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Harlem Avenue activist Frank DiPiero

DiPieroYou’ve got answers? Frank DiPiero has questions: lots of them. An affable and curious guy by nature, DiPiero has turned pride in his Italian-American identity into a shared Internet radio experience with a light-hearted name: “Keepin’ It Real with Frankie D.” For him, it marks another step in his effort to promote education, culture and awareness in the Italian community.

“I started ‘Keepin’ It Real with Frankie D.’ in 2013,” says DiPiero, whose father traces his roots to Bugnara in Abruzzo and his mother to Sant’Ambrogio in Sicily. As for the name, “That’s what everyone called me when I was young and I’m all about being yourself — because only you can be your best self.”

To be sure, DiPiero gives his best on his radio shows, which run on the Windy City Hometown Entertainment Network and typically last from 30 to 45 minutes. The programs cover a broad range of Italian-American issues and organizations, along with history and culture.

A few episodes have proven particularly poignant for Frankie D., including one in May that spotlighted Italo Balbo’s flight to Chicago for the 1933 World’s Fair. “Some people think this was the greatest achievement in aeronautical history as well as one of the proudest moments for Italians in America,” he says. “We featured an expert on the subject and an eyewitness of the landing. It was a 45-minute history lesson [on an achievement] that all Italian Americans, young and old, should know about.”

DiPiero also has a video show by the same name that originates out of Ridgewood High School in Norridge. “It isn’t exclusively about Italian topics, but I have done a show about the thriving Italian program there.” He’s also interviewed Italian alumni whose achievements run from winning a state golf championship to launching an acting career in Hollywood.

DiPiero is proud of the fact that “Keepin’ It Real” led a group of his friends and listeners to launch the Little Italy Cenetta. “We organize dinners around the Harlem Avenue area, but this isn’t just about eating Italian food and smoking cigars,” he says.

Indeed, the Cenetta has hosted Dominic Candeloro — an Italian scholar, author and former history professor who is spearheading the campaign to start an Italian American Studies Program at Loyola University Chicago. “I’m honored to say that I’m on the committee for this project and hopefully by the fall, we will have achieved our goal of raising $500,000,” DiPiero says.

If the program launches, it won’t be the first time DiPiero’s been on the right side of Chicago history. He’s also the owner of Jeri’s Diner in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood — a 24-hour eatery that remains virtually unchanged since his father opened it in 1963.

“It’s like going back in time,” DiPiero says. “I talk to people from all walks of life there and I’m a curious guy by nature. So doing a show about my favorite topic and greatest passion—Italian America—was a relatively easy transition.”

In other words, Frankie D. not only keeps it real: He serves up local radio with a generous helping of personality.

You can contact DiPiero at 773-307-7748 or frankdp4@yahoo.com, or check out his “Keepin’ It Real with Frankie D.” Facebook page.


About Lou Carlozo

A former longtime staff writer, editor and columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Lou Carlozo is a personal finance contributor to Reuters and the proud writer of Fra Noi's Lou&A column, which spotlights important Italian Americans. He is currently studying for his master's degree at National-Louis University, where he teaches journalism and writing on the graduate school level. He also writes for the Tribune Content Agency and a variety of other freelance outlets including DealNews, Money Under 30 and Yesware. He lives in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago with his wife of more than 17 years, Amy (a hospice chaplain), and two children.