President’s Blog

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

February 2019

February  2019

Thursday, February 7, 2019
“It Happened in Marin”
Jim Holden, Author

Thursday, February  14, 2019
Valentine’s Day Special:
Tasting the Wines of Piedmont
Gwendolyn & Michael Osborn

Thursday, February  21, 2019
Ghiberti’s “Gates of Paradise”:
The Famous Florentine Doors Gracing our Very Own Grace Cathedral
Gerry Opie, Cenacolista

Thursday, February  28, 2019
Italy’s Incredible Contribution to Urban Design: A Few Principles
William Adams

This month’s programs arranged by John Benson.

Thursday Speakers

​MARCH  2020

Thursday, March 5, 2020
“The Realm of the Lion of Judah: A Visit to Ethiopia”
Mike Prior

Thursday, March 12, 2020
“A Pearl Harbor Hero—and that was just the beginning!”
Mickey Ganitch

Thursday, March 19, 2020
“The Oldest Cave – Magnificent Art of our Stone-Age Forbears”
Alex Kugushev

Thursday, March 26, 2020

“The Leaning Tower of San Francisco”
Ron Hamburger

This month’s programs arranged by Eph Hirsch.

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)


Thursday, February 6, 2020
“Giovan Crisostimo Martino (John Martin): Custer’s Last Bugler”
Jim Boitano

Thursday, February 13, 2020
“The Scholarship Program of the Italian Heritage Foundation (IAHF)
and Possible Collaboration with Il Cenacolo”

Marie Daldorff

Thursday, February 20, 2020
“The Story Behind Krakow’s Umbrag​eous Attitude”
Keyvan Tabari

Thursday, February 27, 2020
“Behind the Mirror in Venetian Glass Making”
Kathleen Ann Gonzalez

This month’s programs arranged by David Cobb.

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)


Thursday, January 2, 2020
No luncheon in deference to New Year’s Day.

Thursday, January 9, 2020
“Slow Food”
Lorenzo Scarpone

Thursday, January 16, 2020
A Little Fellow: A Documentary about A.P. Giannini”
Davide Fiore

Thursday, January 23, 2020
“NEXT Village”
Janet Crane

Thursday, January 30, 2020
“The Reggio Emilia Educational Model”
Valentina Imbeni

This month’s programs arranged by Pietro Bonanno.

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)


 Thursday, December 5, 2019
Camilleri, Montalbano & Vigata:  A Special Trio
Peter Sherwood

Thursday, December 12, 2019
No luncheon in deference to the Christmas Gala.

Sunday, December 15, 2019
Chuck Stagliano, Man of the Year
St. Francis Yacht Club, 5:30 pm

Thursday, December 19, 2019
The Merrie Olde Christmas Carolers
Guests invited!

Thursday, December 26, 2019
No luncheon in deference to Christmas.

This month’s programs arranged by Peter Sherwood.

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)


Thursday, November 7, 2019
“From Neglect to Honor: A Restoration Story”
Don Taylor, EdD

Thursday, November 14, 2019
“Not all those who wander are lost.” (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Don Zingale, PhD

Thursday, November  21, 2019
“Promoting Italian Language and Culture across Generations of Learners:
The Italian Program at San Francisco State University”

Olivia Albiero, PhD

Thursday, November 28, 2019
No luncheon in deference to Thanksgiving.

This month’s programs arranged by Don Zingale.

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)


Thursday, October 3, 2019
“Meet Queen Isabella 2019”
Gina Marie Guglielmoni

Thursday, October  10, 2019
“The Next 100 Years of ICS”
Pietro Bonanno, Cenacolista

Thursday, October  17, 2019
“My Italian Sabbatical”
Fr. Charles Puthota, Pastor of St. Veronica Parish

Thursday, October 24, 2019
“Trivia Challenge Italian-Style”
Carla Gambescia, Author

Thursday, October 31, 2019
“Locating Your Family Land in Italy”
Anthony and Sonia Alioto

This month’s programs arranged by Ron Derenzi.

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)


Thursdays, September 5 & 11, 2019
Summer Hiatus

Thursday, September 19, 2019

“Anecdotes, History, & the Inside Scoop 
of the 2019-2020 San Francisco Opera Season”
Kip Cranna, Dramaturg Emeritus of the San Francisco Opera

Sunday, September 22, 2019
Il Cenacolo’s 65th Annual Sal Reina Opera Outing !
“You won’t want to miss it!”

Thursday, September 26, 2019
“Life on the Crew Behind the San Francisco Opera”
John P Boatwright, House Head, War Memorial Opera House

This month’s programs arranged by Eugene Lanzone.

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)

JULY  2019

Thursday, July 4, 2019
No meeting in deference to the July 4 holiday.

