Will Vito’s Philly Cheesesteaks be the next restaurant chain?
Over the past few years, I’ve heard a lot about Vito Leone’s Bountiful sandwich shop — one guy and his grill. So when a few friends got together for lunch there a few weeks ago, I was glad to finally check it out. There were customers lined up out the door onto Main Street. Yeah, it’s THAT kind of place.
I snapped a few photos of Leone behind the counter, cooking and assembling sandwiches while taking orders. There’s no cash register or anyone to ring up your order. You pay by tossing large bills into a hole in the counter, and making your own change from a big square cup. (No, he doesn’t do credit cards.)
The guy in front of me asked why I was taking photos. When I told him I’m a food writer, he said that he is working to franchise Vito’s. Since we were in the middle of getting our orders, and there was a huge line behind us, there was no time to discuss. He gave me his phone number, but I lost it, so alas, I can’t call him to find out more information, or to check around to see if this was just wishful thinking on his part.
Apparently, Vito Leone started as a street vendor in Bountiful, serving meatball subs, sausage sandwiches and ravioli from a food cart. He was working out of a food trailer, but now has a permanent location on Main Street. He’s only open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.or until he’s sold out.
My Philly was piled with steak strips, sauteed onions and peppers and blue cheese. (I wanted to order the mushroom Philly, but he was already out of mushrooms.). I ended up using a knife and fork to keep everything from oozing all over me. It was soooo good.
When we were leaving at about 1:30 p.m., dismayed customers were walking in the door and being told that Vito’s was sold out for the day.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think this one-man-band scenario would be pretty hard to franchise.
You might be able to duplicate the food and recipes at other locations. But a lot of the quirky charm might be lost if this place were “corporatized.” For instance, restaurant chains aren’t likely to rely on the honor system for payment — throwing in a $20 bill and fishing out your own change? No way.
Nor would they be likely to have a finite amount of food on hand, and then quit for the day once it’s gone. Who else but Vito could manage to cook and serve so many sandwiches alone? Who else would want to? But if you added more staff, stayed open longer hours, and had someone at the register ringing up your order, would it still be Vito’s?