A Few Thoughts on the Death of Joey Vento

Quite a few years ago, I went down to Mexico to do some work at a dolphin facility. The vast majority of the employees were Mexican, and it was probably pretty obvious to them that I was getting paid quite a bit more during my few weeks there than they were. I worked hard and I tried to earn their respect, though they had every right to begrudge me.

A few nights after arriving, I went out for drinks with a few guys on the staff. We went to a small beer stand that had all of its seats outside. The guys I worked with ordered the first round of beers and we sat around and chatted. At one point I went up to grab a couple of brews. When I came back, one of the Mexican guys I was working with who spoke fluent English (and didn’t demand that I speak fluent Spanish) asked, “How much did you get charged for those?” I told him $2.50 each. A more than reasonable price, I thought. He was apoplectic. He stormed toward the counter, screaming in Spanish. It turned out that the bartender had charged everyone else $1.50, but had charged me a buck more. He went up one side of the bartender and down the other, then came back to the table and said, “Come on, let’s get out of here. Nobody is going to treat a friend of mine like that.”

I still get goosebumps when I think about that. A guy I had only known for a few days had seen me as more than just some gringo coming in to make some money. He had stuck up for me when I got treated like shit by a bartender for the crime of not being from that country, and for not speaking that language. My friend didn’t see me as an American coming in to make money for a month and then blow out of town. He simply saw me as another human being, a fellow man who was deserving of respect.

And that’s perhaps why I personally found Joey Vento so infuriating. He took the complete opposite approach from my friend. He saw people working their asses off to make less money than he and his friends, but showed no respect for them. He saw them not as fellow humans worthy of his respect, he saw them as “invaders” who were “murdering like 25 of us a day…molesting like 8 of our kids a day.” He took the debate from a reasonable one about how to deal with illegal immigration and turned it into a race war, bashing Mexican “anchor babies” and “drug dealers”every step of the way. Furthermore, he ripped the immigrants inability to speak English, calling them “morons” .

All of this without a hint of irony, despite the fact that his own English was highly suspect. And though he admitted that his first-generation grandparents never mastered the English language, he simply couldn’t understand why current first-generation Mexicans failed to do so, and mocked them for it. His supreme lack of irony would have been amusing had it not been so spiteful.

At the time Joey Vento opened Geno’s Steaks,  his father was in jail for committing murder, while his brother was imprisoned for drug dealing. Undoubtedly, there were many Americans who at the time would have held the Vento family up as an example as to why America needed to stop admitting so many Italians into this country, and why Joey Vento didn’t deserve a chance to start his own business. (Make no mistake, there was until recently ample anti-Italian sentiment in this country.)

But anyone who did so was wrong. Joey Vento was his own man. He was not his brother, he was not his father. He was an individual, a human being. And because this is America, he got a chance. By working his ass off, he made the most of it. He turned a $2000 investment into the most famous cheesesteak restaurant on earth. He was the very embodiment of the American dream.

He walked and talked with a swagger, and he had every right to. In business, he became what every American who has started a business with little more than the change in his pocket and a dream in his head wanted to become. He had built more than a success, he had built an institution, and he had done it all through his own blood, sweat, and tears.

But when immigrants came to his neighborhood, some legally and some illegally, most with the same dreams that Joey’s grandparents had…not coming with the hopes of striking it rich, but coming with the hopes that perhaps their grandchildren would have an opportunity to have a better life than they had…he treated them the way his grandparents had been treated by so many small minded Americans 100 years ago. He had risen from humble beginnings into a position of power, and then used that power to oppress people because they spoke a different language, came from a different culture, and were a slightly different shade than his ancestors.

In his view, they (his most commonly used phrase in every speech I’ve heard him make was “those people”) were not people trying to make things better for future generations that they might not even live to know, like Joey’s family had. “Those people” were “criminals” and “child molestors” and “drug dealers” and “murderers”. His appreciative audiences roared, and he was feted as a patriot by 1210 AM and FoxNews.

It was Thomas Jefferson’s dear Italian friend Philip Mazzei who wrote to Jefferson in the early 1770s that it was his belief that “All men are created equal.” Because Thomas Jefferson co-opted the phrase (Mazzei originally wrote it in Italian, but instead of insisting that he “Speak English”, Jefferson decided to translate it from the Italian) and used it in the greatest document ever written, Joey Vento got a chance in this great nation to make his dreams come true. He made the most of that opportunity, and his family and friends have every right to be proud of his incredible achievements. He not only ran an internationally renowned cheesesteak joint, Joey donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to charitable causes, $60,000 a year to a local hospice alone. In a city probably populated by more characters than any other city on earth, he was as colorful as anyone, and in the terrific documentary This is My Cheesesteak, he came off as hilarious, charming, and unique. If it wasn’t for the xenophobia, I have a feeling I would have really liked the guy.

