Forever Friars: The Late Franklin Capitanini ’50 of Italian Village fame

Like Fenwick, the storied downtown restaurant has stood the test of time for nine decades — and for three family generations.

By Patrick Feldmeier ’20

Alfredo Capitanini opened the Italian Village on Monroe Street in the Loop in 1927.

The impact that the late Franklin Delano Capitanini, Class of 1950, left on Chicago cannot be justly put into words. Instead, his impact resonates in his family, friends, Fenwick High School and the famed Italian Village Restaurant(s). Born in America in 1932 and named after U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Frank lived a life founded on strong family ties and treated everyone who dined at the Italian Village as if they were old friends. Today, the Italian Village serves as a reminder of the kindness that Mr. Capitanini spread for 85 years.

Located at 71 W. Monroe Street in Chicago’s “Loop” for almost 92 years, the Italian Village was opened by Frank’s father, Alfredo, in September 1927 – two years before Fenwick opened its doors. Frank and his kid brother, Ray (Fenwick ’53), grew up knowing that the restaurant someday would be theirs to manage. Frank’s early years working there included responsibilities such as food preparation for the chefs and waiting tables, according to his close friend, Fenwick classmate and President Emeritus Father Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50. Learning how to talk to adults and serve their requests at an early age benefitted Frank greatly in the years to come. Frank’s son and fellow Friar alumnus, Al Capitanini ’81, says that the “best internship is waiting tables because you learn about customer service and how to handle people.”


Franklin’s 1950 yearbook portrait from Fenwick.

Frank continued his work at the Italian Village when he attended Fenwick, where he participated in football, basketball and track. Unfortunately, his athletic career was cut short due to an injury. Al remembers hearing how his father had to divert all of his attention to education after the injury because Frank’s parents highly valued education. Frank’s father, an Italian immigrant, wanted him to have a strong caring for education due to his own limited schooling opportunities in Italy. When Frank was not hitting the books, he left his friends drooling in the school cafeteria because of the sandwiches he brought daily from the Italian Village. The aroma of Italian lunch meats and cheeses made their palates jealous.

Frank and Fr. LaPata both went on to Notre Dame, but their paths did not cross much at the university: one entered the seminary while the other (Frank) was in the ROTC program. It was not until Father LaPata became president of Fenwick in 1998 that he developed a friendship with Frank, eating at the Capitanini home around once a month.

A Culinary Institution

Once out of college, Frank immediately went back to work at the Italian Village. In the 1950s and ’60s, opera drew huge crowds in big cities like Chicago, so the Capitaninis became well acquainted with some the world’s most famous opera singers. When asked about the relationship between it and the Italian Village, the Lyric Opera Company kindly stated, “American singers and Italian singers of the 1950s and 1960s dined at the Italian Village.” However, opera stars were not the only celebrities to frequent the restaurant. The walls of the Italian Village are lined with autographed pictures from well-known celebrities and sports figures, including Frank Sinatra, Lou Holtz, Mike Ditka, Florence Henderson, Ryne Sandberg and Jon Bon Jovi.


The Village, the upstairs restaurant, features dimmed lights that hang low and walls painted to mimic a scenic view in Italy.

The Italian Village has maintained its reputation of great service and hospitality because of Frank’s leadership and family values: “Hundreds [of restaurants] closed, but the Italian Village stayed strong due to its hospitality, charm and kindness,” praises Father LaPata. With an old-fashioned aura and breathtaking architecture, the Village has stood the test of time by adhering to its roots; something that many restaurants in Chicago have failed to do. Upon entering one of the three restaurants in the Italian Village, patrons are engulfed in a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. The Village, the upstairs restaurant, features dimmed lights that hang low and walls painted to mimic a scenic view in Italy. No windows are present, and it truly feels as if you are dining in Italy.

Frank greeted everyone with that smile!

Later in Frank’s life, he began to teach his kids how to manage the family restaurant. Fortunately, his four children, Lisa, Gina, Frank II ’78 and Al, had hands-on involvement for years. Al vividly remembers growing up at the Village: waiting tables and making food just like Frank did years ago. “We ate more than we actually learned,” he admits. Gina still works in the family business.

When the kids were a bit older, Frank would take them to the restaurant for breakfast, then walk with them to catch a Bears game. Al describes his father as an “old-school type, hardworking, honest to a fault, always there, and would help anyone in an emergency.” Frank served as a great mentor to Al and his other children, and they work hard to emulate their dad. His philanthropic contributions to Fenwick are greatly appreciated as well.

Visiting the Village

I had the pleasure of having lunch with Al this spring at the Italian Village. We talked about the history of the restaurants and Frank’s long-lasting impact on them. When the topic of Frank’s years in high school arose, Al was quick to mention that Fenwick was essential in molding Frank into the man he wanted to be. Frank may have had a career already set through the Italian Village, however, his success and achievements in life required the lessons learned from Fenwick to come to fruition. Through the stories Al shared about Frank’s life at Fenwick as well as his own, I was truly able to understand that Fenwick is great at preparing its students for life ahead.

