Tomorrow begins the the most widely watched sporting event in the world, the 2010 FIFA World Cup. And for the next month, from June to July 11th, even Laker mania will take a back seat to soccer. The World Cup, held for the first time in Africa, showcases 32 countries. And while you can of course watch the games at your neighborhood sports bar, there are also other venues celebrating the event, even opening for the 4:30 a.m. games, which is when the early games start on the West Coast.
Instead of settling for sub-par bar food this next month, watch the match while spooning up pistachio gelato at Bulgarini Gelato in the San Gabriel foothills, or as you eat black mole at Guelaguetza, or spicy octopus at The Prince Café in Koreatown, or boerewors at Springbok in Van Nuys, which is fitting as South Africa is hosting the World Cup this year. Or sit in the inner sanctum of Mozza, where you can eat all the fennel sausage pizza you can manage while you cheer your team. Yes, Mozza has a big screen television you didn't know about. Turn the page for our Top 10 Places to Watch the World Cup, listed in alphabetical order because, well, tensions are running high enough as it is.
1. Bella Vista Brazilian Gourmet Pizza: This new pizzeria is part of a small Brazilian complex on Venice Boulevard in Culver City that becomes a shrine to soccer during the World Cup. The sunny courtyard has just been set up with two 60-inch screens set up with surround-sound upon which will show 2 games at a time all through the next month. "The last World Cup we had 250 people here," said owner-manager Marcelo Gomez. "We tied the chairs together." Gomez says there'll be Brazilian dancers and drummers lined up along Venice Boulevard to help celebrate. The only early game shown will be the Brazil-Portugal game -- look for special breakfast pizzas -- otherwise the place will open at its customary 9 a.m. They will reshow the earlier games during dinner, and the all-you-can-eat pizza special will continue through the World Cup. As the pizzeria does not yet have its liquor license, fans can BYOB. Bella Vista: 10826 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 90232; (310) 558-2374.
2. Bulgarini Gelato: To say that Rome native Leo Bulgarini is a soccer fan is not unlike saying that the man enjoys a scoop of gelato: a vast and terrible understatement. For the World Cup, Bulgarini, who has been showing Italian movies in his outdoor Altadena courtyard for the last summer or two, will be showing all the games on his projector. He's also been building a marble bar inside, will put up a tent outside, and has gotten a temporary beer and wine license for the occasion. Bulgarini says he'll show every game. All of them. The 4:30 a.m. games, the England games, all of them. "You have to be open," says Bulgarini. "You can't say, I'm not going to be open for Greece. We're going to play them all." And if gelato at dawn isn't your thing (that's why they invented affogato, isn't it?), there will be coffee and pastries too. Bulgarini Gelato:
5. Loteria Grill: Jimmy Shaw's two Loteria restaurants (Shaw has a third small taqueria at the Farmers Market in the Grove) will be opening at 6:30 a.m. for all of the 7 a.m. games. There will be a 100-inch high resolution projector set up at the Hollywood location, in addition to the regular large televisions. Shaw is creating a series of international tacos for the event, although he says he won't do all 32 countries. "Nine or ten. I'm still working on it." Look for Korean, Greek, British, French and German tacos, for starters, with more coming. There will also be specials on many of Loteria's international beers. Loteria Grill Hollywood: 6627 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 465-2500; Loteria Grill Studio City: 12050 Ventura Blvd.,Studio City; (818) 508-5300.
