Blunt. Brash. Bold. Politically incorrect. Unapologetically patriotic. Philadelphia cheesesteak king Joey Vento was all that and a side of freedom fries. The 71-year-old owner of Geno’s Steaks died of a heart attack this week, but he reignited a national debate over radical multiculturalism that will burn for years to come.
Five years ago, Vento garnered national headlines when a local newspaper profiled his outspoken views on customers who couldn’t speak English. He hung a sign in his order window that read: “This is America. When ordering, please speak English.” Though he never turned anyone away, the grandson of Italian immigrants informed hungry patrons that he reserved the “right to refuse service” to those he couldn’t understand.
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