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Joey Vento: Assimilation warrior

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Earlier this week, we reflected on the exuberant life of Joey Vento, Philadelphia cheesesteak connoisseur and pioneer owner of Geno's Steaks. As Mike noted, Vento was a staple in his community, but unapologetic style -- including his "English only" demands of customers -- sometimes drew him into controversy.

Today, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin paid personal tribute to Vento, an "assimilation warrior":

Blunt. Brash. Bold. Politically incorrect. Unapologetically patriotic. Philadelphia cheese-steak king Joey Vento was all that and a side of freedom fries. The 71-year-old owner of Geno’s Steaks died of a heart attack this week, but he reignited a national debate over radical multiculturalism that will burn for years to come.

Five years ago, Vento garnered national headlines when a local newspaper profiled his outspoken views on customers who couldn’t speak English. He hung a sign in his order window that read: “This is America. When ordering, speak English.” Though he never turned anyone away, the grandson of Italian immigrants informed hungry patrons that he reserved the “right to refuse service” to those he couldn’t understand.

No menus in 10 different languages. No dumbed-down pictographs for the idiocracy. The choice at Geno’s is simple: Sink or swim. Learn English or eat somewhere else. “If you can’t tell me what you want, I can’t serve you,” Vento told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s up to you. If you can’t read, if you can’t say the word ‘cheese,’ how can I communicate with you — and why should I have to bend? I got a business to run.”

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P.S. If you're in the Philly area and would like to pay your respects, you can find Vento's funeral information here.

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