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Legendary maitre d’ Frank Sgro retires

ialian-villageFrank Sgro, the legendary maître d’ at The Italian Village, will be retiring March 1 after 56 years spent working at the iconic restaurant.

Sgro was only 16 years old in 1959 when he started working as a bus boy, working his way up to waiter and captain before earning the maître d’ position. With the exception of a stint in the Army from 1962 to 1964, has spent his entire professional career at The Italian Village restaurants. “I enjoyed every minute of it,” says Sgro. “I have worked for the greatest family in the business.”

Over the years, Sgro has entertained the likes of Luciano Pavarotti, Frank Sinatra, Tom Selleck, Danny Thomas, Gene Simmons, Ozzie Guillen, Bobby Hull, Jim Belushi, Julianna Margulies, George Clooney, Ted Lilly and eight Chicago mayors: Richard J. Daley, Michael Bilandic, Jane Byrne, Harold Washington, David Orr, Eugene Sawyer, Richard J. Daley and Rahm Emanuel.

Here are some of his more memorable moments:

* Sgro met and was photographed with Umberto II, the exiled King of Italy, in the 1960s.

* When Sgro’s friend (and regular patron) Bobby Hull broke his jaw, Sgro made him a big bowl of zabaione, a sweet dessert of egg yolks, powdered sugar and Marsala wine. Hull ate it with a straw.

* When Jim Belushi was performing in “The Pirates of Penzance” at Shubert Theatre, he was a frequent Italian Village patron. On the evening that his brother John died, Jim called Sgro and asked him to send him food because he couldn’t bear to speak to anyone.

This year, along with five other restaurant-industry favorites, Sgro received the National Restaurant Association Living Legend Award, which honors “exceptional members who have committed their lives to enriching Illinois’ cuisine and culture.”

“Frank is a part of our family. He remembers everybody and what they’ve ordered and where they’ve sat, and he works the room and knows where to seat people. He does it very graciously,” say’s Gina Capitanini, a member of the third generation of the family-owned business.

www.italianvillage-chicago.com

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