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Bocce courts are chic

Bocce is enjoying a surge. It’s a real yuppie thing to do.” So says Mario Pagnoni, author of The Joy of Bocce and proponent of siting bocce courts in bars and restaurants. But even he admits that the traditional Italian game has an image problem. “Say ‘bocce’ and people still think old guys bowling with a cigar in their mouth and a glass of wine in hand.” That’s precisely what Jim Carden likes about bocce, and why his two Brooklyn restaurant/bars feature indoor courts. “It’s a great bar game,” he says.

Bocce is enjoying a surge. It’s a real yuppie thing to do.”

So says Mario Pagnoni, author of The Joy of Bocce and proponent of siting bocce courts in bars and restaurants across the land.

But even he admits that the traditional Italian game has an image problem. “Say ‘bocce’ and people still think old guys bowling with a cigar in their mouth and a glass of wine in hand.”

That’s precisely what Jim Carden likes about bocce, and it’s why his two Brooklyn restaurant/bars feature indoor courts. “It’s a great bar game,” he says. “You can hold a drink in one hand and throw the bocce ball with the other.”  Bocce remains an obscure sport in the United States, and courts are featured only in a handful of restaurants.

There’s Lena’s Tavern in Napa Valley, Mickey’s Top Sirloin in Denver, Melillo’s in Louisville and Lompoc Cafe & Brewpub in Bar Harbor. Il Vagabondo in Manhattan has had a bocce court since the late 1960s.

Carden says he was inspired to build bocce courts at his two places—Floyd, NY and Union Hall—by what a social game bocce is. Plus, he notes, the sport, which is similar to lawn bowling, isn’t hard to play.

“There’s a strong social dynamic,” Pagnoni says. “Instead of just sitting around, you’re up and playing.”

At five feet wide and 40 feet long, Carden’s bocce courts are less than half regulation size, but still big for a restaurant. “But the bocce courts are a big draw, and pay for themselves in large dividends,” he says. Bocce leagues play—and drink—regularly. Hotly contested championships draw spectators as well.

For the young Brooklynites that come to Carden’s bars for drinks and bocce, it’s a pastime. “We get customers who say, ‘my grandpa used to have a bocce court in the back yard.’”

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