Early on the members each paid their own tab at the restaurant and Villa Italia, Scarpone's wine importing business, paid the operating expenses for the convivium. Local philanthropic activities were a central piece of the organization from the start as well. The first event was a dinner at Davies Symphony Hall catered by Vito and Carol Passero to raise money for a donation to the Arthritis Foundation. And, for two years the convivium held a mini Golden Glass-style fundraiser to benefit the Arthritis Foundation of San Francisco. Together with Barbara Bowman and Janet Mettler they also organized the first US press conference for Salone del Gusto in Italy and asked Carlo Petrini to speak. They had many visible people at this event one of whom was Alice Waters who stopped by briefly to meet Carlo Petrini. Under the guidance of Scarpone and other members, Slow Food San Francisco evolved to include over 800 members.
Slow Food San Francisco started in the late '80s after Lorenzo Scarpone, a native Italian and SF resident first met Carlo Petrini. It began with the Slow Food office in New York that helped gather about 20 people from restaurants that shared the Slow Food philosophy. The initial membership consisted of just 18-20 people who received a printed newsletter about every two-three months. The first meetings, held at local restaurants that promoted Slow Food values, had a specific themes. One of the first meetings was an Olive Oil tasting at Vivande moderated by Darryl Corti. Another early meeting included a taste comparison between Petaluma cheese and honey and the cheese and honey made in Gran Sasso National Park in Abruzzo, Italy.