Frank Cianci – The ‘Godfather’ of Robson Ranch Bocce

Frank Cianci (photo by Susan Parker)

Susan Parker

Many players have heard of Frank Cianci, but few know the background of the “Godfather” of Robson Bocce. I asked Frank to respond to some questions to get to know him and the game better. Here are his responses:

How did the club get started and what gave you the idea to start bocce at Robson Ranch?

In 2017 there was a conversation about the game with friends. I suggested we might find other people to learn and play with us one evening a week. My wife Mary Ann laughed, because there weren’t many Italians at Robson. Sixty-four people were interested that first season. The next season, it tripled and continued to grow every season. It’s crazy, but people really love the game. Anyone can play, regardless of physical state.

What is the background of the game of bocce?

A painting of two boys playing a similar type of game was found in an Egyptian tomb around 5200 B.C. The game spread from Egypt to Greece and then to Rome. Roman soldiers played a similar game. Galileo, daVinci and Queen Elizabeth I played the game. George Washington had a court at Mount Vernon. Italian immigrants brought bocce to the United States.

Tell me about your Italian heritage?

Mary Ann and I are Italian on both sides of our families. We can trace our family in our ancestral hometown (Calitri, Italia) back to the early 1500s. Every ancestor was Italian. Calitri is said to be the single longest continually inhabited community on the planet. We grew up with the traditions, language, and food that are part of our heritage. We’re pretty proud of that and determined to keep our traditions alive for our granddaughter.

Tell me a little about your background?

I was a family dentist in Pennsylvania. My college education was at a Jesuit university where they instill their tradition of service to others. My belief in that tradition led me to get involved in a number of community projects, such as a community-built playground, a home winemaker’s festival, an Italian fontana di matta (a “crazy fountain”), and a memorial to immigrants.

What is one thing about you few know at Robson Ranch?

I’m a terrible dancer and a little shy (hard to believe, I know). I try not to draw attention to myself. There are so many people that have worked so hard on this club—the players, captains, commissioners, board members. I don’t want to diminish what they’ve done.

What is the future of bocce at Robson?

I expect that the developer will honor the promise to build our permanent facility very soon. When that happens, we’ll grow much more. Our existing leagues will remain, but we can expand to add more leagues, like a singles league, a doubles league, a couple’s league, maybe even a grandkids league. We can organize benefits for veterans, schools, etc. In just five years, we’ve grown to over 1,000 people and 90 teams.

Thank you, Frank Cianci, for your honest and heartfelt responses.