Joey Vento was an institution in Philadelphia. His cheesesteak joint, Geno's, was a local landmark that provided sustenance for fast food lovers for more than 40 years. The very colorful Mr. Vento passed away yesterday, dying from a heart attack at the age of 71.
Vento was also known to be a fierce supporter of his community and according to his son, Geno, he gave hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to various charities. The story in the Philadelphia Daily News also talked about Tony Vento's strong ties to the police department.
Philadelphia Police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers told the Daily News. "He was one of, if not our biggest supporter. He came through every time."
In 2006, Vento was embroiled in a little controversy, becoming the focus of the national media when he posted a sign asking customers to order in "English only."
Joey Vento became a bit of local media celeb after the "English-only" dust up, but he never lost the gritty edge that characterized the South Philly neighborhood where his business was rooted. He will be missed.
R.I.P. Joey Vento
Ever since seeing Joey on Cavuto's Fox News Show, my very talented brother Gregg has been a Joey Vento fan. Sadly, Gregg never had the pleasure of sampling the Geno's fare, but he was compelled to pen this tribute. I take great pride in sharing it with you.
Ode to Joey V.
"This is America. When ordering, please speak English."
(The sign in Geno’s, Joey Vento’s sandwich shop in Philadelphia)
A light went out in Philly
When Joey Vento died.
And though this may sound silly,
I think the country cried.
I “met” Joe on Cavuto,
Two gumbas talking food—
But not highbrow prosciutto.
Just cheesesteak, much more crude.
And yet that proud paisano
Showed patriot’s pride galore—
Who said “Speak English in MY store.”
It caused a huge kerfuffle.
And got him on T.V.
Big feathers he did ruffle,
But not the ones on me.
He didn’t have to bother,
But national pride’s a thirst.
Like his immigrant grandfather,
He put THIS country first.
A little sign in a little shop
Exploded loud like thunder.
A nation took the time to stop,
and Joey’d made them wonder.
I’ve never been to Geno’s,
Joe’s place of infamy.
But, gosh, I hope that he knows
It feels like home to me.
So, R.I.P., dear Joey V,
To Heaven benvenuto.
It’s cheesesteaks from now on for me.
I’ll pass on the prosciutto.