S. Phila. cousins settle steak legacy

Posted: August 22, 2007

Rick and Frank Olivieri - the South Philadelphia cousins whose grandfathers, legend goes, invented the Philly steak sandwich about 75 years ago - yesterday settled the federal trademark lawsuit over who has the right to claim lineage to the throne of the king of steaks.

Trouble is, the settlement of the suit filed last year by Frank - owner of Pat's King of Steaks at Ninth and Wharton Streets - against Rick - owner of Rick's Original Philly Steaks at Reading Terminal Market - is confidential.

FOR THE RECORD - CLEARING THE RECORD, PUBLISHED OCTOBER 31, 2007, FOLLOWS: The Inquirer incorrectly reported in an Aug. 22 article that Rick Olivieri, owner of Rick's Original Philly Steaks at Reading Terminal Market, sued the market after it threatened to evict him. In fact, Olivieri sued the market for not offering him a new lease before the market went to court seeking an eviction order.

That means it will be up to veteran customers and South Philly cognoscente to parse the ads and shops of the two cousins to figure out how peace was achieved.

"I'm happy with the settlement and I'm sure my cousin Rick is as well," said Frank Olivieri, 43.

"It's an agreement we can both live with," said Rick, 42. "Everybody is happy."

For Rick Olivieri especially, the settlement means one less front on which to battle. He continues to cook at the space at the market that his family's business has occupied for 25 years, but officials of Reading Terminal Market Corp., the nonprofit that runs the historic farmers' market, have sued to evict him.

Rick Olivieri has, in turn, sued Reading Terminal Market, contending that the threatened eviction is retaliation for his work as president of the market's merchants group in lease negotiations during the last three years.

Both lawsuits are pending in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court with no court dates in sight.

The trademark infringement suit between the cousins was all the more confusing because of the tortuous biological and corporate lineage.

Pat's King of Steaks, The Old Original Still run by the Olivieri Family, is the original sandwich shop opened during the Depression by brothers Pasquale "Pat" and Harry Olivieri.

Frank, the owner of Pat's, is Harry's grandson. Rick, the owner of Rick's, is Pat's grandson.

The family line divided when Pat and his son, Herbert, (Rick's father) moved to expand and created franchises of Pat's King of Steaks. Ultimately, Pat became more interested in real estate and working as a boxing promoter, and Herbert became a lawyer and active in Republican politics.

About 25 years ago, the Olivieris closed the franchises and divided the family business. Harry and his son Frank Sr. (Frank's father) got the original business in South Philly. Herbert opened in Reading Terminal Market in a business originally named Olivieri's Prince of Steaks, a play on the fact that he was King Pat's son.

Rick Olivieri began managing the business, and in 1995, three years before Herbert died at age 64, renamed it after himself, although he continued to use the crown logo and mentioned his link to his grandfather, both of which were cited in the trademark lawsuit.

Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com.

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