SPARTA — Steve Frangieh was going to college and working part time at a job he called “crazy,” so he decided to take a break and maybe try something “I’d like.”
He talked with his father, Fred, who was just retiring after 30 years in the restaurant/deli business and the decision was made — open a small restaurant.
Then came another decision, what to call it.
“I used to be skinny,” said the young Frangieh, “but as I grew up … well, I have two older brothers, and …”
There it is, in big letters in front of 224 Sparta Ave.:
“Fat Stevo’s Cheesesteaks”
“You look around, see anyone else doing cheesesteaks?” He asked, rhetorically. “No. So here we are.”
And a look at the menu board heading tells it all: “Our ‘Not from Philly’ Cheesesteaks.”
Yes, you can get The Classic — the steak sandwich served in Philadelphia with Cheese Wiz, peppers, onions and mushrooms — but the variety goes on for 17 additional options.
The most popular, according to father and son, really is The Classic, although other top picks are Fat Stevo’s Cheesesteak and Cowboy Cheesesteak (sense a pattern here?) and ending with the Breakfast Cheesesteak with eggs, potatoes and cheese, and the BLT Cheesesteak, with, of course, bacon, lettuce and tomato.
A signature cheesesteak is also a restaurant challenge: eat three Big Stevo’s within an hour, and that meal plus your next meal are free. You also get a T-shirt and your “before and after” pictures on the wall.
So far, notes Steve, 18 people have accepted the challenge. On the wall is just one pair of pictures — a smiling challenger and his agonized, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” posture.
And for those who want to know in advance, the Fat Stevo’s Cheesesteak includes steak, pepper jack cheese, A1 Sauce, banana peppers, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, wedges, chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks.
Yes, eat three of them, and get a T-shirt … extra large.
Steve said customers are also liking the mozzarella sticks, which “are not just coated, they are dipped in a beer batter before being fried.”
The original menu was devised during a weekend at the Frangieh household.
Fred and his wife, Hiam, and their three sons, Steve, John and Thomas, began coming up with ideas for cheesesteak alternatives.
“We’d think of something and she would cook it up,” said Fred, who worked in and owned small eateries throughout Sussex County over the past three decades. His wife still works at G&S Deli in Newton.
Some ideas they liked and others were rejected. There were three additions to the menu earlier this month and additional ones are coming in February, the restaurant’s first anniversary.
Those additional items might be a Teriyaki chicken which, he said, “will be quite good when it’s done right. We’re also looking at a Taco Cheesesteak.”
Along with the one-year anniversary menu addition, might also come a food truck to visit the various festivals in the county during the year and purchase of their building, which is under negotiations now.
“The town has been very good to us,” said Fred Frangieh, referring to customers and their reaction to the eatery. He said the business was invited to a couple of outdoor events in town, which have drawn customers to the Sparta Avenue location.
As to the restaurant being closed on Sunday, Fred said, “I’ve never worked on Sunday.”
“Yeah, we might be passing up business, but, it’s always been for me and the boys and my wife.”
Bruce A. Scruton can also be contacted on Twitter: @brucescrutonNJH or by phone: 973-383-1224