Frank passed away one year ago at age 85. His funeral was held at his grade school, St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest, and Father LaPata touchingly led the Mass. His presence will be missed, yet his spirit will live on in the lives of those around him. Frank Capitanini will forever be a Friar, and his impact on his family, the Italian Village and Fenwick High School will last for generations to come.

Coming soon: The Frank Capitanini Classroom at Fenwick


World Languages students in Fenwick’s “Italian Room” (Room 14), which is being renamed in honor of late alumnus/restaurateur Frank Capitanini ’50.

In addition to their generous classroom-naming donation, the Capitanini family also has created an endowed scholarship in their father’s memory. The fund will provide tuition assistance for a Fenwick student in need.

The students of Italian Teacher Ms. Shawna Hennessey (left) recently sent a “Grazie mille” video to the Capitanini family.

Read a Chicago Tribune article about Frank.

About the Author

Patrick Feldmeier is a finishing up his junior year at Fenwick High School, where he is an Honor Roll/National Honor Society student and president of the Class of 2020. Pat also plays on the Friars’ football and rugby teams. He lives in Western Springs, IL (St. John of the Cross) and is hoping for acceptance this coming fall into the University of Notre Dame, where his Evans Scholar brother, Danny ’18, will be a sophomore.

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Forever Friars: Remembering William Martin, Class of 1954

The young Assistant State’s Attorney stood at the center of “The Trial of the Century” in the mid-1960s — as the chief prosecutor of mass-murderer Richard Speck.

By Mark Vruno

As the Fenwick Bar Association celebrates its the 20th Annual Accipter Award Luncheon on May 18th, we remember 2006 recipient William Martin, who passed away last July at the age of 80, following a long battle with cancer.

Bill Martin (’54 FHS Yearbook).

During a legal career that spanned more than 50 years, Bill Martin lawyered — later as a defense attorney — and taught the law. After serving as editor of The Wick student newspaper and graduating from Fenwick in 1954, Martin attended Loyola University Chicago and its law school, where he was voted the outstanding student. He founded and was editor of the Loyola Law Times, a Journal of Opinion.

Martin at the Speck Trial 13 years later.

Until his death last year, the native Oak Parker (St. Giles) was a private practitioner specializing in attorney ethics and criminal law. He is, however, known best for putting a monster behind bars. The murderer’s name was Richard Speck, who went on a killing spree on Chicago’s southeast side the hot night of July 14, 1966.

An Assistant State’s Attorney at the time, the then 29-year-old Billy Martin had been selected from a pool of more than 30 criminal court prosecutors, many much older and with far more felony trial experience, according to an article in the spring 2018 edition of the Journal of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Despite his relative youth, Martin had earned the respect of Cook County State’s Attorney Dan Ward and his chief assistants, including John Stamos.

Twenty-five years later, Martin told the Chicago Sun-Times, “In a way, it was the end of innocence. In this case, eight women asleep in a middle-class, crime-free, virtually suburban neighborhood were subject to random violence from a killer who basically came out of the night.” Reflecting in a 2016 interview with the Wednesday Journal, he added, “By committing the first random mass murder in 20th-century America, Richard Speck opened the floodgates to a tragic phenomenon that haunts us today.”

The eight young women murdered at the hands of Richard Speck.

Martin believed that Speck was evil incarnate. The 24-year-old ex-convict from Texas stabbed or strangled (and, in one case, raped) the female nursing students. While in hiding two days after the grisly murders, Speck tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists with a broken wine bottle. But once he was locked up in Statesville Correctional Center, Illinois’ maximum-security prison near Joliet, the human monster never showed any remorse for the bloody, heinous acts he committed.

Scene of the crimes: The townhouses at 2319 E. 100th Street, Chicago.

There was one person who survived that horrible night: 85-pound student nurse Corazon Amurao. Originally from the Philippines, Ms. Amurao hid, terrified, under a bunk bed during the five-hour killing rampage. One by one, her nursing school classmates were ruthlessly slain by the madman. At dawn, in shock, she crawled through the carnage to the townhouse balcony. For 20 minutes she screamed, “Oh my God, they are all dead!”

WTTW Interview with Bill Martin (2016).

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Forever Friars: The Inspiring Story of Bill Jenks ’50

Fenwick High School periodically profiles people affiliated with our community who have since passed on.

Remembering the Spirit and Will of Bill Jenks

By Mark Vruno

To call William “Bill” Jenks ’50 (1932-1989) inspirational might be a gross understatement. But inspire he did and, through his preserved written words, still does nearly 30 years after his death. All of those words – hundreds of thousands of them and millions of characters – were typed on an electronic typewriter by Jenks, who was paralyzed and pecked at the keys using a wooden peg held tightly between his teeth. He wasn’t born without the use of his arms and legs, however.

Jenks grew up a healthy boy in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood. In late 1943 the Jenks family moved to Park Ridge, on the northwest edge of the city, where Bill and John, his older brother, transferred to St. Paul of the Cross parish and school (Sisters of Mercy). In the autumn of ’46 Bill followed John to Fenwick High School on a merit scholarship. He began making the daily, 13-mile trek south to Oak Park with their father, Mack, who was a teacher at nearby Austin High, a Chicago Public School. Mack Jenks also was a retired U.S. Army Officer and taught military science to Junior ROTC students at Austin.

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