The News Reel

Fox 5 San Diego

Jan 17, 2023

Stanwood Group’s Franchise Consultant Chad Bickle Talks Successful Santucci’s Pizza Franchise Expansion

MARLTON, NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES, January 17, 2023 / — For over 60 years, The Santucci’s Original Square Pizza Restaurant Brand has been built on a solid foundation of family recipes, quality ingredients, and warm hospitality experience. Santucci’s Original Square Pizza is a family-run business established in 1959 in Philadelphia, PA. Today Santucci’s Pizza is the fastest growing pizza restaurant franchise to come out of the Philadelphia area with eight open restaurants, two additional locations coming soon to Mechanicsburg, PA, Media, PA and more on the way. This is all on the heels of recent location openings in Wildwood & Sewell, NJ along with Paoli, PA says Chad Bickle, CFC and Head of Franchise Development for Santucci’s Pizza and Vice President of Franchise Sales at The Stanwood Group.

The market for pizza is massive and growing, and franchise opportunities that feature pizza as a part of their offering are positioned for success. In the United States where pizza ranked as the 4th-most-craved food item, and where sales exceed $38 billion annually, with no signs of let-up, says Bickle “Our unique product stands out from anything else that is being offered as a pizza franchise and restaurant business option with their “sauce on top” pizza and expanded menu in newer locations offering a complete range of casual Italian dining options passed down from previous generations Now offering a complete range of casual Italian dining options, from appetizers to pastas to entrees to desserts, all prepared in an authentic Italian Style”, says Bickle

Memphis Business Journal

By Susan Ellis
Projects Editor, Memphis Business Journal
Jan 13, 2023

RockStar Martial Arts forms up move into Memphis market

The RockStar model is particularly focused on children and has launched an innovative anti-bullying program.

Fox 8 Cleveland

Jan 11, 2023

Groovy Smoovies Launches National Franchise Program with Acclaimed Franchise Developer Robert Katz

Hollywood Themed Groovy Smoovies Launches National Franchise Campaign with Acclaimed Franchise Developer Robert Katz of The Stanwood Group.

HADDONFIELD, NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES, January 11, 2023 / — Coming off the heels of a successful franchise launch event hosted by Shark Tank star Daymond John, Groovy Smoovies and The Stanwood Group are disrupting the franchise industry with unique concepts and attractive opportunities.

The Stanwood Group, an industry leading franchise development company based in New Jersey that specializes in the development and roll-out of emerging franchisors, recently announced its partnership with Groovy Smoovies, the Haddonfield, New Jersey Hollywood themed smoothie company.

The Stanwood Group will provide state of the art turn-key solutions and resources to support the movie themed smoothie company as they expand their brand with corporate locations and franchise opportunities.

Robert Katz, managing director of The Stanwood Group, was immediately impressed with Groovy Smoovies, “I knew the moment I walked in the door, smelled the fresh popcorn and tasted those addicting smoothies; a star was born.”

The birth of the brand was the brainchild of owner Antonne Jones who wanted to think outside of the box while conceptualizing the company. “Obviously I wanted to create great tasting drinks, but I also wanted to provide my customers with a memorable experience”, Jones detailed. “We opened during the pandemic, so I wanted ‘Groovy’ to be a happy place.”

With new locations opening in Ocean City, New Jersey this upcoming summer and Orlando, Florida later this year, they are also eyeing opportunities in similar shore points Margate, Cape May and Avalon, NJ.

The new Ocean City, NJ location sits right below the Blue Water Inn, one block from the boardwalk and three blocks from the busy business district on Asbury Avenue.

“The future looks bright for Groovy Smoovies”, says Robert Katz, who’s been building brands for over 20 years, “the best part of my job is getting to partner with great entrepreneurs like Antonne helping them grow their brands through franchising”, says Robert Katz.

Franchise Times

By Megan Glenn
Dec 16, 2022

RockStar Martial Arts Is More Than Just Cool Moves

RockStar Martial Arts wants to expand its kid-focused martial arts concept as it draws on themes of youth development combined with fitness. The brand, with seven studios in Texas’ Dallas-Fort Worth metro, grew out of the shared interest of its husband-and-wife founders, who say martial arts is here “forever.”

James Boecker has been in the martial arts business for about 40 years and had a competitive career before starting USA Martial Arts, which he built to eight locations. Shiva Boecker met James in 1998 after joining one of his kickboxing courses. After the sale of USA Martial Arts, Shiva had an idea: start another martial arts studio, but make it boutique.

“I was exposed to these beautiful, high-end boutique fitness studios,” she said. “I thought that was really lacking the martial arts space, so I want RockStar to be this high-end boutique.”

Boecker, who was born in Iran and fled the country with her family, studied biology and chemistry after arriving in the United States. Instead of pursuing a career in the medical field, however, she wanted to continue with martial arts because of its positive impact on her life and a desire to bring that change to others in a comfortable space.

RockStar Martial Arts offers a variety of jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai kickboxing and other self-defense classes for kids, plus classes geared toward teens and adults.

Within a year of opening in 2014, Boecker said clients were asking about the possibility of franchising. The couple started licensing schools at first, making the jump to franchising in late 2019. Because it was clients approaching Boecker, their growth to seven stores has mostly been organic so far.

