Joey Vento, Famed For Cheesesteaks And 'Speak English,' Has Died

Aug 24, 2011

He was "the impresario of cheesesteaks whose 'speak English' sign at his South Philly sandwich shop made him famous to some, infamous to others," The Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

Joey Vento, who founded Geno's Steaks and in 2006 got national attention when he said customers should order their sandwiches in English, died Tuesday of a heart attack, according to his family. He was 71.

Vento told NPR's Joel Rose in 2006 that "you can speak any language you want, but the common language of the surviving America is English. ... I don't see ... what is so hard about it."

As NPR's Jeff Brady tells our Newscast desk today, Vento became "a favorite of Tea Party activists" and as recently as this past July 4 he "blasted Republicans in Congress."

"We didn't send you there to compromise and negotiate," Vento declared at a rally. "We sent you there to stop health care. Since you didn't do it, vote 'em out!"

Though he posted the signs, "Vento always insisted he served everyone, no matter what their language," the Inquirer says.

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