By Theodore N. Beitchman

Slim and trim Pete Ciarrocchi is dressed for success in a snappy sports jacket, chambray shirt and pocket square.

And, boy is he excited on this late January Wednesday afternoon.

Not because his son Pete is at Boston College and sons Blaise and Anthony are at Penn Charter. His wife Lisa (a former Eagles cheerleader) is at home in Rydal. And he does get excited about his family. Just not now!

Not because his Chickie’s & Pete’s empire has grown to 18 sports bars with 1,400 employees.

Not because ESPN has chosen Chickie’s as the best sports bar in North America — which would include Philly — too many times to count. And the 2nd best airport bar in the USA by USA Today, naturally.

Not because he is a proud investor in the Philadelphia Soul Arena Football League team along with Ron Jaworski and Dick Vermeil.


What’s got Pete’s enthusiasm level even higher than normal today is a potato chip.

A Herr’s potato chip, called the Crab Fry Chip, which will be ready for sale and in Wawa’s all over the region by Super Sunday — February 7.

“Taste it,” Pete says like my company commander in Navy boot camp.

It does taste just like the Crab Fries that have been Chickie’s & Pete’s signature dish for almost 40 years.

And the Herr’s folks have come to 15th and Packer for a taste and tell.

“Life is good!” the 58-year old Ciarrocchi admits with a broad smile.


Chickie’s & Pete’s, a 24,000-square-foot building at 15th and Packer —within a mile of the Wells Fargo Center, Citizens Bank Park and the Linc — was a Super Fresh before Pete opened it on July 4, 2003, as the third location in what has become an American sports bar empire.

He opened the original in 1977 at Robbins and Frankford; and a location at 11500 Roosevelt Blvd. was added in 1999; Bordentown was next, and now there are C&P’s at Parx Casino, the Tropicana in Atlantic City, Egg Harbor, a new one is planned for Rowan University in Glassboro — and don’t forget the Hershey location and one in Minnesota!

The mother ship at 15th and Packer seats 750 and has 50 flat screens, though it has a unique sense of intimacy that is rare for a sports bar.

“This bar is the closest thing I can imagine to going to a game,” Pete says. “We like to call it an ‘in-game experience.’”

And Pete has also expanded into the game — literally. There are three Chickie’s and Pete’s stands at Citizens Bank Park (“We’re doing great; you wouldn’t know that the stands have been half-filed the last couple of years!”) three at the Wells Fargo Center and 22 at the Linc, including one 200-seat club box — the Touchdown Club — for which patrons pay $8,000 a seat per season, including all the C&P food and drink one can consume!

Not to mention catering Eagles’ training camp at the NovaCare complex.


Pete is 58 and grew up in the Northeast, where most of his friends were Jewish, and attended Hebrew school every Tuesday and Thursday after their regular school sessions were over.

“I guess I got lonely, so I signed up for Hebrew school too,” he says, quickly reciting a perfectly acceptable version of the Hebrew prayer for wine.

Pete’s dad owned Cold Cut City on Robbins Ave. and his mom — whose nickname was Chickie — sent him to Solis Cohen elementary, Fels Junior High and Northeast High. Pete wasn’t a bad student, but he always had a yen for the food game.

“Cold Cut City wasn’t my idea of what I wanted for my life, so as soon as I could I started searching for a location to open for myself,” Pete says. “And I spotted a place on Robbins Avenue called Wally’s that was owned by a guy who wanted to sell. So I made him an offer and we got a sign made with the name Chickie & Pete’s. But the sign came back Chickie’s and Pete’s, and rather than wait for a new sign we changed our name. You got to be flexible in business!”

Pete doesn’t really qualify as a small business owner in the strictest sense of the term — 1,400 employees is not small — but he has maintained a small business owner’s attitude: watch the cash flow, stay on top of the day-to-day operation (he works 80 hours a week) and pay attention to the details and the customers.

“You can’t believe how loyal our customers are,” he says with awe. “Sure, we get a big South Philly contingent, but we have regulars who come from Jersey, Northeast Philly and the Main Line.

“We provide a great night out for families — good food and drink, a friendly environment and 50 TVs!”

C&P has a basic menu of about 10 items, with heavy concentration on seafood — mussels, clams, crab and the biggest seller: crab fries, which is the biggest ticket at Pete’s locations in the stadiums. There are seemingly hundreds of beers available, and he manages to keep prices low for a Bud draft and a 20-ounce Heineken draft by concentrating on volume.

“You would be surprised by our food/liquor split,” Pete says. “It’s about 68 percent food and 32 percent liquor, and that works well for our business.”

He is naturally reluctant to discuss how profitable his company is, but the margins on Chickie’s & Pete’s are significantly higher than the 19 fine dining locations that the Starr Restaurant Organization maintains in Philly.


Pete loves to work the room, and even though the only “celebs” this Wednesday lunch are Ray Didinger and Mark Eckel, Eagles’ reporters extraordinaire, he stops to say hello — and not just because Didinger often comes to Chickie’s with his WIP crew.

“Hey Ray, what about Bradford? Will Pederson keep him?” Pete asks, just like any other Eagles fan.

Well, not quite.

A lot of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers and Flyers players are customers, drawn as many of us are to the atmosphere, which can be raucous and subdued at the same time because this place is so damned big.

Then it’s off to another table to huddle with his marketing crew and the Herr’s folks about the new Crab Fry chip and how to leverage this newest Herr’s product with some of the beer companies that supply his empire.

“A bag of chips with a case of beer?” he asks.

“It would have to be a pretty big bag.”

Just then, his phone beeps — it’s a slew of customer comments that come in and go right to Pete’s phone.

“24/7/365,” he says proudly.

And what about quality control in the many new C&P’s that are being teed up for faraway places?

“We send our guys out to check,” he snaps back. “That’s what the QR [quick response] code is for!”

You can’t tell it on a Wednesday afternoon, but come to any Chickie’s on Super Sunday or the night of any Flyers game, especially a home game, and you experience:

Sports bar as singles bar!

And if you think Pete gets excited about the new Herr’s Crab Fry chip, you ought to see him when young women in Flyers shirts are cheek by jowl with young guys talking blue lines, 5-on-5’s, hip checks, etc., as the Flyers are playing on the 50 TV’s:

At about 6 p.m., an hour before a Flyers game starts, and you can barely move.

Overweight men wearing Flyers jerseys mix in easily with nattily dressed businessman; young women with seemingly no sports interest — with the exception of cruising for guys — are coming in in droves, and the managers and servers are hopping.

Just then, at about 6:30, Pete walks in, and people from all walks of society bow and scrape.

The union guys all know him. So do the mothers and grandmothers.

“Obviously, we feed off of the events at the sports complex,” Pete says, “and there is not another city in the country — maybe even the world — that has four major sports teams concentrated in one area of a city. And it is true that the best sports for us are hockey and football. But we draw from all areas of the city and we get customers of all ages.”

Throw in a bag of Herr’s Crab Fry chips and you see why Pete Ciarrocchi’s life is good.

And so is his super sports bar!



About admin

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply