Geno's Steaks seen at night in 2007
|Current owner(s)||Joey Vento (1939–2011)|
|Food type||North American cuisine|
Geno's Steaks is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania restaurant specializing in cheesesteaks, founded in 1966 by Joey Vento. Geno's is located in South Philadelphia at the intersection of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, directly across the street from rival Pat's King of Steaks, which claims to have invented the steak sandwich in 1933. The cheesesteak has since become a signature dish for the city of Philadelphia.
According to Vento, the name Geno's was chosen because Joe's Steak Place was already in business. He improvised the name from a broken door on which someone had painted GINO and modified the spelling to prevent confusion with a regional fast food chain called Gino's. Vento later named his own son Geno, and the latter now works in the family business.
Geno's was awarded Best of Philly for Best Takeout by Philadelphia Magazine in 2000. In April 2004, a branch of the shop opened in Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies. This location was closed in 2006 and replaced with Rick's Steaks (operated by Rick Olivieri, grandson of Pat Olivieri, founder of Pat's King of Steaks).
The walls, roof, and interior of Geno's are decorated with memorabilia and hundreds of autographed and framed photos of celebrities who have eaten there.
Vento was a supporter of the family of murdered police officer Daniel Faulkner. The family supports the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of Faulkner's murder, and publicly opposes the movement for the retrial or exoneration of Abu-Jamal. Geno's has sponsored several fund-raising events in support of Faulkner's family, including the 2000 First Annual Justice for Daniel Faulkner Block Party and an annual Daniel Faulkner Memorial Motorcycle Run.
English sign controversy
A sign on Geno's window gained press notoriety in 2006, during the immigration controversy. The sign reads: "This Is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING Please 'SPEAK ENGLISH.'" The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations filed a discrimination complaint, arguing that Geno's violated the city's Fair Practices Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodation, by "denying service to someone because of his or her national origin, and having printed material making certain groups of people feel their patronage is unwelcome." Vento had previously said the signs are directed at the Mexican immigrants in the surrounding neighborhood.
Vento said that no one has been refused service for not speaking English, but said, "If I can't understand you, you might not get the sandwich you thought you ordered."
The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations found probable cause that the sign is discriminatory. The commission says the sign could make non-English-speakers feel unwelcome or discriminated against.
Vento enlisted the aid of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a public-interest legal organization. In 2006 the Foundation had defended a bar owner cited by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission for a sign reading "For Service, Speak English." That case was settled when the owner removed the sign.
Responding in an interview with Fox News analyst Neil Cavuto, Vento stated that he does not turn away any customer, and therefore does not discriminate. He also vowed to keep his sign displayed no matter how much pressure he receives. He explained to Cavuto that his parents had to learn English when they came to the U.S. He said that if his customers order in any other language, he'll give them Cheez Whiz on bread. Vento posed some rhetorical questions: "If one goes into a Puerto Rican neighborhood, how many signs would be seen in English?" and "When one is on the telephone, it may say press 1 for English, press 2 for Spanish; but where is the number for, say, Italian or Korean?"
On March 19, 2008, Philadelphia's Commission on Human Relations ruled that the restaurant did not violate the city's Fair Practices Ordinance.
- Welcome To Geno's Steaks - The Best in South Philly
- "Geno's Steaks owner Joey Vento dies of heart attack". 6abc. Action News. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
- Pettit, Mason (narrator) (2008-03-12). Steak Paradise (Television production). Prometheus Entertainment for The Travel Channel. Retrieved 2008-06-22.
- Daniel Faulkner Memorial Motorcycle Run, Northeast Times[dead link]
- [dead link]
- Sign at Geno's Steaks.
- DeHuff, Jenny, The Bulletin, 26 September 2007. "Hearing Postponed For Controversial Geno's Sign". Accessed 28 November 2007.
- Campisi, Gloria, Philadlephia Daily News, 10 June 2006, "Free speech at steak."
- Maykuth, Andrew, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9 February 2007 "Stakes get higher for Geno's".
- Maykuth, Andrew, Philadelphia Inquirer, 8 February 2007, "City Commission: Geno’s 'speak English' sign discriminatory".
- Owner of Geno's Cheesesteaks Responds to Bias Complaint, Fox News, 15 June 2006.
- "Agency OKs cheese steak shop's English-only signs - CNN.com".[dead link]