Like most of the immigrants that flooded through the gates of Ellis Island at the turn of the century, Pietro Piegari and his family had a dream. Waving farewell to their home in San Gregorio Magno, Italy, they set sail across the Atlantic in search of a new life in 1903. Despite having arrived in the “land of promise,” however, the Piegaris still needed to find steady work.
So, swept up in the migration of hundreds of other hopeful Italian immigrants (plus quite a few English, Irish, Scots and Welsh), they settled in the booming coal mining community of Krebs, Oklahoma when Pietro was only 8 years old. Little did he know, that decision would change his family’s life for generations to come…
Three years after his arrival, at the tender age of 11, Pietro signed on to work in the coal mines, changing his name officially to “Pete Prichard.” Through hard work and determination, he managed to carve out an honest, though meager living. But a life spent toiling in the mines was a dangerous one; for most men, the possibility of a disaster was not a matter of “if” but
“when.” And in 1916, at just 21 years old, tragedy finally struck. A massive cave-in nearly cost Pete his life. He survived, but the accident crushed his leg so badly, he couldn’t return to work once he recovered, and was forced to take on whatever odd jobs he could find around town. Then one day, Pete made a fateful discovery…
Since the cave-in at the coal mine, Pete found it very difficult to find work. He drifted from one job to the next, his bad leg aching and his spirits sagging. To help pass the time, Pete took an interest in brewing beer. Bored with the same old European styles of beer, he happened upon a unique recipe brewed by the local Native American tribe, the Choctaw, which made use
of the plentiful supply of golden wheat that swept across the plains of Oklahoma. Pete rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He experimented and tested, until he perfected his own version, which he named after the very people who inspired it: choc® beer. Turns out, that was just the beginning of a whole new life for Pete…
Then in 1919, with his refined recipe in hand, Pietro “Pete” Piegari began selling his now famous choc® Beer, brewed right in his own home. Before long, other immigrant miners began gathering at his house regularly to relax and enjoy a beer during breaks. Well, it only seemed natural to start fixing the men a hearty lunch to go along with it, serving up generous
“family-style” helpings of homemade Italian specialties like spaghetti, meatballs, ravioli, and sausage. In 1925, Pete officially opened a restaurant in his home, and since everyone had always just called it “Pete’s Place,®” the name sort of stuck. Things were finally looking up for ol’ Pete. That is, until Prohibition came along…
The new Prohibition laws forced Pete to start brewing his popular beer in secret down in his basement, cooking up large batches in big ceramic crocks and bottling the results by hand. But eventually, the law did catch up with him. He served two terms in jail, and had to “flatten his time” when prison officials and politicians refused to parole
him—mostly because they’d never had a better cook behind bars! Prohibition was eventually repealed in the late ’50s, but home-brewed beverages remained illegal since they didn’t bear the proper liquor stamps. Of course, that never stopped Pete, who kept on serving choc® Beer to restaurant regulars for decades to come. That’s when his grandson Joe stepped in…
In 1964, Pete turned the operation of the restaurant over to his son, Bill, but the affable old man with the distinctive limp continued to make ravioli by hand, feeding a steady stream of regulars, from governors and US congressmen to sports icons and movie stars. Bill and his wife, Catherine, handed over the business to their son Joe and his wife Kathy in 1984, where they
continue the Prichard family legacy to this day. But there was still one little problem: the beer everyone knew and loved was still technically illegal. Not until 1995–thanks to Joe’s tireless efforts–could you enjoy a handcrafted choc® beer legally for the first time in sixty years. So open a bottle and raise a toast: This one’s for Pete!