I offer condolences to his family and hope that he Rests in Peace. But I regret that he became a hero for a small group of people who are looking for simple answers to complex problems, instead of a hero for a whole city. He was a remarkable man. It’s a shame that instead of being remembered solely for his business acumen, his gregarious nature, and his charitable heart, his legacy will also be that he seemed to believe that some people deserved to be treated differently because of their culture, language, and country of origin. It is worth noting that there is a bartender in Mexico who feels the exact same way.

Johnny Goodtimes is a quizzo host, contributer to Comcast Sports, and founder of Phillysportshistory.com. To follow him on twitter, click here.

84 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts on the Death of Joey Vento

  1. Wonderful article. I’m a Philly girl, currently serving in the Peace Corps in The Gambia. I’ve been in similar situations, where I was treated differently because of my skin color. The people here are so kind, and even when your language is not so good, they LOVE it when they hear you order food or strike up a conversation in Mandinka. But they’re also respectful if you admit your language skills are still in the budding stages, and are happy to teach you. On the one hand, I think it is extremely useful and important to learn the native language if you plan on living and working in a foreign country for an extended period of time. It lessens the opportunities for you to be ripped off or worse, and the local people respect you more for it. On the other hand, I agree with your sentiment that it is rather hypocritical for a man to make such an insistence in spite of his own heritage and family background. Kudos for reminding me that Philly has the most sensible writers around.

    1. He’s a racist….it’s funny when a liberal can’t bring anything to the table you just play the race card. joe always welcomed legal immigrants. You got to get your head out of your ass.

      1. When a fascist weasel who can’t even be honest about their white power views doesn’t want to hear the truth they start using the phrase “race card” as if that’s an argument stopper.

        Stay out of my city, Nicky, we don’t need your kind polluting the streets.  I liked it more in the ’80s when losers like you would shave your head and wear a uniform so we could identify you from a distance.

  2. Vento was simply a racist (why won’t anyone use that word- has it ever been more appropriate?).  He never really cared about the legality of immigration (incidentally contrary to popular belief overstaying a visa or crossing the border undocumented is NOT a criminal matter in the US), he just didn’t like Mexicans.  Judging from the Stars and Bars hanging in shop he wasn’t too fond of others either.

    His “charity” was in fact a realtively cheaper marketing tool.  We all know when he gave money because there were strings attached (witness the recent fiasco of refusing to donate a trailer to the city unless a Geno’s plaque were attached) and he loudly proclaimed what he gave when.  He also donated a lot of money to right wing politicians so they could cut his taxes (so much for “giving”) and cheat his poorer customers out of healthcare.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention as noted on your site several years back that when repeatedly offered the opportunity to donate to a Philadelphia non-profit that teaches immigrants English that Vento and Geno’s couldn’t be bothered to answer at all, not even the courtesy of a “no.”  The whole “speak English” canard was one big racist marketing tool, along with racist radio ads.  His legacy is making cash out of dividing a community he chose not to reside in.

    Vento loved Philadelphia so much that lived in Jersey, and I’m going to guess his neighbors weren’t terribly melanin-laden.

    I don’t find anything charming about an unlettered loudmouth right wing suburban bigot polluting the city with his constant self-promotion, but that’s just me.  I rather doubt I would have enjoyed his company.  So he worked hard (at one time, I’m not so convinced that took place lately), so what.  A lot of outright evil people are hard workers who also make a lot of money and splash a bit around to their pet causes.

    Vento was vile and his food is terrible.  It’s moments like this that make me sorry I don’t believe that a vengeful afterworld exists.

      1. barryg, you’ve missed Chris’ point. He wasn’t interested in any inconvenient facts that might contradict his central thesis, i.e. that Vento besides being a racist, was also a totally reprehensible person in every way. Vento makes a great pinata/straw man for the left. Demonize Vento and you also handily demonize others who don’t agree with your ideology. No mitigating factors need apply.

        This Chris guy is an amazing fellow. Not only does he have all the correct and approved left-wing views; not only is he compassionate and caring where his political opponents are full of hate and bigotry; but to top it all off, he has the ability to read other people’s minds and look into their hearts to discern their real motives. Quite a handy talent that must be. Thus, he knows for certain that Vento’s charitable impulses were simply “a marketing tool.” It occurs to me that the amount of money Vento contributed to charity would pay for an awful lot of marketing, and probably leave a pretty handy sum left over.  Vento “also donated a lot of money to right-wing politicians so that they could cut taxes low… and cheat his poorer customers out of healthcare.” And Chris knows this how? Vento told him this? There couldn’t possibly be any other reason to support  a politician than to maximize your own wealth as well as hurt other people? And “cheat his poorer customers out of healthcare?” How exactly does that work? What a cartoonish characterization of opposition to Obamacare.

