Thursday, 26 September 2013 00:00
It was all fun and games this past Sunday at the Annual Bocce Championship in Westbury. The event was held on the bocce court at the Westbury Recreation Center on Rockland Street.
Anne Abbagangelo of Levittown works at the center and said she was happy to see the game played because it was part of her Italian heritage. She fondly remembers how her father, who was born in Italy, used to play bocce every Sunday.
“The wives would stay home and cook, and the men would play bocce. That’s the way the tradition was,” she said.
The ancient history of bocce can be traced back to the Roman Empire where over time it was able to develop into its present day form in Italy. Today bocce is played all over the world thanks mainly in part to the strong connection the game has to Italian migrants who have introduced the game to other cultures wherever they have happened to settle. The word bocce is the plural version of the Italian word boccia which means bowl.
The rules of the game are simple to understand. Bocce is played on a level surface court that is about 75 feet long. One team is randomly chosen to throw a small ball called a pallino from one end of the court into a zone that is 16 feet
in length. Two teams made up of two people each stand on opposite sides of the court for a total of eight players on the court. Each player has a bocce ball that they throw in an underhand manner to get as close to the pallino as possible. Whichever team gets their bocce ball closest to the pallino scores one point. Whoever reaches 12 points first wins the game.
Vincenza Diglio was cooking up the good stuff on the BBQ along with the rest of the wives, and jokingly shared her perspective on the game with a delightful Italian accent.
“The men play the bocce, and the women cook the sausage sandwich” she said with a laugh.
As traditional and joyous as the occasion was, history has proven time and again that some rules are meant to be broken. Terry Tomasino is one of three women who plays for a bocce league in Huntington. She has been playing for six years.
“I saw some people playing a game of bocce, I stopped to take a look, and they asked me to play; that was it,” Tomasino said. “I really think it’s a great sport for all ages, all types of people, and all walks of life. You do not need a lot of money to play.”
Sal Rongo from Levittown plays on the same team as Tomasino and shares quite a nostalgic and personal history with the sport.
“When I was four years old growing up in a bungalow in Lake Ronkonkoma my father, grandfather and uncles built a bocce court in the backyard,” Rongo said. “I just found a picture of me and my father playing when I was four years old.”
Anthony Orlando from Syosset has a bocce court at his house and he even keeps a tarp over it so he can play in rainy weather. Orlando is a superb player but this past Sunday was bittersweet for him as he and his team of friends lost for the first time in ten years.
The tournament was played throughout the day on Sunday and culminated in a final showdown between Team One and Team Two. Spectators anxiously watched as each player rolled the ball towards the pallino with great anticipation.
Albert Abbatiello who is the president of the bocce club commented as he watched the game unfold. The game finally ended around 4:30 in the afternoon with a first place victory for Team One.
Winners Giovanni Diglio and Bart Abatiello were ecstatic after receiving their first place trophies.
“I feel wonderful! I really feel like I accomplished something great today,” Abatiello said.
The bocce court at the Westbury Recreation Center is available via membership year round for anyone to come and enjoy. Playing bocce gives you the chance to experience a game, a culture, and a tradition that has been a part of history throughout the ages.