Separate But Equal: men and women of the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club

The Monthly Aperitivo Italiano by Le Donne D'Italia

 

For nearly a century, the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club has stood by its Latin motto: Mens Sana in Corpore Sano—a healthy mind in a healthy body.  It has also stood by another tradition—women need not apply.  
 
Nowhere is this more apparent than at the monthly “stag dinner” where members and their male guests have assembled for decades to break bread, throw back a few drinks, lock horns, and enjoy a regular male bonding experience.  Women are strictly forbidden, except for the occasional visit by scantily-clad Peroni Girls who help sell raffle tickets.  Even the Peroni Girls, however, have to retire to the second-floor bar to enjoy their complimentary dinners.
 The menu of the night

 The menu of the night

 
Undaunted by the SFIAC’s gender restrictions, a small group of women of Italian heritage joined together in 2010 to form a new group.  The SFIAC generously gave them meeting space free of charge, and Le Donne d’Italia was born.  Though the group is also gender-restricted, it does allow membership for both those of Italian heritage and italophiles as well.
 
Recently, the group decided that if they couldn’t join the men for their stag dinners, they would just have their own gender-restricted dinners.  Coinciding with the men’s stag dinner, and being held in the same building (but on a different floor), Le Donne d’Italia will be holding their first Doe dinner on Tuesday, April 2nd. 
 
“Why should the guys have all the fun with their stag dinners? Le Donne is starting our very own Doe Dinner—just for the ladies,” said Marketing Director Julia Dondero.  “Why should the ladies stay at home?”
 
The event starts with cocktail hour at 6:00 PM at the SFIAC’s second-floor bar (the men have their cocktail hour at the first-floor bar), followed by dinner at 7:00 PM in the Parkview Room on the third floor (while the men have dinner in the ballroom on the first floor).
 
Since SFIAC General Manager and Chef Paul Alioto has only one kitchen from which to serve both groups simultaneously, regardless of which floor your gender consigns you to, the menu will be the same:  house salad with antipasto, rigatoni with meat sauce, bollito with vegetables and roasted potatoes, wine, coffee and dessert.  Members and non-members of the female persuasion who wish to attend can contact Lisa Michelis at 415-307-8034.
 
Le Donne d’Italia also has other events coming up that may be of interest to female Italians. 
  “We are starting a monthly Italian Happy Hour, Aperitivo Italiano, at Dell’Uva in North Beach, every first Thursday of the month and our first will be April 4th. On May 19th, we are having our second annual Bubbly & Bingo event, and then in June we are teaming up with the Museo Italo Americano to host a Italy Travel event.  One of the panelists, Susan Van Allen, is the author of 100 Places Every Woman Should Go In Italy.”
 
  The new group and their new “Doe Dinner” may not bring gender equality to the old boys’ club, but it does provide an opportunity for women to enjoy comradery with others who share a love for all things Italian.  Maybe someday the SFIAC will lift their men-only restriction, but for now Le Donne d’Italia can enjoy the SFIAC’s hospitality just so long as they know their place: on the third floor.
 

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