|Tag(s):||Philadelphia, Philadelphia Cheesesteak, Philadelphia Culture|
|Course:||“Skill Building,” Rosemont College|
|Rating:||5 (6 votes)|
On a hot, humid, July day in New Jersey, a man lay in his hospital bed, fighting to stay alive despite different heart problems, holding onto what the last moments of life he had left. On July 22, Harry Olivieri passed away at the age of ninety. He would be remembered mostly by his family and friends, but few people would recognize his name outside that circle. And yet, this relatively unknown man, had done something that not only changed his life, it changed the place he called home. He gave an entire city an identity.
It all started back in Philadelphia in 1930 during the first months of the Great Depression, when two brothers, Pat and Harry Olivieri, decided to go into business to make their family some money. Pat had asked Harry to run to the Italian market and pick up some steak. They then cut it and grilled it and sold it to their first patron. Thus, the first Philadelphia cheesesteak was born and it soon caught on as a tasty and quick meal. There are many different things that go into a real Philly cheesesteak, some of which were on the first cheesesteak and some that were added throughout the years. The original cheesesteak had chopped up steak and onions and was served on a hotdog bun. As it grew in fame, the cheesesteak adapted with the times. Oddly enough, it was not until twenty years after that first steak sandwich was made that cheese was added. Nevertheless, Harry Olivieri had come up with a tradition that has come to be identified with an entire city.
There is no way that neither Harry nor Pat would know that their sandwich would grow into something so much larger than Philadelphia itself. Harry and Pat started their own place called Pat’s King of Steaks at 9th and Passyunk, and it has been there ever since. When the doors first opened to their store in 1940, both brothers worked fifteen to eighteen hours a day, since Pat’s stayed open all night long. Both brothers loved what they were doing and worked together as a family business. It was going well until Pat decided he did not want to work there anymore, and when that happened a family battle over ownership of the business ensued. In the end Harry and his family kept the original store on 9th and Passyunk, and Harry went back to doing exactly what he loved to do. Today, cheesesteaks are part of Philadelphian culture. They help define what it is to be a Philadelphian. The cheesesteak lives on as a symbol of the city, while the names of the inventors are long forgotten. Harry Olivieri’s name should be more widely known, not just as the inventor of the cheesesteak, but as the creator of an identity for Philadelphia; an identity that will be staying with the city for years to come.