Photo | Jeff Fusco
It was Joey Vento’s dying wish.
The late Geno’s Steaks owner told his son he wanted nothing more than to keep his controversial “Speak English” sign in the window of his business – the sign that made him famous, he said.
But he died in 2011. And now, under the ownership of Vento’s son, Geno Vento (named after the business, not vice versa), Geno’s Steaks has reportedly removed the sign, which once sparked a discrimination complaint. Read more »
It’s been nearly four years since your father, Joey Vento, died. What’s the one thing you wish people knew about you and your dad?
Photograph by Claudia Gavin
Dad was a little more boisterous than me. But you know, I’m getting in his shoes and getting a little more boisterous.
I don’t get the sense that scrappiness is quite as much in your nature. I don’t know if he was argumentative — he was talkative and funny. I’m very approachable, down-to-earth, love to joke and make people laugh. The Philly experience — to be part of that is very honorable. Dad started in ’66 with six dollars. He borrowed $2,000 off my grandfather and turned it into the multimillion-dollar business you see.
His influence is still around. I understand you still have the “Speak English” sticker? Yeah, it’s still in the window. That was his legacy and his thing, and I’m honoring him by keeping it up. Read more »
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.
Yes, there was some other big news this week, but we here at Foobooz World HQ have never let little things like floods, earthquakes and hurricanes get in the way of our reporting the news. And between the critical ass-kickings, Labor Day picnicking, tribute sandwiches and drinkable history lessons offered up this week, there was plenty to talk about that had nothing at all to do with the weather. Here are some of the highlights:
The Wrath of Irene Not quite a Michael Bay-quality disaster, but it’s what we had
The Fair Fare at Fare Trey Popp weeps dandelion-scented tears while kneecapping this place
Joey Vento, A Tribute In Meat And irony…
Your Guide to the Gin Universe An annotated cocktail guide to drinking juniper consomme
Crumbs Coming to 18th Street Diabetes to follow
Some Pig 79-cent roast pork at Shanks!
Fried Chicken Cometh, Fried Chicken Leaveth And we standeth waiting
Garces Does Labor Day A picnic basket to make you the King of Meat
And that’s the news, folks. Have a happy Labor Day weekend and we’ll see y’all on Tuesday.
Never one to shy away from controversy, Tommy Up from PYT has a new Burger of the Week special running: A tribute (kinda) to another controversial Philadelphian–Joey Vento of Geno’s who died last week at 71. For those of you who, like Vento, are not exactly fluent en Espanol, the “burger” is chopped steak, fried onions, roasted peppers and melted provolone on a kaiser roll with a side of fries with Wiz and fried onions, all served “In honor of the founder of Geno’s Steaks.”
PYT [official website]
Rick Nichols on Vento and his legacy [philly.com]
Didn’t you hear? The damn hurrica-pocalypse is coming! You’re supposed to be out there boarding your windows and panic-buying cans of tuna fish, so what are you doing sitting on your ass reading food news?
Ah, well. For those of you who’ve decided to bunker-down in front of your computers this weekend, here’s what you might’ve missed while stocking up on whiskey and Oreos in anticipation of the coming storm.
Moon Out At Talula’s Garden The story that started as a rumor and exploded into a mini-industry for food writers this week
Collingswood Gets a Krispy Kreme Donuts, donuts, donuts, donuts, donuts…
Geno’s Joey Vento Dead at 71 Hope English is the official language of heaven. Otherwise, Joey is in trouble
Bindi to Become Jamonera And yeah, it’s your fault
New Digs For Fish Mike Stollenwerk swims upstream
Oktoberfest Guide Beer and pretzels (and squash) for everyone
Think You Can Guess The Next Talula’s Garden Chef? Then step up to the mic and prove it
Diving Horse Pop-Up on Saturday One of the benefits of a catastrophic storm, I guess
Stay dry, everyone. See you all on Monday.
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]