        Johnny Goodtimes makes mention of simplistic explanations for complex problems. Yeah, Chris,  I agree. There’s a lot of that going around.

        1. Actually Jim (or “Jim” if in that that’s your real name), I too am opposed to Obamacare… because it’s a massive giveaway to corporate America instead of the money- and life- saving national plan than civilized countries provide as a basic right.  What Vento did was to buy local ads recently claiming that if there were any form of national healthcare then somehow he wouldn’t have been able to receive cancer treatment.  This is fact, not something I’m making up.

          I don’t have to “demonize” Vento, I just have to point to the man’s own words for ample evidence that he was an uneducated bigot with extreme right wing views.

          Vento (whose name appropiately translates from the Italian as “wind”!) was indeed a right wing racist blowhard.  The man was from the North yet had a Confederate tattoo on himself.  I suppose next that you’ll be claiming that the CSA wasn’t racist either, and anyone pointing that out is playing a leftist race card.

          Vento’s whole marketing plan was an extended white trash race card mixed with the fascist’s love of the uniform.  He spent many years and lots of money promoting hatred in a neighborhood that I live in and he didn’t, and for that reason his death comes as a great relief.

          And, yes, Jim, my political opponents are largely uneducated bigots and I *DO* know what they are “thinking”, because they don’t think all that much and like to repeat talking points from Rupert Murdoch and farther right.

          1. Wow. I was right. You DO have the power to read other people’s minds. You know what periodicals I read, whom I listen to on the radio, whom I watch on TV, and what I’m thinking. No one is omniscient except God and Chris, and if you don’t happen to believe in God, then I guess that just leaves Chris. Smug and arrogant perhaps. Well, if I had superhuman powers I suppose I might be a little smug and arrogant also.

            I apologize for assuming you support Obamacare. I should have known that nothing less than the “public option” would do for someone such as you. (I do so hope you’ll support a fringe candidate in 2012. Please, oh please, do so.) 

            “Right-wing” in your case seems to take in a lot of ground– anybody more conservative than Dennis Kucinich or Bernie Saunders, no doubt. An all purpose slur like “racist.” Saves the trouble of thinking. Simply stereotype people, call them names, and move right along.

            And yes, Chris, “Jim” is my real name. “Goff” is my real last name also. So in the full discvlosure department, I’m just that much ahead of you. Incidentally, do you really imagine that I find you to be intimidating. Don’t flatter yourself, pal. 

            No, Chris, your political opponents are not largely uneducated bigots. Some may very well be, but to characterize the majority in such a way simply shows how narrow-minded you are. Rather uneducated and bigoted, in fact.

            Veiled threats and name-calling. How intelligent. Seems to show a paucity of ideas, I’d say. 

            Oh, and by the way, your charges of racism might be just that much more effective if you refrained from using terminology such as “white trash.” Kind of undercuts the message that others are racist when you yourself employ racial slurs. I would think that would be obvious, but apparently not.

            I’m done with you, buddy. You’re omniscient and you have all the answers. Since you know what I’m thinking, you can make a reply and then put my reply down afterwards. It’ll save me the time and trouble. 

          2. Jim –

            Nationalized healthcare and the (dropped!) Obama “public option” are two different things.  If you wanted to set out to prove that Vento apologists don’t understand the issues terribly well you couldn’t have just done a job on purpose.

            I’m sick of people like you glossing over casual racist extremism like it’s no big deal.  It is a big deal, and you’re just going to have to lump it if some of us won’t coddle your bigotry.  You’re not “done with me”, the 21st century is done with race baiting throwbacks like your hero the racist cheesesteak man.

          3. As Chris points out, Vento had a Confederate flag tattoo.  He openly, proudly proclaimed himself to be a racist; that’s not just name calling.

            But then, this is America, where our wonderful right-wing mainstream media treats calling out racism as somehow worse than the racism itself.  I’m surprised you didn’t use the cliche “pulling the race card”.

      2. No, Barry, actually he wouldn’t shut up about giving money to charity (or in the case of some of his right wing lunatic causes, “charity”).  One might begin with the fact that he called every media outlet in town when the city wouldn’t ignore its own laws and let him plaster a Geno’s ad on a trailer that he would only CONDITIONALLY donate.

    1. YOU seem to have much more hate in your heart than Mr. Vento did. Typical hateful, intolerant, unaccepting, uneducated liberal. 

      1. Hey Danny boy, you want to waggle formal education and test scores at each other?  We can do that and I’ll win.

        There is not an equivalent between pointing out someone else’s racism and being racist.  Vento hatted people for their ethnicity, I hate Vento because he elected to spend his time and money spreading race hate in my neighborhood, where he didn’t live.

