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Talkin' About Geno's Meat

Chris Balbi

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Bowtie Boy has been trekking around philly for 3 years. He enjoys theatre, beer gardens and intellectual conversations that lead nowhere. When he's not free-lancing his social media management and digital marketing strategies, he's at home in his underwear watching Dr. Who and eating Reese's puffs.
posted by Chris Balbi on Oct 24, 2016 10:30am | comments


I’ve taken a liking to those that give back to their community with more than just the occasional scandalous leaked photo, and after watching Geno Vento (via Facebook) parade around the city attending / donating to more charity events than I can keep track of, I knew I had to reach out for an Interview.  I’ll be honest, I expected to be greeted by a pompous ass, but the man that showed up to Milk & Honey was an absolute gem, with a heart of 24k gold.  He had me on the floor laughing, and tearing up all in the same minute! 

Brief History of Geno’s Steaks…

Dad started in 1966, $6 to his name, and borrowed $2,000 from his father-in-law and when he opened up, he wanted to fight against the best cheesesteak at the time, which of course was "Pat’s Steak."   He was trying to pick a name for the steakhouse and saw the word “Gino” in graffiti down in South Philly, he dropped the I and added and E and thats how Geno Steaks (and myself) got our name. 

Quick Fun Facts:

-  Pat, Geno and Tony Luke all live in the same building…
-  Geno’s is the only place in the country to carry Coke and Pepsi!
-  The actual number of cheesesteaks we churn out is a “secret,” it keeps competition strong

Let’s break down a closet door… you’re gay Geno?

Nope, okay yup, but that’s not really what defines me, and I don’t think sexuality should define or confine anyone.

Did you come out to mom and dad?

Ya, when I was 19ish, my best friend and I came out together, and said friend lives next door!  My mom and dad looked at my friend like a second child so it made the process easier to have the confusion and questions split between us.  Mom took it harder than dad did, but mom and I were so close I think she might have worried I was gonna be a different person. I was always extremely close to both my parents; I actually have tattoos of my parents on my shoulders!  A breast cancer ribbon and wings for mom, and the Rafiki drawn Simba for my dad.

So when did you take the reigns of the Steak Shop?

It was a long time coming, I started working for his Dad in the shop at 17, flipping the meat all day long, and then 5 years ago when my dad passed away, I took over. 

Did you make any changes?

Did you always agree with your father? Of course I made changes! The first thing I did was quietly take down the “must order in english” sign that made headlines a few years back.  I didn't want to make a big deal about it, but it was necessary.  I had to make a few staff changes, and bring Geno’s to the 21st century offering  3 new locations, and working on 3 more next year

Is branching out going to decrease the allure of THE CHEESESTEAK?

Nah, I had pick each location so you feel that Geno’s magic! **Geno then ‘gay’ snaps**

So you weren't the one that added the neon to your store front?

Nope that was my straight dad… we’ve been written up as the “Las Vegas” of Philadelphia.

Recipe changes?


When are you busiest? 

2 am Friday's and Saturday’s we see some of craziest people, the streets get a little wild but we love it. 

So I first noticed your charity work with Gunnar Montanna’s WROUGHTLAND, but you’ve done so much more!

I LOVE bringing a smile to people’s face, and donating what I can to those who need it! I’ve been very fortunate enough to be able to provide to some awesome organizations in the area! 

Care to name drop a few?

Sh*t, off the top of my head? Philadelphia Gay Man’s Chorus, Philly Police, Fire and Veterans, I also just started with the Arts Gala!  I love participating in the arts, I’m working with Chaz Palmaterri and Robert Dinero (along with 9 other investors) to bring “The Bronx Tale”  (a movie I’ve truly loved) to the stage (Broadway, nbd) and it opens I think next month, but don’t quote me on that.

Any rough Idea about your contributions last year?

I don’t really keep a running total, I’m very fortunate and honored to be able to put a smile on peoples faces.  I’d estimate over $100,000+ last year if I had to take a swing at it!

With a heart so big, and culinary skills out the ass, there’s no way you’re single?

Yup, very single.  I am looking for that special someone, but my schedule is so erratic, and then there’s a “weight issue.”

Weight Issue?

I’m still a bigger guy, even after losing 110lbs, and guys don’t typically look my way.  I’m also pretty direct and that can be a turn off.  I’m like the white Oprah, I tell it like it is, that’s not offensive is it?

So when you’re not looking for love or at the steak house what are you doing?

I love traveling, being spontaneous, photography and food.  Cooking is a passion of mine, I actually have an air fryer installed in my house do my dedication to my weight loss and healthy living, man cant’ live on Cheesesteak alone… although I wish they could!  There aren’t many days I spend away from “work,” if you can call it work.  I truly enjoy being a “landmark” in Philadelphia and have been super #Blessed to have many familiar and not so familiar faces grace our place of steak! 

So if you could cha…

I’d love to keep chatting but I’ve got to get moving, I have a couple more stops to make before heading to the Helium club to support a friend, and try and make it to the Stadiums for SIA.  Text me!

— end interview.

But seriously, this gentleman is quick and witty soul with a lot to say, somebody get him a Twitter!


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