by Maria Merlino photos by Andrew Andreozzi
rank Olivieri Jr. is a fan of innovation. Almost a century after the steak sandwich debuted at his family’s stand in the Italian Market, the third generation owner of Pat’s King of Steaks continues to make juicy headlines with his Guest Chef Series. Famous cooks from throughout the area take to the grill at Pat’s to create savory sandwiches and raise money for local nonprofits. Olivieri, himself, is a bona fide chef. He has a BA in Culinary Arts and Sciences from the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. He also is a certified pizzaiolo (pizza maker). Most importantly, he’s the grandson of Harry Olivieri, the younger brother of Pat, who originated our city’s iconic sandwich. In 1930, brothers Pat and Harry Olivieri opened a hot dog stand at the corners of 9th, Wharton and Passyunk Avenue. One day, they grilled a piece of thin steak with some chopped onions for lunch. The aroma caught the attention of a customer. Pat sold him the “steak sandwich” for ten cents. And so it began.
The demand was so great for the flavorful delicacy that the brothers soon replaced their hot dog stand with a steak shop and started a culinary revolution. A long line of customers craving the grilled specialty became a signature sight in the neighborhood. Snapshots of celebrities soon decorated the walls. “We have one of Bogart!” Olivieri points out. “Food is an ever changing thing,” he explains. “Classic French cuisine has been replaced by other small plates. Creative ways of plating and different ways of presenting food are on trend. Fresh minds bring fresh ideas.” Olivieri recalls the old days when he followed the instructions in the red checkerboard cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens. “We have a global influence now.” His interest in food and the camaraderie of culinary school influenced his decision to launch a Guest Chef Series. All of the money raised from the sandwiches created in collaboration with a guest chef benefits that chef’s charity of choice. Sally Eisen-
berg (www.nourishurlife.com) created a vegetarian cheesesteak with eggs (over easy), sautéed broccoli rabe, avocado, cilantro, mango, kelp granules, lime juice and Muenster cheese. That cheesesteak raised more than $3,500 for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. Then there was Marc Vetri, who designed a cheesesteak to benefit his organization, the Vetri Community Partnership, which teaches kids the benefits of healthy eating and healthy living. He grilled a ribeye steak topped with Di Bruno Bros’ mortadella, taleggio, cherry peppers, onions and Cheez Whiz on a roll. Jose Garces cooked up a JG Cheesesteak with provolone fondue, To-Jo wild mushrooms, caramelized onions and black truffle to top Pat’s famous ribeye on a roll to raise money for the Garces Foundation. His group helps immigrants access fresh food, healthcare and educational resources. Olivieri enjoyed his spring project with Christina
Pirello (www.christinacooks.com). The two recently collaborated on a vegan cheesesteak pop-up at Caffe Valentino. Future chefs include Han Chiang from Han Dynasty, Luke Palladino and Erin O’Shea of Percy Street BBQ. Olivieri considers his Guest Chef Series a “winwin-win” situation for all participants. He matches the proceeds raised as his way of “giving back.” “I like that I have the ability to go to different places to demo. My girlfriend keeps me organized,” he laughs. “Every year, I want to get certified in something. My future is education.” Whatever the future holds, one thing is certain, according to Frank Olivieri Jr. There will be only one Pat’s King of Steaks. “I will never move from this location or try to put one in another place. I would have to build a 9th Street all around me because people sit outside and look at the view. You can’t put Pat’s Steaks in a mall,” he insists. “The authenticity cannot be replicated.” “I look at the past and I look at the future. Obviously, we’ve been doing something right for 86 years.” Olivieri enjoys working with pop-up locations, enjoying the fact that he can cook in a different spot every night of the week. “There’s no need to go to New York. I love the transformation Philly is going through. We have a blue collar sandwich thing going on.” Through charity, philanthropy and a lot of positivity, Frank Olivieri Jr. plans to continue caring for the people he loves. I remind him that the Bible says we have 100 years to live. He jumps up. “That’s great! I have another 48 years to live and make a difference.” Pat’s King of Steaks is a member of the Philadelphia RowHome (PRH) Business Network
Courtesy of Frank E. Olivieri of Pat’s King of Steaks
Gnocchi in Tomato Cream Sauce with Crabmeat Ingredients ➜ 1 lb can colossal crabmeat ➜ 2 pounds gnocchi ➜ 2 cans plum tomatoes, passed through a food mill to remove seeds and skin
➜ 2 tablespoons minced garlic
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4 tablespoons olive oil 1cup heavy cream 1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (optional) Salt and pepper to taste
PRH Suggested Wine Pairing by Vincent Novello Chateau Haut Maurin Sauvignon Blanc $12.99
Directions In a heavy pan, sauté garlic in olive oil until light golden. If using, add hot pepper flakes. Add tomatoes to oil and cook at a simmer for 15 minutes. Add heavy cream and cook for 5 minutes. Add crabmeat to tomato sauce to warm another 5-7 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook gnocchi in salted water according to package directions. Drain gnocchi well and top with crab sauce. Top with basil.
Serves 4 rowhome magazine