Memo to Philly-Bound Foreign Travelers: At Geno’s it’s English Only, or no Cheesesteak For You

Travel Blog  •  Joanna Kakissis  •  03.21.08 | 10:27 AM ET

imageDon’t bother asking for Philadelphia’s heart-attack sandwich in anything other than good ol’ English when you’re at Geno’s Steaks. The popular cheesesteak eatery can keep up a sign that reads: “This is America. When ordering, please speak English,” according to a ruling this week. In a case that lasted nearly two years, the Philadelphia Commission for Human Relations had tried to force owner Joey Vento to remove the sign because some commissioners found it discriminatory.

His supporters, though, saw it as a case of political correctness gone wild. Vento’s not crying about the fracas, though. The publicity, he says, has “made me famous throughout the world.”

Photo by j.reed via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Joanna Kakissis's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post, among other publications. A contributor to the World Hum blog, she's currently a Ted Scripps fellow in environmental journalism at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

6 Comments for Memo to Philly-Bound Foreign Travelers: At Geno’s it’s English Only, or no Cheesesteak For You

Ollezaza 03.21.08 | 12:15 PM ET

Gary 03.21.08 | 8:44 PM ET

That sign in the photo you link has flags with 48 stars….

A more appropriate caption would be: this was America.

Tyler 03.23.08 | 5:01 AM ET

dale 03.24.08 | 3:19 AM ET

I’m glad that, of the fifteen countries I’ve been in where English isn’t normally spoken, that I haven’t run into that attitude. I’ve been rewarded for attempting the local language, laughed at (and with), and rewarded with food for doing pantomime, and sometimes been able to use English, with lots of smiling and gestures. I’d hate to think that someone visiting the birthplace of America has to learn our language first just to appreciate some local flavor.

John 03.24.08 | 10:15 AM ET

I have been to many places in the world where the people feel complemented when you try to speak their language. You don’t have to speak fluently either so how hard is it to learn to say “Cheesesteak” in English, especially to those who have come to live here?? Good for Gino’S!!!!

Greg 10.14.08 | 2:54 PM ET

I am curious how Ollezaza’s post applies at all? Requesting that customers place their orderes in English is in no way related to any sort of racism.

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