by Jo Ann Serpico
The long hot days of summer are upon us. Numerous flowers make a picture perfect landscape of beauty and grandeur. I am reveling in the simple joys of the season. I know that as soon as this magic passes, the fall and the glorious shades of autumn will follow. That brings us to Columbus Day, which is for all Italian Americans the most jubilant day of the year.
Each year as Oct. 12 approaches, the excitement grows. This year, our day to shine will be Monday, October 14. The older you get, the anticipation of celebration of Columbus Day does not wane, it flourishes. This year’s Columbus Day Parade Chairman, Tony Durpetti, promises it will be the grandest of grand. Tony, who is the owner, with his wife, Marion, of Gene and Georgetti Steak House, knows all about being the most grand. The thousands of people who walk thru his restaurant doors prove that.
How excited I am and how exciting it will be to have this most grand man leading our parade down Columbus Drive. Tony has always been a most successful man in all of his endeavors. He has expressed how honored he is that JCCIA President Frank Cerrone chose him to be at the center of the front line as he presents his magic touch to the 2013 Columbus Day Parade.
Anthony “Tony” Durpetti, was born to Aldo and Mary Durpetti in February of 1944 just west of Gene and Georgetti’s restaurant, to which he would be inextricably linked for the majority of his adult life. He was the third of four children. Tony grew up in a home where charity and giving were second nature. His mother, Mary, dedicated herself to helping the homeless, often hosting them at her own dinner table in their River North apartment. While they did not grow up with much, they grew up appreciating what they had. Mary was also a constant presence and source of comfort for Italian immigrants as they arrived in Chicago. She would help them acclimate, provide support and lend a hand wherever she could. At a young age she encouraged her children to volunteer their time at their local church, Assumption. The Order of Servants of Mary (OSM), commonly called the Servites (founded in Florence, Italy in 233), worked at Assumption Church to provide care for the arriving Italian immigrants at that time.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity.” This statement and the example his mother provided of giving because it was the right thing to do stayed with Tony throughout his life.
He graduated from St. Michael’s High School in 1963, and began attending Northwestern University through their night school program, while he worked during the day at an advertising agency. Tony was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1965, and he served his two years at a Hercules Missile site in Zweibruken, Germany.
He credits his time in the Army as largely responsible for developing who he became as an adult and it was in the Army that he first realized where hard work and dedication can get you. He made Sergeant E-5 in less then 11 months. He was discharged in 1967. It was this same year that he met a young woman by the name of Marion Michelotti, who lived, by chance, across the street from Tony’s brother in Elmwood Park.
Tony and Marion married on Tony’s birthday in 1969, the same year he began working at McGavern Guild Radio as a rep/salesman. He rose through the ranks of McGavern Guild quickly, making Sales Manager in 1971, Chicago Regional Manager in 1973 and then in 1975 he became the Executive Vice President Central Division.
After 10 years of marriage, Tony’s daughter Michelle was born in 1979. Both he and Marion call this the “most positive” event in their lifetime and said it gave him renewed energy. So in 1985, when he was asked to move to New York to become President of McGavern Guild, that ever-constant ambition coupled with the energy, love and inspiration he received from his family he turned it down. On a family vacation to Italy, Tony sat down with his father-in-law and talked about the possibility of pursuing a lifelong dream — to go into business for himself. He founded Durpetti & Associates shortly thereafter, with 12 offices throughout the United States.
Just one short year later, in 1986, the radio business report named him Executive of the Year, largely due to the dramatic success and rapid growth of Durpetti & Associates.
In 1989, Tony’s father-in-law and friend, Gene, asked that he get involved in the family business Chicago Steakhouse Gene & Georgetti. Gene Michelotti and his partner Alfredo Federighi, who was nicknamed Georgetti, founded Gene & Georgetti in 1941. Located in the heart of River North, Gene & Georgetti is Chicago’s oldest steakhouse. Partners Gene and Georgetti worked hand-in-hand to establish the reputation of excellence that it upholds today.
In October of 1989, Gene passed away. Tony ran both businesses for seven years until his retirement from radio in 1996. Together with his wife, they purchased the restaurant from Marion’s mother, Ida in 1992 and have operated the business ever since.
Over the years he has exemplified himself as a true humanitarian with his outstanding contributions to Assumption Church, Catholic Charities, Chicago Commit to Courage Medal of Honor Convention, Chicago Gateway Green Children’s Memorial Hospital, Fraternite Notre Dame Soup Kitchen, Gold Star Society Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, Independent Cattlemen’s Retail Association and the Scholarship Fund (co-founder), Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, Lamb’s Farm, Reese Erlain Foundaton and Trinity High School.