Family, good friends and good food are the “not-so-secret” ingredients to the rapid success of Chico & Sons. Serving subs, pizza, salads and more, this South Jersey eatery is a celebration of this region’s favorite fare. Richard (Chico) DeCicco and two of his three sons: Richard Jr. and Michael, have partnered up with the goal of bringing the best of what South Jersey does best to your table. After all, #ThisIsNotYourAverageSubShop has become their official hashtag.

Since opening their doors in May, Chico & Sons’ popularity has rapidly grown and they are gearing up to open their second location in Atlantic City. “The response from the community and social media has been really cool to see,” Michael says. With a nearly impossible five-star rating record on Facebook and Google, there is clearly something that sets Chico & Sons apart from the average sub shop. “It’s simple, we’re all about the food,” says Richard Sr.

The classic redux (their food)

“We’re foodies first, we grew up in this business,” Michael says. While Richard Jr. explains that they worked in sub shops for over 15 years, they know this industry from the inside out. Starting out, the DeCicco family knew they wanted to offer the best version of a classic Jersey sub shop.

“We spent months taste-testing the meats before we opened,” Richard Jr. says. They also hand-bread their chicken cutlets and prepare all of their vegetables fresh. “A lot of shops will use canned veggies and mushrooms, we use only fresh ingredients and prepare everything here,” Richard Jr. says.

The “Chico’s Cutlet” ($9.25) features their hand-breaded chicken cutlet, house-made broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers and sharp provolone cheese served on a seeded Atlantic City roll. “Our cheesesteaks have also been really popular,” Michael adds. With cheesesteak options that include extra meat and cheese, veggies, pizza-style, buffalo chicken-style and more, it’s easy to see why this sub-shop staple is a favorite ($8.25 to $10.75). For a classic redux, try the “tuna crunch” ($8), a traditional tuna sub with plain or BBQ chips on it.

“In addition to doing the classics in a big way,” Michael says, “we wanted to be that place where a family, the wife, the kids could all get whatever they want.” According to Richard Jr., there’s not a “sub shop” where you can get a great piece of pizza, great wings or great salad, and there’s not a great “pizza shop” where you can get a great sub.

“We wanted to be the place where you can get it all,” Richard Jr. says, noting that Chico & Sons makes their own pizza dough.

They’ve also placed an emphasis on offering quality salads. “We’re not making typical sub shop salads, iceberg salads with some cold-cuts on top. We’re using a variety of lettuce, fresh vegetables, crumbled blue cheese, candied walnuts,” says Richard Sr.

Family style (family and experience)

To say that Chico & Sons is family owned and operated would be an understatement. While Richard Sr., Richard Jr. and Michael are partners in the eatery, their wives and many friends fill up the staff.

Both Richard Jr. and Michael work jobs outside of Chico & Sons. Richard Jr. is a full-time iron worker, out of local 399 Camden and Michael is a high school special education teacher. “Our main goal in opening our own business was so that our dad could retire from the casino and work as his own boss,” Michael says. After 25 years in the hospitality industry, working as a casino floor person, Richard Sr. has brought his expert customer service experience to the restaurant business.

“Customer service was really important to us,” Michael says. The DeCiccos did not want to create the often intimidating, unfriendly atmosphere most area sub shops are known for. “My wife hated ordering subs with everyone yelling and rushing you to order,” Richard Jr. says. We want to give the customers exactly what they want, explains Richard Jr., and that’s very friendly service.

The dynamic of family and friends working toward a shared goal, coupled with years of experience is a winning formula that makes each customer feel like the star guest at a DeCicco family get-together.

Brick and mortar

White subway tiles, clean lines and a stylish interior create an inviting space much different than the typical grab-and-go sub shop. With seating that can accommodate 25 to 35, and a BYO you may just want to eat-in. However, Chico & Sons also offers free delivery to surrounding towns, including delivery to the beach.

“I’m really happy with how well our catering has been going,” Richard Jr. says of its a variety of sub and salad trays that can accommodate up to 14 people (sub trays range from $60 to $88; salad trays range $20 to $45).

Extra meat (new location)

In addition to their current Northfield location, Chico & Sons is gearing up to open an Atlantic City location near the new Stockton campus some time this fall. They are even working closely with the university to accept Osprey Cards. “We want to have as much connection to Stockton as we can,” Richard Jr. says.