Naples Bakery to close its doors after 97 years

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, but it may be too early to be philosophical for Naples Bakery customers, saddened by the recent announcement that the popular Evergreen Park bakery will close after 97 years on Dec. 31.

The fourth-generation family bakery that has been at 3705 W. 95th St. since 1963, dates back to 1918, when Alphonso Lauro, a native of Italy, opened the original location at 67th and Wood Street in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. He later moved to a bigger location nearby at 69th and Paulina.

He passed the business on to his son, Joseph Lauro. He died in 2000, and the bakery is now run by his daughter, Marijo Nowobielski, and her daughter, Jennifer Mavrogiannis.

Throughout its nearly 100-year history, many generations of Chicago-area residents came to the bakery that was known for its wedding cakes, and cakes for every occasion, as well as cannoli and all sorts of other pastries made using recipes handed down from Italy.

 In the announcement placed on its front door at 3705 W. 95th St., and on its Facebook page, the bakery owners said “It is with a heavy heart and deepest regret that we must announce the closing of our bakery on Dec. 31... Naples Bakery has proudly served the Chicagoland community for the last 97 years. We have developed many friendships and loyal customers and for that we are forever grateful.”

According to the statement, Barraco’s Pizza, located next-door at 3701 W. 95th St., will be taking over the space as part of its expansion plans. Barraco’s is currently undergoing a renovation following a kitchen fire that occurred in September. The fire caused Naples to close for almost a week due to water and damage. Barraco’s, another family-owned business, bought the Naples building in October, according to published reports.

The owners of Naples later clarified their statement on Facebook, stressing that Barraco’s did not force them out, as some commenters had suggested.

“Over the last 36 years that Naples and Barraco’s have been neighbors we have become very close like a family. After 97 years in business the Naples family decided the time had come,” said the owners, who could not be reached for comment earlier this week.

As soon as the announcement was placed on Facebook, dozens of customers left comments about their traditions of going there, and how sad they were to hear the news.

“Your cannolis and sprinkle cookies are an indelible part of my childhood. Today, a wonderful reminder of my very missed grandparents. So sad to see Naples go. Thank you for giving so many delicious memories,” said one woman.

“I can’t remember a family gathering without Naples baked goods on the table,” said one woman who got her wedding cake there 47 years ago.

“The best chocolate doughnuts ever,” said Mary King, of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood. “My mother used to go there, and I continue the tradition.”

Longtime employee Fannie Lambropoulos, of Oak Lawn, said she is as sad as the customers.

“I’ve been here working behind the counter for years and years. The customers are great and it is like a family. I’m not looking forward to my last day of work,” she said.

Worth salutes volunteer firefighters

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

worth fire alumni 11-17

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Alumni of the volunteer Worth Fire Department gather behind a banner during the dedication Sunday of a plaque honoring them, which will be installed at the North Palos Fire Protection Station 3, 7116 W. 111th St., in Worth.


Past and present Worth firefighters gathered on Sunday for the unveiling of a plaque honoring members of the Worth Volunteer Fire Department, which disbanded after 83 years when the Palos North Fire Protection District took over in 2009.

The plaque reading “Dedicated to the tremendous efforts of the countless men and women volunteers of the Worth Fire Department,” was scheduled to be installed this week on the brick exterior of the department’s former home, now North Palos Fire Protection District Station 3, 7116 W. 111th St. The ceremony was held there at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“It is a tribute to all the men and women who served the people of Worth. You will never be forgotten. We will never forget what you did. We are very grateful for your service,” said Worth Mayor Mary Werner.

While she spoke, Ed Palenik and Don Albright, both alumni of the Worth Fire Department, held up an alumni banner proclaiming “Proud to Serve” and “Protecting our Village.”

Palenik, a lifelong Worth resident, currently serves as a part-time firefighter in Evergreen Park. “We alumni came up with the idea for the plaque, just to show that the department was once here. We have a great relationship with North Palos, and both associations, the alumni and North Palos, worked together to get it done.”

“It is great that we could help. They are an important part of our history,” said North Palos Deputy Chief Paul Macklin.

The Worth Lions Club also assisted with the cost of the plaque.

“To be honored as an organization like this is really something,” said Albright, who said he enjoyed his time with the Worth Fire Department, which he joined in 1976. Like Palenik, he stayed until the end of 2008, when North Palos took over. They both worked as full-time firefighters for other departments while volunteering in Worth.

“I’ve never worked with a greater group of people,” said Ken Murphy, another alumnus of the volunteer department.

The Worth Fire Department was founded in 1925, as a volunteer department with William Little as the first fire chief. The original station was a carriage house on the southeast corner of 111st and Depot Street, before the department moved across the street to the current site in 1950. The building that now houses North Palos Station 3 originally also included the Worth Village Hall, Police Department and village library. It was renovated and added upon in 1995.

“Having North Palos take over was a win-win for everybody,” said Werner. She pointed out that the fire protection district absorbed all the Worth Fire Department staff, so no jobs were lost. Also, the larger fire protection district, which also serves Palos Hills and Hickory Hills, gave Worth firefighters access to better training and upgraded equipment.

