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History of The Italian Club

Founded April 26, 1920

The idea for founding the Italian Club (originally the Italian Commercial Club) was born at a Christmas party at the home of the late Nicola Paolella in 1919 in Seattle, Washington. Among those who attended that get-together were the Italian Consul, Mr. Unti , Drs. August J. Ghiglione and Xavier DeDonato, Judge George Donworth, Messrs. Ambrose Chiappa, Frederico M. Bassetti, Idrano Ive, Henry Q. Cervi, Fred Federici, James Rigo, Victor Nasenga, James Scavotto (Seattle City Councilman), John Madonna, Felix Rosaia, Albert G. Vena, Alphonso LaSalle and Captain Charles M. Ferro. Others attended, but their names are not available.

As a result, Mr. Federico Bassetti, editor of La Gazzetta Italiana, published a notice inviting all those interested to attend a meeting at the Fraternal Hall, which was located at the northwest corner of 4th Avenue and Pike Street. It was there, on January 20, 1920, that the Italian Club of today held their first meeting. It was officially founded on April 26 of that year.

In the beginning meetings were held at various Seattle locations until 1930 when the Italian Club took the lead and together with other Italian organizations, purchased the Pacific Telephone Building at 1520 -17th Avenue and renamed it the Casa Italiana. With Italian Club funds and furnishings it was remodeled and refurbished. It provided club quarters, not only for the Italian Club and the other Italian organizations but also contained the finest banquet facilities available at the time.

In 1935, the Italian Commercial Club, the Italian-American Council and the Italian Athletic Club amalgamated to form the Italian Club, Inc. James Rispoli, John Dijulio and Pete Rosaia spearheaded the movement in bringing these clubs together and providing leadership to the new group but by then, the Casa Italiana was having difficulties remaining solvent. Frank Orrico and John DiJulio then initiated the Columbus Day Banquet and the proceeds from that as well as from the souvenir programs were sufficient to keep the Casa Italiana profitable for years to come.

With the telephone company expansion program, Pacific NW Bell wanted to repurchase the building. After serious deliberation at a meeting attended by all the Italian organizations, stock ownership was given to those who had originally contributed and it was decided to accept the Telephone Company's offer and search for new quarters. The plan was to obtain a building that would include space for commercial rental income and a place for Italian meetings and social functions.

In 1937, the Italian Club met in their new quarters at 620 Union Street that quickly became the finest downtown club of its day. It was there that the legendary "Chef Costa" Costanzo Lazzaretti held the reins from 1939 until he founded the Italian Independent Society in 1945.

After losing its lease, the Club moved again to the New Washington Hotel in 1947 and remained there until 1950. Through the years, meetings have been held at the Colonial Manor (7th and Blanchard), Mt. Virgin School Hall, The Norselander Restaurant, the Sherwood Inn on 45th Ave. NE, the Elks Club on Lake Union, The Swedish Club, the Scottish Rite Temple and St. Joseph's School auditorium.

In 1998, under the direction of President Armandino Batali, the name of the organization was officially changed to the Italian Club of Seattle, inc. It was also during his administration that non-Italians were first allowed to join as members.

The Italian Club for Women was founded in 1926 by Cathenne Menga and others, disbanded during the War years and reorganized in 1948 as the Women's Auxiliary. It was renamed the Women's Italian Club in 1999 and disbanded January 1, 2004 when women were finally welcomed into the Italian Club of Seattle as full and equal members.

For a complete list of all the Past Presidents of both organizations through the years, click here.

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