        I also hate the KKK … I guess that makes me worse than the Klan, right Danny?  When people like you take the time to leave comments like this it’s obviously because you harbor white supremacist attitudes and other white people confronting you with that is uncomfortable.  You’re not fooling anyone and the dishonesty surrounding this fact makes you even bigger losers.  Just once I’d like one person to admit that they eat at Geno’s because they are a racist.  Just once.

        1. Poor, sad Chris … your formal education and test scores obviously haven’t made you intelligent. Plus, you can’t buy common sense.
          Anyway, I was eating at Geno’s long before he put the sign up. Does that make me racist? I took my Chinese ex-girlfriend there for a steak and she ordered in very broken English and nobody thought anything of it. No attitude, no rudeness, nothing. The woman at the window was actually quite pleasant with her.  
          Believe it or not, last time I was there (actually, EVERY time I’m there), I saw BLACK people eating! Are they racist?    
          You may want to take something for your anger problem there, Sport.  

          1. There’s a reason she’s your EX-girlfriend.

            Being a long-term Geno’s customer just means you have bad taste.  Eating there after the sign makes you a racist, as do your posts in support of racism.   It’s long past time that decent people in this community had to pretend that you’re race-baiting and immigrant bashing is acceptable.

            It’s not acceptable, it’s extremist and stupid and disgusting and none of us ever need to put up with it in any forum EVER.

            If you want to work on my “anger problem” in person you’re more than welcome to track me down via my quiz schedule and raise the issue in the flesh.  It’s been a bit since I’ve had to give a skinhead a beatdown but I’m always up for taking out the trash.

            These people have the right idea: http://www.antifa.net/

          2. Yeah, she’s my ex because she had to go back to China, moron. Where did I post that I support racism? When did I bash immigrants? I’m all for immigration, as long as it’s done legally.
            Now I’m a “skinhead?” LOL! You need medication. How do you live being angry all the time? 

          3. Good for your ex-girlfriend, China is a lot less misery than a life wasted on you.

            I shouldn’t have called you a skinhead, that was wrong of me on two counts:

            1) There are anti-racist skins so I should have specified.

            2) At the the racist skins have the common decency to own up to their white power beliefs, instead of hiding behind notions that immigrants are (to quote your hero Joey Vento the unlettered sandwich racist) “dirty” and “spread disease” and rape children and hold up the cheesesteak line with their imability, despite an incredible yearn for that traditional Mexican favorite Cheez Whiz, to order in English.

            A better sentence is “You, Danny, have the attitude BUT NOT EVEN THE HONESTY of a racist skinhead.”

          4. You may want to tell my current honey (who is from the Ivory Coast), about my “activities,” Chrissy.
            I feel sorry for your boyfriend.
            And what is “imability?” 

          5. Can’t seem to find a native speaker of English to have sex with you, can you?  I imagine understanding in full what you have to say sharply reduces your odds of getting laid.  (This is running on the assumption that these people exist.)

            Thomas Jefferson and a lot of other…er… scions of racial equality…  liked to have sex with African women too.  Possibly even voluntarily sometimes.

            Maybe you’re just an anti-Mexican bigot.  I don’t know and I don’t care, the fact remains that you’re spending a lot of time defending a dead racist moron because his Confederate flags and military crap and repeated racist statements about the alleged filth and disease and crime spread by darker people are for whatever reasons very appealing to you.  This makes you a terrible person and none of us have to regard your opinons on the matter as being worthy of serious consideration.

            You have not addressed the meat of the issue in any way, which is par for the course of you vile cowards and your virulent racism, which you try to prop up in the most dishonest terms as a concern for well-being of the country and/or the city.  Go back to the ‘burbs.

          6. Wow! That high IQ of yours is really coming through loud and clear. Somebody disagrees with you and you rant and rave, make sexist remarks about a guy’s girlfriend and threaten to beat him up. And you maintain you don’t have anger management issues? You are such a loser, man. Maybe you’re the one having trouble getting laid. Yeah, I know, women are attracted to angry disturbed guys like you who rant and rave and call people names and threaten them. They find that really sexy. You can have your pick.

            I’d leave my name, but I’m like scared scared scared to death that big badass Chris, the working class hero of the people, will track me down and kick my ass too.

          7. Oh no! Turns out I made a big mistake posting this and my real name DID go up. Guess I’ll have to flee for my life before big badass Chris comes looking for me to kick my ass. 

            Actually, I would have left my name but I had said that I wasn’t going to reply anymore and I suppose I was a little embarrassed.  I couldn’t resist though. Just as well my real name is there.

            For those of you out there who can’t get enough of Chris and his spittle filled rants, he has a website under Quizmasterchris. You might want to check it out.

            Also, google his name and you’ll come to a listing by somebody who apparently was a former employer. The title of the post: “Quizmaster Chris is an Asshole.” Might want to read it to better understand the particular unhealthy combination of paranoia and obsession you’re dealing with when you interact with our friebnd Chris, scourge of conservatives and working class hero of the people. 

