POSTED: 11:06 am EDT July 21, 2006
UPDATED: 11:14 am EDT July 21, 2006
PHILADELPHIA -- The man who helped invent that most Philadelphian of icons, the cheesesteak, has died.
Harry Olivieri, the co-founder of the Pat's King of Steaks cheesesteak emporium, was 90.
Despite a heart condition, Olivieri had showed up at the store almost every day until about three years ago. He had been living with his daughter in Brigantine, N.J., and died of heart failure Thursday at Atlantic City Medical Center in Pomona.
Olivieri and his older brother, Pat Olivieri, were running a corner hot dog stand near South Philadelphia's Italian Market in 1933 when they made the first version of the sandwich that put the city on the street food map.
Pat Olivieri died in 1970. Harry Olivieri's son, Frank, now runs the restaurant.
A funeral mass is scheduled Monday at Stella Maris Church in Philadelphia, with burial at Holy Cross Cemetery in suburban Yeadon, Pa.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Cheesesteaks and hoagies go worldwide A Taste of Philadelphia has made a long career of sending Philly's food favorites all over.Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20151221132556/http://articles.philly.com/2002-05-06/business/25346024_1_cheesesteaks-hoagies-italian-restaurant
By Claire Furia Smith FOR THE INQUIRERPosted: May 06, 2002
You yearn for a sizzling heap of chopped fried beef, melting cheese and sauted onions on a long Italian roll. That's right, an authentic Philadelphia cheesesteak.
But you are out of town, and all you can find on the menu is a bad imitation, like "steak with cheese."
If you're lucky, someone back home will send you a care package from A Taste of Philadelphia. Since 1978, the business has been overnighting gift packages filled with cheesesteaks, hoagies, soft pretzels, and other Philadelphia treats to customers across the country and even overseas.
Richard DellaBarba, 41, has been running the business for the past 10 years in Folcroft from his brother's Italian restaurant, Domenico's. He said he sold between 8,000 and 10,000 packages last year at prices ranging from $50 to $290, which includes shipping.
He said he has shipped gift orders to Bill Cosby, Dick Clark, Jennifer Lopez, former President George Bush, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Customers also include many "lost Philadelphians" in California and Florida, and some in Hawaii and Europe, DellaBarba said.
So far, he said he hasn't received any complaints about the freshness of his sandwiches or snacks.
After cooking steak meat, American cheese, and onions on a grill, DellaBarba said, he packages those ingredients for shipping in a specially designed plastic bag to keep them fresh. The sandwich fixings are shipped along with a separately packaged sliced roll. Together, they are sealed in a Mylar wrapping, the same material used for potato chip bags, and are shipped the same day in a customized Styrofoam cooler with a frozen ice gel pack.
Hoagies are also shipped piecemeal, with the Italian cold cuts, provolone cheese and vegetables in one bag, an elongated roll in another, and olive oil in tiny vials. "The secret is that nothing touches the roll," DellaBarba said.
Business skyrocketed after DellaBarba introduced a Web site, www.tasteofphiladelphia. com, seven years ago. Today, about three-quarters of the orders are made online, he said.
His secretary, Patty Connor, takes phone orders and helps him make sandwiches. His brother, Domenic, 51, co-owns the business with him, but spends most of his time running Domenico's restaurant and Schaefer's Canal House, a riverfront restaurant in Chesapeake City, Md., that he purchased last month.
To supplement his business, Richard DellaBarba caters hoagie and cheesesteak picnics. His largest job was a personal picnic for 10,000 thrown by billionaire Michael Bloomberg. The event took place at Downing Stadium on Randall's Island, across the East River from Manhattan, in July 2000, more than a year before Bloomberg became mayor of New York.
"They found us on the Internet, and asked if we could cater for 10,000," DellaBarba said. "Naturally, you're not going to say no."
Most of the time, though, DellaBarba is working away in a little room at the rear of his brother's restaurant on Chester Pike.
There, he awaits daily deliveries of freshly baked rolls from Amoroso's Baking Co. in Philadelphia, and containers of meat, cheese, olive oil and other ingredients from Kraft Foods Inc. He gets Tastykake cupcakes from Philadelphia's Tasty Baking Co. and soft pretzels from Federal Pretzel Baking Co. in Philadelphia.
He meticulously prepares and packages 11 selections, which are shipped via Airborne Express.
The "Breakfast Combo" features three six-ounce boxes of Taylor Pork Roll, a pound of Habbersett Scrapple, and two Amoroso's rolls. The largest and most expensive package, at $289.95, is "The Twelve Pack," with six foot-long cheesesteaks and six foot-long Italian hoagies for parties. The selections can include a variety of locally connected snacks, such as Herr's potato chips, Goldenberg's peanut chews, Tastykakes, Bookbinder's snapper soup, pizza, pretzels, or cans of Frank's Black Cherry Wishniak soda.
All orders come with instructions for heating or preparing. Some come with a "Yo, wha supp?" button, a T-shirt, or a mug with Philadelphia phrases such as "Jeet yet?" and "Nice ta Meechas." Gift boxes are decorated with an image of Ben Franklin eating a hoagie.
Although DellaBarba says A Taste of Philadelphia was the first in his line of business, several other companies say they also ship Philadelphia cheesesteaks and hoagies.
Perhaps the most ambitious competitor is Media-based Philly Food (www.PhillyPretzels.com), which has been selling similar Philadelphia-flavored treats through the Internet since 1995, said Joe Kubicky, owner and president of Philly Food. Kubicky said he sells an average of 80 Philadelphia food packages a week. He said customers had ordered packages for baseball player Mike Piazza and singer Frankie Avalon.
Kubicky and DellaBarba said they were particularly busy around Christmastime, Mother's Day, Father's Day and graduation season, when parents send packages to students' dormitories.
Certain Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and 76ers games also result in a spike in orders, they said. Instead of betting money, many Philadelphia fans bet cheesesteaks and hoagies with their friends in other cities.
According to one popular theory about the hoagie, the official sandwich of Philadelphia, the sandwich was devised by Philadelphia shipyard workers on Hog Island who brought sandwiches of cold cuts, lettuce, tomato, oil and onions. The workers were known as "hoggies."
The cheesesteak was invented in the early 1930s by Pasquale Olivieri, the founder of Pat's Steaks in Philadelphia, which continues to serve its sandwiches at Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue, just across the street from its chief rival, Geno's Steaks.
But neither of the South Philadelphia landmarks will ship sandwiches to customers.
"When people ask us about shipping steaks, we recommend A Taste of Philadelphia," said Tom Francano, manager at Pat's Steaks.
Contact Claire Furia Smith at email@example.com.