The Irish-Israeli-Italian Society of San Francisco has been around for 58 years, long enough to acquire a deep bench of power brokers and politicians—as well as everyday people who conspire to make San Francisco a more colorful place.
One of those individuals is Mark Schachern, a 50-year veteran of the service industry who was honored at the “Triple I” luncheon Wednesday. The festive event, held at the Italian American Athletic Club on Stockton Street, included pasta in the colors of the Italian flag, miniature bottles of Irish whiskey at every seat and a benediction from a local rabbi.
Two San Franciscans were acknowledged for their contributions to the city: longtime Lincoln High School football coach Phil Ferrigno and Schachern.
“You name a bar, he’s been influential,” said Paul Tonelli, a co-president of the “Triple I” society.
Schachern moved to the Bay Area in 1967 from his native Michigan to study education at the University of San Francisco, but after a stint at Liverpool Lil’s in the Marina, he found his real calling.
“When I told my mom I was dropping out of my master’s program to work in a bar, I just heard a click on the other side,” Schachern said. “That was back when we had dial tones.”
But his mother eventually forgave him, and Schachern eventually moved on to have a storied career. He’s worked at Liverpool Lil’s, Pat O’Shea’s and the famed “WashBag”—the Washington Square Bar and Grill that’s now Lillie Coit’s—with famed restaurateur Ed Moose, who died in 2010. He now serves as a managing partner at Sam’s Grill, another well-known hangout for the city’s politically connected.
“North Beach is a magical world,” Schachern said. “You meet some very funny people here.”
Schachern told the story of a cook chasing him through the kitchen of the WashBag, meat cleaver in hand, all because Schachern made the mistake of hanging his raincoat on the cook’s hook in the glamorous “employee lounge” (a large closet filled with dirty linens).
That cook? None other than the former personal chef to Douglas MacArthur, one of only a handful of U.S. military officers to be awarded five stars.
“Any room Mark walks into, that room becomes better,” said David Lewin, Triple I co-president.
The “Triple I” of the society’s name does not stem from an ethnic membership requirement—the group is “open to all races and creeds,” as the brochure reads—but from the backgrounds of the three founders: George Reilly, Nathan Cohn, and Charles Barca.
Cohn and Reilly began an invite-only lunch club in 1965 and were soon joined by Barca, a talkative police captain of Italian descent. They made for a vibrant trio.
“He was more theater than law,” said Lewin about Cohn. “He was also a great dresser.”
The three began their lunch club at Bimbo’s 365 Club in North Beach, later moving to the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club, where they’ve been ever since.
“This is old-school San Francisco,” said Adriene Roche, the third co-president of the Triple I society and a fourth-generation San Franciscan.
“It’s a very powerful place to make an appearance and be recognized—everyone running for election would walk through this room,” she continued.
The lunch began with bean salad and the Pledge of Allegiance and ended with biscotti and a blessing, with plenty of time for mingling and tossing out jokes in between.
“Sharing laughter, tears and pasta is still the best way to restore our faith in humankind,” Rabbi Shana Chandler-Leon said in the closing remarks.
Julie Zigoris can be reached at email@example.com