          8. Thanks. Yeah, obviously this guy has all kinds of mental and emotional issues … I kind of feel sorry for him.

            And, Chris, I’ve been in Philadelphia my entire life. Why do you accuse everybody who disagrees with you of being from the suburbs?  

          9. Joey Vento’s fan base is the suburbs.  Count the Jersey license plates and Confederate flags on the motorcycles that visit him every weekend.

          10. Chris, are you wrong ALL the time? LOL! I was talking about “getting out” of YOUR loser neighborhood … my neighborhood is great.
            Why don’t you be a man and stand outside Geno’s with a bullhorn on a Saturday night? I know you would never do that because you’re too much of a coward.    

          11. AND, do you ever answer a question? You’d better hope to God I don’t come to one of your retarded quiz nights to embarrass you.

          12. Something just occurred to me Danny – in another post in this same thread you stated that staying in Philadelphia your whole life (unlike your hero the dead racist sandwich jockey) was a sign of being a loser, and now you’re saying that you’ve been in Philadelphia your whole life!  So are you wrong about the former assertion or are you announcing to us all that you’re an unsuccessful loser..?

          13. You just don’t shut up, do you? There’s like 80 posts on this thread and how many are from you? Half at least? About 3/4 of the column inches or so. Did you ever consider maybe getting a life? Or at least some sort of hobby. You have some serious free time on your hands. You must have spent the equivalent of an eight hour work day on this. And obsessive? You? Says who? Nah. Not at all. Carrying on a running argument for four days with total strangers, complete with insults and threats of violence, is the sort of thing that all normal people do. 

          14. This is obviously Lisa, the person who runs the website mocking me.

            Lisa, people should know, has ridiculed my links to support Haitian relief efforts (because Haiti was “a  —hole before” therefore Haitians, in her opinion, don’t deserve relief.)

            People should also know that Lisa once volunteered after a quiz, out of the blue, just to get a rise out me apparently, that she couldn’t care less if people in Africa lived or died in famine.

            This is what we’re dealing with.  Anonymous coward racists.

          15. Dear Chris, Lisa, whoever she is, did not post the above remarks under Anonymous. So you’re wrong again. I suspect that happens a lot. Leave Lisa out of this. I suspect she’s already suffered enough having known somebody like you. Incidentally, baseless accusations of that sort simply illustrate the paranoia I referred to above. As I say, forget Lisa. Do you really think she’s the only person in the world who considers you an asshole? The way you carry on, I suspect the line of those people stretches to the crack of doom. Yours truly, Anonymous. 

          16. Lisa drives traffic to her website anywhere on the internet she can identify me now that I block her posts from my own site.

          17. Good for your ex-girlfriend, China is a lot less misery than a life wasted on you.

            I shouldn’t have called you a skinhead, that was wrong of me on two counts:

            1) There are anti-racist skins so I should have specified.

            2) At the the racist skins have the common decency to own up to their white power beliefs, instead of hiding behind notions that immigrants are (to quote your hero Joey Vento the unlettered sandwich racist) “dirty” and “spread disease” and rape children and hold up the cheesesteak line with their imability, despite an incredible yearn for that traditional Mexican favorite Cheez Whiz, to order in English.

            A better sentence is “You, Danny, have the attitude BUT NOT EVEN THE HONESTY of a racist skinhead.”

  3. When my grandfather died, he was an old man… At times he could be a racist, but in general he was a good person.  Regardless, we didn’t argue that fact on the week of his death.  There are plenty of other stories in today’s news Mr. GoodTimes could have used as a platform to discuss ethnic diversity and immigration.  Show some class and pick on somebody who hasn’t just died this week.. Loser.


      People die all the time. Vento died a successful businessman who made an above-average cheesesteak, and an unabashed zenophobe. Horrendously ironic, considering his heritage as an immigrant. Johnny’s not picketing his funeral here, he’s simply pointing out that oh, hey, btw, Vento was kind of a douche, and here’s 34 reasons why.

      You, on the other hand, are just being a douche.

    2. Was it wrong to talk about George Wallace’s racism when he died?  How are the situations different?  It’s not just that Vento was racist.  It’s that he made his racism into a public political cause.  When someone does that, it becomes fair game, even on the day after they die.

    3. @Somebody, was your grandfather a public figure? Did he spend the last 5 years of his life jumping in front of every microphone and TV camera he could to express his xenophobic sentiments to the city and country? If not, I don’t think your parallel between your grandfather and Joey Vento is a very good one.  

      @Chris I wanted to get the piece into the story about the letter you wrote, but I just couldn’t find the right place to put it. 

  4. Actually, I believe Geno’s and Pat’s make the worst Cheesesteaks in the city…a total tourist destination.  You can find much better ones at local corner pizza/steak shops.

