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Capriati re-imagines Italian radio

After 25 years of hosting an Italian radio show in Chicago, Pasquale “Pat” Capriati was ready to shake things up a little.

Capriati, who also performs with the Chicago-area Italian band Diamanti, decided to double the length of his show, Domenica Insieme, from one hour to two, add John Conenna as co-host and sprinkle more English-language conversation into the mix. The show airs Sundays from 9 to 11 a.m. on WCKG 1530 AM radio.

“John was a guest on the show, and I told him he had an open invitation to come back,” Capriati says. “He’s been coming every week for the past year and a half.”

They expanded to the two-hour format in July, after signing five additional advertisers.

The two call themselves the “bad boys of Italian radio,” and strike up constant jokes and banter whenever Capriati is not playing a variety of Italian music. They also engage in quizzes, with audience members responding via Domenica Insieme’s Facebook page. That makes for a lively interaction.

Video and audio of the show stream on wckg.com, as well as its Facebook page. That allows people beyond the Chicago area to tune in, and real-time Facebook comments during the show indicate people in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Italy and other parts of Europe are listening to the “bad boys” dish it out.

“John complements Pat a lot,” said Maria Dalmazio, owner of Tony’s Italian Deli and Subs, one of the show’s sponsors. “Pat is so laid back and reserved, John is so outspoken and unreserved. They are funny and entertaining together, and now there is more time for Facebook interaction and listening to more of the classic or modern songs they play.”

While Capriati speaks Italian like the native he is, Conenna does not speak la bella lingua fluently. However, he’s not afraid to make a mistake, and Capriati doesn’t shy from gently correcting him, in the hope, he says, of helping listeners who may be trying to learn Italian.

The few words of English Capriati and Conenna say also help them reach out to the Brazilians, Albanians and Poles who listen because they love the Italian music, Capriati says.

“But I have to walk a fine line, because it is an Italian show,” he adds.

Chicago-area entertainment entrepreneur and producer Ron Onesti, who has been a guest on Domenica Insieme, thinks Capriati is headed in the right direction with the longer format, co-host and dusting of English.

“It’s a breath of fresh air in the direction of appealing to a wider audience, generationally speaking,” Onesti says. “The banter between the two is genuine, it’s comical and it’s fresh.”

One thing has not changed with the new format, and that is Capriati’s mission of keeping Italian culture alive for Italian immigrants and their families.

“I’m using music as a vehicle to promote and preserve our language and culture,” he said. “We don’t want to lose that. We are the sentinels of our language.”

About Pam DeFiglio

A lifelong writer. Pam DeFiglio works as an editor at the Chicago Tribune Media Group/Pioneer Press. She has won two Chicago Headline Club awards for previous work as an editorial writer and features writer at the Daily Herald. She also won National Federation of Press Women awards for Chicago Tribune news features on immigrants, and has worked in public relations at a university. She loves Italy and all things Italian, thanks to Nanna and a magnificent college year in Rome. She's grateful for all the people working to celebrate Italian culture in Chicago. Contact her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/pamdefiglio/

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