Written by Steve Mosco Thursday, 07 August 2014 00:00
A restaurant chain that got its start in Bethpage could soon return to nest.
The flagship location for the brand new Pudgie’s Naked Chicken Co. launched last week on Hicksville Road in Massapequa — in the Uncle Giuseppe’s shopping center — with plenty of fanfare and a line of close to 50 customers who showed up early for gift cards good for one free meal per week for a year, a promotion that had many first-time customers clucking excited.
“A free meal once a week for year, there is nothing wrong with that,” said Alan Pess, whose early bird effort, along with his sister Michele, was good for first in line. “I remember the original Pudgie’s from back in the day. It was good then and their new approach sounds even better.”
The franchise eatery’s original incarnation, Pudgie’s Famous Chicken, got its start in Bethpage in the early 80s. But after plenty of initial success, many locations on the island were closed due to financial failings. And while a couple of the orginal restaurants remain, the brand’s owner, TruFoods, LLC, is excited to rebrand the proudly remembered poultry.
“It feels great to bring this place back to where it was born and update it, bring it into the 21st century, with fresher, higher quality menu offerings,” said Gary Occhiogrosso, president and CDO of
TruFoods, LLC, who was busy breading chicken and tending to customers on opening day.
Occhiogrosso said there is already interest from three individuals to open franchises, including in Bethpage and Amityville. He said the Pudgie’s goal is to set a new standard for quality food, served quickly, without the heat lamps and grease of typical fast food establishments.
“When people walk into the new Pudgie’s, they understand it’s not a fast food joint with heat lamps and boxed food,” he said. “They walk in and see the level of quality in the environment and the menu offerings. We cook our food fresh and our chicken is fried fresh. It’s not sitting in a heater. It is worth waiting for.”
As for the grand opening in Massapequa, Occhiogrosso said the free meal promotion brought in plenty of attention, but he believes the quality of the product will bring customers back.
“We couldn’t believe the crowd, it was like we were giving away iPhones,” said Occhiogrosso, adding that he and his crew “muscled through” the frenetic pace of that first morning, performing better and better with each shift. “We have a great group of young people working here, local kids, many from high school and college.”