A towering, wide-eyed cheesesteak named “Whizzy” has joined the ranks of Philadelphia mascots.
Geno’s Steaks debuted the mascot on Monday morning. The mascot is named after the restaurant’s most popular cheesesteak, the Whiz, said Geno Vento, the restaurant’s owner. Although they considered various renditions of the name, including “Whiz head," Vento said the name “Whizzy” stuck.
“'Whizzy’ was catchy. It’s fresh, it’s hip,” Vento said.
The restaurant will celebrate the mascot’s launch through a “week of giving,” starting with a meet-and-greet Monday at 5 p.m. at the restaurant on Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue.
Vento said the restaurant hopes to expand its reach in the city and bring smiles to people’s faces through the mascot. Whizzy went through several redesigns over more than eight months, he said.
“When he first started out, he didn’t quite look like a cheesesteak," Vento said. “He started out like a Twinkie, then turned into a peanut, then kind of morphed into a cheesesteak.”
This week, the restaurant will give out free cheesesteaks and present a $1,500 check each to the local chapter of Easterseals, a nonprofit that serves children and adults with disabilities, and the Citizens for Fire Prevention Committee, a nonprofit that supports the Philadelphia Fire Department. On Tuesday, Vento and the mascot will visit Easterseals and on Thursday, the pair will visit the Engine 10 fire station in South Philadelphia.
On Wednesday, Vento and Whizzy will hand out coupons in Center City, and on Friday, they will be stopping at major landmarks in the city to take photos.
Cheesesteak rival Pat’s King of Steaks won’t be coming out with its own fuzzy cheesesteak mascot, owner Frank Olivieri said. Instead, the shop is pursuing a slightly more mobile (but equally uncomfortable) option in the form of Pat’s-branded Smart cars wrapped with the store’s logo. The plan, Olivieri said, is to drive the Smart cars around Philly and hand out free steaks and shop swag.
“To torture somebody and put them in a Whizzy costume, I don’t know, I’d rather put them in a Smart car,” Olivieri said. “Maybe Gritty and Whizzy can hang out — they’re both kind of scary.”
Olivieri added that the cheesy new mascot is “all good for all of” Philly’s major cheesesteak shops, like Geno’s, Pat’s and Tony Luke’s. After all, he said, there is a lot of hostility in online arguments about who makes the best steak, and Whizzy might be able to put a friendlier face on the discussion.