President’s Blog

March 2019

Dear Cenacolisti,

Hope you were all warm and well during February—seems especially cold and wet for this time of the year. March should be better, with a promise of Spring, if it ever gets here!

Our thanks to John Benson for wonderful luncheon programs by interesting speakers. Our March luncheon speakers to be presented by Ephraim Hirsch and listed at the top of this bulletin should also keep all of us culturally up to date.

Sadly I report that we have lost two more of our members since our last bulletin: George Lippi and Ross Hoffman (as noted later in this bulletin under In Memoriam). They were great friends and will be remembered as our loving companions in Italian Culture.


1. The March 13th Italian, Irish & Israeli Club Luncheon at the SFIAC.
Ron Fenolio is putting a Cenacolo Table together—contact him if interested;   

2. The April 5th Leonardo da Vinci Club Gala honoring the 500th anniversary of the
demise of Leonardo—our vice president
David Cobb is putting a Cenacolo table
together—contact him if interested (see announcement page at end of bulletin);

3. May 24th San Francisco Italian Symphony. We have just over 20 tickets left @$25/seat.
Ron Derenzi or Alex Rynecki to purchase at this very reasonable price (see
announcement page at end of bulletin)

4. A June 2019 San Francisco Opera production of Carmen. Bill Dito will be reserving
tickets (details TBA)—call him if interested;

5. Our June 27th Annual Membership General Meeting will be held at the SFIAC—
members only please;

6. Our Sep 22nd Opera Outing will again be held at the Marin Art & Garden Center, Ross. Chuck Stagliano and Stewart Hume are putting this together—should be another enjoyable time;

7. A Sep 2019 Italian Movie by the Leonardo Da Vinci Club is being organized by David Cobb—more details to follow;

8. An October 2019 Italian Dinner & a Film (Italian Film Festival in San Rafael) is also being set up by David Cobb;

9. Our December 15th Holiday Gala will again be held at the St. Francis Yacht Club—
always a popular hit;

10. A Guided Tour of the San Francisco Opera House is being set up by Chuck Stagliano
details to follow.

As you can see, we have serveral interesting and exciting events planned for 2019, (a plethora, in fact!) as well as our usual weekly luncheons, which your Board of Directors strives to make inspiring and enjoyable.  Bring your guests— they won’t be disappointed!


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February 2019

Dear Cenacolisti,

Writing this from the Island of Kauaii, Hawaii—yes, Paradise is indeed beautiful! And what a beautiful season it has been in the San Francisco Bay Area for the last couple of weeks. Loving the crisp clear weather and possible false spring after the heavy downpour we experienced earlier in January, but we do need the rain and snow. Still hard to believe that it’s now 2019!

Congratulations to Professor Don Zingale and thank you for presenting your friends from San Francisco State during our Thursday Luncheons last month. Each one was interesting and informative, highlighting various studies and education processes—some of them rooted in Italian culture, such as the Montessori teaching methods which are the basis of pre-school learning throughout the world.

We all look forward to John Benson’s four February presentations outlined above. Please make sure that you all attend and bring friends and relatives to experience what we are all about and hopefully join Il Cenacolo.

Alex Rynecki of our Board of Directors has acquired 28 tickets to Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony on May 24th at 8pm performed by the San Francisco Symphony. This performance will also include Elgar’s Violin Concerto in B minor. Our cost for all of this will be a mere $25 per ticket—a bargain!!  Call our treasurer Ron Derenzi (650) 737-9484 to reserve.

Director Bill Dito is making progress with the San Francisco Opera for tickets to Carmen in June. Stay tuned for date, time and cost to be announced and plan to attend!

Chuck Stagliano is in the process of setting up the 2019 Opera Outing for Sunday, September 22, 2019, again at the Marin Art & Garden Center in Ross. Mark your calendars to attend this delightful annual event and plan on bringing guests—they are always welcome!  And while you are at it, mark your calendars for December 7, 2019 for our annual Holiday Gala! Finally, Ron Derenzi has set up photo albums from our 2018 Holiday Gala. Call him if you are interested in acquiring one.

Finally, on a sad note, our esteemed member Alex Kugushev’s wife Mimi is fighting cancer. Please keep her in your prayers.

Signing off from Kauaii,

Aloha, DTG


Dear Cenacolisti,

Well, here we are at the end of 2018. Notwithstanding an annus horribilis of natural disasters here in northern California, our Il Cenacolo Cultural Club enjoyed a banner year of renewal.  Our (humble brag) “usual” interesting Thursday Luncheon Speakers, together with: a performance of Tosca by the San Francisco Opera, another successful “Dinner & Film” event at the Marin Italian Film Festival in San Rafael, an exuberant Opera Outing in Ross, and finally, our memorable Christmas Gala at the St. Francis Yacht Club, celebrating our 90 years (read on!). Thanks to Chuck Stagliano and his team, we have a completely revamped website with so much more to offer! To top it all off, we “went co-ed” during 2018: 13 of our 18 new members are women. We welcome all of our new members who have already contributed to making Il Cenacolo a better club.

