca Cola and Tropicana.

She currently serves as chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Media and Entertainment Law Committee and assistant course director for the National College of District Attorneys Annual Conference on Family Violence, and is a co-founder and partner in Law and Order Consulting, which shares legal expertise with film and theatrical events and projects.


Laurie Berg, First Vice President

The granddaughter of Sicilian immigrants, Laurie Berg has served as a SACA officer for six years. Born and raised in Chicago, she is a retired piano teacher and long time supporter of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. An original member of the Women’s Association of the CSO, now know as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, she has served as an event host, secretary and coordinate of numerous CSO events and volunteer programs. She is a board member of the Bel Canto Association Foundation and a sustaining member of the CSOA.


Joseph Monastero, Second Vice President

The son of Monastero Ristorante & Banquets co-owners Joe and Martha Monastero, Joe Monastero Jr. has spent most of his entire life in the hospitality industry. Growing up immersed in the family business, becoming general manager in 2001. He launched Joseph S. Monastero Private Events in 2005 and joined Kendall College in 2010, rising to the rank of director of food and beverage event operations. He currently serves as executive director of global enrollment strategy Laureate International Universities. He is a trustee for the Catering Executives Club of America, president of Italidea-Midwest, ente gestore for the Consulate General of Italy in Chicago, itreasurer of the Bel Canto Foundation and a member of Les Amis d’ Escoffier Society of Chicago.


Dino Porto, Treasurer and Executive Director

A co-founder and past president of SACA, Dino Porto was born in Caccamo, Sicily, and came to Chicago in the 1960s as an assistant at the Italian National Tourist Office. A former banker and travel agent, he opened the patronato ITAL-UIL, providing a variety of services to the Italian-born community in Chicago. A board member of the Bel Canto Foundation, Dino has also served in leadership roles for the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, Comitato Civico Caccamese, Mazzini-Verdi Club, Lions International and Associazione Nazionale Famiglie Emigrati. In 1978 he received the Cavalliere Ufficiale Ordine al Merito from the Italian government.


Martha Monastero, Secretary

A graduate of Northwestern Illinois University and a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, Martha Monastero is co-owner with her husband, Joe, of Monastero’s Ristorante in Chicago and general manager of the enterprise. A talented soprano, she is a member of the board of directors of the Bel Canto Foundation. Martha and Joe are the proud parents of Joe, Maria and Elena and their spouses Emilio, Mark and Tom, and adoring grandparents of Mark, Thomas, Gina and William.


The Rev. Chuck Faso, Chaplain

The Rev. Chuck Faso, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar and a Catholic Priest. Fr. Chuck and his two brothers and two sisters were born in Chicago Heights in 1941. He joined the Franciscans in 1960 and was ordained in 1967. Fr. Chuck ministered at St. Peter’s-in-the-Loop Church from 1978-1998 and preached parish missions from 1998 to 2008. He has ministered to Franciscans men and women, religious and lay, since 2008, and leads pilgrimages to the Holy Land and other countries in the world. He taught music and religion at the high school level from 1968-1974 and liturgy at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago from 1976-1986. Fr. Chuck is spiritual assistant to secular Franciscan fraternities in Crystal Lake and Oak Brook.


Paul Ciminello, Chairman

Paul Ciminello is a renowned musician, singer, and conductor, performing for prime ministers and presidents, and with a host of entertainment legends. He produced his own radio program six days a week on WEEF-AM for 20 years and now hosts a one-hour program on Radio Maria from 10 to 11 a.m. every Wednesday, and an Italian sports program at 11 a.m. every Sunday on WEEF. Paul is a board member of the Mazzini-Verdi Club, the Bel Canto Foundation and Lucchesi nel Mondo, a trustee of the Sicilian Heritage Museum and Radio Maria, a past president of the Association of Professional Orchestra leaders and Sicilian American Cultural Association, a lifetime member of the Italian Cultural Center, and a member of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, the Chicago Federation of Musicians and Molisani nel Mondo.


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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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