Mark Onorato, 57, of Mantua, Gloucester County, who worked in and managed his family's George's Sandwich Shop in the Italian Market for more than 40 years, died Monday, July 31, at his home.
The cause of death was sepsis, which followed his treatment for stomach cancer that had metastasized in his brain, said his daughter, Audrey. "He fought a heck of a battle," Audrey Onorato said, adding that he had been diagnosed four months ago.
Mr. Onorato was often called "George." He was the third generation to run the shop, which opened in 1936 and carries the simple slogan: "Sandwiches you will like."
A classic hole-in-the-wall, George's has an ordering window on Ninth Street just off Christian Street, and — if you have a few minutes between Route 47 buses — an eight-seat counter inside. Its menu features not only the familiar cheesesteaks and roast pork but stewed tripe, veal, and meatball sandwiches.
Mr. Onorato and his wife, Gilda, met 32 years ago when she was assistant food-and-beverage director at a Center City nightclub where he was moonlighting as a disc jockey.
"Our first date was a hockey game," Gilda Onorato said. "I didn't understand hockey. He was a sports nut, and such a good husband and father."
Audrey Onorato also said her father also was "a big foodie. Boy, could he eat. Whenever I cooked, he'd have four plates full."
She said her father enjoyed watching Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods shows and was happy to appear on camera when the TV food shows came to call. He also appeared in a "Fly, Eagles, Fly" commercial two seasons ago.
Her father's illness prompted a career change for her. At 26, she had worked alongside her father at the store, owned by a cousin, John Bellios. But during her father's treatments, she said, she saw the "amazing nurses who made him feel comfortable." She intends to enter nursing school this year. Family members will run the shop, she said.
As the shop's public face, Mr. Onorato "lived and died through that store," his daughter said. "He loved what he did. He always said, 'If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life.'"
Mr. Onorato was a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus.
Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by his mother, Olga, a brother, and two sisters.