The Wickliffe Italian-American Club, which was established for men of Italian descent and their sons, began meeting in 1932 in the front of Minadeo’s, a grocery store south of Euclid Avenue, and in the basement of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. In 1933, the founding fathers of the club were Joe Pucella, David Marinelli and Joe Gallese. The purpose of the club from its beginning until the present, is for Italian-American men to socialize and advance the Italian culture and heritage.
In 1948, the Club Room was built. The room contains a kitchen, lobby area, bathrooms, and meeting space. The Club Room holds the club’s monthly meetings and is available for public rental. In the past, the Club Room has been used for graduations, weddings, first communions and birthday parties.
In 1966, the Wickliffe Italian-American Party Center was built. The Party Center is leased to James Catering, a full-service catering company operated by James Piorkowski, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America. Also available for rental, the Party Center can be used for such events as wedding receptions, baby showers and corporate parties.
Aside from the Club Room and the Party Center, the Wickliffe Italian-American Club’s facilities include nine covered bocce ball courts, a sand volleyball court, a large pavilion, a playground, and a Piazza. The club’s Piazza, which features a beautiful fountain and landscaping, is paved with memorial bricks that are purchased by members and engraved with the names of deceased family members. The club hosts men’s and mixed couples bocce leagues. The club sponsors bocce play for the Special Olympics on club grounds in conjunction with The Knights of Columbus.
The biggest, and perhaps most prized, event held by the club is the Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce tournament. The tournament, which draws teams from New York, Michigan, Canada, Illinois, Florida, and other locations, is a three-day festival complete with music, children’s entertainment, food and souvenir vendors, beverages and cash prizes to the winning teams.
Each year the Pat O’Brien Chevrolet Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce tournament hosts one of the largest bocce tournaments in the country.
The Wickliffe Italian-American Club Ladies’ Auxiliary, an off-shoot of the main club that is ccomprised of the men’s wives and family members, assists and hosts events for families of club members.
In 2003, the club established a youth organization to instill family values in young Italian-Americans, as well as to perpetuate the club and Italian traditions and culture.
– Exerpts from The Heart of Lake Country Magazine
By: Alicia M. Taylor