Developed in the early 20th century by Pat and Harry Olivieri at their street food stall in the heart of South Philly the original sandwich consisted of thinly sliced beef grilled with onions, served in a soft white Italian roll. Cheese was not part of the original sandwich, but was subsequently added and the legend was born. The recipe remains relatively unchanged to this day.
Although the recipe seems relatively simple, the biggest impediment to making an authentic cheesesteak sandwich is the ability to source the proper ingredients and prepare them precisely according to the South Philadelphia tradition. There are many who claim to make Philly Cheesesteaks, but only a relative few who actually do it right. Once you’ve tasted the real thing, you will never again be fooled.
The cheesesteak has its origins in the gritty, working-class neighborhoods of South Philadelphia - pronounced by the locals “sow fluffia”. Known for its ethnic enclaves resulting from waves of European immigration in the 1800s, especially from Italy, the city’s tough attitude - pronounced “at-tee-tuude” - emanates from these rugged blue-collar streets.
The Italian laborers of South Philadelphia needed hearty, affordable fayre to keep them going during their long days of strenuous work and the cheesesteak ticked all the boxes.