Set to unfold this Sunday, July 1, the 2012 Euro Cup Final is a familiar tale of the tape. On one side, you have Italy's defense, which stays at home and plays it safe, slurping down zabaglione and soaking up an opposition's assaults — sort of like how the bread in a ribollita soaks up broth. On the other side, Spain's defense is no slouch either, especially when it comes to goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who eats up shots the way our husky uncle hoovers up canapes. Furthermore, a unit ominously dubbed Pata Negra or the “Black Hoof,” Spain's burly midfielders have a passing game as silky and sweet as their porky namesake's flesh. On the soccer field, it's a clash of perennial titans. On the dinner table, the match-up is no less compelling.
Imagine: Lidia Bastianich, Marcella Hazan, Mario Batali, and Michael Chiarello face off against Ferran Adrià, Jose Andres, Juan Mari Arzak, and Eva Arguiñano in a “kitchen stadium”-style pile-up. By the time the fog of saffron, garlic, smoked paprika, olive oil, and Parmigiano dissipated, we'd hopefully have a real winner — no penalty kicks.
Sadly, most of the local places at which you might watch Sunday's match (11:45 p.m. Pacific) will not be serving Italian or Spanish food, at least. At Barnery's Beanery or Busby's, you're stuck with breakfast or an broad scattershot of eclectic bar food. At a pub (Santa Monica seems to have one on every street — Ye Old Kings Head Pub, McCabe's, O'Brien's Irish Pub and so on), you're eating fish and chips, just fish, or just chips — fine, noshable fare, but a fare cry from the gastronomic wonders produced in the contesting teams' home countries. We're watching at home, with a coppa-and-Manchego hoagie to keep the hunger pangs at bay.