PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In Philly, there’s a food that’s synonymous with our sports. We aren’t talking about cheesesteaks, pretzels or water ice … we’re talking about Crabfries.
The famous fries have been a staple from Chickie’s & Pete’s for the last four decades. CBS3 sat down with Chickie’s & Pete’s owner and Crabfries creator Pete Ciarrocchi to find out how this recipe came to be.
So what is the story behind the Crabfries?
“It was really an accident,” Ciarrocchi said.
In 1977, Ciarrocchi was in charge of ordering the ingredients for the restaurant, especially the ingredients for the crabs during their busy season.
“I would order the seasoning, would look to see what we had, and order more,” Ciarrocchi said. “But this time I just over-ordered. It was already September and crabs were going to stop in October, and we had all this seasoning and my father was like what are we going to do with all this.”
Ciarrocchi came up with the idea to use the crab spices on potatoes. He would then let his customers try his different creations.
“I would make them, let them try, and the next day change it,” he said. “Then the customers would say, I liked it better the day before.”
He did this until he could not perfect it anymore. At 21 years old, Ciarrocchi trademarked Chickie’s & Pete’s Crabfries. Meaning you can only call them Crabfries if they’re from Chickie’s & Pete’s.
After hearing the story, Ciarrocchi’s younger brother Tommy Ciarrocchi took CBS3 into their South Philadelphia kitchen and showed how they make their signature fries perfect every time.
“We cook them until they are golden brown,” Tommy Ciarrocchi said. “No longer, no shorter. Then we bring them over to our dump station, and then we supply the gold.”
Crabfries seasoning, he means.
“And they are not finished until we have the liquid gold,” he said.
This time he means their special Philadelphia cream cheese sauce.
Today, you can find Chickie’s & Pete’s across the country, not just in every stadium and arena in Philadelphia. And if you are wondering how many of these fries they make in a year? Pete Ciarrocchi says it’s around five million pounds. Proving their perfected crinkle-cut fry is still a fan favorite.
“You know to be an ambassador to the city sports like I feel that I am,” he said, “it’s a great honor to hold that. And I don’t do it myself, I have a great team behind me that makes Chickie’s & Pete’s what it is today.”