by Joanne Spata
What a perfect match: Dominic Stramaglia and the Italian Cultural Center at Casa Italia. They have so much in common! They are both dedicated to their cultural heritage and the support of all that is good, noteworthy and educational. They are very intelligent, creative and entertaining. And they are each priceless treasures to everyone who is fortunate enough to be involved with them. No wonder the Italian Cultural Center at Casa Italia selected Dominic Stramaglia as its 2013 Man of the Year.
To celebrate this occasion, more than 700 people gathered on Feb. 16 for an incredible evening of good food, good friends and a really good cause.
“This is truly one of the most successful dinner dances in recent history,” noted outgoing Casa Italia Chairman Tony Turano. “We are very blessed to have such a well-regarded honoree as Dominic Stramaglia, who is so vested in our mission, take such an active role in the success of this year’s dinner.”
The gala was orchestrated through the tireless efforts of the brother-and-sister team of Ronald Lemar and Amy Lemar, who co-chaired the stellar event. Together with outgoing Chairman Tony Turano, honoree Dominic Stramaglia and their committee, they not only arranged a fabulous evening, but also raised much-needed funds to help Casa Italia continue in its mission of promoting Italian language and culture while providing a location that the community can call home.
A festive atmosphere was present as the crowd entered the ballroom, which was aglow in white with red accents as far as the eye could see. Music was in the air as provided by Val’s Trio during the cocktail hour; while a veritable Who’s Who of the Italian-American community enjoyed a sumptuous seafood hors d’oeuvres buffet, complete with a giant clam ice sculpture filled with equally large fresh shrimp, as well as clams and oysters that were shucked as people selected them. Fried shrimp, calamari, seafood salad and numerous other delicacies rounded out the buffet, from where else but Supreme Lobster: one of Dominic Stramaglia’s many successful businesses.
As the lights dimmed and the program began, the incredible Jack Miuccio treated everyone to his a cappella rendition of both the American and Italian National anthems. Amy Lemar took the stage next and was followed by her brother Ronald Lemar as they welcomed the guests and thanked their committee for their hard work. They especially thanked the many sponsors of the evening. At the Michelangelo level, they were Turano Baking Co., Wintrust, Rex Carton Company and Supreme Lobster. At the Leonardo da Vinci level ,they were Midway Dodge, Speed-O-Lite Printing Center, Calabrese in America, Jim Lentz-Ungaretti & Harris, Columbian Club of Chicago, Mancari Oak Lawn Dealership, Boston Sword & Tuna, Jay and Claudia Bauer and the Nicci Family. And at the Dante level the sponsors included Palmisano & Moltz, Cray Kaiser Ltd. CPA’s, the Village of Franklin Park, Expack Seafood, Knowledge Advisors, Omega Sea Inc., Isaacson & Stein Fish Company, Paul’s Pizza & Hotdog Inc., Belmonte Brothers Florists, and Nicholas Vangel & Family.
They then introduced Tony Turano, Chairman of Casa Italia who added his deep gratitude to Dominic Stramaglia, the chairpeople of the events Amy, and those who were present to help support Casa Italia. Tony then introduced his brother, one of Casa Italia’s Founders, Senator Renato Turano, who added his congratulations to Dominic Stramaglia.
A true feeling of love and admiration was in the air when three of Dominic Stramaglia’s greatest allies were introduced to speak about the man of the hour. First up was Gregory Schuda, a longtime business associate at Supreme Lobster. He spoke of Dominic’s keen business sense, which is tempered with his strong desire to only sell the very best. As Dominic said, “If I can’t take it home and eat it; I will not sell it.” Next, representing Dominic’s four children — Laura, John, Kim and Tim — Laura spoke, sharing with us her father’s generous and loving spirit. And finally, Dominic’s grandson Jonathan Stramaglia spoke regarding the deep respect he had for his grandfather and how he enjoyed working with him.
Dominic Stramaglia then came to the stage as he humbly accepted his Italian Cultural Center at Casa Italia’s 2013 Man of the Year Award from Tony Turano and Amy and Ron Lemar. He spoke from the heart when he stated how moved he was that so many of his family, friends, and business associates had come to honor him and to help support such a worthy cause, that was so very important to him. He talked about his family’s love and support, and how he had been truly blessed in his life. He read from an actual letter that he had received from an elderly customer whom had shopped at his Villa Park store for years. He was visibly moved by her sincere good wishes and warm sentiment toward him. He noted that people like this customer made his life’s work worthwhile.
Tony Turano then took to the stage and introduced me as the incoming chairperson. I offered my gratitude to Tony and all the past chairmen who had built such a solid foundation at Casa Italia, and pledged to further expand the growth and outreach of the Casa for the future. I extended an invitation to all present to visit Casa Italia, tour its museums and art galleries, partake in its many outdoor activities, and attend the many cultural events that the Casa offers annually.
I then introduced my officers for the coming year: Dan Corrado, vice chairman; Ronald Lemar, secretary; Guiseppe Zerillo, treasurer; Kimberly Palmisano, parliamentarian; and Frs. August Feccia and Aldo Vendramin, spiritual directors. Upon completion of my speech, Tony presented me with a lovely bouquet of roses and pledged his continuing support and offered his congratulations.
As a sumptuous dinner of what else but lobster tail and filet was served, the mood was set by the beautiful tones of the Tremper Golden Strings, as they serenaded the room. They are an internationally known strolling string ensemble of 50 incredibly talented high school students from Kenosha. This was their third appearance at the casa dinner, thanks to the generosity of the Turano family.
Immediately following dinner, popular group Diamanti kicked the party into high gear as everyone danced, making room for the sumptuous sweet table, complete with gelato bar and a four-foot-tall ice sculpture, sporting Casa Italia’s logo and dispensing chilled Sambuca and limoncello. The room was at a fever’s pitch when the Fiat 500 (or cash prize of $12,000) was drawn. The winning ticket had been split between 10 good friends, many of whom were present for the drawing, for a very exciting end to the evening. It was truly a night to remember.