San Francisco’s premiere Italian cultural club, Il Cenacolo, held its annual business meeting on June 28th, where the membership elected new leadership to continue the oversight of the eighty-four year old organization. Don Lewis, a member of the club since 2002, became Il Cenacolo’s 28th President. He is also the first person to serve in that position whose surname does not end with a vowel. His “Italian credentials” are in order, however. In 1910 Mr. Lewis’ grandmother Maria Raffetto emigrated from Ognio, Italy, a small mountain village just southeast of Genova.
Other officers elected at the meeting were Chuck Stagliano (Vice President), Mike Prior (Secretary), David Giannini (Treasurer), Ron Derenzi (Membership Chairman), Doug Van Qualen (Program Chairman) and Jim Boitano (Immediate Past President).
In addition to the new officers, the membership elected six men to the Board of Directors: Mel Britton, Adolph Capurro, Frank Cristiani, Alex Kugushev, Nickolas Marinelli, and John Schook.
The club was started one Thursday afternoon in 1928, when a small group of Italian-born leaders of San Francisco’s Italian Colony decided to meet for lunch at Armando Campagnoli’s restaurant on Geary Street. There they discussed art, music, language, food, wine, and Italian culture. The thirteen founding members named their group Il Cenacolo—an allusion to Leonardo Da Vinci’s fresco The Last Supper, which in Italy is referred to as Il Cenacolo.
The group of men continued to grow and to meet every Thursday for lunch, and by 1932 had expanded to the point where they needed a larger meeting place. The Fairmont Hotel provided the venue until World War II, when the club (and most Italian-Americans) opted for a lower profile. In the 1960s Il Cenacolo began to have their Thursday luncheons at the Fior d’Italia restaurant at Stockton and Union Streets.
A fire in 2004 at the venerable old restaurant caused the meetings to be temporarily moved to the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club. Once the new Fior d’Italia was re-opened at the historic San Remo Hotel, the club returned until the “Oldest Italian Restaurant in America” closed earlier this year. Since then, Caesar’s Restaurant at Powell and Bay Streets has served as host to Il Cenacolo, which continues its Thursday luncheons as it has for more than eight decades.