Tag Archives: Italy

Food for the Heart

August 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Marie Losole still laughs when telling what she calls “the story of our escapade,” a 1967 elopement by train to Idaho, one of two states where 18-year-olds could get married at that time without parental permission.

Fifty years after running away together, Don and Marie Losole are still running—running a restaurant together. Its name, Lo Sole Mio, is a play on words, combining their last name and the famous Italian love song “O Sole Mio.”

Like their love, the restaurant has endured. August marks 25 years for the venture that embodies their passion and lifelong dream.

The couple, who met at Central High School, both come from restaurant families and began their restaurant careers at age 14. Don was head chef at a large country club by the time he was only 21.

In 1975, the couple opened their first restaurant, Losole’s Landmark, a favorite with the downtown lunch crowd. A job opportunity briefly took the family to California a few years later, but they soon realized the West Coast was not a good fit for them.

After their return to Omaha, Don worked on the supply side of the restaurant industry while Marie began creating dishes for delivery, a side business that “pretty soon got so big that we knew we couldn’t keep doing this from home,” she says.

In 1992, the family took a leap of faith that became Lo Sole Mio. Villa Losole, an event venue, followed in 1997.

Both facilities are located near the Hanscom Park area, tucked away in a quaint neighborhood, exactly the sort of location that the Losoles were seeking—a destination. The charming ambiance is a perfect backdrop for the Italian cuisine and family atmosphere.

“We are a family supporting other families…We are very blessed to have some good employees who’ve been here a long time and some loyal customers who have become friends,” Marie says. “I like to walk around and visit with my customers and see what brings them in, just thank them for coming here…I love being a part of people’s memories.”

Lo Sole Mio has employed all six of their children over the years and now some of their older grandchildren (they have 17).

“My mother always used to say to me, ‘as you get older, time goes by faster.’  Well, my summation of that is that time doesn’t go any faster, it’s just taking us longer to do what we used to do,” Marie says.

Sure, the couple boasts some artificial joints between them, and Marie says “my feet ache a little more, my back aches a little more,” but the Losoles are proud to continue maintaining their “old-school” work ethic and hands-on management approach.

“We make sure it’s something we’d want to eat; quality is very important for us,” Marie says. “We are now at the point where we can enjoy life a little bit more without having to be here 80 hours a week or more. But this is still our first priority. We will probably be here until we pass away, I would imagine.”

In fact, she says, “My husband says to me, ‘This is what’s keeping us young.’”

Visit losolemio.com for more information.

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of 60Plus.

Establishing an Innovative Niche

January 3, 2017 by

While contemplating the theme of B2B’s Women in Business issue, I immediately thought of my friend and client, Amy Zier. She has experience launching and managing businesses in the United States and Italy, and her new cloud-based venture will have truly global reach.

Originally from Omaha, Amy is a trained occupational therapist. Twenty years ago, she opened her first office in Chicago, Amy Zier & Associates. She moved to Italy 10 years ago and has clinics in Napoli, Rome, and Rovereto. The Chicago clinic is still operating, but Amy manages it mainly from Italy.

I asked her if she noticed any differences between running businesses in the United States and Italy. She tells me it’s very rare for a woman to own a private business in Italy, let alone a therapeutic clinic. The challenges involved with starting up were different, too: “The steps to having a business and running a business in Chicago were much easier. You just do it. Here in Italy, there is a lot of bureaucracy to deal with. Building a business in the U.S. is much easier!”

“Building my practice in Italy challenged me in every way imaginable,” she says. “Learning to speak Italian at the level I could connect with professionals and families was difficult. Understanding the culture was an obstacle in the beginning as I really needed to understand perceptions of disabilities, child development, and the role of parents and extended family within the child’s life. I was fortunate to bring to Italy ideas and ways of clinically working with children and parents that were less common; many Italians are looking outside of their ‘system’ to find ways to support differences in their child’s development.”

One of the keys to Amy’s success has been in carving out a unique niche: her clinics use a combination of two methods—DIR (the Developmental, Individual-differences, Relationship-based model) and SI (Sensory Integrations). She tells me, “Innovation is highly valued in my organizations. I encourage thinking boldly, designing programs that make a difference, even though they might be outside the traditional way of practicing.”

