If you'd told Roman barkeep Giovanni Poggi that a simple twist of fate would culminite in him being officially honored by a foreign governmental body some 5,000 miles from his home, he'd have given you a hearty Stronzata in his native tongue.
But indeed that's what happened some six years after he agreed to let a handful of Duquesne and Penn State students studying abroad in Eternal City watch Steelers games via satellite in his small pub, La Botticella, near the Piazza Navona.
Poggi, in the midst of what's become for him an annual autumnal Pittsburgh pilgrimage, was given an official proclamation by Pittsburgh City Council in their historic, grand chambers, read by Councilman Doug Shields.
"I've been so embraced by the people from a city on the other side of the world, who have been so good to me. Pittsburgh has become a second home to me," Poggi said before today's ceremony.
After agreeing to let the college kids have a regular gathering spot on Steelers in the early-to-mid-2000's, word of mouth spread quickly among this most passionate and expansive of football fan bases-- there's a Steelers bar in ROME!
In the years that have followed, by his estimation thousands of Steelers faithful -- students, tourists, expatriates -- have streamed through his bar, and he's become a minor celebrity in the realm of the Steelers Nation.
He's been profiled in this newspaper, interviewed on Steelers.com, featured in an art gallery, mentioned in the New York Times because of said gallery, and oh, by the way -- he's met the the team's owner, coach, numerous current players and all-time greats from the Steelers and has gotten private tours of the practice facility and Heinz Field.
Today, a nervous and emotional Poggi was officially recognized by his adopted city for his work as a citizen of the 'nation' he represents.The PG's Joe Smydo reports, and WTAE caught up with him after the ceremony.
The proclamation reads:
"WHEREAS the Steelers Nation is mighty and vast, covering the globe in black and gold in support of the world's greatest football team; and,
"WHEREAS The Steelers Nation gathers around the world at welcoming establishments each and every Sunday to cheer on the Pittsburgh Steelers and share their common kinship, no matter where they may be, and,
"WHEREAS Giovanni Poggi's La Botticella located just off of Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy, has long provided for the needs of the Steelers Nation with libations that maintain the traditions of Pittsburgh hospitality in a venue decorated with Myron Cope's mighty, mysterious and all-powerful TERRIBLE TOWEL, or Ascugimano Terrible, and Steeler and Pittsburgh memorabilia to celebrate Steeler victories, and
"WHEREAS Giovanni Poggi is truly worthy of recognition for his efforts to cheer on the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers in the great City of Rome and to provide Pittsburghers with a home away from home for Pittsburghers who find themselves far from Heinz Field.
"NOW THEREFORE IT BE RESOLVED, that the Council of the City of Pittsburgh does hereby recognize Giovanni Poggi's La Botticella in Rome, Italy, an outpost of the Steelers Nation, and commends Giovanni Poggi for carrying on the great tradition of Pittsburgh hospitality, serving the Steelers Nation with distinction, and for keeping the spirit of Pittsburgh alive in Rome, Italy, and,
"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Council of the City of Pittsburgh does hereby confer upon Giovanni Poggi the title of Ambassador Plenipotentiary of the Steelers Nation and confers upon him all rights and title therein and does hereby declare November 16, 2010 to be "GIOVANNI POGGI DAY" in the City of Pittsburgh"
Poggi's Italian interpretation of the Terrible Towel:
The bottom quote reads: We will cheer until death, raising our colors, that come from the bottom of our heart ...
Only an Italian.