Where do I go to watch soccer? Usually down in the living room, early on Sunday mornings, until somebody decides that Charles Osgood is more fascinating than the Juventus-Parma match. Soccer can be a lonely pursuit, unless you are one of the hearties who make a habit of nipping down to the pub to watch Chelsea play -- or you happen to follow Liga MX, because the Cruz Azul game will be on in about 10,000 Eastside restaurants.
But every four years, I turn into one of those people who roll out of bed before dawn to haul down to distant bars for World Cup matches – preferably a bar populated by expatriate fans from the country whose team happens to be on the screen.
The strong brew of soccer, chauvinism and imported ale is made irresistibly compelling by the presence of neighbors deeply invested in the score. You get to day-drink. This year, with the games in time zone-convenient Brazil instead of Cape Town or Seoul, you don’t have to wake up so early. And second-hand ecstasy is better than no ecstasy at all.
We expect to be filing World Cup-themed culinary reports pretty frequently over the next few weeks, but here are a couple of ideas for the opening match today.
Brazil v. Croatia, 1 p.m. PDT
You know Brazil is going to win this game. I know Brazil is going to win this game. Brazil is the host country and has a striker named Hulk. Croatia has a couple of good players, but barely made its way past Iceland in the qualifying matches. So the smart money would have you going to Samba Brazilian Steakhouse , which may not be the best Brazilian restaurant in town, but which draws a large partisan crowd. Reserve. Café Brasil is funkier, has great food and may be even more Brazil-centric, but is likely to be mobbed.
But if I were able to steal out of the office, I’d probably head out to Pavich’s Brick Oven Pizzeria, which may not serve a lot of Croatian food, but is central to the local Croatian community. (Would you rather be snarfing barbecued cevapcici and icy Karlovacko beer at the Croatian-American Club in San Pedro? I wouldn’t blame you.) Because if Luka Modric plays like he did with Real Madrid this year and Croatia ends up stealing the game, the celebration is going to be profound.
Samba Brazilian Steakhouse, 207 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach, (310) 374-3411.
Café Brasil, 11736 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 391-1216.
Pavich's Brick Oven Pizzeria, 29701 S. Western Ave., Rancho Palos Verdes, (310) 832-1200.
Croatian-American Club, 631 W. 9th St., San Pedro, (310) 547-9484.