The Philly cheesesteak is more than likely the most popular fast food item served in Philadelphia. The warm sandwich consists of thinly sliced beef layered on a warm, long, crusty roll and topped with melted American cheese and fried onions. Other variations replace American cheese with provolone and may add peppers and mushrooms. The origins of the cheesesteak date back to the 1930s.
Philly Cheesesteak History
During the early 1930s, Pat Olivieri operated a hot dog stand in South Philadelphia. Tired of eating hot dogs, Olivieri grilled some fresh sliced beef and onions on his grill. He put the concoction on a fresh Italian roll.
However, the enticing aroma wafted through the air and into the nose of routine customer and cab driver Dave Kohn. Kohn asked to try the new sandwich. So impressed was he that he suggested Olivieri add the sandwich to his menu. Word spread throughout the cab driving community, and many arrived at Olivieri’s stand to buy the sandwich. As his clientele grew, the hot dog vendor opened Pat’s King of Steaks eaterie on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue. Within the next decade, melted American cheese was added as a topping.
In 1966, Joey Vento opened Geno’s Steaks within proximity to Pat’s, and the rivalry began. Since that time, other venues offering the popular sandwich opened across the city. However, many believe that Pat’s or Geno’s are the best locations to sample traditional Philly cheesesteaks. Both restaurants remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to the delight of customers.
Twist of Fate
Pat Olivieri and Dave Kohn have long passed on to heaven. Nevertheless, their relatives are well acquainted with the legend of the cheesesteak’s origins. In a strange twist of fate, the families were reunited.
Kohn’s great-niece Diane Schwartz attended a Barry Manilow concert at the Wells Fargo Center. On the day after, she was enjoying lunch at a local deli. She began praising the performance that she attended the night before. The diners at the next table had also attended the concert. All started sharing their experiences and opinions of the show.
At some point, the gentleman from the other table handed Schwartz his business card. It turns out, he was Pat Olivieri’s great-nephew and continued the family tradition of running the eaterie. Astounded by the development, Schwartz proudly declared that he probably knew her great uncle too.