On Memorial Day, I blogged about Joey Vento, the 3rd-generation American of Italian descent who wants his customers to speak English–and immigration laws enforced.
A City Council member jumped into the debate over a sign at one of Philadelphia’s best-known cheesesteak joints that reads: “This Is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING ‘SPEAK ENGLISH.'”
During the council’s meeting Thursday, Councilman Jim Kenney asked Geno’s owner Joseph Vento to take the small sign down. The English-only ordering sign has irritated some activists in the diverse neighborhood of South Philadelphia and drawn national attention.
“It’s such an iconic institution and business, one that is that visible for many of our residents, for the region and the world,” Kenney said.
Vento, whose grandparents struggled to learn English after immigrating from Sicily in the 1920s, said his staff is glad to help non-native speakers order in English and no one has been turned away because of a language barrier.
“I don’t see much of a big deal about learning to say Cheez Whiz,” he told ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” on Friday.
Watch the GMA segment here.
More protests expected:
Juntos, a neighborhood organization that advocates for Latino communities, said it plans to send people to Geno’s to try to order in Spanish. Depending on what happens, the group may pursue court action, said Peter Bloom, the group’s director.
“His grandparents encountered the same racism and the same xenophobia,” Bloom said. “Why would he begin that process over again?”
In asking for the sign’s removal, Councilman Kenney noted that Geno’s is “an iconic institution and business, one that is that visible for many of our residents, for the region and the world.”
For his part, Vento said he’s gotten plenty of criticism and threats: One person told him they hoped one his many neon signs flames out and burns the place down. But he said he plans to hold his ground, even if he loses business: “I’ll take the gamble.”
Here’s Councilman Kenney’s contact info.
Geno’s website is down. But here’s the address if you’re in the neighborhood.
Support assimilation: Buy a Cheese Wit’.