Joey Vento’s Dying Wish: Keep “Speak English” Sign at Geno’s


Last week, Eater Philly ran a photo of rapper Busta Rhymes hanging out at Geno’s Steaks in South Philadelphia. That was all well and good. But what really caught our interest was an update to the item, explaining that the “Speak English” sign is still being proudly displayed at Geno’s, because its preservation was late owner Joey Vento’s dying wish.

Geno’s recently retained Neff Associates, the same public relations firm that’s been handling the Joe’s vs. Chink’s racist cheesesteak drama. Neff PR director Kylie Flett explains the Geno’s sign situation in an email today:

I wanted to reach out to you personally regarding the newest addition to our client roster, Geno’s Steaks.

As you know, Geno’s is under new management since the passing of Joey Vento. Geno Vento, Joey’s openly gay son is the new owner and operator and I think it is important to inform you, that he does not share all of the polarizing views his Father was famous for.

I think it is also important for you to know that we have retained Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop with this growth. In fact, the work we did, and continue to do for Joe’s, really resonated with Geno Vento.

Our PR counsel and marketing recommendations (I am not sure if you are aware but we also have creative, media buying, social media, website design, etc services in-house) are being taken very seriously over at the Geno’s camp – this is the first time they have ever bought an agency or someone from outside the family into the daily operations of the business.

Our client has reported to us, that per our strong recommendation the ‘American’s don’t press # 2’ sign has been removed.

I can also tell you that we STRONGLY recommended to Geno Vento that the ‘speak english’ sign be removed also. Our recommendation is currently under consideration by the Geno’s Team. Unfortunately, Joey’s dying wish to his son was for the sign to remain, and Geno at this time is choosing to respect his Father’s request.

I can promise you that we have already, and will continue to push for the removal of this sign with our client, Geno Vento. And as a non-US citizen myself, I hope you understand how important this is to us.

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  • MidtownLunch:Philly

    its strange how dying can make someone’s prejudice more tolerable

    • rk

      still not tolerable to me.

      • MidtownLunch:Philly

        still not! just more

    • Danny Philly

      just makes the dead guy look like a petty lowlife.

      • English10000

        You are the lowlife.

  • no

    Joey Vento was 100% correct. It isn’t a prejudice or a racial issue – its a basic communication issue. I know English is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn, but if you’re going to move to a place, at least learn the basics of the language. If we become a Tower of Babel, we cease to function.

    • rk

      GTFOH. First of all, how much ordering was being done in spanish? this wasn’t actually about difficulties understanding orders, it was about xenophobia and ethnic hatred. see Vento’s many other anti-immigrant actions and positions. If it were about communication issues, why don’t other steak shops see the need to have a sign like that? This is like the claim that chink’s name wasn’t racist because it was a reference to a racially insenstive nickname for the founder!

      Also, how hard is it to know “cebolla” = onion and “queso” = cheese. it’s not like whiz wit is exactly “proper english.”

      • Danny Philly

        the people who said Chinks wasn’t a racist term and had nothing to do with race because it was a nickname had to be seriously mentally handicapped. The guy got the name because he had “Chinese eyes”!!! How is that not racist? Lol. Idiots.

      • no

        How hard is it to know that “onion” = cebolla and “cheese” = queso? Your argument swings both ways, chief.

  • Chris

    He’s right. Our poor immigrant ancestors adjusted, so too should today’s. Habla Ingles por favor.

    • rk

      and hispanic immigrants are learning the language at the same rate as previous generations of immigrants did. Ellos hablan ingles tambien.

    • Dan

      Yes, and of course Vento’s grandparents, Italian immigrants, hardly spoke a word of English.

      But they were white Europeans (whitish at least) so I guess that’s OK…

  • Tony soprano

    Everyone has one last opportunity to redeem their lagacy: it is just before they die. Joey Vento clearly missed that class. Even post passing he comes off as the racist tool that he proved himself to be in life. Good riddance and karma is a bitch. The only people defending him are the same idiot Goombahs he hung out with……and I don’t mean Goombahs as a racist term, it’s just am specific language description like “order in English”.

  • thesestreets

    My dying wish is that I don’t waste my dying wish like this guy did.

  • BubbaSue

    How about travelers from abroad who come to this “world famous” cheese steak eatery. I guess the old man was working too hard to travel and know how it feels to be a stranger in a different land.

  • KCC

    Great legacy. In the bad old days of the 80s Geno s used Campbell’s cheese sauce instead of whiz. The ability to find something cheaper and more fake than wiz must have taken a lot of effort.

  • Immigrants’ grandchild

    Really glad he’s dead!

  • rob

    I’m happy the sign is still up. Reminds me of an old tattoo artist friend who would tattoo a swastika on people who asked and as he was doing it tell them how now he’d be able to see them coming. And avoid them.

  • Martin Bee

    As a non us citizen myself? Pr firms are the worst. You don’t like the sign don’t eat there.

  • Jane Yavis

    As a United States Citizen, it’s just as important to me. But then again,,,,this article will have the Broad Street Bigot’s Brigade Marching right on down to re-enforce the Vento Doctrine. Sad.

  • Immigrants’ grandchild

    Well….. There’s no better bigot than a dead bigot. And Joey is still dead!

    So anyway…..If Joey’s parents meet Joey in heaven, are they speaking to him in Italian? And, if so, is he protesting and refusing to speak with them?

  • Philly’s Best BYOBs

    I would fire Neff Associates immediately. Did they have approval for this press release from Geno’s? It basically tosses them under the bus by saying, “We told them to remove it, but they didn’t listen to us, so it’s not our fault.”

    Your PR firm should never place their own PR above their client’s PR. If they do, find another PR firm. If they don’t like their client’s opinions, don’t take them on as a client.

  • WhyCantWeAllJustGetAlong?

    The same racism was leveled at the Italians when they fled to America; one would think Joey would be sensitive to that. So what made him so racist? I dunno, perhaps he was just a hateful person.

    Language is what unites a country, and the fact that we are becoming a bilingual nation disturbs a hell of a lot of people. And, yes, every other ethnic influx managed to assimilate without having the ease of a bilingual situation. Hispanics would learn the language faster if they weren’t provided such a crutch. I don’t like to listen to the “Press 1 for English” message, either, but it’s not because I hate Hispanics; it’s because we aren’t doing any of them any favors by making it easy for them NOT to learn English. If someone wants to live here, it’s not much to ask that they learn the language – no matter what their ethnicity.

  • Guest

    Why was important to mention that Joey is openly gay? What does his sexuality have to do with this? This PR firm seems like a bunch of idiots.

  • Antonio

    So, if he goes as a tourist to Germany he has to order in German, oder?