One newsworthy thing Amy is doing now is launching an online training/certification program for her unique combination of DIR and SI. Her targets are anyone in the UK and Italian time zones and any English speaking countries.

“The DIR/SI organization was built on the idea of bringing innovative courses to practitioners, educators, and parents from around the globe,” she says. “Our approach to teaching is unique: by incorporating practice-based opportunities, mentoring from a range of experts in diverse fields related to developmental disabilities, and building foundational capacities related to reflective practice, observation of developmental phenomena, and analyzing how to measure our impact as clinicians in meaningful ways.”

What is she looking forward to? “Bringing together participants from different countries and areas of clinical practice will be very interesting.”

The takeaway: By uniquely combining two practices in her “industry,” Amy has become a great example of creating a niche in business.

Scott Anderson is CEO of Doubledare, an executive coaching, consulting, and search firm.

This article was printed in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B.

The 2016 Misery Olympics

August 26, 2016 by

I love the term “Misery Olympics” and wish I’d thought of it first. Google it and you will get “about 660,000” results, but who has time to get to the bottom of that rabbit hole? Basically, the Misery Olympics represent the braggadocio of overachievers.

Laura Vanderkam wrote an article in the May 16 edition of The New York Times that references this phenomenon with statistics from the June 2011 Monthly Labor Review. The MLR, a publication of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that people estimating 75-plus hour workweeks were off, on average, by about 25 hours—in other words, they WAY overestimated. It turns out, based on self-reported time tracking, many people work far less than they think they do.

Why do we brag/lie/misestimate/overestimate about working so many hours? Wouldn’t working fewer hours be much more brag-worthy? Are we still so chained to 20th century ideas about work and self-sacrifice that we believe the Misery Olympics are worth winning?

I coach many entrepreneurs who are especially stuck in this cycle of over-work—real and imagined—that is entirely of their own making. They find no solace in their “gold medals” anymore. The thing these entrepreneurs worked so hard to avoid has become just that: a job.

Is it possible to boycott the Misery Olympics?

Important question. The famed millennials may have the key. They don’t “get” the correlation between productivity and time spent in a cube because they produce differently: faster and simpler. They leverage technology and, most of all, put family and friends first. The lines between work and play, socializing and networking, are much more fluid. And their lives are—based on my own four millennials—much less miserable.

Ready to boycott the Misery Olympics? You can!

I’m working with a client in Philadelphia whose primary goal in 2016 is to run his contracting business entirely from his boat, a salty 43-foot trawler named “Slow Poke” that he sails in Chesapeake Bay.

A long-time client and old friend has structured his market-leading commercial cleaning company so he can spend much more time with his wife and five children (ages 3-13) and much less time in the office. He and his family are now writing a book and launching a website to help other families follow suit.

I took my own advice and experimented with my own business—I wrote this article from a beautiful medieval town in northern Italy where I have worked and played all summer.

So, how does it feel to be a big loser in the Misery Olympics? Pretty terrific. B2B

Scott Anderson is CEO of Doubledare, a coaching, consulting, and search firm.

Scott Anderson is CEO of Doubledare, a coaching, consulting, and search firm.

Blue, Bluer, Bluest

June 23, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If viewing the virtual tour below through the LayAR app, please open the link in your smart device’s web browser. 

Originally published in July/August 2015 Omaha Home.

It’s bad form to upstage the guest of honor at any social gathering, but Natallia Intrieri had more than a little competition at her recent high school graduation party.

That’s because the Elkhorn South High School graduate, soon headed for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was up against the oohs and aahs that accompanied a christening of the stunning outdoor living space at the home she shares with parents Mike and DeAnn Intrieri on the banks of West Shores Lake.

“We’ve always wanted a pool,” Mike says, “but when we moved out here we thought that the lake would act as the water we were seeking.”

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“But it’s just not the same,” DeAnn adds. “Our back yard was this huge blank slate that we just stared at for the longest time wondering what to do with. We considered building a pretty extensive deck out here, but that idea seemed the opposite of what we had in mind. A deck, we felt, would somehow separate us from the lake, not connect us to it.”

