In memory of Harry Olivieri…


…who, along with his brother Pat, created the steak sandwich, which eventually became the famous Philly cheesesteak. Harry died Thursday at the age of 90.

Here is an excerpt from a story in today’s Philadelphia Daily News:

Harry and his older brother, Pat, had been selling hot dogs at a stand at 9th and Wharton streets in South Philadelphia since 1930.

It was a time when horses still plodded the streets and there was a water trough for the steeds in front of the hot-dog stand.

Pat suggested that Harry go to a local grocery store and pick up a slab of beef. Harry went, paying 7 cents for a pound.

He took it back to the stand, sliced it up, put some raw onions on the grill and, unknown to them, a legend began sizzling right there in front of them. The world’s first steak sandwich was born.

Pat and Harry slapped the meat on rolls and were about to devour their meal when a cab driver, a longtime fan of the brothers’ hot dogs, arrived for his meal and smelled the delicious aroma of meat frying in onions.

“I want one of those,” the driver said.

“But it’s our dinner,” the brothers protested.

The cab driver was insistent. He was about to become the first of a long line of Philly steak-sandwich addicts, stretching through the decades and around the globe, with billions of the succulent fare devoured.

“Sell him yours,” Pat said. After all, he was the oldest, and in an Italian family, the oldest sibling ruled.

Harry handed it over. They charged the driver 5 cents.

No doubt others had made steak sandwiches before and certainly thousands would make them in the future. But Pat’s King of Steaks was born that day at 9th and Wharton, and its fame spread rapidly through a hungry city.

So grab yourself a cheesesteak today, bow your head in a moment of silence…and devour the sandwich in memory of a true king of steaks.

(Photo courtesy of Pat’s King of Steaks.)

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