Dallas' underground Italian Club drifts after losing Addison location

Dallas' underground Italian Club drifts after losing Addison location

Italian Club
The Italian Club of Dallas is looking for a new home. Photo by Robin E.H. Ove

The nonprofit Italian Club of Dallas has become a club without a home after losing its location in Addison. The organization, which describes its role as promoting and preserving Italian culture and traditions, moved out of the space it occupied since 2006, following a dispute with the landlord that it cannot discuss, but which surely must have something to do with rent.

President Kenny Venuso says that the club may be down but it is not out. "The club is still active — the facility is closed," he says. "I'm not going to go into details, but the bottom line is that we made a decision to move out."

The Italian Club is a bit like a secret. It's been around almost 40 years, hosting under-publicized events such as the Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian-American tradition for New Year's Eve, and a weekly open-house meal known mostly to older foodies, with dishes such as pork chops and polenta crostini.

The group seems to have taken at best a passive approach in its mission of promoting and preserving Italian culture. It had minimal impact on Dallas' Italian restaurant scene, a blah one that's been dominated by restaurateurs of Albanian descent.

"When I came here in the '70s, I couldn't find anyplace I wanted to eat out, so I always just cooked at home," Venuso says.

Being a club dedicated to preserving Italian culture gets a little harder each day in the great melting pot, and that's not just in Dallas.

"Even in Houston, which has a number of Italian clubs across the city, membership and interest has declined," Venuso says. "There is still a large Sicilian population in Dallas, but membership has dropped off. At one point, we had more than 300 members. We're currently at about 120."

They feel that's still enough warm bodies for very subtle continued efforts at preserving and promoting. They'll do their next meeting on June 16 at Aboca's, a respectable Italian restaurant in Richardson, and use the summer to take stock of their future.

"Historically, we have a slow July and August — some members go back to Italy during the summer," he says. "So the timing is good."