News - Joliet and Will County

Earl D’Amico dies

Earl D'Amico posed for a picture in March wearing his characteristic bow tie in front of photographs at his home depicting past scenes and entertainers at his D'Amico's 214 nightclub.

JOLIET – Earl D’Amico, a Joliet restaurant and night club owner who brought in some of the nation’s top entertainers during the 1960s and 1970s, has died.

D'Amico, 85, died Thursday night.

His D'Amico's 214 in downtown Joliet became a stopping point for entertainers traveling between New York and Las Vegas. Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck and Chubby Checker are a few of the music greats who played at D'Amico's night club.

D'Amico also brought in other top names, including comedian Phyllis Diller and actor Pat O'Brien.

"It was a challenge, but it was so much fun," D'Amico told The Herald-News during an interview in March as he prepared for a presentation about the nightclub that he was to make at the Joliet Area Historical Museum.

While D'Amico made his biggest mark in Joliet at the nightclub, he had multiple talents. He went to Purdue University on a scholarship after being an all-state wrestler at Joliet Township High School. After graduating from Purdue, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and worked in counterintelligence.

In Joliet he was elected to the City Council and made an unsuccessful bid for mayor.

"He was a Renaissance Man," said close friend Joe Shetina, a former Joliet councilman who was among a circle including D'Amico that would gather daily for breakfast or lunch.

Shetina said D'Amico's attitude and personality probably played a factor in his ability to get so many top entertainers to the Joliet club.

"He had such a positive attitude, and people liked that," Shetina said. "People loved being around him, and it wasn't phony. It was real."

It was the restaurant business that brought D'Amico back to Joliet. His parents, Tony and Claire D'Amico, ran a restaurant on Jefferson Street, and business was growing in the 1950s.

"We were living in Puerto Rico," said Earl's daughter, Claire D'Amico. "Dad got a call to come back to Joliet. 'We need you at the restaurant.'"

Earl, who met his late wife, Nora, in Puerto Rico on a blind date, came back to Joliet and never left.

"He loved Joliet," said D'Amico's other daughter, Gianna D'Amico Barone. She said her father would constantly talk about how happy he was to live in Joliet. "He was a very optimistic man."

D'Amico's 214 was a big part of Joliet history. But D'Amico stayed in the restaurant business after closing the club. His Earl's Cafe on Jefferson Street became one of the city's most popular restaurants and night spots in the 1980s and 1990s.

He retired after closing Earl's Cafe in 2000.

Mayor Tom Giarrante in recent years appointed D'Amico to the city's Plan Commission, where he served for about 18 months.

“He was a great advocate for Joliet. He always had good things to say about the city,” Giarrante said. “Anybody who knew him – nobody had a bad word to say about Earl. He always had a smile.”

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News