Singer Cory Bolletino

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Growing up blind and with a variety of medical conditions, 27-year-old Cory Bolletino of Mount Prospect attended mainly special needs schools, and occasionally had to sit out of school for medical reasons. He didn’t have much of a chance to make childhood friends, he says, so his world centered around his mother Veronica, father Rick, and music.

“The way I used to relax was through music. Music was my best friend,” says Bolletino. “It will always be my best friend.”

He has spent years listening to singers like Andrea Bocelli, Julio Iglesias, Marco Antonio Solis and Camilo Sesto, and likes that 1950s-’60s male vocalist style. He hears the music on WEEF-AM, including the shows of Paolo Ciminello and Tony Napoli.

In fact, his mother says her son taught himself to speak Italian and Spanish by listening to radio.

One day, he heard a radio commercial for Pescatore Palace in Franklin Park, and persuaded his parents to take him there.

“Cory asked the waiter if he spoke Italian, and the waiter called over the owner (Vito Barbanente) and said, ‘you have to meet this young man,’” says Veronica Bolletino.

From there, it didn’t take long for Cory Bolletino to sing for Barbanente.

“I’ll sing for anybody. I’m not afraid,” Bolettino declares.

On one of the Bolletino family’s visits to Pescatore Palace, a lightning storm broke out, forcing both patrons and staff to stay inside the building. Bolletino decided to pass the time by singing for Elio Barbanente, Vito’s son. The friendship between the Bolletinos and the Barbanentes grew, and Frank Pellegrino, Pescatore Palace’s general manager, says Cory now sings at the restaurant most Friday evenings starting at 6 to 6:30 p.m.

Cory was aware that Vito knew international superstar Andrea Bocelli. According to the Franklin Park Herald-Journal, Barbanente repeatedly invited the famous crooner to dine at his restaurant whenever he was in town, and Bocelli eventually took him up on his offer. (

Hoping to meet his idol, Bolletino asked Barbanente if he could meet Signor Bocelli.

“I told him one of my biggest dreams was to meet Andrea and sing for him,” Bolletino says. “I knew it wouldn’t happen, but Vito made it happen.”

Before Bocelli’s concert at Allstate Arena on June 10, 2016, Barbanente took Bolletino and his parents to a basement area near the dressing rooms. Bocelli and his wife, Veronica, were already in the room when the Bolletinos walked in. Barbanente introduced them.

“Andrea said, ‘your Italian is better than my English,’” Bolletino recalled with a chuckle. “I asked if I could sing for him, and his wife Veronica led him to the piano.”

Bolletino sang Bocelli’s song, “Champagne” while Bocelli played the piano, accompanying him. (

“Afterward, Andrea said, ‘Your voice will be the next voice that lights up the world,’” Bolletino recalled. “Coming from Andrea Bocelli, that means a lot.”

They said goodbye and hugged before the Bolletinos left and Bocelli prepared to give his concert.

In the year since, Bolletino has recorded a CD with Francesco Marino, who heard him singing and asked to make the recording. Cory calls him “an angel from Italy.”

On a Saturday in March, Marino did the lighting and tech for “Cory in Concert,” a special evening at Pescatore Palace.

And on June 4, he sang at the annual feast of the Societa’ San Giovanni Bosco SS Crocifisso di Ciminna in Stone Park.

“He spends a lot of his time listening to music, learning new songs, and working on music,” Veronica Bolletino said.

Cory Bolletino said he is hoping that music will take him further. And though meeting Andrea Bocelli has fulfilled one of his dreams, he has a couple more that have not yet been fulfilled.

“I’d like to be a singer, and to go visit Italy,” he said.

More of Bolletino’s music can be heard on by entering Cory Bolletino as a search term.

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

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