Behind-the-scenes hero Dominic Gambino

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Some benefactors are drawn to the limelight that their generosity attracts and others prefer to work their charitable magic behind the scenes. Domenico Gambino is cut of the latter cloth.

A co-owner of the Tony’s Finer Food grocery empire, Gambino has been a quiet force for good in the Italian-American community for decades, deploying resources and leveraging connections with little fanfare and great effect.

“What I do I do from the heart and because it makes me feel good,” Gambino explains. “That’s all the thanks I need.”

Born in Ciminna, Sicily, in 1945, Domenico is one of eight children of Francesco and Maria (Mannina) Gambino. When he immigrated to the Chicago area in 1968, he first found work in the tool-and-die industry.

But when his nephew, Tony Ingraffia, came to him with a proposal to buy a small grocery store in Chicago, the pair parlayed their acquisition into a chain of 15 stores across the Chicago area.

Despite the heights he has attained, he has never forgotten his humble roots.

“I love my heritage and I love the community,” Gambino says. “What good is success if you don’t give back?”

He is a member of more than a half a dozen organizations, including Casa Italia, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, Società SS. Crocifisso & San Giovanni Bosco di Ciminna, the Mazzini-Verdi Club and the Chicagoland Italian American Charitable Organization.

Every single one of those groups knows who to turn to when the need arises.

“Who do I think of when funds needs to be raised, when an event needs to be planned, when there’s a concern impacting the community, when I need advise? Our go-to man: Domenico Gambino!” exclaims Jo Ann Serpico, who does double duty as the executive director of the JCCIA and a board member of Casa Italia. “He’s always there and he always responds. He’s our ace in the hole and we’re so lucky to have him.”

Gambino at the 2017 parade and reception

The post-parade reception on Columbus Day had long been a low-key affair until Gambino took the event under his wing.

This past October, a crowd of nearly 1,000 converged on the Festival Center at Casa Italia for a food and entertainment extravaganza, most of which was rallied pro bono by Gambino.

With talent lined up by Ron Onesti and food and beverages provided by more than a dozen purveyors and served up by an army of volunteers, revelers partied into the evening, all under Gambino’s watchful eye.

“A big event like the parade needs a big finish,” Gambino explains. “I think we got the job done.”

And Onesti isn’t the only one with an eye for talent.

The Person of the Year gala is absolutely crucial to the success of Casa Italia, and two highly successful recent galas honored individuals who were brought into the fold by Gambino: Supreme Lobster founder Dominic Stramaglia and Stefani Group Vice President Claudio Ulivieri.

And when local Ciminnesi were in need of a negotiator capable of mending a longstanding rift in the community, Gambino reached out to longtime friend and respected community leader Steven Fiorentino.

“Steve did a wonderful job, and now we’re united after being split for 20 years,” Gambino reports.

Gambino has a knack for recommending the right people for key posts, and they enjoy the full weight of his support once they’re appointed.

A perfect example is Sergio Giangrande, who chaired one of the most successful Columbus Day parades in recent memory.

Float, sponsorship and TV ad sales were all through the roof, as was the turnout for the post-parade reception.

Gambino attributes these banner results to the intelligence, energy and drive of the chairman, but Giangrande identifies Gambino as his secret weapon.

“When Dominic brings you into a projet, he doesn’t abandon you, he makes sure you succeed,” Giangrande says. “He’s one of our community’s unsung heroes.”

The above appeared in the March issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.

About Paul Basile

Paul Basile has been the editor of Fra Noi for a quarter of a century. Over that period, he and his dedicated family of staff members and correspondents have transformed a quaint little community newspaper into a gorgeous glossy magazine that is read and admired across the nation. They also maintain a cluster of national and local websites and are helping other major metropolitan areas launch their own versions of Fra Noi.

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