Fenwick Preaching Team member and the Class of ’20 president reflected on the Lenten Season at Mass on February 26.
By Patrick Feldmeier ’20
40 days. 40 nights. Students and faculty, now is the opportunity to move forward as followers of Christ. Lent is the time to evaluate our connection to God, and make an honest effort to strengthen our faith. Through the trials and tribulations of the following 40 days, let us ask God for trust, for trust will empower us through all of life’s challenges.
At the end of His 40 days in the desert, the devil tested Jesus like never before with short term pleasures and materialistic possessions. Yet, Jesus stayed resilient, and refused to give in to the Devil’s temptations. Jesus trusted that God’s love would triumph any benefit received from giving into the Devil, and God prevailed. This trust, this faith that God is the answer in our lives, will guide us through these next 40 days. We are constantly surrounded by unfulfilling passions that make us happy for a short period of time, then leave us drained shortly after. The Devil works through these passions, but our heart yearns for more. A strong faith in God throughout Lent will orient ourselves to strive for fulfilling pleasures, which will bring us the long-lasting happiness we all desire. Everything begins with a trust in God, and the confidence that He knows what is best for us. Trust in God’s plan, the lessons he teaches, and the love he gives us every day; and rest assured you will enter Easter Sunday a changed person.
This Lent, don’t just give something up, like pop, candy, fighting with your siblings, whatever. Lent is about giving more to God, who calls on us to make a greater effort to pray more, attend mass more often, and embody a Catholic conscience in our daily lives.
We don’t know how our lives will be in 40 days. Life may be better, worse, or a complete transformation because of certain situations. Jesus conquered death merely days after his journey because He believed in the power of God. As Christians, if we can commit to strengthening our relationship with God in the next 40 days, we will see ourselves change right before our eyes. Jesus’ journey in the desert prepared him for his ministry, death and resurrection. I will leave all of you with one simple question. What are you preparing for in the next 40 days?
Fenwick, the storied downtown restaurant has stood the test of time for nine
decades — and for three family generations.
By Patrick Feldmeier ’20
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 EmeritusFather 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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.