The result, especially on a clear day when the light is just so, finds the pool, lake, and sky welded seamlessly together in a blue, bluer, bluest canvas for the home occupying a jutting point that affords dramatic vistas with 180-degree views.

“It’s funny how so many outdoor projects begin indoors,” says Burton Kilgore of Nature’s Intent, who tag-teamed with KC Barth of Artisan Pools in executing the effort. “The inspiration came from the home’s Tuscan/Mediterranean theme and decor. We took those same motifs outdoors and incorporated them into the design. Then we added layers of depth and visual interest in landscaping and other elements to form a cohesive space that works with the land instead of fighting against it.”

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In order to conform to the landscape, the various surfaces are situated on different planes. Even though the elevations rise in increments of only a few inches at a time in a gentle progression, the overall effect delivers subtle, eye-tricking “wow” not found in flat, single-surface configurations.

“That’s the nature of custom work,” adds Barth. “Creating different topographical focal points is key in a project like this. Hillsides and sloping areas were once considered spaces waiting be leveled. We look at them as design opportunities that give us a way to create drama.”  providing contrast to a carefully curated color palate are chocolate-hued border pavers. Add to that mocha-tinged mulch and contemporary tiki torches rendered in black steel instead of the customarily blonde bamboo, and the scene is balanced by just the right amount of contrast in these and other elements that serve to define the space without hemming it in.

The Tuscan-inspired home and its warm, mustardy hues is a wholly intentional nod to Mike’s heritage as the son of an Italian-born father who once toiled in the sweltering cauldrons of Pittsburgh steel mills.

Harmony is the keyword in this outdoor living space. After all, how could this most serene of settings engender anything but a calming, loll-around-all-day vibe? The only hint of strife the day of Omaha Magazine’s visit was a minor disagreement on whose brainstorm it was to install the gracefully arcing pergola that anchors one end of the grounds.

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Mike claims that it was an idea he stumbled upon during a visit to an upscale hotel during one of his many business travels. DeAnn insists otherwise. Natallia, with a roll of the eyes reserved by young people exclusively for their parents, took the opportunity to move the interview to the mechanical panel that manipulates the many inset lighting nodes and gurgling water features that are best experienced long into a summer’s eve over s’mores prepared above the glowing embers of the fire pit.

Not to be outdone, Mike took the helm in manipulating an array of switches to demonstrate various functionalities, but, still relatively new at this high-tech game, his attempt to activate something over there more often than not brought to life something over here.

Insert second playful, “Oh-Dad-style” eye roll here, this time joined by a cheerful wink from DeAnn.

“Well, you get the idea,” Mike beams with a shrug in jocular resignation.

Natallia had been mildly concerned about gate crashers at her graduation party, but only those of the amphibian kind. Unwelcome guests so far have been limited to curious (and who can blame ‘em?) frogs coming up from the lake for a midnight splash in the pool.

“This place is having us rethinking the whole idea of taking vacations,” says DeAnn as Mike and Natallia nod in agreement.

“Why bother going away,” Natallia adds, “when we have the nicest resort imaginable right in our own back yard?”

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Now That’s Italian

January 21, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s a bustling Thursday afternoon at the Sons of Italy hall on South 10th Street. The hum of conversation is punctuated by greetings from the regulars, and by 11:15 a.m. the hall is near capacity. Downtown business professionals mix elbows with construction workers at family-style tables. During campaign season, the Thursday lunch draws politicians like flies to honey—make that cannoli.

They are all here for the traditional Italian fare served up with a genuine smile and occasional wise-guy crack. Today’s menu: spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and fresh bread. Quintessential Italian but far from ordinary. The sauce has been simmering for over 24 hours, its seasonings taking on a richer, more complex flavor, just like the neighborhood. The troupe of volunteer cooks never work off a recipe. Rather, the sauce is a happy combination of a few family recipes adapted over the years. Over 240 gallons are made for these Thursday lunches, a tradition that dates back 50-plus years. The men have cut over 200 pounds of lettuce for the salads and hand-rolled 2,000 meatballs. And if the early crowd is any indication of the late lunch numbers, they will need every morsel of this copious amount of food.

