Every generation has its game. Before there was Wii, there were billiards, table tennis, darts and horseshoes. For many Italians from the 70's and 80's, the game they love is foosball. Which is why Max Stefanelli, managing partner of Terroni Restaurant on Beverly Boulevard, purchased a foosball table in hopes of adding an important piece of Italian culture to his Los Angeles restaurant.

Ever since the imported Italian foosball table made its appearance on the curb outside the front door of Terroni, the game has become something of a nostalgic beacon for the Italian culinary community. Swing by Terroni late in the evening and you most likely find a pack of Los Angeles' most beloved Italian restaurateurs, chefs, managers, and service professionals hunched over the foosball table for a heated match.

“In Italy there's religion, food, soccer, and then foosball,” says Italian-born Donato Poto, the general manager of Providence. For him and a handful of other restaurant professionals, foosball is a favorite after work ritual. “There's nothing better than a nice glass of wine and a few games of foosball. Your head goes somewhere else.” For the Italians, Poto explains, foosball is the ultimate passa tempo.

Not everyone sees foosball as minor game. Impromptu matches between the staff of neighboring Italian restaurants can “get very intense,” Stefanelli says. When competitive egos flare, the serious players tend to take it out on the table. “It's probably better to hit the foosball ball hard than a person,” Poto says. Regular foosball players and devotees to the game include Poto, Gino Rindone (general manager of Angelini Osteria), Vincenzo Marianella (head barman of Copa D'Oro) and a handful of staff from nearby Italian kitchens.

Between games at Terroni; Credit: Brooke Burton

Between games at Terroni; Credit: Brooke Burton

Italians aren't the only ones that play foosball at Terroni. Recent matches have included chefs such as Neal Fraser of Grace Restaurant, Michael Cimarusti of Providence, Josiah Citrin of Melisse and David LeFevre of Water Grill. According to Stefanelli, however, “the American's have no game. Italians were born playing foosball.”

With those fighting words and the price of a game just 50-cents, Americans are encouraged to come to Terroni to practice during lunch and before the busiest dining hours. Stefanelli plans to host a foosball tournament between Los Angeles' Italian restaurants in the fall.

Terroni, 7605 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 954-0300.

LA Weekly