Geno’s Joey Vento Dead at 71

Geno’s Steaks founder Joey Vento died earlier this evening of a massive heart attack, he was 71. Vento opened Geno’s at 9th and Passyunk in 1966 with as the legend goes, “$6 in his pocket, two boxes of steaks and some hot dogs.”

In 2006 Vento achieved international notoriety for his “THIS IS AMERICA. WHEN ORDERING, PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH” sign. Vento also gave thousands of dollars to charities and the needy.

Mayor Michael Nutter issued this statement hours after Vento passed away, “Joey Vento was a colorful, larger-than-life Philadelphian who loved his city and excelled as a businessman. Mr. Vento had strongly held views that were matched by a commendable desire to give back to his community.”

The 24-hour cheesesteak stand remained open despite Vento’s death.

Vento is survived by his wife, son and one brightly illuminated cheesesteak stand at 9th and Passyunk.

Lost in Translation [Philadelphia Magazine – November 2007]
Geno’s Steaks [Official Site]

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  • lilpit

    Joey Vento reaches the pearly gates and is greeted by St Peter:

    “Hola Joey! Me gustaría que te deje en el, pero no aceptamos bastardos racistas. Lo siento.”

  • palvar

    @Lilpit – more likely, he speaks Latin or Aramaic.

  • Michael G

    He died of a heart attack. I guess whiz isn’t good for the arteries.

  • Snake

    He did quite a bit for the PPD during his life, was a small businessman par excellence and a patriot. Being against illegal immigration does not equate to racism in my book. In fact, these illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans of all races.

  • rory


    they really aren’t “taking away jobs” that’s a crude and misleading way of thinking about immigration. and vento’s rants, while targeted nominally at undocumented immigrants, were far more xenophobic than being against non-documented workers. In fact, most analyses show that undocumented workers give MORE in taxes and benefits to society than they take because they never draw back from their medicare and social security taxes like documented workers do.

    anyway, while Vento and I disagree on most everything politically, he built a tourist trap (i mean that as kindly as possible) outside of center city. that’s a huge accomplishment.

  • mynameisearl


  • As it is

    God bless a man for speaking his mind! Regardless of who agreed with him…How many people out there have a strong belief but are too big of wimps to speak out and stand behind it?? He was a great man and great Philadelphian!!! RIP! (and I just may have to go get a whiz wit to honor him!)

  • Pat

    So Philadelphians need to come out of their shells and start speaking their minds? News to me, As It Is, news to me.

  • chuck e.

    R.I.P. Joey, you had the balls to say what you believed and the guts to back it up.
    The Limousine Liberal Media will be eating Starr cheesesteaks on Martha’s Vineyard with the foul B.O. in your honor.

  • mmgth

    Wow, what a variety of comments that are inappropriate, irrelevant, dumb and mean. R.I.P. Joey. You were a character. I think I might actually miss your goofy, offensive radio spots.

  • lilpit

    He set the standard for inappropriate, irrelevant, dumb and mean so this is what he gets. Good riddance.

  • lilpit

    I’ve never had food poisoning because I don’t eat crap like Joey’s fat bombs made with 6 month old Uraguayan beef.

  • LJ

    Not the place for some of your comments. He was a father, husband, hard working business man and Philadelphia icon, not to mention, he was kind and giving with both a heart as big and a smile as bright as his famous cheesesteak empire! We will miss that smile and that Italian attitude. R.I.P. Joey. Best wishes and my sympathies to GENOS and the family.

  • lilpit

    That is your opinion. There are plenty of people who will not miss him.

  • Andrew

    Calling Joey Vento a racist helps people like Lilpit feel better about themselves, as self appointed bulwarks against any perceived slight against whatever minority group is the cause celebre’ of their day, week, month, whatever. Let Lilpit feel good about himself, it seems that he might need some self-esteem.

  • anon

    Vento was not a racist.
    He was extremely racially insensitive.
    His anti-mexican rant did not serve anyone well.
    Not him,not Philadephia,not race relations, immigration or society at large.
    There is no such thing as a “Principled Xenophobe”.
    I neither despise nor would worship him but the simple moral of the story is IF you want people to say good things about you then focus on the good you do. joey Vento did a lot of good charity work unfortunately he smeared his own legacy by going after immigrant groups by what many intelligent people consider thinly veiled racism disguised as principle. When his ancestors came here they were called Diego’s and WOPs and made fun of because of how they spoke English.
    At the end of the day people who attack him take him too seriously and those who defend him are slightly delusional.

  • Joe K

    Anyone who argues that Vento wasn’t racist is just fooling themselves. It’s absurd.

    Regardless, take a look at Johnny Goodtimes’ take on the issue. Very well said:

  • Michael G

    I find it a little ironic that the derogatory term for Italian immigrants was WOP=without papers. So Italians were the illegals from a previous era. Maybe he resented the way his parents were treated. Who knows and in the end it doesn’t really matter. I feel sorry for his family but Geno’s cheesesteaks still suck.

  • Freedom&Justice

    Good riddance to that racist supporter of the murderous F.O.P.! May Mumia Abu-Jamal be free soon – and may Mumia dance on Vento’s grave!

  • Anon.

    Joe K.
    I will say however the “I am mad as hell and I want my country back” sign is tea-party speak for “I can’t stand the fact that there is a black person in the oval office”.

  • lilpit

    Andrew, I’m a chef and in every kitchen I’ve worked in I’ve worked alongside salt of the earth Mexicans & Ecuadarians. It’s not my “cause of the week”. Joey Vento was very generous with his money and very hateful and ignorant with his mouth. That’s it. The former does not cancel out the latter.

  • Monster

    Joey Vento passed through the Pearly Gates legally. May he rest in peace.

  • Tommy USA

    Good riddance to that racist supporter of the murderous F.O.P.! May Mumia Abu-Jamal be free soon – and may Mumia dance on Vento’s grave!

    WRONG!!! That COP KILLER WILL ROT IN JAIL and THEN IN HELL!!! Talk about a piece of CRAP!!! Mumia…FU!!!

    Long live true American’s like Joey!!!

  • AS

    Rory, your comment “In fact, most analyses show that undocumented workers give MORE in taxes and benefits to society than they take because they never draw back from their medicare and social security taxes like documented workers do.” can not possibly be true. What about fees to emergency rooms they frequent because they have no medical insurance? The children that they send to our schools also use our tax dollars. Many illegal immigrants also do not even pay taxes, but work “off the books”. And being against illegal immigration does not necessarily equate with racism.
    Vento wanted all people who live in this country to be Americans and support the American way. I also believe that people who live here should learn to speak our language and support our country. I don’t not want people here who don’t want to support our beliefs and won’t be bothered to learn our language. It has nothing to do with the country they come from or the language that they speak.
    I consider Vento a patriot.

  • J.Oz

    Wow, lots of hate, disrespect,and ugliness here from Vento’s detractors. It’s totally UNREASONABLE and IRRATIONAL to profess “Justice and Freedom” while spewing hate toward and disrespect of another human being, regardless of their OPINIONS. God Bless us all, including Joey Vento.


    PS – Joey never MURDERED anyone. I’m with Smerconish, Mumia did and is using tax dollars to propagate his hate and madness.

  • Jeff-Wells

    Joey Vento died for his country.