IA Literati spotlights local writers

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CJ Martello and Kathy DeNicolo

IA Literati 2018 — Casa Italia’s 14th annual celebration of local Italian-American authors — ran from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 12 in the Florentine Room of the Italian Cultural Center in Stone Park.

Book sales and signings, raffles, and a meet-and-greet with the authors took place at 9:30 a.m. Authors will read from their works starting at 10 a.m.

Several new authors such as Frank Cesario, Anne Marie Cina, Lee Colsant and Steve Decker took part in the event along with veteran literati Arthur Cola, Dr. Bruno Cortis, Kathy DeNicolo, Tony Romano and Adam Sedia.

The moderator was Chicago writer Jay Pridmore, author of more than 25 books, including “Chicago Architecture and Design.” The event will include a portrayal of George Pullman by Fra Noi columnist CJ Martello.

“Our event is a great place for readers to immerse themselves in the work of local Italian-American writers, and a great place for Italian-American writers to network and find out what their fellow authors are doing,” says Italian Cultural Center librarian and event founder Dominic Candeloro. “We proudly support Italian-American authors and we encourage the rest of the community to do the same.”

Profiles of the authors follow:


Frank Cesario’s story is typical of the post-World War II emigration from Italy to the U.S. He had a good education. He worked tirelessly to gain permission from U.S. authorities in Naples to come to America. His early years were a struggle to find adequate housing, to get a decent job, and to learn the language. Frank started at the bottom.

Like most of the post-War immigrants, he had some help from the established generation of Italians. When he married Palma, he gained not just a perfect wife, but access to the network of Pizzonesi paesani. His Calabrese identity also opened up contacts with that large dynamic segment of Chicago’s Italian American community. Those connections made possible the family businesses in real estate and travel.

A positive environment, by itself, does not tell the most important part of the story. Frank and Palma had a strong work ethic and religious convictions that gave them the character and patience to endure and thrive in the U.S. Their story proves that despite its acknowledged flaws, the nation remains a place where achievement of the American Dream is possible.

I have been dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of Italian American history and culture for forty years. I often warn that our Italian immigrant heritage is at risk of being lost–Not if the Frank Cesarios of the world have a say about it! We at the Casa Italia Library and Archive are very grateful to Frank for giving us this authentic and inspiring slice of history and we hope that his effort provides a model for all to record their family history for posterity.

— Dominic Candeloro



Anne Marie Cina received her B.A. in art and English from Columbia College of Missouri. She studied creative dramatics at University of Wisconsin, focusing on children’s theater. She taught creative dramatics for McHenry County College, and has worked for Cary and Woodstock park districts, producing, writing and directing children’s theatre. After retiring from teaching, she returned to art studies, primarily watercolors. She has exhibited her watercolors in shows at the Old Courthouse art center in Woodstock, the Woodstock Opera House, and the Lakeside Arts Center in Crystal Lake.

She has had works selected by the arts commission in Huntley, Art on the Fox show in Elgin, the Prairie Arts Festival in Schaumburg, and also Art in the Barn in Barrington. She has also exhibited in Women’s Works at Woodstock. In 2013 her self-portrait was selected for exhibit at the Koehnline Museum of Art at Oakton College in Des Plaines. Most recently her still-life paintings were shown at the Kavanaugh Gallery in St. Charles.

She has had solo shows of her series of paintings title “Growing Up in Chicago” at McHenry County College, and the Gail Borden Library, in Elgin.

Her “Chicago” series was also featured at the Italian Cultural Center in Stone Park in 2011, as well as the city hall in Addison.

She has now combined her series of Chicago paintings and experiences of life in Chicago during her teen years in her first book “Growing Up Italian in Chicago.”



Arthur Cola was born in the Taylor Street Little Italy on the Near West Side of Chicago. His family moved to Oak Park where he attended Oak Park-River Forest High School. While attending Loyola University, Chicago, he met his future wife, Donna Shields. Together they have five grown children and seven grandchildren. He, his wife and family now live in Wisconsin.

He received his education degree from Loyola University, Chicago. He retired after 35 years as a teacher of history and a school principal. Upon receiving his master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, he also served as a lecturer for Barry University in Florida. His post-graduate work concentrated on educational administration and theology. He studied in Rome at the Loyola University Campus while conducting research for two of his novels, “The Stone Cutter Genius” and “The Brooch” and traveled extensively in Ireland and Britain researching cultural sites for his previous books and new series: “The Doonagore Theft Trilogy.” His novel, “Stolen Christmas,” is a tale of St. Nicholas coming to help a boy who is trying to save Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Chicago. He has recently created a theatrical version of it. His work is available on Amzon.com/arthurcola and on Kindle.



