Villa Cesare taps lifelong member Malloy as prez

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Jim Malloy, president of the Cesare Battisti Lodge, has enjoyed a lifetime of involvement with the organization.

The lodge, which is affiliated with the Italio American National Union and The Italian Sons and Daughters of America, owns Villa Cesare Banquet and Events in Schererville, Indiana, about 40 miles south of Chicago. Malloy, who lives in nearby Saint John, Indiana, has been a member since he was a child, following in the footsteps of his father and his Italian immigrant grandparents. His great-uncle helped build the first lodge in East Chicago, Indiana.

“I and my brothers and sisters were all involved,” Malloy says. “I was 7 or 8 and I started helping my dad with things. My dad was a full-blooded Irishman (to join our club you have to be either any part Italian, or married to an Italian) and my mother was full-blooded Italian. I was brought up with Sunday dinners, an Italian church and an Italian school for my younger years.”

Malloy held his first office with the lodge at about age 19, when he served as a sentry (“a sort of doorman who greets people and makes sure people who come in are members,” he explains). He then served on the board, became vice president and eventually served as president for 14 years through 2022. His current term as president started in February.

After its formation in 1919, the lodge met in halls throughout the area, then built a clubhouse in 1956 in East Chicago and finally the multimillion-dollar Villa Cesare in 1989. The building hosts the lodge’s meetings, has indoor and outdoor space that can be rented for private events, and is home to a slew of events that are open to the community.

Annual events include a St. Patrick’s/San Giuseppe party in March. “We have corned beef and cabbage, mostaccioli and meatballs. It’s always a bash, with 500 to 600 people,” Malloy says.This month’s events are Cinco de Mayo on May 4, featuring Latin Satin Soul, and a Mother’s Day brunch on May 12.

Villa Cesare also is home to an annual Festa Italiana, which this year takes place from Aug. 2-4. “That is a great festival,” Malloy says. “There is a spaghetti-eating contest with no hands, which gets very funny, everybody ends up with orange faces. We have grape stomping, homemade cooking … a lot of fun things.”

Other events include a Member of the Year celebration; Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties for adults: Easter, Halloween and Christmas parties for children; Easter brunch; Bears tailgate party; fashion and comedy shows; Italian cooking classes and a memorial Mass for deceased members are among the many other events hosted each year by the lodge.

The lodge raises funds for a variety of initiatives, including local schools and children’s foundations. Since its inception, it has disbursed more than $1 million, including via student scholarships, Malloy says.

Malloy says his dedication to the lodge is intrinsically bound to his family’s involvement in it.

“My brothers come, my cousins come …. We get to spend time and do things together, and try to keep our Italian heritage going,” he explains. “Most of the older guys when we were growing up would speak Italian. Now we are trying to do more things to teach our younger children about our heritage. It seems like heritage is getting lost, so we are trying to keep that going.”

Member Jon Biancardi recently spearheaded an indoor bocce league played on 45-foot-courts inflated with air pumps. “I have played a couple of times when someone else couldn’t, but it doesn’t really work with my schedule,” said Malloy, who works as safety representative for an electrical company in Chicago. “Once I retire, I will try to do that.”

Malloy’s wife of 43 years, Cheri, also is a member of the lodge, as are his children and grandchildren. The couple also has two great-grandchildren ages 1 and 3.

Three of his four grandchildren — the three are siblings — have a rare form of blindness, and the Malloy family takes part in a yearly walk in the Chicago area to benefit the Foundation Fighting Blindness, to whom the lodge donates every year.

Malloy says he’s looking forward to next year’s biennial convention of the Order of  Sons and Daughters of America, which will take place in Chicago. “We get to see our friends from all over the country every two years,” he says. “Everybody is looking forward to coming to Chicago.”

Joining Malloy as officers and lodge leaders are Vice President David Graziani; Recording Secretary Joseph Tellez; Treasurer Anthony DiCostanzo; Trustees Dean Fanno, Richard Borgetti and John Rizzardo; Chaplain James Biancardi; Sentry Pasquale Giovane; Flag Bearers Nicholas Restauri and Richard Fanno; Financial/Gaming Officer Nicholas Lemon; Scholarship Committee Chairman John Rizzardo. Wellness Officer Edward Malloy; and Membership Chairman and Benevolent Committee Chairman Richard Wolf. Malloy accepted the gavel from outgoing president Ronald DiMichele.

Anthony Basso, Frank Basso, Jody Biancardi, Jon Biancardi, Ron DiMichele, David Graziani, James Malloy, Dennis Noworyta, Frank Sparano and Pat Vicari serve on the board of directors.

Villa Cesare is located at 900 Eagle Ridge Dr, Schererville. For more information, call 219-322-3011 or click here.

About Elena Ferrarin

Elena Ferrarin is a native of Rome who has worked as a journalist in the United States since 2002. She has been a correspondent for Fra Noi for more than a decade. She previously worked as a reporter for The Daily Herald in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, The Regional News in Palos Heights and as a reporter/assistant editor for Reflejos, a Spanish-English newspaper in Arlington Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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