      1. How is someone’s OPINION about the quality of food a “lie”?  How could that possibly be?

        I suppose that knowing the difference between a fact and an opinion is lost on you, which explains quite a bit.

  5. Actually, I believe Geno’s and Pat’s make the worst Cheesesteaks in the city…a total tourist destination.  You can find much better ones at local corner pizza/steak shops.

  6. You have echoed my sentiments exactly. It always makes me cringe a little when people from out of town associate Geno’s with Philadelphia. Vento was a xenophobic hypocrite, and while I wouldn’t wish death or suffering on anyone, I find it hard to read articles that venerate him.

  7. Any of you MORONS ever worked in a bar or restaurant? Serving the public is extremely difficult. Vento didn’t go into business just to throw food away which is what you end up doing when you can’t understand what the hell the person is ordering and then they refuse to pay for what you make them! It adds up at an alarming rate! And who do you think has to eat that loss??? Not you! You guys read way too much into things just to give yourselves something to bitch about. I’m sure that if any of you worked there for just a week your arrogant, pretentious attitudes would change drastically! The man is gone. Let him rest in peace! If you don’t like the sign or the things he said then go eat somewhere else!

    1. CJ – Do you honestly believe that there was EVER a time – ONE TIME – in the entire history of Geno’s – with its expansive menu of less than 10 items – was unable to figure out what ANY customer EVER wanted to order?  They sell the same cheesesteaks, over and over.  No one is translating Proust.  The funny thing is that if we were to administer an English exam to Geno’s staff and customers as a means of retaining citizenship most would have to be deported.  Lord knows who would take them.

      The plain fact of the matter is that Vento was a racist who posted his English signs to play to his inbred racist customers when LEGAL Mexican immigrants moved into the (formerly) Italian Market and cleaned the place up.  I’ve been going to 9th St since the ’70s and it’s never looked better than now.  The main eyesore is Joey Vento’s neon graveyard and the main health hazard is the refusal of Geno’s and Pat’s to provide their drunken customer base a place to piddle.

      The United States has no official language, if you don’t like that maybe you need to move somewhere else where a language will be assigned you.

      1. I live right down the block from Geno’s and can see the garish neon from my kitchen.  The place looks like it belongs in Vegas, and it’s a total eyesore.  Besides his racism, there’s also the authoritarianism; the walls are set up as a somewhat unsettling shrine to the military and police.

        And over half the neighborhood are immigrants, mostly Mexican and Vietnamese.  But all the Geno’s customers are tourists or suburban daytrippers; I’m just glad I don’t drive because they create a traffic nightmare on the weekends.

      2. Apparently you are one of the morons I addressed earlier. I can tell by your inane rant that you have never worked in the food industry and have know clue what you’re talking about. I don’t give a rats ass how big the menu is. There are still a ton of ways to order a cheesesteak and if you get it wrong you have to throw it out. This means wasted product which in turn means wasted money! You obviously missed my point. Go back, read it again, and try to leave an educated post next time. By the way, I live in Philly, I speak English, and I’m not going anywhere. You can cram your PC bullcrap where the sun doesn’t shine! Thanx buddy!

          1. No one has poorer English skills than the people who are intimidated by multilingual immigrants.

    2. You’ve GOT to be kidding me. I’ve worked in food service, and do you know what I do when I have a difficult time understanding someone? “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” And if it still isn’t clear?…I read it back to them, until we are certain we’re on the same page. The process takes 30 seconds maximum, and it’s a basic part of food service. The very notion that there was ANY legitimacy to the “…if I can’t understand you…” bullcrap that Vento postured is asinine.

    3. If he could afford to give hundreds of thousands of dollars away to charity, he could afford to throw out a few cheesesteaks.

    4. Which is why every other food service establishment have signs demanding that people order in English?

  8. Most misguided article I’ve ever read. go back to hugging trees.  Instituting a company policy to order food in English is not racist or discriminatory.  Maybe he said some other stupid stuff (so has President Obama), this is America, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs so long as you don’t harm anyone else.  The guy was an easy target for bleeding heart liberals who tried to make this their Little Big Horn.  Get a life!!

    1. Nope; according to Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is discrimination on the basis of national origin.

      1. Exactly. You can’t enact any old policy just because you say so. “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone” is a myth. Your reason must be legally enforceable. And the policy wasn’t “if you don’t speak English,” it was “if I don’ t understand you”; the explicit meaning of which was that if you had an accent, he wouldn’t serve you because you were foreign. It wasn’t a big secret what was meant. There was no hidden agenda. It was plain as day.

