Multiple sources are reporting that Joey Vento, the outspoken owner of Geno’s Steaks in South Philadelphia, died tonight of a heart attack. He was 71.
Mr. Vento founded the famed cheesesteak stand at Ninth and Passyunk in 1966.
In 2006, he generated national attention, some of it angry, some of it laudatory, for posting a sign at the restaurant insisting that patrons order in English.
The Philadelphia Human Relations Commission investigated whether the sign was discriminatory, but in 2008 ruled in favor of Vento, who insisted the sign was not intended to drive immigrant customers away, but to ensure they got the sandwich they wanted.
A family member said Mr. Vento was stricken at his home around 5:30 p.m.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter issued this statement on Mr. Vento’s death:
“Joey Vento was a colorful, larger-than-life Philadelphian who loved his city and excelled as a businessman. Mr. Vento had strongly held views that were matched by a commendable desire to give back to his community.”
The Independence Hall Tea Party Association saluted Vento in a statement, calling him a “conservative hero” and an “inspiration to the cause of freedom and liberty.”