Italian Club celebrates milestone

Above: Members of the Italian Club and their families and friends celebrate its 50th anniversary.

It was a time to reminisce and eat some damn fine pasta, as the Italian Club in Rugby celebrated its 50th anniversary at the weekend.

With the red, green and white flag displayed alongside the South African flag, and gold and silver balloons adorning the hall, members of the club, together with their family and friends, shared a meal and plenty of memories on Sunday November 20.

The club has been a home to many Italians and other nationalities living in Cape Town for the past 50 years.

It was established in the 1960s as a home away from home for Italian immigrants living in Cape Town and was a meeting place where those already settled in South Africa could help those who had just arrived.

“Today we consider ourselves one of the major social hubs in Cape Town that offers a wide range of diversity, entertainment, culture and activities to get involved in,” says a passage in a book the club has published to commemorate its 50th anniversary.

Club president Chrystal Grauso said the anniversary had been celebrated in true Italian style with children running around playing games and young and old enjoying each other’s company.

“It was an amazing day. It was very festive and happy,” she said. “We gave honour to our founding members, four of whom are still alive, and their sons and grandchildren who represented them. The Italian consul Dr Alfonso Tagliaferri attended too,” said Ms Grauso.

The commemorative book tells the club’s history, describing how it started in 1962, when 58 Italian men and three companies, Alitalia Airlines, Lloyd Triestino and Moni Brothers, discussed building a clubhouse where Italians could congregate play sport, have a meal and meet local Italians who could help them settle in.

In 1963, permission was granted to build the club on land in Rugby and a 25-year lease was drawn up.

The completion of the clubhouse in March 1965 saw it became a home not only for Italian community but for other nationalities where young and old could meet their family and friends and play sport, have a meal and exchange news in their native tongue. In 1966, the Club was inaugurated.

Soon the club was hosting dinners and dances on Saturday nights to raise money to cover its running costs.

Sunday lunches became popular, particularly in winter months when football matches were being played.

“While the husbands were at work (cooking), the ladies were at the club dusting and sweeping the floor, preparing the tables and food and stocking up on provisions of food and wine. Mrs Fiorini recalls during the presidency of Mr Mottalini, he would be in the kitchen cooking and disappear for a short while and reappear dressed in his tuxedo,” says the book.

“At a later stage, the ladies kitchen committee decided that all club members should be invited to participate in kitchen duties and decided that Sunday lunches should be planned on a rotational basis. This plan brought more life into the club, the labour was free and given from the heart and it created lots of regional competition to see whose meal was the taste of Italy.”

The management committee and the club’s 667 members now look back with great pride and joy and pay tribute to those men and women who were able to create a home for the Italian community in Cape Town.