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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Road Trip on Steroids

The Rosners sold nearly everything and are living their dream of traveling across America!

Dave Rosner, Fenwick Class of 1975.

When Fenwick alumnus David Rosner ’75 retired in March of 2017, he and his wife, Kristine, sold most of their possessions – including two homes in Northern California (their primary residence and a rental property) – and purchased a mobile home. Mr. Rosner’s LinkedIn profile now reads as follows:

Retired
Company Name: Not Working Anymore
Dates Employed: Mar 2017 – Present
Employment Duration: 16 mos. and counting!
Location: Traveling the World
“We bought an RV and we’re out on the road — maybe we’ll see you sometime soon!”

 

Rosner, who resided in Menlo Park, CA, settled on the West Coast more than 30 years ago. He had a successful career as an executive recruiter in Silicon Valley (Keifer Professional Search in San Jose) and as a sales/business development executive in the computer/technology industry (Oracle/Primavera in Redwood City). Meanwhile, Kristine was a human resources/benefits consultant, working with start-up firms and young tech companies.

The Rosners visited Fenwick in September 2017, had lunch with President Emeritus Fr. Dick LaPata, O.P. ’50 in the student cafeteria, and met with Mr. Borsch (who helped Dave get into Lewis University) as well as Math Teacher and Blackfriars Guild honcho Mr. Roger Finnell ’59. (Dave was a BFG member and participated in Banua.) While in town, they also played golf in the annual Pass the Torch outing. (It’s on Sept. 20th this year.) Since then they’ve traveled to Amarillo, Texas; Oklahoma City; St. Louis; Anaheim; San Diego; the Grand Canyon, Palm Desert, CA; Sendona, AZ; Mesa/Phoenix/Scottsdale; Tucson; and Yosemite. Last month alone they were on the road again to Fargo, ND; Omaha and Lincoln, NE; and Cheyenne, WY.

You can follow David and Kristine on Facebook (lots of pics!) and read about the Rosner’s rolling adventures in their “Tales from the Traveling Shanty” blog.

 

The Fenwick Love Connection

On Valentine’s Day last month, the FHS Facebook page posted about how Cupid’s arrow struck the hearts of our ‘First Friar Couple.’ Turns out, romance is in the air more than we first thought!

By Mark Vruno

Father LaPata ’50 baptized the Ori’s son, Joseph Thomas, on March 11th in the Fenwick Chapel. Godparents are Janessa and Frank Perna. ’03.

With St. Patrick’s Day 2018 in the rear-view mirror, today is, of course, St. Joesph’s Day. In honor of the feast day of the patron of the universal church, fathers, families, married people and much more, here is a rundown of couples who are sweet on each other — and who have Fenwick in common.

The Keating children.

 

We thought that Brendan Keating ’97 and his wife, Christa Battaglia ’97, may be the first double-alumnus couple from Fenwick to have gotten married (based on their wedding date). Perhaps it is fitting this St. Paddy’s-St. Joe’s “long weekend” that theirs is one of several mixed, Irish-Italian romances. Brendan grew up in Oak Park and went to St. Bernadine’s, Fenwick and Loyola U. Christa is a St. Giles’ girl. The couple has two children, ages six and three.

The Thies Family

Fenwick Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99 and his wife  Lea (nee Crawford) ’03 are the proud parents of three children: two boys and girl. Admissions Director Joe Ori ’03 and his wife Jen (nee Morris) ’03, an English teacher for the Friars, in January celebrated the birth of their first child: a son, Joseph, Jr.

The Lileks gave thank for Baby Ernie this past Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

From the Class of 2005, Paul and Chrissy (Tallarico) Lilek welcomed home a baby boy, Ernest, born on Thanksgiving Day 2017. (In addition to being a new mother, Mrs. Lilek also is a new Spanish Teacher at Fenwick.)

Alex gave the new Holmbergs the thumbs up in November ’16.

 

 

Social Studies Teacher Alex Holmberg ’05 married former Fenwick English Teacher Georgia Schulte ’04 in November 2016. The couple is expecting their first child literally any day now (March 20 due date!). “I think Mr. Arellano may have introduced the Holmbergs and the Ori’s at our New Teacher Cohort Summer Orientation Program,” says Faculty Mentor Dr. Jerry Lordan.

Ryan Alexander Holmberg was born on St. Joseph’s Day: March 19, 2018.

Thanks to more than 20 alumni comments on Facebook, Friars and their friends have chimed in to inform us that there is at least a baker’s dozen more romances that blossomed within Fenwick’s hallowed halls and have matured, resulting in the holy sacrament of marriage:

Class of ’96:

John & Marianne (Palmer) Carrozza

The Fantasias have resided in the Cayman Islands for the past 13 years.

Anthony & Margaret (Arts) Fantasia were married in June 2004.  The couple currently lives with their three children (Isabella, 9; Leo, 7; and Joseph, 6) in the Cayman Islands.

Class of ’97:

Chris & Chrissy (Gentile) Carlson

Pat McMahon with his hands full.

Mina McMahon in the driver’s seat.

 

 

Patrick & Mina (McGuire) McMahon

Jeff & Suzanne (Sharp) Williams 

 

Class of ’98:

Larry and Katie Dolendi with their twins.

The Dolendis are married “but we didn’t date in high school or college,” writes Katie (Morelli) ’98. “It happened a in our mid-20s.” She and husband Larry Dolendi ’99 are the proud parents of six-year-old twins Reese and Riley.

TJ and Sue Maloney and family.

 

 

Andrea and Mike Mostardi ’98

Tim & Maureen (Goggin) Funke

TJ & Sue (Atella) Mahoney

Michael & Andrea (Geis) Mostardi

Class of ’99:

Lena and Kevin McMahon ’99

Kevin & Lena (Lloyd) McMahon

 

Class of ’00

Dan & Colleen (Dan) Doherty

 

Class of ’01:

Sam and Megan (Kenny) Kucia

The Kucia Family

“We never dated in high school, but we attended senior prom together and reconnected after college,” Megan reports. “We married in 2010, and we had more than 30 Fenwick alumni in attendance.”

Class of ’01 & ’02:

Paul & Jessie (Drevs) Wilhelm

The Wilhelm’s look of love.

 

“We met in Madame Schnabel’s French II Class back in 1999!” Jessie writes. “We still look back on the pictures of us both from the French Club’s trip to France (over the summer of 2000, I believe). Although we didn’t find our l’amour while at Fenwick, we reconnected after college and were married in 2014. We are both proud to be Fenwick alums, but even more so we are grateful to be as we may not have found one another otherwise.”

Class of ’02:

Dan & Kate (Maloy) Ferri

Mike & Edna (Romero) Tallarico

Brian & Erin (Jones) Megall

Ben & Roselyn (Chanchai) Swan

Class of ’04:

Father LaPata married the Flahertys in November 2016.

Kevin & Bianca (Reggi) Flaherty

David & Teresa (Nierzwicki) Pollitz

 

Class of ’05:

Patrick & Sondra (Tenorio) Healy

The Italian destination wedding of Meg Scanlon & Michael McGillen ’07 was featured in Vogue magazine.

 

 

 

 

Class of ’06:

Tim & Nanci (Reggi) Gallo

Michael & Meg (Scanlon) ’07 McGillen

Class of ’07:

Brian & Anastasia (Tesfaye) DeMaio

Class of ’09:

Alex & Kim (Nelson) Furth

Continue reading “The Fenwick Love Connection”