“We were very fortunate. We now have three fire stations protecting us,” said Werner, who was not in office when the change was made.

Hickory Hills approves rezoning for Sabre Woods development

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Sabre Woods, a proposed development on the former 30-acre Sabre Room property on 95th Street, was the primary focus of Hickory Hills Council members during their meeting last Thursday.

After a lengthy discussion in a finding of fact presentation on information from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, the council agreed in a 7-1 vote to approve proposed rezoning, from its current C-3 (Commercial) to PUD/Special Use (Planned Urban Development). Casting the single dissenting vote was Ald. Joe Stachnik (3rd Ward).

Although the zoning request was approved, council members had many questions about the overall proposed development.

While the approval is subject to preparation of an ordinance at a future date, village attorney Vince Cainkar said, “Any zoning decision would be based on a starting/ending date. If timelines were not met, the zoning would revert back to the original C-3 classification.”

Presenting the proposed development plans were Jim Louthen, development project manager, and Charles Cornelius, Jr., of Chicagoland Realty Services, LLC, who is working with the Kozias Group, owners of the property.

Currently, the proposed development of the 30 acres would include six single-family homes on the west side of the property, a Senior Village for ages 55 and over, an assisted living campus including a memory unit, possibly two five-story apartment units. and retail/commercial fronting on 95th street along the eastern edge of the property. Also possible is an open civic area, green space and retention ponds.

Loughton stated that the best use for a large portion of the property on the northwest corner could be a park-like area with walking trails, benches, etc., because it is in a wetlands, floodplain area.

Mayor Mike Howley countered his statement with a question about who would be responsible for maintaining it. “This would be a huge responsibility,” he said.

Council members also questioned plans for storm water retention and if there would be retention ponds located on the property.

Loughton said the development plans called for keeping storm water on the property to avoid any flooding of neighboring properties, but there could be a problem with retention ponds as there are wetland and floodplain issues.

Ald. Debbie Ferrero (2nd Ward) questioned why apartments were being included instead of the originally planned condos in the five-story units. “We originally were told there would be condos,” she said.

Cornelius replied that market studies indicate that single-family ranches seem to be most desired.

Ferrero was not happy with his answer. “You are not answering my question. I am asking about the five-story buildings. Why apartments instead of condos?”

Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd Ward) repeated her question about the condos, but again, did not get a definitive answer.

Asked later about the vote of approval, Howley said, “Basically we are just greenlighting the preliminary discussion and authorizing the council to enter into negotiations to approve the rezoning. It is all subject to preparation of an ordinance at a future date.”

It wasn't easy but McAuley wins 15th state title

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

McAuley volleyball players show off their championship trophy to their fans Saturday at Redbird Arena in Normal.


NORMAL – Of course it was going to go three sets.

Of course it was not going to be easy.

But in the end, Mother McAuley, ranked No. 1 in in the nation by, hoisted the Illinois High School Association Class 4A championship trophy after beating Minooka 25-19, 19-25, 25-19 Saturday night at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University. It was their 15th state volleyball title – the most by any school in Illinois – and coach Jen DeJarld’s second.

“After last year (losing in the sectional final to Benet) we wanted to be stronger this year,” said junior Charley Niego, who had 14 kills and 15 digs in the title match. “We’ve been in a lot of pressure situations this year and it prepared us for this.’’

Katie O’Connell added 11 kills and 13 digs while Nancy Kane had 31 assists and Emma Reilly 14 digs for the Macs, who finished 40-1.

Credit a rugged schedule, including a trip to Louisville in which McAuley suffered its lone loss (to St. Louis’s St. Joseph Academy)  and its own Asics Tournament as helping the Mac blossom into a team that didn’t wilt under pressure.

“This one is special for a different reason,” DeJarld said. “Early in the season, it took a while for us to fire on all cylinders. Once we went to Louisville and played in a tough tournament, I saw them fight back and I saw a real strong quality in them. They’re fighters. A lot of them have never won a championship. A lot of them don’t play for highly successful club teams that win at high levels.’’

The Mighty Macs came into the final four with shovels as they dug themselves into five holes in five sets in a sectional championship victory over Marist and a supersectional victory over Geneva. Against Geneva, the Macs were down 21-12, 17-14 and 11-4 in each set but pulled off a 22-25, 25-20, 25-21 victory over the Vikings at Hinsdale South on Nov. 5.

Somewhere between its Chicago campus and Redbird Arena, the Macs seemed to lose those shovels along Interstate 55 as they took 8-3 and 15-4 leads each set in the semifinals Friday en route to a 25-13, 25-15 win over Niles West to get to the Minooka match.

The Macs hitters were on fire, registering a blazing .490 hitting percentage – committing just three errors in 51 attacks. Niego led the Way with 14 kills while O’Connelll added seven and Kane came up with 21 assists against Niles.

But on Saturday, someone found the shovels and the Macs trailed 5-1 quickly and lost in that set and with Minooka having all the momentum and a fan section going crazy, the Indians (35-7) grabbed a quick 2-0 lead before the Macs had enough and scored four straight and never trailed the rest of the way.

