For more than ten years, Philadelphia’s world-famous cheesesteak purveyor Geno’s has had a sign in its window declaring, “This is AMERICA. When ordering please ‘speak English.’” Legend has it Geno’s mouthy founder, Joey Vento, hung it there in 2005 after somebody gave it to him, and its conspicuous presence triggered a national free-speech debate and eventually charges of discrimination by the city’s Commission on Human Relations. Vento, who died in 2011, didn’t care and never budged — and despite using a language foreign to most Americans already (“Youse”? “Whiz wit”?), his dying wish was allegedly that his son Geno keep the blasted sign up.
Well, so much for that: Geno has “unceremoniously” removed it, NBC 10 reports, ending the chatter over “what may be the shop’s second-most-talked-about item.” As he tells the station, it was just time to move on:
“It’s not about a sign. It’s about what you do and what your mark in life is, and I wanna change that mark in life … I wanna make Geno’s Geno’s Steaks different than what my father did. Not saying that was right or wrong, but that wasn’t my vision, and I wanna take Geno’s to the next level.”
Geno notes the business never actually refused service to anybody, which is why the courts let the sign stand, but his “vision” he refers to is slightly more inclusive than his father’s: “He basically was proud of America and being American, and that’s the way he stood,” says the new boss. “The way I do it is a little differently, you know? I like to hug.”