CICERO – Albano's Restaurant was gearing up for the evening rush at about 4 p.m. July 1. The phone was ringing with orders for pickup and for delivery. An occasional customer would come in off the street for a slice of pizza, or a beef sandwich. At one table, a loving couple was finishing off a late lunch in one of the restaurant's eight booths. It's a modest little place, with posters of "Rocky" and Frank Sinatra and his "Rat Pack" on the walls.
But this Monday was different from others in the past. The business at 5913 W. Roosevelt Road, had been closed for eight days, reopening the previous Friday.
During that time off, the family of Giovanni "John" Donancricchia – the man who built the business – had suffered the shock of his senseless murder on June 20, grieved for the husband, father and grandfather, and buried the man who was known as a real nice guy in neighborhood.
Kim Spence has been working at the restaurant for 14 years. She was scheduled to open the restaurant the morning of June 20 when she got the call from Giovanni's daughter, Maria, at 6 a.m. with the news of his death. Spence said her first thought was to get to her boss's wife, Angela Donancricchia, side.
"They're wonderful people," Spence said. "He was remarkable. A great boss, very understanding. In the community he was very well loved. If someone was short of money he'd let them slide. He liked to joke around, He was a lovable guy and you couldn't help but love him."
It was here, just after midnight on June 20, that the 64-year-old Donancricchia was shot and killed after a man entered the restaurant with a gun in his hand in an attempt to rob Donancriccia's wife, Angela, who was standing at the register. Pushing his wife out the door, Donancriccia turned to confront Matthew A. Brown-Turner, who shot him once in the chest and fled.
Less than 36 hours later, police arrested Matthew Brown-Turner, 25, of Chicago, and charged him with the murder.
Giovanni Donancricchia came to the U.S. from Sicily in August 1970. On Dec. 23, 1988, he bought the restaurant, which had been open only a year. Before owning his own business, he worked two jobs – one as a garbage man, the other delivering pizzas – until he scrimped and saved enough to go into business for himself. At his side was Angela.
The Donancrcchia's have three children: Lisa, Sal and Maria. While all have careers of their own, thy have always been on call whenever their help is needed.
Spence described the first day back to work as awkward with a sense of shakiness, and a lot of tears.
"It was very scary, emotional, but we had to do it for Angie." she said
As for the Donancricchia family, Spence said family members are taking it one moment at a time.
"There's no way to ease their pain," she said. "Things change from one moment to the next. The emotions change from one moment to the next."
Dolores Rodriguez has been part of the Albano's family for 10 years. Spence called her shortly after 6 a.m. to tell her of their boss' death.
I went into shock and autopilot to drive to Angie's house to be with her," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez and Spence would stay close to Angela Donancricchia for the next several days. For Rodriguez, she will miss Giovanni Donancricchia's sense of humor and just hearing his voice.
"It's very difficult coming to work every day knowing he won't be here," she said. "But we do it because it's his legacy. We know he would want us to be here working."