Si se puede, Philly cheesesteak lovers!
Geno's Steak's has finally removed the controversial sign telling customers to order in English.
The sign, which read, "This is America. When ordering, please speak English," was put up in 2006 by owner Joey Vento.
Apparently, his dying wish to his much more evolved son, Geno, in 2011 was to keep the sign up. And there it remained, leaving an intolerant taste in Philly's mouth despite the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations in 2009 ruling that it wasn't discriminatory. Ugh.
But then, as online news outlet Billy Penn first reported, the sign was quietly removed sometime around the Democratic National Convention in July. And now everyone's noticing.
After years of boycotting the South Philly joint, I dropped in for a late lunch on Thursday.
Despite being off-peak hours, there were still quite a few people behind me. But I wasn't going to rush this moment for anyone.
"I've waited a long time to do this," I said aloud to no one in particular, "so I have to do it right."
And then, in my best Nuyorican Spanglish, I let it rip:
"Dos, con Whiz, por favor."
I smiled so wide I thought my face would crack. The woman behind the counter didn't smile back but I used to be in food service, too, and I didn't find many things customers said amusing, so I didn't hold it against her.
She didn't completely understand what I said, but we worked it out.
Turns out, cheesesteak is a universal language. And call me crazy, but Thursday's cheesesteak tasted a lot less bitter than the first time I tried it. I finished the whole thing.
Truth is, the controversy over that vile sign near the ordering window was never just about a sign.
It was about ignorance and racism and refusing to acknowledge and respect the growing diversity in this city. The diversity that has been responsible for most of the city's growth and that will be responsible for it's survival.
Next time you're there, just take a look. Right around Geno's, it's the Asian and Latino businesses that have breathed new life into the Italian Market neighborhood: El Sarape Mexican Restaurant, Los Taquitos de Puebla Restaurant, Botanica Sigua, Hai Tao Hair salon. It just goes on and on, on both sides of Ninth Street.
So, good job Geno's. It took way too long and I'm not sure if everyone behind the counter embraces the spirit behind it just yet, but Gracias, amigos!