November 24, 2021

Cigars, Music & Glamour: A Holiday Event To Remember

by Joe Bonadio

It seems like the holidays really crept up on us this year, and somehow Thanksgiving is almost here. For all the obvious reasons, this is going to be a particularly special holiday, and parties are already gearing up all over town. Naturally North Beach is no exception, and the folks over at San Francisco Italian Athletic Club (SFIAC) have got a doozy lined up for December 19th: the San Francisco Cigar Black and White Dinner Gala.

The holidays are all about tradition, and this event might be one of the most traditional of all. Harkening back to the days when going out and dressing up were synonymous, the evening is billed as “a throwback to the glamorous days gone by when men and women dressed to the nines and danced the night away.”

The event’s black-and-white theme calls for semi formal dress—and they’re pretty serious about it. Here are just a few pointers from the event’s guidelines for attire: “Men sport proper suits, dress shirts, straight or bow ties and black leather shoes. Women wear gowns, evening dresses, cocktail dresses or elegant separates….when in doubt, overdress. It is better to err on the side of formality.”

Jim Ervin and Pasquale Esposito

Jim Ervin and Pasquale Esposito share the stage for another sold-out performance.

It’s all in pursuit of classic, timeless elegance–and according to the event’s host, San Francisco Cigar Company‘s Jim Ervin, you shouldn’t get the wrong idea. “It’s supposed to be a fun night, and I don’t want people to feel like they’ve got to go out and buy new clothes,” he told me. “I think we all have something in the closet that will fit the color guidelines.”

Of course, San Franciscans are casual by default, and the last twenty months of Covid strangeness has only exacerbated this unfortunate tendency toward pajama-like attire. You might think this would be an obstacle to someone organizing an event like this one, but it doesn’t slow Ervin down a bit. “Sure, it’s a challenge,” he says. “But there are some people who just can’t wait to get dressed up.”

It promises to be a handsome crowd, and Jim has lined up some talent befitting the season. Recording star and Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito will be closing out his 2021 world tour at the event, performing his holiday show which is slated for broadcast locally on PBS. Pasquale will be singing more than a few of the Italian favorites he’s well known for—and if past events are any indication, the dance floor should be lively.

You might be saying, with a last name like Ervin, what’s Jim doing promoting this very Italian event? Well, Jim’s half Italian on his mother’s side; her maiden name was Lauferini. A Bay Area business owner for over three decades, he has been hosting regular events throughout the last year to support entertainers like Esposito, and get them back to work after the lockdown. Likewise, the events have helped to engage the local Italian fraternal clubs like Fratellanza and the SFIAC, which have been saddled with Covid restrictions.

PBS recording artist Pasquale

PBS recording artist and Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito performs at San Francisco Cigar Company’s Summer event.

Ervin’s events are typically closer to his shop in San Leandro, though; this will be the first his company has held at the SFIAC. The evening will serve to spotlight four companies, all of which will be in attendance: Community Bank of the Bay in Oakland, LaStrada Restaurant in San Pablo, Lyal Nickals Florist in San Leandro and the Tony Gemignani companies.

“I’ve been to the Italian Athletic Club many times for events over the years, and a lot of my friends are members,” he told me. “I’ve known Tony since Pyzano’s in Castro Valley, and like me, he’s a member of the Fratellanza Club. When I held an event two months ago, Tony asked me if I’d ever considered the SFIAC for an event.

“I said sure, I’d love to. I took a chance, because my crowd is in the East Bay—and you know how long that bridge is,” Ervin said. “The people at the SFIAC have been extremely kind. I’ve been working with Nico, who is in charge of events there, and he has been just great.”

Nicholas Figone, COO at the Italian Athletic Club, is eagerly looking forward to the event. “The SFIAC and North Beach at large are excited to welcome Pasquale Esposito back to perform at the club,” he told me. “We had him at the Festa Coloniale years ago as a headliner, and he brought the house down. But after his KQED fame and all the TV specials, we can’t afford him!”

For more information about Pasquale Esposito, click here. To inquire about tickets, email, and you can learn more about Jim Ervin and the San Francisco Cigar Company here.