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Cheesesteaks finally on the menu for Newport News students in Philly

Andrea Castillo
Contact Reporteracastillo@dailypress.com

It was the last day in Philadelphia for the students at Peninsula Catholic High School, and they still had not eaten the city's most famous dish, a Philly cheesesteak.

Senior Patrick O'Neil unsuccessfully tried to make an appeal to theology teacher Billy Gargaro to allow for a pit stop, but Gargaro was on a mission to keep everyone together and in place for Mass with Pope Francis later that afternoon.

Having to share responsibility for 25 high school students, it was probably for the best.

"I would love a Philly cheesesteak, to be honest, but we just can't do it," he said.

Once the group found a spot within the ticket-restricted area for Mass, some of the boys started looking for their food holy grail.

They considered leaving the grounds for one of the restaurants the group passed on the way in.

"I will gladly get checked out a second time for a Philly cheesesteak," said junior Dominic Adinaro.

"They can check us as many times as they want," O'Neil said.

Another one of the bunch came over to the group from a vendor's tent.

"They don't have anywhere in this area," said Keegan Baker, a senior. A tent boasting "Philly favorites" was deemed unsatisfactory.

After weighing the cost of the sandwiches at a nearby food truck, the guys eventually made their way into the line.

Junior Miggy Almirante lamented "How are we in Philly and don't have Philly cheesesteaks?"

"We are never going to get it, not in this area," responded Thienan Nguyen, a junior.

Junior Mitchell Woods mentioned to the group that he saw someone with a pizza.

Zachary Abdallah put his foot down to that idea.

"We've waited in this line too long," the junior said.

One by one, most of them left with roast beef or pork sandwiches. Close, but no cigar.

Abdallah gave his a 7.

"Adequate, but I need my wiz wit," he said.

"Wait, are you grading it on the fact that it's good, or you're hungry?" Nguyen asked.

Almirante reminisced with his brother Luigi about a family trip when the family ate Philly cheesesteaks at three different restaurants.

"That was wiz wit, and it was one of the best," Miggy Almirante said. "This does not compare."

Nevertheless, most of the boys scarfed down their sandwiches.

"It's pretty tasty," Adinaro said.

Fast forward a few hours later. The students had seen Pope Francis ride by a second time in his popemobile. He then celebrated Mass with some hundred thousand people in attendance.

After that, the Peninsula Catholic group walked roughly 2 miles to wait in a line for the train to them to their buses. A block's worth of progress took about an hour.

And then, a woman walked past O'Neil selling — you guessed it — Philly cheesesteaks.

O'Neil hurriedly gathered money from friends and bought six.

"Eleven out of 10," he said as he ate.

"It makes the wait that much sweeter."

The turn of events reaffirmed senior Koleman Joy's faith in a higher power.

"There is a god," he said. "There is a cheesesteak."

Castillo can be reached by phone at 757-247-4635.

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