The upcoming year looks even more promising. Along with our traditional Annual Meeting in June, Opera Outing in September, and Christmas Gala in December, your Board of Directors is planning new events for members, such as:

• A San Francisco Symphony with a meal (possibly in April or May);

• An evening at the San Francisco Opera with a meal (Carmen in June);

• An Italian movie at the Castro Theater (with the Leonardo da Vinci Society).

And of course we can look forward to our weekly Thursday Speaker Luncheons curated by your Board of Directors. We seek out stimulating presenters on an array of subjects, including Italian culture both here in the Bay Area and abroad. We all hope that you, the Il Cenacolo members, will avail yourselves of all of these cultural presentations.

Remember, you are welcome to invite your friends and relatives who might be interested in joining and participating in our club.

The year 2019 promises to a be full one! Looking forward to seeing each of you, soon!

Felice anno nuovo!


December 2018

Dear Cenacolisti,

Hope you all enjoyed Thanksgiving and are ready for the approaching Holiday Season.

First, our thanks to Peter Sherwood for his excellent November luncheon programs. Dr. Winslow’s Field Adventures were captivating as were the presentation about rural Tuscany and Sicily by Peter and Susi (our dear “Den Mother”). Laura Ackley again reminded us about San Francisco’s historic 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition—great book by the way! Finally, Chuck Stagliano wrapped up the month of programs with another fascinating (and timely) presentation about how commercial airlines get us all safely and expeditiously “from here to there.” All wonderful and interesting Thursday luncheons with our fellow Cenacolisti.

Second, I am sure that you do not want to miss our December 7th Holiday Galamarking Il Cenacolo’s 90th Anniversary! If you stop to think about it….it really is a momentous occasion!  Since 1928 our Club has ridden the waves of history, from a World War, to Elvis Presley, to men landing on the moon, and to the advent of the internet! How many organizations do you know that have lasted this long with this amount of consistent support and enthusiasm? We are proud of the contributions and participation of all our members who have helped our mission of preserving Italian Culture throughout all these years.

Well, our well-deserved party promises to be a great time for all—not only another five-star-worthy banquet arranged by Ron Derenzi and his committee, but also special presentations and a few surprises! (One clue: we will be taking a group photo of all those members attending, the old-timers and the new-timers!)

We have only two luncheons this month due to the holidays, and of course I hope to see you there. I am especially looking forward to celebrating with you at our Gala on December 7. (Don’t forget: RSVP* before it is too late!)

Ciao, David


November 2018

Dear Cenacolisti,

October has really been an active month for Il Cenacolo, what with film, opera, and provocative lunchdon speakers.

To start with, our Vice President David Cobb assembled and
presented four highly informative scholars and authors, on topics ranging from a war correspondent’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of a German submarine during the War of the Atlantic, modern Italian life and mores to Italian architecture surviving today in Eritrea, formerly part of Ethiopia.

David Cobb also organized an evening for Cenacolisti which began with a delightful dinner at La Toscana Restaurant in San Rafael, and followed it by La Tenerezza (The Tenderness), a film featured at the Marin Italian Film Festival. Several members and their guests were able to enjoy this event. Thanks David!

Finally, Bill Dito organized a visit to the San Francisco Opera to watch the monumental new production of Puccini’s “Tosca.”

We are planning to offer these cultural opportunities again next fall. For further information about Italian cultural activities currently held in the Bay Area and beyond, check out the links to other Italian organizations on our website page under “What We Love—Compatrioti” (

For November we look forward to another month of provocative speakers presented by Peter Sherwood, as detailed above, and make sure to attend our weekly Thursday luncheons! Of course, we will not be meeting on Thanksgiving, November 22nd.

As you know, our annual 2018 Holiday Gala will be held on December 7th at the St. Francis Yacht Club, a beautiful site we have enjoyed for several years. This year, our 90th anniversary, we will be celebrating our own Cultural Club, recognizing past Presidents, Board members and widows of former Cenacolisti for all they have accomplished in promoting and preserving Italian culture. You should have already received your very own snail-mail invitations (as shown on the following two pages). Mark your calendars and make sure to attend this most enjoyable repast with old friends and new acquaintances. Please don’t hesitate to let us know you will be joining us! New this year, with our transition to more online convenience, you can also make your reservations on our renovated website, at

Arrivederci in November, David.



October 2018

Dear Cenacolisti,

Welcome to Fall—which started on September 21st & 22nd. My favorite time of the year with lots of natural color and I am sure it is also yours!  Actually, this is our “summer” in the San Francisco Bay region. Get out and enjoy the weather, which is “just right” for most of us San Franciscans—not too hot or cold! 

