Cigar smoke wafts through the air, and families dot the open ground around the Alta House as teams of four attempt to score points by lobbing grapefruit-size balls nearest to a smaller one called the pallino. It's a familiar sight throughout the summer as dozens of teams compete in Little Italy's bocce league. Competitors range from high school students to families to retired Italian-Americans who have lived in the neighborhood for decades. We asked Alta House's manager of recreation, Mike Trivisonno, for some pointers.
1. Practice on the correct surface. To get a feel for how the balls will play during a match, head to the Alta House's limestone courts for practice. "We have leagues Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays," says Trivisonno. "Wednesday and Friday, the courts are open."
2. Consider your strategy. The first person to throw tosses both the pallino and the first ball. "You want to make sure your ball's close to [the pallino]," Trivisonno says. "That gives the other team some things to think about: whether they want to try to knock it out or get closer. It sets the tone."
3. Don't let inexperience stop you. "Our league isn't very serious," Trivisonno says. It's co-ed and open to everyone. "It's all about practice," he notes. "Everybody can do it. It's almost addictive. You can get out there and have a beer in one hand and a cigar in the other and still play the game."