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The Sons of Italy is not much to look at from the outside. The only nod to its Italian heritage is the green, white, and red striped awning over the front door. But once inside, the hearty aroma of tomato sauce, the cheery red and white checked tablecloths, and ever-present laughter make you feel like you’ve walked into an Italian family reunion.

“It’s like coming home to Nana’s kitchen,” says Rich Mengler, who has been working the Sons of Italy lunches for 14 years. “I’m the kid here,” the 77-year-old quips. And if the name Mengler sounds more German than Italian, it is. “I’m an IBM,” he jokes, “Italian by Marriage.”

 Settlement Days

The first wave of Italian immigrants arrived in Omaha in 1893. The railroads, stockyards, and meatpacking plants provided the promise of work. Most came from Sicily—in particular, Carlentini—and settled in the area bounded by Pacific and Bancroft streets to the north and south, respectively, and from the river to 13th Street. They built businesses and wrote to family in Italy to come to the American Plains’ burgeoning Italian community.

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By the time immigration from southern  and eastern Europe was cut off, more than  5,000 Italians called Little Italy home. “It was almost like a separate small town” within the larger city of Omaha, says Mike DiGiacomo, member of the Santa Lucia Festival committee and trumpet player in its marching band.

Ties to the old country were strong, so strong that residents turned to their heritage to stave homesickness for Sicily. In 1925, Little Italy residents hosted the first Santa Lucia Festival, a New World version of the centuries-old festival held each year in Carlentini. They managed to raise an astounding $2,000 to replicate the statue of St. Lucy in Sicily for use in the Omaha festival.

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The Santa Lucia Festival gradually evolved into a three-day party, including Mass at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, a parade down 10th Street, music, rides, games, food, and the crowning of a queen at Lewis and Clark Landing. It is one of the Midwest’s oldest festivals, running continuously for 90 years, save the four years of World War II.

DiGiacomo says tradition and heritage have kept the festival afloat: “While many of these types of festivals have died off, the Santa Lucia Italian Festival has continued to defy the odds. The people who grew up with it, who are part of it, are so dedicated to St. Lucy and what the festival stands for. This festival is what gives the city character, a sense of community.”

 New Development with a Historic Foundation

The passing of time brings change. It’s inevitable. One of the neighborhood’s revered institutions, Caniglia’s, closed its doors in 2006. And when Frank Marino decided to finally retire at 80 and close the 13th Street grocery store his father had started 88 years prior, people lined up to buy the last of his homemade Italian sausages and ravioli.

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But there is also continuity in Little Italy. Orsi’s Bakery, at 7th and Pacific, is still going strong. Owner Jim Hall spent much of his childhood at the bakery. His Little League coach was a driver for Orsi’s, so Hall would help him make deliveries on the weekends. In 2010 Hall purchased Orsi’s with his wife, Kathy. “It has such a longstanding history. I didn’t want to see it close,” he explains rather matter-of-factly.

Orsi’s offers a variety of Italian meats, homemade Italian sausages, pastas, and olive oils, but bread from old Orsi recipes is the foundation of the business. Pizza is take-out only, or as old Mr. Orsi used to say, “Get it and hit it.”

Hall now sees a revitalization of Little Italy. DiGiacomo concurs: “While there was a feeling that the neighborhood was deteriorating in the late ’80s and ’90s, that feeling is no longer present. Recent development has helped the neighborhood grow again and redevelop that sense of community.”

The Santa Lucia Hall is under renovation. Out of the ashes of Caniglia’s Steak House has risen a community of town homes called The Towns, developed by Bluestone Development. Its clapboard exterior recalls the siding popular with most of Little Italy single-family dwellings. Driveway names like Lucia and Caniglia Plaza acknowledge the neighborhood’s heritage. Twenty-something urbanites gravitate toward Bluestone’s apartment complex at 8th and Pacific.

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The neighborhood’s price point and feel are appealing, says Bluestone’s Christian Christensen. “The vibe of Little Italy is very connected,” he says. “It’s a longstanding neighborhood and eclectic with 25 to 55 year-olds hanging out together.”

