A game that involves measuring tape doesn’t sound like my kind of fun. But here I am, on a Wednesday afternoon, excited to see just how close I am to winning this round of bocce.
Bocce? What? We’ll get to that soon.
Pinstripes, the new bowling and bocce bistro at Prairiefire in Overland Park, is equal parts restaurant, bowling alley and bocce courts. You can do one, you can do all. The place is just that big: two stories, outdoor patios upstairs and down, a full-service bar and restaurant.
We began with bowling, because bocce? Like I said, there’s measuring tape. Adults can bowl for $5 Sunday to Thursday, $7 on Friday and Saturday. Shoe rental is $4, and that includes a pair of complimentary socks if you need them. There are lanes on both floors, and each comes with a couch and table, plenty of seating. And there is no shortage of ball variety. Usually, lighter weights are hard to come by. But finding 7- and 8-pounders next to the 12s and 15s came easy at Pinstripes (pinstripes.com).
The only gutter ball in the scenario is the noise. The hardwood floor downstairs is everywhere, so there’s nothing to cushion the clash of bowling balls. But really, who expects silence when bowling? It’s not golf. The good news: Your ears adjust. If they don’t, order up a cocktail or a meal, right from your lane. I suggest the Puccini, $10, a mix of Stoli Peachik vodka, mango juice and sparkling wine poured over ice with lemon and orange twists. It’s summertime in a glass.
But don’t let the expansive alcohol menu fool you; this place is kid-friendly. There’s playtime from 10 a.m. to noon weekdays, when kids bowl for $5 and parents bowl free. On Sunday kids 12 and under eat free after 5 p.m.
We went on a Wednesday, and a group of moms sat at a table behind the lane while their sons enjoyed a boys’ day out. These little guys were masters of the ramp, and their cheers for every struck pin were infectious. Even when my fierce friend Sasha beat me by 40, I laughed. With all the fun in the room, it was hard not to.
Still, it’s not all games. You want to sit and enjoy a meal separate from the bocce and bowling action? You can do that at the bar or in the restaurant. And the food alone is worth it. The menu goes beyond bowling alley burgers and pizza — it includes all kinds of pastas, fish and sandwiches. The good stuff, too. I’m talking open-faced grilled salmon sandwiches with vegetable mascarpone spread, plated beautifully with cucumber-lemon yogurt ($13). There’s even a dessert flight: $12 gets you a few big bites of Frangelico chocolate cake, caramelized cheesecake and delectable apple pear bread pudding.
But we had bocce with our dessert. Because sweet indulgence is deserved with a game that has passers-by stopping to ask you for the pronunciation: botch-ee. And they want to know how to play, too. (It’s $5 per person per hour most of the time; $10 after 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.)
I looked at our basket of eight bocce (four yellow balls for me, four green for Sasha), a tiny silver ball called a pallino and measuring tape. I had one thought: What is bocce, anyway?
It’s an old yard game most popular in Italy. Imagine if bowling and pool had a baby. You might get a bocce baby. And it’s the kind of game that goes well with music. The playlist at Pinstripes is soulfully sweet: Joss Stone, Alicia Keys, Maxwell, Martha & the Vandellas. Love it.
And slowly, I fell for the game of bocce, where it’s all about the pallino. Our instructor told us to treat it like the highly sought-after snitch in Harry Potter’s Quidditch games. You don’t try to catch it; just toss your bocce as close to it as possible on a long, green-carpeted lane. For every ball that is closer to the snitch than your opponent, you get a point. Games are usually played to a certain number of points: 12, 15 or 21. But you can also play up to seven rounds and just go with the highest score.
I think it’s the Harry Potter references that turned me into a bocce kind of girl — a game I had barely heard of before last week. Yes, he had me at Quidditch. My inner nerd was on fire as I stood inside Pinstripes at Prairiefire, bright yellow bocce ball in hand.
You don’t need to throw your bocce hard; a light flick of the wrist will send it sailing down the court. So be gentle in your approach. You can even use your bocce to knock opposing bocce further away, increasing your chances.
But there are times when you find yourself at a stand-off. When you can’t tell who has the closest bocce.
And that’s how I ended up here, happily watching Sasha whip out the tape measure to see if my yellow bocce was closer to the snitch than her green. We’d play some six rounds before I had 9 points to her 1. For this first-timer, I was feeling like Hermione Granger on test day. Magic.
Jeneé Osterheldt’s column runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. To reach her, call 816-234-4380 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. You also can follow her at Twitter.com/jeneeinkc.
By the way
The Phantoms of KC, a social club celebrating Kansas City, hosts a discussion on the history of the city’s gay social scene from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday at Californos, 4147 Pennsylvania Ave. in Westport. It’s part of the group’s effort to raise awareness of the invisible communities that shape our city. Stuart Hinds, director of GLAMA (Gay, Lesbian Archive of MidAmerica) will be the featured speaker. There will also be live music by harpist Celia Albon as well as the Eddie Moore Trio. phantomsofkc.com