6. Lucky Baldwins Pub: This Pasadena English pub, open for 14 years now, will be showing every game live on the televisions wedged among the beer banners in the dark and atmospheric interior of the pub, as well as on the 55-inch television on the patio outside. "We tried it out last week," says owner David Farnworth, who is from Carlyle, in the north of England, aand who lived in South Africa for 10 years. "It will come in handy when there's the two games on at the same time." The pub will open at 4 a.m. for the early games, and the kitchen will be open and serving full English breakfasts as well as free coffee until 7 a.m. when their liquor license allows them to start serving beer. There is lots of beer at Lucky Baldwin's: 62 beers on tap, in fact. Coincidentally, Lucky Baldwin's annual IPA festival starts the same day that the World Cup begins, so England fans can lift India pale ales to celebrate (or not). And if it gets really crowded, which it will, Farnworth says not to worry. "The good thing about these games is that they're two hours long. You're not in any hurry to get your breakfast." Beer for breakfast works too. The Sierra Madre outpost of the pub will also be open too, but not until 7 a.m. Lucky Baldwins Pub: 17 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; (626) 795-0652. Lucky Baldwins Delirium Cafe: 21 Kersting Court, Sierra Madre; (626) 355-1140.
7. Mozza: Sure, sports bars are fun, but if you can watch a game at one of the best restaurants (and still possibly hardest reservation) in town, wouldn't you pick that? Mozza's Scuola di Pizza, the gorgeous multi-purpose marble-and-black room off Mozza2Go, is now home to a 46-inch flatscreen television and an all-you-can-eat-for-$50 bar food menu. Open for special sports events, the Scuola is the perfect venue for the World Cup, especially if you happen to be watching an Italy match. At first $50 might seem a little steep for pizzas, hamburgers and hot dogs, but consider that you can eat as many as you want and that they are Nancy Silverton's pizzas, hamburgers and hot dogs -- and sandwiches and pretzels and house-made ice cream sandwiches and Cordillera chocolate brownies and cookies -- and it starts to sound like a serious bargain. Oh, and did we mention the housemade popcorn is made with fennel pollen and Maldon sea salt? Call the restaurant for times and games, and to make reservations, which are necessary, for you and up to 29 of your sports-and-fennel-sausage-pizza-minded friends. Mozza will be showing the USA-England match and the Greece-Argentina match whether anyone other than executive chef and devout Laker fan Matt Molina comes or not; for other games, check the website. Mozza2Go: 6610 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles; (323) 297-1133 (special event line).
8. The Prince Café: This Koreatown restaurant and bar, located in the Windsor Hotel for the last 30 or so years, may not be serving live octopus these days, but consuming a plate of spicy sauteed octopus with a Soju cocktail while you watch a soccer game is not a bad way to spend an afternoon. The Prince, which is normally open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., will open for the Korea games for those who call and make reservations. But show them they will, and the dark bar, the decor of which looks like an English pub crossed with a medieval theme park -- there are small suits of armor decorating the walls -- seems a perfect place to watch the North Korea soccer team, which has been surrounded with Pyongyang secresy. A place that resembles a Freemason's meeting hall is just the venue. The Prince Café: 3198 1/2 W 7th St., Koreatown; (213) 389-2007.
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9. Springbok Bar & Grill: As South Africa is hosting the Cup, it seems fitting to watch a game or two at the only South African restaurant in Los Angeles. Open since 2003, this Van Nuys sports bar is owned and operated by four South African men who wanted a "really good rugby bar." It is still predominantly a rugby bar, but the place will be celebrating soccer with almost as much fervor for the next month. They just finished building a barbecue stage out on the patio near the 2 outdoor plasma televisions. Inside there are 16 high-def TV's as well as a 103-inch projection screen for the games, all of which will be shown -- except for the 4:30 a.m. games. About 15% of Springbok's patrons are South African, the owners figure, and it's usually filled with plenty of ex-pats from the UK and Europe. The menu is a similar mixture of global and South African, with the signature South African dish boerewors (housemade farmer's sausage), chicken peri-peri, and curries. (Yes, they did have bunny chow on the menu, but it's not on right now. "People got a little funny with the name.") There was a second Springbok in Long Beach, but it was just sold. The owners are currently scouting for a second Valley location. Specials include $3 Bud drafts for the month. Budweiser, by the way, is a FIFA World Cup sponsor. Springbok Bar & Grill: