"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."


Happy Birthday Luke!

by  Phyllis Zeck

del principe ciolli

Luke and Ashley

My great grandparents, Elvira and Pietro Del Principe, had 17 children.  The youngest was Francesco Nova.  Francesco had two children, Muriel and Frank Jr (Luke).  The photo on the left was taken two years ago when my daughter Ashley visited Luke in Tucson, Arizona.

Luke owns several restaurants featuring Chicago style beef sandwiches based on his mother Edith and his cousin Margie’s original recipe. Next month Luke will celebrate his 80th birthday.  He still works at his restaurant each day, maybe that’s his secret for looking so young.  

The Tucson news highlighted Luke’s restaurant in their morning show called The Morning Blend.  Click on this link to watch Luke’s son Jason show us some mouth watering samples of Luke’s famous sandwiches.

For more blog posts about Francesco’s family click on his name in the categories box in the right column of this website.



Edith’s Baby Shower

by  Phyllis Zeck

Edith Vitullo Del PrincipeEdith Veronica Vitullo Del Principe was born in 1909. Her photo appears on the left.  I just love this photo of her. Edith married the youngest brother of the family, Francesco and they had two children.  Muriel was born in 1932 and Frank Jr (Luke) was born in 1933.  Today Muriel operates restaurants in the Chicago area with her children and Luke operates restaurants in Arizona with his children.  For more blog posts about Francesco’s family click on his name in the categories box in the right column of this website.  To view photos of Frank’s family click on this link to their photo gallery.  

Below is an invitation that Bear (Antonio’s granddaughter) emailed to me.  This invitation was sent to Bear’s great grandmother Margaret inviting her to attend a baby shower for Edith.  Edith was pregnant with Muriel who was due to arrive in June.  

Edith Prince Baby shower  
                                                                                         Edith Prince Baby shower Envelope  

The shower was held at 2102 W Harrison Street.  I don’t recongnise that address.  I wondered if possibly Edith lived there and the shower was to be in her home.  I logged into my Ancestry.com account to look at their address but I didn’t have a census record saved for Frank and Edith.  I had noticed on the invitation that the guest of honor was Edith Prince.  We know that Antonio shortened his name from Del Principe to Prince. In 2018 I discovered a draft registration card for Guiseppe dated June 5,1917 in which Joe had shortened his last name to Prince.  I did not know that Frank and Edith shortened their last names as well.  I searched for a census record for Frank and Edith with the last of Prince and located them in the 1930 census.  They were living at 1238 W. Ohio St, about 3 miles from the music store.  So perhaps the shower was held at a coffee shop down the street from the music store.

It’s odd that I never thought much about our ancestors having baby shower’s for each other at the turn of the century.  I suspect the showers were for women only and maybe held for the birth of the mother’s first child only.  I don’t remember my mother ever go to a friend or relative’s baby shower but we moved out of the city in 1958 and I don’t believe mom went downtown very often.  What a fun find this was for Bear!  I appreciate that the invitation and the envelope were kept in great condition after all these years. Thank you Bear for sharing.  





My Visit To The Windy City

by  Phyllis Zeck

Last May I took some time for a little fun and relaxation and flew to Chicago.  What a fantastic trip it was!  My only regret was that I was unable to meet my cousin Joe.  He was not able to make the trip to Chicago this year.   Lori and I did however get to meet Joe’s sister Dolores and Dolores’ daughter Gayle.  They happen to live in the same town that my sister lives in.  We met for lunch and shared stories about our families along with some photographs.

The first few days of vacation were spent catching up with my sister Lori and my brother Tony as well as with Sue, one of my best friends from high school.   In between visits, lunches and errands I began dragging boxes up from Lori’s basement to see what I could uncover to help me with my genealogy search.  These were the boxes I was itching to dig into!  There were a couple of small boxes that held some items from my grandfather Gilbert and my mother.  One box had grandpa’s glasses and glass case which he always had in his left shirt pocket.  The box had his address book and many Mass cards from friends and relatives.  The pages of grandpa’s tiny address book were frayed and had to be turned gently.  Grandpa had penciled in the birthdays of all 13 of his grandchildren in the back of the book.  He also had written in the married names of his brother Paul’s daughters Toni and Paulette.  Bingo!  I had been searching for Toni and her twin sister Paulette for a year but I didn’t know their married names.  Lori and I called Toni and Paulette right then and there and boy was it great to finally speak to them.

One day Lori and I took a trip to Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery and the Queen of Heaven Mausoleum in Hillside.  The first section we stopped at was the gravesite of our great grandparents Pietro and Elvira.  Buried nearby is their son Anthony, their son Paul and Paul’s daughter Dorothy, their son Gilbert (our grandfather) and Gilbert’s wife Bertha.

