Vento leaves his landmark


Joey Vento, owner of South Philly staple Geno’s Steaks, 1219 S. Ninth St., suffered a heart attack and died Tuesday at the age of 71.

Vento, who opened his now legendary cheesesteak shop in 1966, came into work as he always did early Tuesday morning. His family believes that the chest pains started around 2 p.m., but the tough-as-nails entrepreneur shrugged off the pain. Vento returned to his home in Shamong, N.J. and laid down for a nap after telling his wife that he wasn’t feeling well.

“Usually I call about 6:30 [p.m.] for the bread,” his son Geno Vento said. “That’s when my mom tried to get him up. He was all discombobulated, fell over and turned purple.”

Known for putting his business before his health, Vento never broke his morning routine. After all, doctors once had to put weights in the cast on his arm in an attempt to keep him from going to work, Geno Vento said. It failed to keep him from his post.

“He never missed a day of work,” Geno Vento said. “He just had cancer surgery in October and four days after surgery he was back at work. The doctors flipped out.”

However, his hardheaded nature did not come without controversy. He gained national notoriety when he posted signs telling customers “This is America. When ordering, please speak English,” which were the subject of a lawsuit against him in 2006. The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations dismissed the case in ’08 and the signs are still proudly displayed.

But for those who know him best, Vento’s outspokenness was just another integral part of a man who scrapped his way to millions without the help of any formal education.

“He didn’t sugarcoat anything, he just said what was on his mind,” Geno Vento said. “If you were 7 foot, he was 7-foot-1.”

When looking at Vento’s legacy, there are the hundreds of thousands he gave back to in the community and through different charities over the years. It is for this, along with helping make Philly the cheesesteak capital of the world, that many Philadelphians will miss the feisty 5-foot-5 Joey Vento.

“It’s a terrible loss to this city, I think he did a lot of good and were going to miss him,” Stacy Atwater from Northeast Philly said. SPR

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