Lee Colsant lives with his wife, Bernadette, in Orland Park. They have two children, Elizabeth and Lee Charles III and two grandchildren, Arden Cait O’Brien and Nicolas Lee Colsant. Lee began his teaching career in Québec, Canada at École Notre Dame, received a master’s degree in French Literature from the University of Missouri, and taught for the Chicago Public Schools, and later finished a doctorate from the University of Illinois-Chicago while teaching education classes for Benedictine University in Lisle followed by teaching classroom supervision for Illinois for Illinois State University. He is retired and is concentrating on Italian and Portuguese languages.

“Father and Son: A Story Revisited” traces the story of Lee’s grandfather and father as they journeyed from Torricell Peligna, Italy, to America during the first half of the 20th century. It describes their hardships in adjusting and assimilating into the American culture from a common dream, which was realized through hard work and perseverance.



Bruno Cortis is a Board Certified Cardiologist, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Rush University and past Visiting Professor at the University of Guadalajara. Author of four best sellers: Heart and Soul, The Spiritual Heart, Healing the Heart, Heal your Cancer. He has given presentations in five continents. Dr. Cortis Mission is to help people to live a fulfilled life.



Steve Decker grew up in a large, thriving Sicilian family on the north side of Chicago. He never forgot the family stories about the struggles of his immigrant grandparents: how they survived terrible poverty, life during Prohibition and their encounters with gangsters. He has woven many of those true events into an exciting fictional tale spanning a half century.

“Cambridge Street is for the millions of immigrants from Italy and the world that came to America go give their families better lives,” said Decker. “They helped build our country,feed its people and fight its wars. Now, with the passing of years, their bravery and sacrifices are being forgotten. We must not let that happen.”



Kathy DeNicolo promotes literacy and conversation skills by sharing small stories about big ideas. These stories touch upon common experiences in today’s world. She believes that sharing stories about everyday heroes, long forgotten or speechless, is a way to pass life-affirming messages worldwide.

In the fictional novel Connected: An American Homecoming, K.F.DeNicolo tells the story of two teenagers caught in the aftermath of WW I. Living in a world of violence and destruction, they fall in love, marry and leave the beautiful Puglia region of Italy. Why? To look for a second chance at a better life. The writer’s conclusion is clear — facing life’s challenges can be tough anywhere at any age.

Sidekick is a user friendly activity book and could be used by book lovers of all ages. It’s a handbook, a starter point for important conversations. Today’s fast paced world keep us plugged in, running, and often distracted. Sidekick offers an opportunity to talk face to face, get unplugged, read between the lines and open doors to important conversations.



A Fra Noi correspondent, CJ Martello author’s the column Petals from Roseland, which appears on the magazine’s website, www.franoi.com.

An author and a resident of Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood, he is also an actor, presenting the one-man show “George Pullman: The Man and His Model Town” for community organizations, senior groups, and schools.

CJ is also a historian covering the Pullman/Roseland/Kensington areas; a docent of the Pullman neighborhood and Pullman factory site; and a former docent of the Prairie Avenue Historic District’s Glessner House and Clarke House Museums.



Tony Romano is the author of the novel, “Where My Body Ends and the World Begins” (Allium Press), “When the World Was Young” (HarperCollins) and the story collection “If You Eat, You Never Die” (HarperCollins). He is also the coauthor of “Expository Composition: Discovering Your Voice” and coauthor or the text “Psychology and You.”

He was recently named Illinois Author of the Year by the Illinois Association for Teachers of English (IATE) and was honored with a Norman Mailer Award. One of his story collections was a finalist in AWP’s annual contest. He is a two-time winner of a PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Award. Both stories were produced on National Public Radio’s “The Sound of Writing” series and syndicated to newspapers nationwide.

Tony lives near Chicago and writes about books, music, work, and family on his blog at tonyromanoauthor.com.



Adam Sedia grew up in Schererville and currently lives in Griffith with his wife, Ivana, and their son.

He received his undergraduate degrees in chemistry and English from Indiana University in 2006 and his law degree from DePaul University in 2009. He practices as a civil and appellate litigator at the firm of Hoeppner Wagner and Evans in Merrillville.

He published two collections of poetry, “The Spring’s Autumn” (2013) and “Inquietude” (2016), both available on amazon.com. His poems have also been published in Indiana Voice Journal and Tulip Tree Review.

He has also published a short story in Liberty Island magazine and law-related articles in various periodicals. He also composes music, which can be heard on his YouTube channel.

About Fra Noi

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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