We drove to another section of the cemetery to see our parents graves, Robert and Corinne Winike.  Also buried in this section are Grandpa’s brother’s Hank, Otto and Frank and Frank’s wife Edith, as well as Muriel’s husband Justin.  

After lunch we went to the Queen of Heaven Mausoleum.  Grandpa’s brother John and his wife Jeanette are buried here.  It was dark and quiet inside and we walked through all the floors admiring the glorious stained glass windows.


Queen of Heaven Mausoleum









Our last stop of the day was to drive by the home where our family lived from 1956 to 1996.   I can not believe how many people lived in that tiny home: mom and dad, eight kids, grandpa, plus daddy’s mother & father who lived in an apartment on the second floor.  How different it looked!  I took some snap shots and how I want to “photo shop” out the huge trees that now hide the house & garage and remove the city side walk next to Villa Ave.  Those things weren’t there when I was a child.

I want to add in grandpa’s rose bushes and his garden with his tomato plants.  The swing set and swimming pool were missing from the back yard and the slip & slide wasn’t rolled out on the front lawn.  Where were all the bikes that were normally left in the driveway? Lori and I drove away feeling melancholy; I was lost in my childhood memories.

Since we needed a Pick-Me-Up we decided the next day to drive out to Jay’s Beef in Schiller Park to visit with Muriel.  Ah, I would finally be able to sink my teeth into one of our families famous beef sandwiches.  What fun we had with Muriel!  We spent the morning talking and eating; a favorite pastime of all Italians.


Another day Lori and I took the train downtown.  We went to the Chicago History Museum.  There were so many great exhibits and of course we were the last two visitors to leave as the employees tried to lock up and go home.  We caught a cab ride back to the train station and were treated to a ride along Lake Shore Drive and through the Magnificent Mile shopping district.

I have to say one of my favorite days of the trip was the day Lori and I went to meet our newly discovered Ciolli cousins.  We had lunch at Allen & Marie’s house and Vickie joined us for the day.  But I’m afraid this is a topic that will need to be written another time, stay tuned for part 2…



Francesco Nova

by  Phyllis Zeck

Frank was the youngest of Pietro and Elvira’s sons, he was born in 1908.  His middle name means New.

 Elvira’s second child was born in 1889 and named Francesco.  He died as an infant in Pescasseroli, Italy.

Frank married Edith Veronica Vitullo and they had two children Muriel and Frank “Luke”.  

Frank worked for his brother Tony at the accordion store on Wabash Ave, in the Loop in downtown Chicago.  When Tony died from his injuries after a fall off a ladder, Frank took over the store.  Tony’s wife Margaret became Frank’s business partner.  Frank later moved the store to Cicero Ave & Madison St.

Luke’s daughter Lisa remembers the music stores well.  Her brothers took drum and guitar lessons and she used to listen to all the 45 records.



Chicago’s Italian Beef Sandwiches

by  Phyllis Zeck

Four words that can make you salivate: Chicago’s Italian Beef Sandwiches!  No other beef sandwich comes close to the ones made by our family.

You bite into your sandwich and taste the tender beef, the sweet green peppers, and you hear the juice drip down on your plate.  You wrap the yellow crackling paper tighter around the sandwich so nothing else escapes.  You can’t help it – a huge  smile spreads over your face.  You feel like you are in Heaven.  You finish your sandwich.  It’s gone.  It’s over.  How long until you can eat the next one?


The original Italian beef sandwich recipe spans three generations and was created in the 1940’s by Margie (John’s daughter) and Edith (Luke and Muriel’s mother).

Margie and her husband Al Vitullo owned an ice cream store under the El tracks on Hoyne Ave and added the sandwich to the menu.  Their most popular beef stand was located at Cicero Ave and Kammerlig St.

And as they say – the rest is history!

Frank Jr (Luke) began his restaurant in 1965 and now has restaurants in Tucson.  Luke is still working full time, he says he doesn’t know what he’d do with himself if he retired.  Information about Luke’s restaurants can be found at www.lukessandwiches.com.

Luke’s two sons Joel and Cary operate branches in the Phoenix area and this is the link to their website http://www.lukesofchicago.com/.  Luke’s son Matt owns a restaurant in Elkhorn WI.

Margie, Frank Jr (Luke), and Muriel

Luke’s sister Muriel and her husband Justin Fortuna opened their stand in 1976.  They have three restaurants, one on North Ave in Chicago, one in Harwood Heights, and one in Schiller Park.  Their website is www.jaysbeef.com .  The restaurants are named after Muriel and Justin’s son Jay who now helps run them.   You’ll find Muriel still putting in a full day’s work behind the counter.