I may have been Italian in a different time. If hanging out in Italian Social Clubs is an indicator of Italian heritage, so be it. I am not Italian but I have gone to five dinners at four different Italian clubs this month. Last night I went to “The Monte Cristo Club” in San Francisco. This was a first time visit and boy was it a fun adventure. The adventure started with just making it to the City with Friday traffic. The second challenge was parking. My parking karma helped me find a spot one and a half blocks away. If you have ever experienced parking in San Francisco you would consider this a victory.
The Monte Cristo is located in the Protrero Hill neighborhood. This area located on a hill has lots of old Victorians with some light industry business mixed in. The club is on a residential street with no visible marking. In fact the only indicator present is a lighted bright red door. Open this door and you step into a private club that is a step back into time. The door is open and the noise is loud. You need to make your way through the crowd of older Italian men who almost all have a cocktail in hand. The bar is crowded with a cast of characters that could be extras for an Italian movie. We have several minutes before dinner and you can see the long dining hall with its checkered table clothes. The shrimp salad and antipasto are beckoning for you to enjoy.
The dinner bell is rung and the mad dash begins. We all have assigned tables to sit with our member sponsors. Bottles of Italian wine are ready to be poured. We finish our delicious salad and are looking forward to the seafood pasta to come. Shrimp, mussels and clams in a fragrant seafood sauce adorns the pasta. Little bowls of parmesan cheese are there if you want to break the silly rule of no cheese with fish.
The main course is cioppino, a fragrant tomato broth filled with plenty of fresh seafood. Dungeness crab, scallops, mussels, clams and shrimp make this a rich and flavorful stew. There is plenty of famous San Francisco sourdough bread to mop up any and all broth. We were provided with plastic bibs to make sure we did not wear this cioppino.
The dinner was complete except for a little ice cream cup, coffee and shot of brandy. What a fantastic meal. The ambiance, venue and people of the Monte Cristo club are a very special treat. I feel privileged to be invited and participate at this exclusive Italian Social Club. I am getting hungry all over again writing about last night.