|Earl D'Amico Restauranteur / Impresario|
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Earl D’Amico was born in Joliet, IL on October 29, 1929, the day known as black Tuesday, the day the Great Depression started. Earl attended Park School and F.E. Marsh grade schools and then went to Joliet Township High School. Following high school, Earl enrolled at Purdue University and graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree in business. After college Earl enlisted in the U.S. Army where he served as a Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) special agent for two years while stationed in New York City.
After the army, Earl married and he and his wife Nora lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico where he worked as a civilian in the U.S. army. In 1955, Earl received a call from his parents Tony and Clara, asking him to return to Joliet to help with 'D'Amico's', the growing family restaurant business. That experience sparked Earl’s passion for the restaurant business. In 1957, Earl heard that the Harwood Post American Legion building (now the Renaissance Center) in downtown Joliet was for sale. He quickly saw the potential to turn the building into an upscale restaurant/banquet/entertainment facility. With his brother Anthony, who was Earl's partner throughout his restaurant career, Earl purchased the building for $105,000 and called their new establishment D’Amico’s 214.
After the new restaurant/catering business was flourishing, Earl expanded his operation to include live concerts and theatre productions in the grand ballroom. Local entertainer John Yonely introduced Earl to the New York based Associated Booking Corp. (ABC) which enabled Earl to bring in top national talent to perform at his local entertainment venue. ABC supplied Earl with big bands and musical stars such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Tina Turner and even Liberace!
Earl also produced live
theatre in the ballroom under the name Piccolo
Playhouse. Again, he was successful in attracting some of
the biggest names in the entertainment world to perform in his theatre productions.
Stars would come to Joliet for a total of three weeks. Week one was spent rehearsing before a two-week run of their show. Theatre productions could hold 740 people and live concerts had around 1,000 people in the audience, and events were almost always sold out!
Because Earl had star performers coming into Joliet so frequently to perform at his club, he decided to build a hotel to accommodate them and his patrons. Earl built the 122-room Sheraton Hotel, which was connected to his establishment.
For over 18 years, D’Amico’s 214 played host to satisfied diners, appreciative stars and thrilled audiences.
In 1978, two new shopping malls opened on the West side of Joliet, creating a new 'city center' for local business. Many downtown businesses began relocating their businesses on the West side of town.
At this time Earl decided to get out of the hotel businesss and he moved his dining/entertainment establishment to West Jefferson street and renamed his new cozy restaurant/bar Earl’s Café. He retained the great food, atmosphere and live entertainment, although now on a smaller, more intimate scale.
From 1970 to 1974 Earl also made time to further serve his community as a proud member of the Joliet City Council. During Earl’s business career, he supported many local charitable organizations and he was fortunate to meet many celebrities as well as dignitaries such as Mayor Richard M. Daley, Bart Starr, Mike Ditka, Ronald Reagan, and incumbant President Gerald Ford even stayed at his Sheraton Hotel when he was in town campaigning for the presidency.
Earl finally retired in 1998, when he sold his business. Since retiring, Earl has enjoyed spending time with his two daughters and grandson and granddaughter.
Earl died on December 11, 2014 at the age of 85.