Italian fans cheer 'the very best'

July 18, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

In yesterday's editions, the name, location and owner of a Brazilian restaurant in Washington were reported incorrectly. The restaurant is called Brasil Tropical, located in the 2500 block of Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., and the owner's name is Petrolio Cesar.

The Sun regrets the errors.

When Roberto Baggio's penalty kick went over the net, it ended Italy's dream of a fourth World Cup title, prompted an anguished cry from Tommy's Lounge on East Pratt Street and inspired a barely perceptible shake of Rose Tamburello's head.

"That's all right; I still love 'em. I'll always love 'em," said Tamburello, a longtime soccer fan and an Italian-American from Highlandtown.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Tamburello had joined about 100 other Italians and would-be Italians squeezed into Tommy's Lounge to cheer on their team in what they had hoped would be an upset victory over the healthier and favored Brazilian team.

But it was not to be.

"They'll be back in four years," said Sherry Cavatina, as another disappointed fan snapped off the wide-screen television set over the bar -- only to have another fan quickly turn it back on.

Though the match may not have attracted the huge U.S. audiences that usually watch most Super Bowls and World Series games, worldwide it was expected to attract far more -- about 2 billion. And the fans who came out to Tommy's yesterday afternoon were as boisterous and as rabid as they come.

"I say they are the best, the very best," said Guisseppe Gizzi, an Italian-born former soccer player who came to Baltimore from Italy in 1966, traveled the East Coast playing in various soccer leagues and once played against the great Pele.

Gizzi, 48, sporting a red and white Italian hat, Italian T-shirt and Italian flag, proved a colorful commentator -- some of it English, most in Italian -- as he alternated between shaking his fists and shouting support at the players who kicked and ran on one of the tavern's three television screens tuned into the game.

Pete Caringi, the son of Italian immigrants and the tavern's owner, said with a little marketing and a lot of word of mouth, he managed just about to fill the bar for every weekend televised match.

Caringi, who was raised in Little Italy, decorated the bar with paper bunting of red, white and green -- Italy's national colors -- and each weekend served dishes of the countries that were playing on television that day. There was corned beef and cabbage when Ireland was on the air.

Swedish meatballs were served when that Scandinavian country played.

"I think it's a great sport. I've always thought it was great," he said.

The tavern's basement decor served as testament to that statement: lining one wall is an impressive array of soccer trophies won by Caringi's son, Pete Caringi Jr., an All-America soccer player who set scoring records at Calvert Hall and now coaches soccer at UMBC.

"Soccer's always been very big in this part of town," said David Paciocco, a 25-year-old warehouse worker.

A few stools away from Paciocco sat the "house pro" of sorts.

Gino Pennacchia, who grew up a block away from Tommy's and played for Dallas of the North American Soccer League, was asked whether he thought the World Cup would spark permanent interest in soccer in the United States.

"It might, but I tend to think it'll probably start to fade, eventually," Pennacchia said.

Meanwhile, the Rio Lisboa, which is in the 4700 block of Eastern Ave. and may be Baltimore's only Brazilian restaurant, remained quiet throughout most of yesterday's game.

Many Brazilians, however, flooded into the Brazilian Tropicana, a bar and restaurant in the 2700 block of Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington.

"It's [soccer] like religion over there," said Iza Lago, a Brazilian patron who moved to Washington six years ago.

One devotee, a 25-year-old electrical engineer from Boston, arrived at the restaurant as it opened at noon dressed in the Brazilian team's canary-yellow colors.

"It was crowded right from the opening," said the fan, who gave his name only as "Fred."

He said he came to Washington a few days ago to watch the final game with his brother, but saw the Brazilian team play in the tournament in Palo Alto, Calif., Pontiac, Mich., and Dallas.

The effect of the team's success on his native country, he said, will be immeasurable.

"With Brazil winning, people are going to be so happy. It's not going to matter what the government does or what they predict for the economy," he said. "It'll just be so much more important than all of that."

Petronia Cesar, owner of the Tropicana, said he expected up to 3,000 people to cram into the restaurant and the covered sidewalk out front.

As the strains of samba music blared in the background, Cesar wiped sweat from his forehead as he told a reporter standing at the restaurant's crowded entrance that three Washington television stations had come for interviews in the past week. Each brought with it more publicity and more customers, he said.

He said yesterday that he expected to sell 250 cases of beer -- much of it favorite Brazilian brews, Antartica and Brahma -- and 100 pounds of meats to make up feijoada, a Brazilian dish of dried beef, pork, black beans and Brazilian sausage.

"It's a kind of craziness, you know," he said.

"But at the same time, it is a wonderful craziness."

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