Our annual Opera Outing was held on September 23rd at the Marin Art & Garden Center with about 100 attendees including three San Francisco Opera singers and principals. For those of us who were privileged to attend, it was a typical warm (not too hot!) Marin County Fall day in a beautiful outdoor forest setting, all organized by out tireless former president Chuck Stagliano. The operatic singing for approximately 45 minutes by a special group was memorable! The food and wine was also great. What better way to celebrate the opening of our 2018-2019 Opera Season?

Thank you, Chuck! For those of you who did not partake of this occasion, make sure to come next year—to be planned for September 2019.

On this subject, our immediate past President Franz Cristiani has, as the September Chairperson, presented two San Francisco Opera principals: Kip Cranna (the Dramaturg) and Greg Henkel (the Artistic Managing Director) both of whom detailed the operas being presented this fiscal year. Please make sure that each of you Cenacolisti attend and enjoy as many of these operas as you can.

Further on this same subject, we have been given the opportunity to attend Tosca on the evening of Tuesday October 30th—orchestra seats at $36 each!  Great opera at a very reasonable price!  Call Bill Dito for tickets at (415) 563-3365 or email him at You won’t want to miss it!

As to our other upcoming events, please note that our November 3rd Italian Film Festival & Dinnner has been postponed, but stay tuned for the new date.  Don’t forget, however, to put Friday, December 7, 2018 on your calendar for our Annual Holiday Gala!

Arrivederci to all, and enjoy this great month of October!


September 2018


Welcome back after an extended vacation during August and the first half of September. Hope you all enjoyed the summer months, are well rested and ready to continue with our mission of promoting and preserving Italian Culture!

This is the second time I have served as President of Il Cenacolo. The first time, between 1986-88, was a different world. “WWW” was not yet a household word. So much has changed since then and I feel fortunate to stand on the shoulders of all the Past Presidents and Boards of Il Cenacolo who have done extraordinary work to keep Il Cenacolo current and relevant. I especially wish to thank our Immediate Past President Franz Cristiani and his Board of Directors for their service during the past two years, during which they accomplished so very much for our Cultural Club. Your new Board and Officers will strive to continue with the aims and directions they have set in motion.

90th Anniversary of Il Cenacolo

This year, 2018, is our 90th anniversary year and what better way to celebrate our cultur- al experience than with the start of San Francisco’s 96th Operatic season with their free performance held on Sunday, September 9th at Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park. Hope many of you were able to attend and enjoy this spectacular event. Our members will have a further chance to enjoy opera with the offering of a specially-priced performance of Puccini’s Tosca on Oct 30th (see details below.) Stay tuned for further events!

The success and life of our Cultural Club will only continue because of your individual participation in both the Thursday Luncheons and Special Events. The members of your board of Directors encourage you to attend and enjoy the fruits of our labor!

The 64th Annual Sal Reina Opera Outing

Chuck Stagliano and his crew have put many hours into this year’s Opera Outing and we can assure you that attending the event will be as rewarding as it was last year. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so no later than September 17th. The details are on our new and improved website or you can call Ron Derenzi at (650) 737-9484.

Specially Priced Tosca

Tickets for the Oct 30th opera performance of Puccini’s Tosca have been reserved by bill Dito for orchestra seats at the special price of $36 each! This will be a special opportunity for you to experience the best of Italian Romantic culture up close. Get your order in no later than October 1st by calling bill at (415) 563-3365 or emailing him at Include your mailing address and how many tickets you would like, and he will mail them to you with an envelope for payment.


On a final note, we encourage each of our members to again read Il Cenacolo’s July 2018 bulletin posted on our website (available online here) where Franz Cristiani so aptly discusses much of the important information about the running of our club. You should also check out the rest of our new and improved website: to fully appreciate just what our organization provides for you and your enjoyment.

Thursday Luncheon Speakers

The weekly Thursday Luncheon programs presented by Marv Pheffer during July were outstanding, to say the least. With September we will have only two Thursday Luncheons, prepared and presented by Immediate Past President Franz Cristiani. The first is this coming Thursday, September 20, as usual at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club. I will see you there!

Italian culture has endured throughout the ages. I am looking forward to working with you all to preserve the rich traditional history of Il Cenacolo, and bring it forward with us into the future.

I remain, VTY, DTG


June 2018 from the Desk of the President

​Dear Cenacolisti,

Welcome to Spring!  And welcome to another bulletin that will provide you with information on what’s happening at your Club. Please read on for news about our members and for information on upcoming events.


The Board is in process of reviewing and revising several aspects of our membership plan. You will hear more about some innovative changes as the plan is rolled-out. For now, membership is improving. Year-to-date we have added 15  new members—including the first women in our Club’s 90-year history. Your effort to identify and recruit new members is paying-off!