To wit: Fork Fest, a neighborhood festival centering on music, a bocce ball tournament and scavenger hunt, camaraderie, and food (of course). Andrew Marinkovich is one of Fork Fest’s founders. Its success, he asserts, is a communal effort. “You become part of the neighborhood’s fabric” when you move there, Marinkovich says. “You are so close to everyone, you are forced to interact.”

A tight-knit, historic neighborhood is what Michael Giambelluca and his wife, Donnamaria, were seeking when the couple relocated to Omaha this past summer after Michael accepted a job as Creighton Preparatory School’s new president. “Little Italy still seems to have that old-fashioned neighborhood feel that Donnamaria and I had growing up in our own respective areas of New Orleans,” he says. “People know each other and look out for each other. And people have a real pride in the place, that it has deep roots, and wonderful tradition.”

Sharon Ongert, 66

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

World traveler. free spirit. Social butterfly. All these terms aptly describe Sharon Ongert.

The native Omahan has always been an affable go-getter and shows no signs of slowing down as she hits her mid-60s. “I like to follow the advice, ‘Don’t buy things, buy memories,” Ongert confides one morning over drinks at Paradise Bakery.

Ongert in Egypt. Photo provided by Sharon Ongert.

Ongert at the Egyptian Pyramids, 2010. Photo provided by Sharon Ongert.

Ongert loves to travel. “When I was first married, my husband and I spent a year living in Europe,” she shares. “We visited 16 countries and 168 cities throughout western Europe and northern Africa. I guess that’s how it started.”

Once her two kids were born, the family continued to take trips to the Caribbean, Mexico, skiing… “Later, I began traveling with my mom to England, Australia, and New Zealand. My dad didn’t care much for travel, so he paid for the trips, and I’d go with her…it was the perfect situation.”

Ongert in... Photo provided by Sharon Ongert.

Ongert on the chariot tracks in Pompeii, Italy, 2012. Photo provided by Sharon Ongert.

Now single, Ongert continues to travel the globe, often with new friends made on past journeys (of which she has many). Egypt and Peru were recent vacation destinations. “Last year, I took two back-to-back Mediterranean cruises, which took us to Turkey, Croatia, Malta, Sicily, Italy…I keep a travel journal every trip I make and log in every day I’m gone so I can keep track of everything I do.” This year, she’ll put more stamps in her passport with trips to Russia and Scandinavia on the agenda.

In addition to travel, Ongert loves to work…yes, work. She has three jobs. She spends one or two days a week at both Ann Taylor Loft (Village Pointe) and Pottery Barn Kids (Regency Court), which she says has allowed her to make some wonderful friendships with co-workers of all different ages. She loves working with customers as well, adding, “I love meeting all the new moms and grandmas.” The social aspect of working retail is a major plus for Ongert, who once worked as the social director for a Miami-based cruise ship.

Ongert with a friend in Machu Picchu. Photo provided by Sharon Ongert.

Ongert with friend Linda in Machu Picchu, Peru, 2011. Photo provided by Sharon Ongert.

Ongert also officiates tennis matches for a dozen different tennis organizations. “My kids both played competitive tennis, and so I followed it for a long time,” Ongert recalls. “When my youngest graduated, I decided I’d train as an umpire so I could continue in the sport. I’m an independent contractor, essentially, and have chaired matches for the Big 10, Big 12, Omaha Tennis Association, high schools…I’ve watched so much good tennis this way. I’ve always got the best seat in the house!”

To keep up with this busy schedule, Ongert makes it a point to stay fit, working out daily at Lakeside Wellness Center, lifting weights and walking on the treadmill. She’s also a snowbird, traveling to Phoenix every March to spend a month hiking, playing tennis, and practicing her new favorite sport, pickleball.

Ongert at the Colosseum. Photo provided by Sharon Ongert.

Ongert at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, 2012. Photo provided by Sharon Ongert.

“It’s basically tennis on a much smaller court using a wiffle ball. It’s best for those who can’t cover the ground of a tennis court. It’s a lot of fun!”

That’s Ongert, always up for a new adventure.