For a while, Michael Pollice thought he wasn’t being edgy enough.
One of the owners of Domenico’s Ristorante on Route 19, Pollice is the voice behind the message board outside the family-run eatery, the man who posts phrases designed to test people’s boundaries—and to make them smile.
“People laugh,” he said. “They say, ‘Oh, I can’t believe you put that up there.’ It just gets people talking about it.”
Many of the messages Pollice posts for passersby focus on Pittsburgh sports with a “yinzer” bent—including a sign that stated: “In any language Jagr means jagoff"—or other news tidbits gleaned from pop culture.
Recently a customer told him he hadn’t seen a truly button-pushing sign for a while, and Pollice responded with a new message.
The board outside the restaurant this week reads: “Is it OK to ask gay guys to form a straight line?”
Pollice said he put the sign up not to offend people but to get them talking. While one reader contacted Cranberry Patch and said the sign had caused friends of his to reconsider eating at the restaurant, Pollice said he has received no negative feedback from customers.
“I hadn’t been edgy lately,” he said. “Now, I’m going to start being edgy again.”
Pollice described himself as liberal-minded and said the sign is not meant to bash gay people. Before putting the message on the board, he said he ran it by his serving staff. They deemed it humorous, he said, so he took the message outdoors.
“It’s so stupid to put labels on people,” he said. “It’s a play on words, and basically that’s all it is. I don’t have any ulterior motives.”
On the Cranberry Patch Facebook page, several readers expressed enthusiasm for Domenico’s missives. One reader even said the signs could be a hazard “when people are slamming their brakes to read them while driving!”
Another Cranberry Patch Facebook follower said she didn’t mind the signs, but she said she wouldn’t post them at her own business because they might come across as unprofessional.
Pollice admits not everyone is a fan of his message board, including his wife. He said officials from a local church once scolded him for a double-entendre message about sexting.
He said young girls earlier this year chided him after he posted a message about the death of British singer Amy Winehouse.
Still, Pollice said he doesn’t worry the messages will cause him to lose customers.
“If you don’t like my food, don’t come,” he said. “I like my sense of humor.”
Pollice said his love of the English language led him to begin creating the signs years ago. At age 9, Pollice emmigrated from the Abruzzo region of Italy with his parents and sisters.
Pollice said his parents were tough on him, forcing him to speak English without a trace of an Italian accent while he grew up in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. The English lessons led to a lifelong fascination with words. At home, he keeps a book in which he writes down his messages as inspiration strikes him.
“I just love the English language,” he said. “I like words. That’s why I put my signs up.”
Pollice’s sense of humor extends beyond the message board. The restaurant owner also is known for putting photos of celebrity faces in the urinal of the men’s restroom.
Some of those photos have included Penn State’s Joe Paterno, recently departed University of Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham—and even his own face. At the request of a female customer, he once put the photo of the man she was divorcing in the toilet.
Fans of the message board can expect more pot-stirring signs in the future. After taking a break from posting the messages more than a year ago, Pollice said he plans to regularly post his musings.
“I like to get the reactions out of people,” he said. “People tell me all the time they drive by and like the signs.”
What do you think?
Do you have a favorite saying from the Domenico’s sign? Maybe a particular phrase sticks out in your memory? On its Facebook page, the restaurant keeps an album of memorable messages in a photo album titled “Uncle Mike’s Words of Wisdom.” Click here to check them out.
We’d also like to know what you think about the latest message. Funny? Controversial? Don’t care? Leave your opinion in the comment section.