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Joey Vento, Owner of Geno's Steaks, Dies of Heart Attack
 
  by: iradioal - Philadelphia, PA
started: 08/23/11 11:59 pm | updated: 08/24/11 12:01 am
 
Joey Vento, the colorful and sometimes controversial owner of the famous cheesesteak shop Geno's Steak at the equally famous corner of 9th and Passyunk in South Philly, has passed away tonight of a massive heart attack. He was 71.

Vento learned the cheeseteak business from his father, who started Jim's Steaks in the early 40s. Also, according to the Geno's website, Joey opened Geno's in 1966 "with $6 in his pocket, two boxes of steaks and some hot dogs." He choose to place his shop across the way from Pat's King of Steaks, because "he figured that if he was going to sell a steak, he had to be where they were already eating them."

This lead to a long rivalry and feud between the two shops, but that only increased the notoriety of the intersection and marked it as THE place to go to get a cheeseteak when visiting the city. Sometimes you have to choose between the neon lights of Geno's or the subdued yellow ones of Pat's, but many times people just wait in line and get one of each.

In June 2006, Vento posted two small signs at the window in Geno's. They read "This is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING `PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH.'"

Vento explained that he posted them both because of concerns over the debate on immigration reform but also because of the increasing number of people who couldn't order in English.

Although he never refused anyone who couldn't speak English, critics were concerned that certain groups would be discouraged or feel discriminated against going to Geno's Steaks. Eventually the city's Commission on Human Relations found that the signs did not violate any city ordinance.

Joey Vento could also be heard recently on the radio expressing his opinions in paid commercial spots. His style was always direct, like his little signs, and little controversial. But sometimes you would want to agree with him, just not say it quite that way.

If there is one thing Joey Vento was for sure, is that he was a true Philadelphian. Tonight at Geno's Steaks it was business as usual. The Phillies just won, the line was long, the steaks were coming off the grill hot, wiz? wit? Joey was there this morning making sure the shop was open, and it was still running tonight after he was gone.

 
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(1) response

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 by: iradiophilly - Philadelphia, PA | responded: 08/24 12:01 am
 
Line at Geno's Steaks , Business as Usual

 

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