  9. Just for the record, if this thing becomes a stomping ground for angry or personal attacks on other commenters, I’m going to shut down the comments section. That hasn’t happened yet, but I’m starting to get the feeling that it might be headed in that direction. I welcome comments on this article, I welcome points of view that differ from my own, and I welcome healthy debate. But if this just becomes a place for angry screeds or personal attacks, I’m going to shut it down. There are plenty of places on the internet for that, and I don’t want this to be one of them. Thank you. 

  10. I love love love how Johnny and Chris offer actual data and reasonable accusations that are based on it, and the counter to these arguments is a mix of “Oh you WOULD say that”, “How could YOU possibly know that” and “Who cares about the facts, you’re wrong because you’re a liberal”.  I kinda wish the Right was a bit more intelligent..and didn’t take all their debate classes under Sarah Palin’s tutelage.  Give us a real argument, not this talking points horsecrap.

  11. Very well written.  Joey Vento was a cheesesteak slinging buffoon.  Essentially, the guy is famous for making a sandwich.  Anyone who was “for” Joey Vento’s food ordering policy is a racist.  Plain and simple.  No if’s, and’s or but’s about it.  

    1. It’s “Ingish”, which was Joey Vento’s language. It’s similar to American English but has some differences, such as the liberal use of unnecessary quotation marks and apostrophes.

  12. Geno’s serves up a fine cheesesteak and cheesefries. Not the best, but still, they’re good.
    I’d like to know how they’re a “tourist trap” if they’re packed with people at lunch time and after sporting events and concerts? The vast majority of those people are locals.
    Joey Vento was a great American and he always did right for the city of Philadelphia. RIP   

    1. If “they’re” a tourist trap, Danny boy?

      In English we use the word “they” as a plural pronoun.  I know this is confusing for you because there’s the letter “S” on the end, but “Geno’s” is one place and a native speaker of English would elect to use a singular pronoun in that sentence.  One wonders if Vento would let you order with language skills like that.

      Vento didn’t even live in Philadelphia and he’s roughly as “great” an American as Nathan Bedford Forrest.

      1. LOL! Is that all you have, Chrissy? Maybe instead of  whining about living near Geno’s, you should up and move? I mean, you sound like a big ball of anger and hate, the smart thing to do would be to leave. I guess that makes too much sense.
        And by “they’re” I was referring to Joey and his son, that’s two people.  

    2. Danny –

      What is the “doing right by” Philadelphia exactly?  I want specifics.

      Did he do right by Philadelphia by owning a business here but choosing not to live here, thereby dodging housing property taxes?  Did he do right by Philadelphia by making an insincere offer to donate a trailer to the city in such a way that he knew they would not accept it, and then milk his NOT giving charity (if indeed this were “charity” and he weren’t simply going to subtract the item from his federal taxes and make the federal government pay for the transaction anyway) for free publicity?

      Does he do right by Philadelphia by lowering the quality of living every single night for his neighbors by refusing to pay for as much as one porta-pottie?  Each and every night people who live near 9th and Wharton wake up to the urine stench from Pat’s and Geno’s drunken customers.  What does this do to property values, and the city’s tax base?  What does the godawful neon vomit motif imposed on the people who actually live at and near the intersection do to same, while Joey himself drove his Cadillac back to the ‘burbs?

      And oh yeah there’s the little matter of buying racebaiting ads for several years to attack the ethnic groups who cleaned up the immediate neighborhood of his own business, in the hopes of swelling racial prejudice in my city.  That’s a humanitarian right there.

      How about making all of the other people in the country think  that Philadelphia is the proud home of racists?  That’s great for the city.  How about hanging Confederae flags in his windows – was that one of the things you’re counting as positive for a city with a non-white majority, or..?

      I want SPECIFICS, Danny.  Tell us which of these things were boons to the city and why.  Tell us why your hero the dead 6th grade dropout racist sandwich maker was good for this city.

  13. Here, my guess you’ll ignore Stu’s column again, same as you did when Barry posted it.
    It sounds to me as if you’re an elitist, academic ass who looks down his nose at the white blue collar people in your neighborhood, which is a very bad trait, Chrissy.
    It also appears that you’re bitter about a guy with a sixth grade education (who never spoke perfect English, but made perfect sense), making more dough than you could ever dream of. Maybe if you “bettered” yourself, you could “get out,” too.      


    1. Stu is a moron.

      I am from a white blue collar neighborhood and family in Philadelphia.  Unlike your racist 6th grade dropout sandwich man hero I don’t see leaving my home city as advancement.  Some of us would like to stay and make the place better, and some of us get Confederate tattoos and and move because of melanin fear.

      Why don’t YOU leave Philadelphia and leave cities to mature adults who can handle diversity.  Racist scum out now.  Time to take out the trash, the Grim Reaper got a good start with Vento.

