By Mike Sandler   Published Oct 28, 2005 at 5:02 AM

How long has it been since you have sat down to a nice game of Pac-Man? Now, while waiting for your sandwich to be made at Koppa's Fulbeli Deli (1940 N. Farwell Ave.), you can put your dot-eating and ghost-dodging skills to the test. Right next to the beer fridge sits an employee-donated Atari 2600 system -- and customer feedback has been "totally awesome."

Ken Koppa, who's owned Koppa's since 2003, recently added the Atari system to compliment the deli's throwback theme.

"We did it to finish off space in the back of the store," says Koppa. "It really is unique, the first piece of computer history."

For the past three weeks, customers of all ages have been enjoying the free Atari, says Koppa. The video game system debuted in 1975, when Pong hit the stores. Atari's empire ran strong until the mid 1980s, and the nostalgia, apparently, is running strong among Koppa's customers.

"People play it in the morning, and on their lunch hour," Koppa says. "One guy thanked me for it."

Atari may not be in hot demand these days, but for those of us who remember when the 2600 ruled the video game world, we know what it lacks in bedazzlement, it makes up with character.

One might say the same thing about Koppa's. In a city enchanted by upscale markets, the East Side deli provides a respite from the trend. It has a quirky, old-school feel, from the music selection (they spin '70s punk) to the grocery delivery service. Sometimes, nothing beats a Milwaukee classic.

So is there any chance of upgrading the entertainment to a modern video game system? "Never," says Koppa. "The original concept of Atari was brilliant. It's like Star Wars -- a pop culture icon."

And if waiting customers need more incentive to play Atari, they can even win a free sandwich if they roll a perfect score in the bowling game.

"That may be too difficult," says Koppa. "We might change it to a score of 30,000 in Asteroids or something."

With about 50 games on the way, such as Dodge 'Em, Jungle Hut, and Defender, Atari and Koppa's look to forge a partnership well into the future. And that's good news to Atari and sandwich fans across Milwaukee.