PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Almost synonymous with Philadelphia — the cheesesteak.
Pat’s Steaks is known to have debuted the original cheesesteak back in 1933.
“This wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my uncle Pat who invented both the steak sandwich and the cheesesteak sandwich,” said owner Frank Olivieri.
And what better way to celebrate the sandwich than on National Cheesesteak Day, celebrated on March 24 each year.
Whether their allegiances lie with Pat’s, Geno’s, Jim’s, or elsewhere, there is one clear consensus.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth,” said Wally Mayton, visiting from Michigan.
But this year, the celebration happens to fall on a Friday during Lent, when practicing Catholics abstain from eating meat.
“Ever since I was a child, we had no meat on Fridays during Lent. We try to do it year round to keep up with the tradition and follow the religion,” said Marcello DiPietro of southern New Jersey.
Some Catholics, like Chris Beless from Atlanta, say they hope the Archbishop of Philadelphia will pardon them for the day.
“It was worth it. It was worth the sin. That’s really good,” Beless said.
“We actually got a letter from the pope saying you’re exempt. You can eat a cheesesteak and he’s going to exempt you,” joked Geno Vento, owner of Geno’s Steaks in South Philadelphia.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia tells Eyewitness News though there was a dispensation for St. Patrick’s Day, the archbishop will not be making an exemption for the cheesesteak “holiday,” something Father John Large of Saint Paul Parish in Philadelphis says is to be expected.
“I don’t know if [the Archbishop] is an absolver of cheesesteak sins. I haven’t seen that in a confessional manual. However, being a Catholic, I’m not going to eat meat today,” Large said. “If it happens to fall this way and it’s only once every so many years, I think Catholics can refrain from it.”
Father Rob Sinatra of Saint Padre Pio Parish in Vineland, New Jersey, says a sacrifice is a part of Lent.
“Sacrifice during Lent helps build your spiritual muscles. Taking away something good or adding another discipline builds up that internal strength within you so when temptation of sin comes around, it makes our ability to turn away from sin all that much more easy to do,” Sinatra said.