This month, we highlight the distinguished career of Carl Gigante, one of the more esteemed and successful lawyers in the Illinois legal profession and an outstanding member of our ethnic community. Carl achieved recognition as one of the leading lawyers in Illinois in the most complicated field of eminent domain law.
Gigante is the second son of Joseph, a motion picture projectionist, and Annette Gigante, a homemaker. Gigante’s older brother, Joe, is a family physician in the western suburbs.
The Gigante brothers grew up in the Far West Side’s Galewood neighborhood in a Chicago-style bungalow. They were raised in the home with other extended family members, including a grandmother, aunt and cousin. The home served as the family headquarters for 32 years during which time extended family and friends would visit constantly.
Gigante attended Fenwick High School, serving as president of the student council and of his junior class and also played varsity baseball.
He enrolled at Northwestern, where he studied math and chemistry and became a member of an engineering fraternity. He quickly ran out of money, however, and transferred to Loyola in Chicago midway through his sophomore year.
Gigante switched his major to political science and took a constitutional law class, which fueled his interest in a legal career. He graduated from Loyola University magna cum laude in 1980.
He postponed law school for a year to earn money working full time for the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation, the same job he had during the summer months in high school and college.
Gigante later enrolled at Loyola Law School and while a student, had an internship with the late U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas J. Bua, an ethnic community legend and Justinian Society career member and leader.
Gigante received his juris doctor in May 1983, and in August joined the firm of Foran, Wiss & Schultz. At that time, James A. Figliulo was a young partner at the firm and interviewed Gigante.
“Immediately, I thought this is a good man who is smart and will be a good lawyer,” Figliulo says of Gigante. “There is a certain authenticity and sincerity to Carl that is just immediately sensed, not just by me, but by other people who have met him.”
Thomas A. Foran, a venerable trial attorney and another legend in the legal community, who had served as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in the 1960s, headed the firm. Gigante was exposed to eminent domain law, Foran’s specialty.
Eminent domain involves the government’s power to take private property for a public use. Over the years, Gigante has litigated a wide array of such cases, mostly on the side of the land owner or tenant.
Gigante, 53, and his wife Stella, a pre-kindergarten teacher, have been married for 26 years. They are the parents of four children. Their twin daughters, Michelle and Susan, are college students. Their sons, Mark and Michael, attend high school.
Gigante enjoys following sports, especially the Cubs and Blackhawks.
When time permits, he performs volunteer legal work several times each year.
Both of his parents were first-generation Americans, born in Chicago. His father, Joseph, was the first of his family born here, but five of his brothers and one sister were born in Naples and emigrated around 1910. His father’s father was a chef who opened a restaurant on Taylor Street where he once served Enrico Caruso, the famed opera star, who complimented him on his cooking. Gigante’s father was drafted only weeks after he married at Our Lady of Sorrows in January 1942. He served under Patton in Germany during World War II after which he returned to Chicago and worked as a motion picture projectionist for the next 40 years. He died in 1992.
His mother, Annette, was born on the West Side and had two stepsisters who were born in New York. Annette died in 1993. Gigante’s maternal grandmother, Assunta, was from Naples and is the only grandparent he ever knew. She arrived in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1906, then to New York where she married but later lost her husband in a gun duel. She moved to Chicago probably around 1916. She never went to school, yet taught herself enough math to run a successful grocery store in the old Italian neighborhood. She later married Carl’s grandfather, Carlo, his namesake, who was born in Salerno.