PIETRO PIEGARI TRAVELED with his family from San Gregorio Magno, Italy, to the coal mining community of Krebs, Oklahoma, in 1903. Three years later the boy officially changed his name to Pete Prichard when he signed on to work in the mines. He was eleven years old.
Pete grew from boy to man in the mines, and was twenty-one when a cave-in almost took his life, crushing one of his legs so badly that he was unable to return to work.
Taking any odd jobs he could find, the enterprising young immigrant soon began making and selling Choc beer from his home. The home brew originated in Indian Territory, and the recipe had passed from the Indians in the area to the Italian immigrants.
Soon men began gathering in Pete's home to buy and drink Choc. It seemed a natural progression for Pete to begin fixing food to accommodate the men's appetites. Old timers recall that Pete began his food preparation by fixing lunches for the English, Irish, Scot, Welsh and Italians who swarmed into the area to work jobs available in the rich coal mines.
In 1925, Pete officially open a restaurant in his home. His customers were accustomed to going to "Pete's Place," so the name, too, was a natural evolution. The menu included homemade spaghetti, meatballs, ravioli, sausage, and other Italian dishes served family style, along with the Choc beer which was soon outlawed by the federal prohibition act.
Eventually, Pete expanded his menu, adding salad, lamb fries, veal, chicken and steak. And he began making a red wine, an appropriate beverage for his Italian dishes. The wine, like the Choc, was also a violation of federal law.
Old timers recall that in the late nineteen thirties and forties, when Japanese Americans were interned during World War II, first generation citizens from nations like Germany and Italy, countries which were America's enemies at the time, were not allowed to have weapons in their possession. During that period, Pete had a new challenge: operating an eating establishment with no knives.
Other old timers in the area recall that for several years, Pete provided a special reward to those who attended Christmas mass. As they came from church after the midnight service, Pete opened his restaurant to serve supper.
In 1964, after Pete turned operation of the restaurant over to his son, Bill, the man who began Pete's Place continued to make ravioli by hand every day to feed an ever-increasing clientele, which included U.S. senators, governors, congressmen, legislators, sports and movie stars, and celebrities from every field, many of whom sampled the still-illegal home-brewed beer and wine.
In 1984, Bill and Catherine Prichard turned the business to the next generation of Prichards: Joe and Kathy, who continue to operate the restaurant today.