      1. OK, you grew up in a white blue collar neighborhood. Doesn’t make you any less of an elitist, pompous ass who looks down his nose at the very people who raised you. Seems almost as if you hate yourself. Sad.
        And I’m not going anywhere, I love the city and I love my White neighborhood. LOL!
        I’m actually starting to think you’re just bitter that your neighborhood has “changed” and you can’t afford to “get out.” Maybe you need more schooling.
        Did you ever take time to consider the fact that Joey moved to Jersey because he wanted some land and peace and quiet? Could he find that in South Philly? I think not.
        And talk about being a fascist … according to you, anybody who owns a business in Philadelphia should be forced to live here. Yeah, you’re all about America.   

        1. “Elitist pompous ass” = literate anti-racist, so that’s a compliment.

          This isn’t about me, it’s about your hero the dead racist sandwich troll.

          Why don’t you take some of your expansive time and defend for us a white northerner covering himself with Confederate tattoos.  How does this support for a rebellion against the federal government to maintain slavery make him a “great American?”

        2. Actually Danny I live in a different neighborhood in the city than the one I grew up in, and I’ve lived in different places in the city at different times, as well as abroad.  (I have in fact been to about 40 countries and encountered about 60 difefrent languages and have ordered THOUSANDS OF MEALS abroad AND I HAVE NEVER ENCOUNTERED ANY SIGN NOR ATTITUDE ANYWHERE that my ability to be served would be connected to my linguistic skills.)

          My grandfather was an Italian immigrant to South Philly who had little formal education but worked very hard at acquiring a stunning vocabulary and sounded rather different than Joey Vento, who apparently made no effort in life to raise his English language skills (oh the irony!)  beyond those of a child.  Importantly I never heard him nor my other realtives, immigrants from Poland and elsewhere,  nor non-immigrant, make racist remarks nor other cutting remarks about people based in their national origin.

          My grandfather was from the generation that shot fascists, not the generation that emulates and glorifies their Whiz-covered dubious accomplishments.

          Living in the suburbs and leeching off of the city is a way open to disreputable Americans to gain our antiquated tax collection system and cheat city residents out of a decent tax base.  It sounds like you should leave the city, Danny, since it’s such a horrible place for you.  In fact you should probably leave the country and move somewhere where the immigration and linguistic laws are more to your liking.  I hear North Korea is taking applications.

          I bet the popular snack food places on the streets of Pyongyang are also festooned with military and police symbols.  You should love that.

    1. Is that part of your program to help Philadelphia, wishing ill to successful small businesses that aren’t harming anyone?  Maybe if they hung up a few swaskitas you’d call the dimwit owner a fine American.

      1. I meant of course “swastikas.”  This fascist scum coming out of the woodwork gets me rather riled.   One would think that after the Civil War and WWII and the civil rights movement American adults wouldn’t be lining up to defend racism in public, but I suppose the losers can’t help themselves.

        While I’m posting I should note that a regular quiz player told me on Wednesday that her Asian friend gets yelled at by Geno’s employees everytime she walks by the place, which is a lot as she lives in the neighborhood.

        What do they yell at her?  “Ling Ling”, a panda name.

        So that’s Geno’s for you, grown men from behind the safety of plexiglass yelling racist taunts at a lone young woman who actually lives in the neighborhood.

        1. I think you should do what any real man would do – go over and defend the Asian girl’s honor.

          1. So the issue here is me and my behavior, and not that of Geno’s employees?  Time and time again you dodge any and all substance of the issue at hand.  It’s all you’ve got.

          2. No, Chris, I know for a fact that you LIE for your own benefit and agenda. The workers at Geno’s are not harrassing Asian girls. You know it and I know it. You’re a delusional liar.   
            Seriously, if it bothers you that much, go over and do something about it. Be a man for once. I certainly wouldn’t stand for people harrassing girls in my neighborhood.

      2. Rim has the biggest collection of douchestains in the city, you obviously fit right in. BTW, I’m part Jewish, Genius.

        1. What makes these people “douchestains” to you, the LACK of racist symbols on the walls?

          And I have the “anger problem” because I don’t accept racists intimidating immigrants in my neighborhood – incredible.

        2. Apparently I did test at “genius” level earlier in life, but as this is merely a statistical comparison to my peer group in the United States this is no great accomplishment.  I’d like to think I could hold my own against barnyard animals as well.  Being merely 40% sharper than the average Geno’s customer is a little too close for my comfort zone.

          In ant event your racism is measured by your attitudes toward groups you DON’T belong to, not the ones you do.  Are you Mexican or Latino, Danny?

  14. On a more postive note … Geno’s isn’t going anywhere and they’re here to stay! I’m happy just knowing the liberal morons who live near there are going to be unhappy until the day they die … and all because of a little sign.  
    Afterall, liberalism IS a mental disorder.

    1. Do your posts read better in their original antiquated German?  I picture you typing on a keyboard with Fraktur letters.

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