Our Second Annual Bocce Camp
Here’s a unique summer camp experience -- bocce ball at Monsignor Farrell for a week
Monsignor Farrell High School Bocce Tournament Champions, Francesco Conia, left, and Vito Loduca, right, with Farrell president Lou Tobacco. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The age-old game of bocce has been a staple in Italy for as far back as anyone can remember.
It was common to see Italians playing on courts in quaint towns of their native land as they tested their mettle against the “pallina” — or the bocce ball.
From the left Bocce Camp Counselors and Farrell students Robert Russo, Joseph Pernice, Joseph Costa and Marcello Signorastri. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
Tobacco, who heads up Farrell’s Bocce Summer Camp, now in its second year and growing in popularity, says “It is beautiful to watch.”
“Teaching young boys and girls about the game of bocce and watching them have a great time at Monsignor Farrell Summer Camp is a very rewarding experience,” he said.
Borough President Vito Fossella, Farrell Class of 1983, dropped by for a frame. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
The bocce camp was a five-day event that ran from July 11 through July 15 and open to boys and girls in the fifth through ninth grade. Camp was held in the Oakwood school’s bocce complex, which was constructed in 2020, is the first and only high school bocce complex in the region and part of the school’s summer camps program.
Farrell Bocce teammates, from the left, Alex Maniatis, Mikey Spinella and Adrianna Maniatis. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
“By the end of August, our summer camps will have hosted close to 1,000 boys and girls from all over Staten Island,” noted Tobacco.
In addition to bocce, camp offerings include both athletic and academic camps, such as football, track and field, soccer, lacrosse, golf, baseball, swimming, business and finance, e-sports, STEM, theater, art, and more. “There is truly something for everyone at Monsignor Farrell High School,” he added.
Zach Claro gets his sausage and peppers as John Marianna, Vito Loduca and Francesco Conia wait for to sample the Italian food. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
Tobacco first introduced the game of bocce to Monsignor Farrell as an alumni event in 2016 when it was held at Angelina’s Ristorante in Tottenville. And since that time, the alumni event has grown in popularity and is now known as the Monsignor Farrell Bocce Fall Classic and held annually in the school’s bocce complex.
Tournament champions Francesco Conia and Luigi Loduca. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
“The Monsignor Farrell students are already hooked on bocce,” said Tobacco. More than 60 students participate in the school’s intramural bocce league, which continues to become more popular with the Monsignor Farrell students.
Rob Russo, who will be a senior at Monsignor Farrell in September, is one of four students working as a bocce camp counselor. “It has been fun watching the campers become so engaged with a sport that is completely new to them,” Rob explained. “They picked the game up right away and haven’t stopped playing since!”
Max Stern takes his shot. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
Russo also noted the unique experience that bocce camp offers to both counselors and campers.
Day one of camp starts with an introduction to bocce, including the history of the game and rules. Campers are also taught the importance of sportsmanship, fair play, and teamwork by the Monsignor Farrell staff.
Let the bocce games begin. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
Throughout the week, Tobacco and his counselors immerse the campers in Italian culture as the bocce games take place.
“We have a great time and try to add something different each day,” said Russo. “One day is Italian ice day, the next day is cannoli day,” he explained. “Different opportunities like those offered at bocce camp are what I feel makes Monsignor Farrell so great,” said the senior. “We also try to improve their taste in music,” joked Tobacco, as the bocce camp soundtrack consists mainly of crooners such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, and the like.
Brothers Luigi and Marcello Signorastri. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
“We had the best time at Monsignor Farrell bocce camp thanks to Mr. Tobacco and the camp counselors!” said Francesco Conia, a rising star in the eighth grade class at St. Charles school. “We started out camp as rookies but ended up becoming bocce professionals.”
Jason Tichio scores. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
“The Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin music was fun too,” he admitted. “I can’t wait until next year.”
Tobacco is also looking forward to Francesco’s return to bocce camp next summer. “Not only is he a wonderful young man and a very good bocce player, but his homemade soppressata and olive oil are incredible!” Tobacco noted.
Bocce Summer Camp Tournament second place winner Quinn Francis. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
Francesco, the second-year bocce camper, said that being at Monsignor Farrell’s camp taught him valuable life lessons.
“No matter the outcome, you should always be happy. Whether you win or lose, you should always be happy. Show up and try your absolute hardest.”
Bocce Summer Camp Tournament second place winner Feliza Cheung. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
His winning attitude paid off, as Francesco and his teammate, Vito Loduca, 11, finished in first place in the end-of-camp bocce tournament. Quinn Francis, 13, and Feliza Cheung, 12, came in second place overall.
Bocce camper Mikey Spinella likes his shot. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
The tournament was followed by the awards ceremony and sausage and peppers feast at the end of camp.
Bocce camper Tyler Cheung takes a break. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
“It is truly a wonderful week,” said Tobacco. “The campers and staff have a great time and can’t wait to return next year. Who would think that by the end of the week, the campers will have transformed into young bocce aficionados and know the words to Dean Martin songs?”
Bocce camper Adrianna Maniatis enjoys a cannoli. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)
“We hope to see all of our campers back next year. We truly enjoyed having them at Monsignor Farrell,” he added.
Bocce campers Luigi Signorastri, Francesco Conia, Alex Stern and Tyler Cheung enjoy some rainbow cookies. (Courtesy/Lou Tobacco)