End of An Era

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Growing up in Princeton, NJ, about an hour outside of Philadelphia, cheese-steaks were always on the school menu. On my “bucket list” is a visit to the Holy Grail of cheese-steakdom, the big three of Philadelphia – Geno’s Steaks, Pat’s King of Steaks, and Jim’s Steaks.

But the end of an era came in August, when I read that Joey Vento, the founder of Geno’s Steaks, died at 71.   The announcement was made by his son, Geno, who was named after the food stand.

Geno’s was founded in 1966.   It’s open 24-7.   Patron’s inch up to the windows usually saying, “Whiz, with,” indicating they want the paper-thin strips of sizzled beef on a hero topped with Cheese Whiz and grilled onions. “Without” means hold the onions.

A New York Times review in 2003 described a Geno’s cheese-steak: “Geno’s steaks are almost self-effacing. The cheese dissolves into a runny sauce; the strips of beef are laid precisely on the roll, rather than in a tangle; and the onions are sparsely applied.”

While Pat’s King of Steaks opened in the 1930s, both Geno’s and Pat’s fought about who was the first to slather cheese atop the beef.

The rivalry between Geno’s and Pat’s never waned. In a 2003 interview with Fortune magazine, Frank Olivieri, the owner of Pat’s, was asked what he would do if Geno’s ever closed. “I’d feel a void–that would be hard,” he said. Then he added, “I’d buy the place and open it up again. And call it Geno’s. And fight with myself.”

Click here for a link to Geno’s Steaks.

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