Mad as all Heck
Done right, a Philly Cheesesteak—with chips and a root beer—is to die for.
One of the two premier purveyors of this iconic concoction is Geno’s—a garishly lighted food stand in South Philadelphia that is a must-visit tourist venue right up there with the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
Last week Geno’s proprietor, Joey Vento, did a very South Philly thing. Because he believes immigrants should learn to speak English, he put up signs next to his take-out windows that declared:
This is AMERICA. WHEN ORDERING, SPEAK ENGLISH.
A week ago Friday Vento’s vent generated five television interviews and call-in appearances on seven talk radio shows nationwide. His protest now is all over the media and the Internet like a cheap suit. He is in newspapers around the world—from Ontario to China.
“If you can’t tell me what you want,” he once told a reporter from The Inquirer, “I can’t serve you.”
Vento is talking to the world’s media, but refuses all contact with is hometown paper.
Vento’s action is quite remarkable, since Geno’s is just a block south of the fabled Philadelphia Italian Market—virtually unchanged since the 19th century—where Italian was the lingua franca of this pulsating community of immigrants, many of whom had arrived off the boat and not yet mastered English.
Vento drew fire from the American Civil Liberties Union. Spokesperson Mary Catherine Roper was quoted in The Inquirer as saying that Geno’s “has a right to express its opinion, however offensive, but there are specific limitations on places of public accommodation, because they are supposed to be available to everyone.”
The Philadelphia Commission on Human Rights has filed a discrimination complaint against Vento.
Remarkably the restaurateur not only insults non-English-speaking tourists from all over the world, but his frosty welcome sends them over to the other equally famous, equally iconic purveyor of Philly Cheesesteaks, Pat’s—arch competitor of Geno’s.