Thanks to Ron Derenzi for organizing the May programs (and there were 5 of them!). These presentations (with their emphasis on Italy) were enjoyed by all. This bulletin highlights our June programs. Please support your Club by attending as many of these as possible. 

Regarding programs—This is a repeat request for each of you to provide our program chairman, Alex Kugushev, with your ideas and suggestions for speakers—his e-mail is We will follow-up and confirm arrangements, but your involvement in supplying contact information would be most welcomed. Thanks!

Make sure to check the calendar following, and add our dates to your own calendar!

June 28 is important—the date of our annual meeting. In mid-May, you received the annual meeting agenda and formal notice. As indicated, we plan to (1) update everyone on our club—including our financial position, (2) provide a slate of four new proposed directors for your vote,  (3) vote on revisions to our by-laws and (4) conduct any other business that is applicable to Il Cenacolo. If you have specific matters that you would like to have covered, please contact me. Please note that this meeting is for members only. Your attendance is really important and I hope that you come.


As mentioned above, the Board is in process of implementing several initiatives affecting membership. We hope that the end-result of this will be an increase in membership and an exciting plan to keep our organization vital and growing. 

These initiatives will need your help. Specifically, we are looking for members who would be willing to pitch in and assist. You are needed in the following areas (approximate time
commitment shown):

1) Membership Chair: to direct our entire effort, taking over from Ron Derenzi who has done a great job, but is now handling all of our finance/treasury functions (2-4 hrs/wk).

2) Assistant Membership Chair: to assist the Chair in performing membership tasks (20 hrs).

3) Leader and team to prepare promotional materials: (about 30 hrs).

4) Leader and team to develop and execute a media plan: (about 25 hrs).

5) Liaison to other Bay Area Italian clubs for possible collaboration (about 25 hrs).

Our Club must continuously work on recruiting new members or face the reality of its eventual demise. I know we have a lot of talented people in our group and now is the time for you to step forward to demonstrate your skills and your willingness to become involved. Please let me know by June 15 ( of your interest to become involved—many thanks.


Our regular luncheon scheduled for June 7 IS CANCELLED for the following reason: The mayor of Genoa is visiting San Francisco. It was thought that it would be great if he attended our luncheon on June 7 and addressed us. So we planned accordingly. However, it turned out that he is returning to Italy on June 7. Then, the Italian Consulate and the SFIAC organized a dinner—to which all of the Bay Area Italian organizations are invited—for the evening of June 6. Il Cenacolo will be acknowledged as a co-host. We concluded that the large event on the preceding evening would be the major draw for the week.

If you are interested in joining them, please contact the SFIAC directly. You should already have received the announcement for this event in an email last week, and it is reproduced here on the following page.

With best regards,
Franz Cristiani, President

On Being Program Chairman

During recent recruiting of new Board members, we found that some members expressed reluctance to join the Board out of concern for their duty to be monthly chairman and line up speakers. This is to alleviate some concerns.

As Program Chairman, I maintain a list of potential speakers at all times—anywhere between fifteen and twenty of them. I make it a point to interview them, to assess how well they may be of interest to our membership. These names are available to monthly chairmen who may choose to use them.

On a personal note, I find that the greatest pleasure in serving on the Board is the opportunity to be the monthly chairman once a year. It allows me to plan a set of talks that focus on themes that interest me and that I hope will interest the membership. I prefer topics on Italian culture. I get to select speakers and interact with them, suggesting effective ways to present their ideas. In the process, I expand my knowledge and learn things I often knew nothing about.

—Alex Kugushev, Program Chairman

A Talent Call

Before joining Il Cenacolo, I attended several lunches. On each occasion, I found myself talking with someone interesting and substantial. I was impressed by the members and so I joined. My admiration of Italian civilization, of course, also determined the decision.

Five years on, I have not changed my impression. We have a vast reservoir of knowledge, experience and intellectual curiosity among our members. Life and work experiences, profound personal interests, hobbies and travel. Consider that in recent times a number of us have spoken, some repeatedly : Jim Boitano, Bill Nuerge, Dick Wahlberg, Adolph Capurro, Ron Fenolio, Chris Danesi, Nickolas Marinelli, Alessandro Baccari, Igor Bertolucci, Chris Gulli, Andy Canepa, Dave Litwin, Jorge Escobar, Michael Muscardini, Dom Paino, our President, Chuck Stagliano, and yours truly–among others.

And in the near future, Mel Britton and Tony Rossman will contribute to our bank of knowledge and

So, this is a call for members who have something energizing to say to come forward and send me a proposal for an uplifting talk. How about it, Fellows? If not you, perhaps your fascinating spouse, or equally fascinating significant other, friend or relation?

—Alex Kugushev, Program Chairman