You can’t beat being there. There is nothing quite like the bellow of the Olimpico as the crowd roars “Tottiiii” or the last chorus of Venditti’s ‘Roma Roma’. And don’t forget the ritual groping from the local police as you make your way through those two layers of bizarre turnstile security gates.
But the fact is if you’re reading this, there’s a better than average chance you are not currently a resident of the Eternal City. (And if you are, then why the hell aren’t you sifting through all of the local Calcio papers to brush up on your Italian?)
In fact, I’m willing to bet that thanks to the magic of internet metrics and the level of enthusiasm that accompanies Roma preseason trips, there’s a fair chunk of the CDT readership that lives within touching distance of the United States’ eastern seaboard.
The growth of Brand Roma in this part of the world is as indisputable as climate change. Although Serie A remains the niche of niches on the American sporting landscape, the prevalence of cable TV and sports bars have presented the opportunity for Roma viewing experiences to be more communal and less dependent on dodgy streams siphoned from your neighbour’s WIFI. Add in a touch of Social Media and you have yourself a recipe for a Roma Club.
Put simply, Roma Clubs are groups of random people that collate together at a certain place to watch Roma games.
Through a spurious sequence of coincidences this year I found myself visiting the major East Coast cities in the USA on the same day as a number of key Roma matches. Although tempted by the prospect of finding a stream at an internet café… (wait, are those even a thing anymore?) I thought I’d scope out the local Roma Clubs.
Firstly, full disclosure, your humble scribe’s original viewing palace for Serie A was the relatively well known café in Brisbane, Australia called La Dolce Vita. Sunday night’s around midnight always attract a crew of Serie A die hards to watch Multi-Gol on RAI satellite television (Italy matches during Euro or World Cup simply go off in this place – alas, a story for a better time).
This is of course extremely different to watching Serie A at an actual pub or sports bar with actual beer during the day, so my perspectives of Roma Clubs are very much tinted by my unique southern hemisphere upbringing. Think of it as kind of like you guys when you see a kangaroo.
Roma Club DC
Ireland’s Four Courts – Arlington VA
Imagine my disappointment when I found out these guys don’t actually watch the matches inside the District of Columbia. Although an Irish pub across the river in Arlington is a bizarre choice of venue, something about Roma Club DC just seems to work. The club has all the hallmarks of oddity and quirk you’ll find in what used to be called the most powerful city in the world.
The numbers of club members watching the games vary from a baker’s dozen during mid-week Champions League afternoons to around 50-60 during the later weekend timeslots. The club usually crams itself into one of the corners of the pub (usually near the front door or otherwise out in the back room) in front of a dedicated television and spill out in a sea of Giallorosso when it is standing room only. This passionate bunch create an impressive din and the joy of the Roma goal celebrations are only topped by the utter bemusement of the EPL hipsters (or even better the NFL jersey wearing bros) who are watching the other TVs.
The food of choice is apparently these double deep fried chicken wings (yeah, I don’t get why you would double deep fry anything either) and the pub usually offers a discount on Peroni beers on matchday for club members, but Guinness seems to be more popular.
Roma club DC hasn’t been around for very long but has got itself a solid core of Totti and De Rossi devotees that know their Serie A and possess the requisite fear of “Roma Happening Again” in the last ten minutes of every match. In fact three of the founding members, Tad, Chris and Marco run a weekly Serie A Podcast, Curva America.
This podcast is a fine addition to any English speaking Serie A diet and gives you a sense of the idiosyncrasies of DC’s Roma Club. Have a dig through the previous episodes and you’ll find some awesome interviews with Richard Whittle, Allison Becker and even CDT’s very own Bren - the man has a voice as svelte as a double espresso!
Roma Club Philadelphia
Gran Caffé L’Aquila – Philadelphia PA
First things first, awesome location! No I don’t mean Philly itself, well ok, Philly is a fine city and all that – cheesesteaks, abusive NFL and Hockey fans, Rocky stairs etc; but this Gran Caffe is da real MVP. Awesome Italian food, coffee and Roma games, yeah that’s going to work. Plus you can probably get away with taking a date to watch a Roma game under the pretence of fine dining.
I rocked up to this place on the weekend of the Napoli game thanks to a recommendation from some of the Roma Club DC guys and basked in the warm nostalgia of a solid panino and an even better espresso while cursing Roma’s inability to score.
Although there was plenty of space when I rocked up, the bar area with the TVs was completely full by halftime and a good chunk of the crowd seemed glued to the game. The atmosphere was a good deal less raucous than DC but Roma Club Philly wins hands down on the Italian charm stakes. The club is also run very well (as evidenced by their official website and has a strong social media presence if you don’t do websites anymore.
They do however lose points because the barista was clearly a Napoli fan and Roma lost the match.
Roma Club New York
Grey Bar & Restaurant – Manhattan NY
Best Roma atmosphere outside of the Olimpico. At a bar. Outside of Italy. And Europe I guess.
Roma Club New York is legit. This relatively standard American sports bar transforms for Roma matches into a home away from home for all the off-the-boat Romanisti lurking around the Big Apple. All the songs and creative Italian insults from the Curva and Distinti Sud are exported to this dimly lit rectangular arena for 90mins of Roma Happening.
RCNYC takes the best parts of the claustrophobic Manhattan sports bar scene along with the world’s biggest melting pot of diversity to form the premiere stateside Roma Club. This place is an absolute must for any Roma fan sitting on the wrong side of the Atlantic on game day.
I was lucky enough to visit for the 2-1 derby win last month; the place was absolutely jam packed and descended into utter mayhem when Radja scored Roma’s second. Post-match was interesting as well when about a third of the bar had their iphones out, facetiming their family back in Rome.
For the record, the food sucks and it is a pain in the arse to get a drink, but none of that detracts from the fun of watching a Roma game with excellent company in a bizarre location. Oh and the National Museum of Mathematics is down the road, if that floats your boat.
The guys running the show always have a table out selling Roma Club New York merchandise and are always up for an argument over who should be EDF’s first sub. And like the other clubs they are established players in the social media world and can be found on their website.
So there you have it. 3 Cities, 3 Roma Clubs, 2 wins and a loss. I know for a fact some of the lurkers at CDT have spent some time at Roma Clubs in these places or elsewhere around the world so please feel free to share your experiences in the comments. We are all about connecting Roma fans and providing the best place to argue 4-3-3 vs 3-5-2 or the winter mercato.