World Cup Fever Hits the North End: Soccer Tournament Begins This Week

Carlo Ianniciello, general manager of Strega, gives the thumbs up sign for Team Italy in the FIFA World Cup that gets underway Thursday.

Carlo Ianniciello, general manager of Strega, gives the thumbs up sign for Team Italy in the FIFA World Cup that gets underway Thursday.

The FIFA World Cup begins this week and the North End is excited and ready to join in the quadrennial celebration of soccer’s greatest tournament.

National pride and international bragging rights are at stake as teams representing 32 countries convene in Brazil to determine which nation has the best soccer team in the world.

In the North End, famous for its world-class restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and coffee shops, people will be watching the games closely.

The two teams drawing the most fervor are Italy, who won the Cup in 2006, and the United States, who is seeking its first-ever title. Spain is the defending champion while Brazil, with five titles overall, is considered one of this year’s favorites.

Residents and business owners remember Italy’s triumph well and the incredible celebration that erupted on the streets of the North End following its victory.

“It was nuts here in 2006 when Italy won,” recalled Miram Spencer, manager of Caffe Dello Sport on Hanover Street. “The streets were crowded. The whole street was shut down. Everyone came down to the North End afterwards and the celebration went through the middle of the night.”

Caffe Dello Sport has 65-inch and 80-inch televisions for viewers looking to watch the game with other soccer fans and international tourists.

“We’re expecting big crowds with a lot of Italian fans,” Spencer.

Carlo Ianniciello, manager of Strega in the North End, said all seven televisions in  the famous restaurant will be showing the World Cup.

“Many people will be rooting for Italy,” said Ianniciello, who came to the United States from Italy in 1995. “It was crazy here in 2006 when Italy won the Cup. I love soccer. My favorite player is [Francesco] Tutti. Italy can win the Copa de Mundo again. I’m sorry but the U.S.A. team is in big trouble. I love Italy and God bless America.”

At Lucia Ristorante and Bar manager Annmarie Wilcox, said a lot of people aren’t aware that the restaurant also has a beautiful bar area downstairs with two large-screen televisios.

“We will be offering bar-picky appetizers during all the games,” said Wilcox, who remembers the festive scene in 2006. “It was crazy in the streets. You couldn’t even more. We hope we’ll see another celebration like that this year.”

Bobby Agrippino, owner of the T-shirt cart adjacent to the Paul Revere statue, said the jerseys for Mario Balotelli and Andrea Pirlo, two of Italy’s stars, should be big sellers.

“If Italy starts to win game, the jersey sales will be huge,” said Agrippino. “And as Italy advances in the tournament, there will be a lot of celebrating. Italy is the team of the North End. I was here in 2006 and it was incredible, an experience you never could imagine.”

Hair stylists Leonid Turco and Guy Turco of Guy’s Men’s Salon, will be rooting for Italy. The Ukranian-born Aronov said Turco grew up in Genoa, Italy and played soccer there.

“In the North End there is tremendous interest in the World Cup,” said Aronov. “Every four years we celebrate this great tradition.”