“We knew it was do-or-die and had to keep scoring points,” Niego said. “Every point mattered.’’

In an example of how statistics can lie, McAuley had a .169 hitting percentage and Minooka a .112, which, on the surface, looks like it could have been a sloppy match. True there were 38 errors to go with 74 kills, but there were plenty of attempts that were blocked or saved

“There were power hitters on both sides and great defense,” DeJarld said.

Minooka junior Alli Papesh led the Indians with 20 kills while junior Rocky Perinar added 12.

Other members of the Mighty Macs championship roster were Maddie Dederichs, Ashley Maher, Abby O’Brien, Paige Pappas, Evie Gorman, MaryKate Boland, Bridget Burke, Amandaa Horn, Nora Burke, Casey Macander, Moira Mixan and Becca Stepanek.  

The Marian kind

Marian Catholic of Chicago Heights beat Marian Central Catholic of Woodstock, 25-22, 22-25, 25-22 in a battle of East Suburban Catholic Conference powers to win the Class 3A title.

The champs, 32-9, knocked Chicago Christian out in regional play and Queen of Peace in Supersectional play en route to Normal.

During the regular season, the Spartans lost to Sandburg, Mother McAuley and Marist. It was after a 25-17, 25-17 loss to the RedHawks Sept. 27 that they ran the table and won their final 18 matches.


Hickory Hills honors veterans with help from 'Kruse's Krew'

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

The sun was shining on an unusually warm November morning Saturday as 60 people gathered for the Veterans Day Memorial Observance and Wreath Laying Ceremony that was held at Memorial Park in Hickory Hills.

Officiating at the ceremony was Ald. Thomas McAvoy (3rd Ward) because Mayor Mike Howley was unable to attend. Also on hand was Hickory Hills Police Chief Al Vodicka, Police Chaplain Father Joe Mol and members of both the police and fire departments.

The color guard of Cub Scout Pack 4728 presented the colors for the ceremony. Boy Scout Joseph Szeszycki escorted City Clerk Dee Catizone and Nancy Knutson for the wreath laying portion of the program.

In addition to honoring all veterans for their service and sacrifice, Saturday’s ceremony also brought special attention to a group of volunteers who labor all year long to provide messages of encouragement and care packages to soldiers in active duty

Fifteen volunteers, members of a local organization known as the “Boxers Battalion” of Kruse’s Krew, a Hickory Hills-based local organization (formerly known as “Adopt a Platoon”) were honored with certificates of appreciation for their dedicated efforts to send needed items to young men and women, who they explain are in harm’s way and deployed far from home defending America.

On the third Tuesday of every month, these volunteers gather to prepare boxes of donated food, treats, toiletries, letters, cards and other items to send to U.S. troops around the world.

The title Kruse’s Krew is derived from the name of the man who started the organization 12 years ago, operating out of his basement. He is Jim Kruse, a veteran of the Vietnam War. He was in the U.S. Army where he achieved the rank of sergeant, serving as a teletype and cryptology equipment specialist. He served from 1967-1970. Today he resides in Palos Hills with Debra, his wife of 20 years.

He knows first-hand how lonely it can be for a soldier on the battlefield.

“I know from experience that the most important thing to a serviceman or woman is not the chow, or sack time, or firing their weapons. It is mail call. You stand in line, waiting for your name to be called, and what a boost it is when you receive a letter or care package from home. But when there is no letter, no package, it is very depressing,” he said.

“Many of our troops now have no family back home or loved ones to write them. They enlisted to get away from paths that were going nowhere, or had no family who cared, or were too poor to send anything,” added Kruse. “My team and I have been fighting to prevent that depression at mail call with love and support American style. We send goodies, cards, letters and items to let them know they have support, and prayers of folks back home.”

Twelve years ago, as Christmas was approaching, Kruse said he had an idea about sending Christmas cards to troops on active duty.

“I went to my priest at St. Patricia’s and asked if I could hold a card-signing there. He said yes, and the first year we had 400 cards signed by parishioners,” recalled Kruse. “Last year, card signing was done at several locations including Stagg and Andrews high schools, Oakridge School and Fairplay Grocery Store. We mailed a total of 7,000 Christmas cards to our soldiers.”

The project has grown to include the care packages, packed by volunteers, which often include homemade cookies and fudge. “One of our volunteers knits stockings all year so they can be sent in the Christmas packages,” said Kruse.

Kruse’s Krew works with the City of Hickory Hills, local merchants and religious groups to increase the awareness of veterans and to collect donated items to be sent to the Armed Forces. There are several collection points in the area where residents can donate items for the boxes including Hickory Hills City Hall, the Community Center at 7800 W. 89th Place, and the Palos Hills Community Center at 8455 W. 103rd St.

“These boxes or care packages have a positive impact on the morale of the men and women who defend us, our nation and liberty. The packages let them know that their sacrifices are appreciated and that they are not forgotten or alone,” said Kruse.

“My volunteers who the city honored today are all standing up to let our servicemen and women know that they will not be alone, not on our watch.”