Thursday, July 11, 2019
“The White Moth: The Story of Three Generations at a Tuscan Villa”
Camilla Calhoun, Author

Thursday, July 18, 2019
“Pan Am at War”
Mark Cotta Vaz, Co-Author

Thursday, July  25, 2019
“How the New Tech Boom is Good for Old San Francisco”
Carl Nolte

This month’s programs arranged by Bill Dito.

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)

JUNE 2019

Thursday, June 6, 2019
“D-Day Through German Eyes: Experiences of ‘Landsers’ on the Westwall”
Philip Gioia, former Cenacolista

Thursday, June  13, 2019
“Sicily: A Heart’s Journey”
Maria Noyes, Author

Thursday, June 20, 2019
The Roman and British Empires:
the Greatest the World Has Ever Known”

Norman MacCleod, OBE

Thursday, June  27, 2019
Il Cenacolo Annual Membership General Meeting 
SFIAC, at regular Thursday luncheon—members only please

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)

MAY 2019

Thursday, May 2, 2019
Emeritus Luncheon

Thursday, May  9, 2019
“Tea, anyone?”
James Norwood Pratt, Author

Thursday, May 16, 2019
Falling in Love with Italy”

Dianne Hales, Author

Thursday, May  23, 2019
“Confessions of a ‘Venice Addict’”
Kathleen Ann Gonzales

Thursday, May  30, 2019
“A Dark Night at Guadalcanal”
David Cobb, Vice President, Il Cenacolo

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)

APRIL  2019

Thursday, April 4, 2019
“San Francisco—by the Maps!”
Jimmie Schein, Schein & Schein

Thursday, April  11, 2019
“Coffee, anyone?”
Luciano Repetto, Graffeo Coffee Roasting Company

Thursday, April 18, 2019
The 113th Anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire”

Ken Sproul

Thursday, April  25, 2019
The Western Neighborhoods Project
Woody LaBounty

This month’s programs arranged by Kenneth Sproul.

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)

MARCH  2019

Thursday, March 7, 2019
“The Roman City of Aphrodisias:
the Marble Sculpture from the Council House”

Chris Hallett

Thursday, March  14, 2019
“Admiral Nimitz and His Bay Area Connections”
Rear Admiral John W. Bitoff, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Thursday, March  21, 2019
Running Political Campaigns in San Francisco: A Contact Sport”

Maggie Muir

Thursday, March  28, 2019
“An Egyptian Tomb, an Etruscan Inscription
and the Funerary Monument of an American Civil War Officer”

Lisa C. Pieraccini

This month’s programs arranged by Ephraim Hirsch.

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)


Thursday, February 7, 2019
“It Happened in Marin”
Jim Holden, Author

Thursday, February  14, 2019
Valentine’s Day Special:
Tasting the Wines of Piedmont
Gwendolyn & Michael Osborn

Thursday, February  21, 2019
Ghiberti’s “Gates of Paradise”:
The Famous Florentine Doors Gracing our Very Own Grace Cathedral
Gerry Opie, Cenacolista

Thursday, February  28, 2019
Italy’s Incredible Contribution to Urban Design: A Few Principles
William Adams

This month’s programs arranged by John Benson.

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)


Thursday, January  3, 2019
No meeting in deference to New Year’s.

Thursday, January  10, 2019
The New Exercise Regime: Active Virtual Reality Games and Health
Marialice Kern

Thursday, January  17, 2019
The Frank V. de Bellis Collection:
A Cultural Bridge between California and Italy for 55 Years
Meredith Eliassen

Thursday, January  24, 2019
The Pervasive Italian Influence on Early Education
in San Francisco and Beyond
David Anderson, PhD

Thursday, January  31, 2019
Future State 2035: San Francisco State University Campus Master Plan
Jill Anthes

This month’s programs arranged by Don Zingale.

(Click here for Bollettino with complete program descriptions.)


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!


Misfits, Merchants & Mayhem on the San Francisco Waterfront: Focus on Italian Fishermen

Lee Bruno

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Lee Bruno will speak about the San Francisco Barbary Coast with its legendary gold-rushers, gamblers and adventurers galore, and the history of the San Francisco waterfront from 1849 to 1934. Lee will also focus on the Italian-Americans of that time period. Lee holds a Master of
Science in science journalism from Boston University, and is the author of Panorama: Tales of the San Francisco 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition. He has been writing for over 20 years about business and technology for the Economist, the Guardian, MIT Technology Review, Red Herring Magazine and Wired, among others. He has lived in San Francisco for more than 30 years, raising a family of four boys with his wife, and enjoys long open water swims with the eccentrics at the South End Rowing Club.

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


The Italian Garden

Mary Menitti

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Mary Menniti is from Pittsburg PA, and now resides in Davis, CA. She will tell us how her “Italian Garden Project” was organized to preserve old world food and gardening traditions and demonstrate that the wisdom of the Italian-American gardener is relevant for today and for the future.

Mary has documented gardens throughout the country including in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Cleveland, Pittsburg, San Jose and Sacramento.

Her project is now in the Archives of the American Garden at the Smithsonian Institution.