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Gino's Burgers and Chicken celebrates its Grand Opening in King of Prussia

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The message below the outside sign of Gino's Burgers and Chicken  in King Of Prussia said it best:

We're Back!

For most fans of Gino's, it seemed like an eternity, but the wait is over.Gino's Burgers and Chicken in King Of Prussia. Photo: Joe Vallee Sr.

For the first time in almost 30 years, they were once again able to taste the famous Gino Giant. And better yet, they could have one for just $0.59 cents.

Yes Gino's (No, NOT Joey Vento's famous cheesesteak establishment on Passyunk Avenue), the famous fast food chain whose Gino Giant hamburger preceded the Big Mac (and for the record, it's better!!), celebrated it's grand re-opening Sunday in King Of Prussia with $0.59 cent Gino Giants (1970's prices were featured from 12pm to 3pm), dancers on stilts, sketch artists, and the same quality and class that made Gino's one of the premiere fast food chains on the East Coast for decades.

Now called Gino's Burgers and Chicken, Gino's was the North Atlantic outlet for Kentucky Fried Chicken for the better part of the 1960's, 70's and early 1980's, until it was sold to the Marriott Corporation in 1982. Gino's was once a proud sponsor of the Phillies, and their commercials featured such personalities as Soupy Sales  and Muhammad Ali.

Gino's was founded by Baltimore Colts' NFL Hall Of Famer Gino Marchetti in 1Gino's Burgers and Chicken in King Of Prussia. Photo: Joe Vallee Sr.957. The first franchise originated in Baltimore, but expanded throughout the east coast in the 1960's and 1970's. Even though he is still approached by fans expressing their love for his restaurant, the humble Marchetti never dreamed he would see the day that the franchise he helped launch over fifty years ago, would return with so much fanfare.

"It just amazes me," says Marchetti. "I've had people come and see me from Baltimore and talk about Gino's."

At 83 years of age, Marchetti is still an intimidating figure standing tall at at 6'4 inches. A long-time resident of West Chester, PA, Marchetti also served as the ribbon cutter for the day's ceremonies and is still highly involved in the franchise's revival.

"I sort of help out around here. Not full time, I'm too old," Marchetti laughs.

This was a special day for Marchetti as well as his friend Louis Fischer (who helped Marchetti launch Gino's along with late Colts fullback Alan Ameche). Fischer, the father of ten children, came up from Florida for the festivities.

"I never thought Gino's would come back. Ever. Tom (Gino's President Tom Romano) got the idea and we've been talking about it for a couple years. He convinced us it was a good idea and he was right. Our old slogan was 'Everybody goes to Gino's.' Maybe everybody still goes to Gino's," laughs Fischer.

Although the majority of the Gino's franchises last closed their doors in the mid-eighties, the interest in Gino's has never wavered. Former employees have fond memories of their experiences at Gino's, including Mike Mitchell from Langhorne.

"I worked at Gino's from 1968 till maybe part of 1970," says Mitchell. "My memories are fantastic. Gino's Burgers and Chicken in King Of Prussia. Photo: Joe Vallee Sr.There are friends of mine who I worked with at Gino's who are here today who I haven't seen in 40 years. "I worked with my brother cooking chicken with all the pressure cookers. We used to make the french fries. We peeled the potatoes and cut them ourselves. We even shredded the lettuce. Nothing was ever pre-made. I didn't even now about this grand opening until yesterday. We were over cleaning at my mother's house, and I found my Gino's employee pin after 40 years just yesterday. 1970 was probably the last time I had a Gino Giant. I was driving down the road today, saw the Gino's sign, and it gave me chills. It was like going back in time."

Barry Becker from Philadelphia, has been to the current Gino's location three times since its October 25th opening. According to Becker, he thinks the Gino Giant tastes just as good as it did decades ago.

"It's awesome. The quality is definitely there," says Becker. "I saw Gino walking around andGino's Burgers and Chicken in King Of Prussia. Photo: Joe Vallee Sr. I just want to thank him. I haven't had a Gino Giant in close to 35 years!"

NFL Hall Of Famers Tommy McDonald and former Colts teammate Art Donovan were on hand to celebrate the grand opening as well.

"We made a point to make sure we came because I wanted to see Gino!" exclaimed McDonald. "The way things are going for him I kind of wish I was his brother right now!"

"This is so exciting. It's a dream come true," says President and CEO Tom Romano at the ribbon cutting ceremonies. "Americans just love their burgers. We've elevated the typical quality of fast food to fresh meat and a fresh burger. That's how Gino's started. A lot of us remember the 60's and the 70's. Everyday the quality of our lives just got better. We want to connect to those happy times again. The Camaro is coming back from the 60's and 70's, Frankie Valli and Jersey Boys are starring down in Philly, and Gino's is starring here in King Of Prussia."

 

And with today's turnout of an estimated 1,000 customers, it looks like the rebirth of Gino's Burgers and Chicken is just getting started.

Very special thanks to Peg Varani

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

Photos: Joe Vallee Sr. (JosephV985@aol.com)