Since its spring opening, Chick’s continues to be a crowd-pleaser among customers and critics
By Bill Gelman
When people talk about eating on the avenue, they’re usually referring to East Passyunk Avenue, a foodie destination that continues to generate national buzz.
When the husband-and-wife team of Philip and Gina Narducci started drawing up plans for a new restaurant concept two years ago, they picked a spot on the other avenue, 1805 Washington Ave. to be exact. We are talking about a block that includes an Advance Auto Parts, Chew Playground and other small businesses. When the Philadelphia Eagles were playing the Washington Redskins on Sunday, the 100-seat Chick’s is where the standing-room-only crowd gathered. But it wasn’t just to watch the game — the customers were there enjoying the great food and cocktails that have been receiving their share of buzz from critics. Chick’s is included on the Zagat’s list of Best New Restaurants and Bars in Philadelphia, as well as Hottest Bars in Philadelphia.
Not bad for a restaurant that welcomed its first guests in April. Channel 6 also did a segment at the restaurant over the weekend.
Reaching “hot in Philly” status included its share of nervous moments, as it’s part of the turf that comes with any new restaurant, but the husband-and-wife team couldn’t be happier with the way things are going.
“You can’t get a better rating. It makes us proud,” Philip said.
“We have a good thing here,” Gina said.
Like a newborn baby, Gina and Philip are dedicating endless hours to overseeing its development. The Chick’s team started with baby steps, focusing on lunch and dinner service the first month. They introduced weekend brunch a month later. Doing 200 to 300 covers on Friday and Saturday nights is becoming a weekly routine.
The gnocchi, chicken wings, mussels (Pho, Italian Market, traditional or Chick’s style) and hamburgers are some of the much talked about menu items. Others are coming in for the 12- or 18-inch pizza pies, which are on a separate menu, with many of them having a creative name that coincides with the toppings. Sergeant pepper may sound like something made famous by the legendary Beatles, but in Chick’s case, the name ties into the type of pepperoni they use. It includes tomato, mozzarella, grana padano, cup and char pepperoni. The big rock, which consists of tomato, fior di latte, provolone, sweet Italian sausage and basil, is another one of the top sellers.
Starting Monday, new chef William Carroll is coming aboard to lead the kitchen team at Chick’s. He will handle rolling out some new yet to be announced fall items to the menu, such as soups, new burgers and seasonal specials. So far, “consistency” has been the main ingredient to the restaurant’s quick rise to the top of the Philly scene. Gina and Philip take a hands-on approach to making sure the food offerings are up to par.
“If we find something is off a little, we will taste the food and tell the kitchen [staff] so they can get it back on track,” Gina said.
The management team also seeks feedback from the customers. With so many great restaurants to choose from around South Philly, there is little room for error. Pleasing the regulars and new customers on a daily basis has been a top priority for Gina and Phillip, who are known to put in 16-hour days at the restaurant.
“We want to make people happy,” Gina said.
This restaurant passion project marks a major career change for Gina, who spent more than 20 years working in the school system, which included working on the administrative end at String Theory Charter Schools. While the two fields may seem completely different on paper, Gina sees the similarities between the two.
“It’s the same principle as when you are managing people. You’re doing schedules and keeping everybody motivated,” she said.
Philip has previous experience in the food and entertainment industry, but this is the first in which he has the food and liquor under the same roof. Chick’s offers 24 beers on tap and a total of 60 different selections. Like the food, the restaurant adjusts the beer menu based on the season. The team counts on assistant manager Jayne Campbell and bartender/bar manager Angie Walsh to stay on top of the wine, beer and cocktail selections.
As far as the time commitment goes, Gina responded “I always worked 16-hour days.”
Besides the food, Chick’s has a Cheers-like vibe to it. Yes, we are talking about the hit NBC sitcom from the 1980s and 90s where the staff and customers shouted “NORM!” everytime Norm Peterson arrived. Early Monday afternoon, Gina and Phillip were sitting at a table for two by the front door of the restaurant having a conversation, but each time a customer walked in, Philip and Gina made sure to say hello, even wishing one customer happy birthday. It fits in with the lyrics to the show’s theme song … Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. …
With condos and new retail stores under construction at Broad Street and Washington Avenue, Chick’s is expected to continue playing a big part in the revitalization of Washington Avenue.
1805 Washington Ave.