When COVID hit in 2020, one of the ways RockStar adapted for the franchisees and customers was to provide digital lessons. That way, franchisees could keep their business going and customers could keep their routine. That sense of security was one of the reasons Josh Ruff was drawn to the company.

Ruff started studying martial arts at a young age, starting with Muay Thai, among others, and later adding Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He and his son run two RockStar locations between them in Texas, and he said so far the experience has been positive for both. The leadership is what attracted him in the first place, as well as the values of the company. Being a more child-focused brand, Ruff sees RockStar as a place for children to feel comfortable with themselves and learning martial arts.

“Shiva and James have been in this field for a long time, and they’ve got a great understanding of their system,” he said.

“It weighs on us heavily that people invested into us, so we always make sure we are available for our franchisees. Their success is our number one priority,” Boecker said. One support tool is RockStar University, which provides training plus quarterly marketing plans, creative schedules and more.

As Ruff put it, “James and Shiva are always there. They answer the phone and answer any questions you might have no matter what.”

RockStar also has an extensive anti-bullying program. According to Boecker, the program teaches children how to handle bullies verbally and physically. They also strive to teach their students leadership skills and develop their character for the future. After all, for many of the students, martial arts are a lifestyle.

“We like to be thought of as a kids-focused concept, not necessarily fitness,” she said. “After all, fitness can be such a fad, but kids and martial arts have been here forever.”

The Boeckers are focused on steady growth for RockStar and hope to open 10 new locations in 2023. Studios size is 1,500- to 2,000 square feet and the initial investment range is $201,060 to $355,100

Fox 59 Indianapolis

Dec 12, 2022


The ritzy-themed smoothie shop is hosting a meet and great with business magnate, investor and TV star Daymond John.

HADDONFIELD, NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES, December 12, 2022 / — Groovy Smoovies, an award-winning movie themed smoothie shop located in downtown Haddonfield, New Jersey will host a meet and great with his long time and former business partner Daymond John, on Wednesday, December 14th, 2022, from 7pm to 9pm.

John amassed $6 billion in product sales with his fashion company FUBU and is in his 13th season as a panelist on the ABC hit show, ‘Shark Tank. He’s also a NY Times best-selling author and named one of the top 50 public speakers in the world by ‘Real Leaders Magazine’

Groovy Smoovies owner Antonne Jones and John’s friendship began almost two decades ago which ultimately evolved into a business partnership. They formed ‘Display of Power Publishing Company’ which published John’s first two books, ‘Display of Power: How FUBU Changed a World of Fashion, Branding and Lifestyle and ‘The Brand Within’.

Groovy Smoovies has been voted ‘Best Smoothies’ in South Jersey by South Jersey Magazine two years in a row and has become the go to spot for great smoothies in a family friendly environment. Groovy Smoovies recently launched a franchise program with new locations coming to Ocean City, New Jersey and Orlando, Florida and more expected throughout Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

According to Jones, he credits much of his business drive and success to John. “Daymond is one of most driven and disciplined people I know. Not only is John a great businessman but he’s also very kind and generous with his support and guidance; that means a lot”.

The event will be held at Groovy Smoovies 223 Kings Highway, Haddonfield, New Jersey 08003 and will include a meet and greet, autographs, photographs and a Q&A.

Franchise Dictionary

January 31st, 2023

The Stanwood Group Launches Lobster Roll Sensation La La Lobster

Whenever Frederick and Nicole Rabena’s son, Cole, visited the Jersey Shore, he’d often buy overpriced lobster rolls that fell short of the quality that was advertised. With decades of experience in the restaurant management industry, the Rabenas knew they could do better. After sourcing the freshest lobster, affectionately called “la la lobster” by the couple’s daughter, Bella, and experimenting with countless recipes in their at-home test kitchen, the Rabenas opened their first La La Lobster location in Yardley, Pennsylvania.

“We opened on October 3, 2020, and there were lines down the street,” Nicole recalled. Unlike other seafood restaurants that pre-portion their lobster, La La Lobster’s lobster rolls are made fresh and weighed for every order, resulting in happy repeat customers. The next obvious step? To franchise the year-round lobster shack.

Nicole, however, wasn’t convinced that franchising was the right move. That was until she met Robert Katz, managing director of The Stanwood Group, LLC.

“What really stands out is the level of support and comfort Robert provides. He’s created a very clear path. I really couldn’t have imagined that it would be so easy,” Frederick said.

According to Katz, The Stanwood Group’s strategic relationship with Drumm Law makes opportunities like this possible. “We act as a bridge between Drumm Law and the client, and we do the heavy lifting. As a result, we’re able to secure preferred pricing; our clients are able to franchise their businesses more affordably than if they went anywhere else in the U.S.,” he said.

The Stanwood Group’s clients receive unmatched support: Drumm Law has earned several awards, including being ranked among the top legal services suppliers for franchises by Entrepreneur magazine, Katz has 21 years of experience in franchise development, sales and marketing, and Certified Franchise Consultant and Vice President of Franchise Sales Chad Bickle oversees some of the fastest-growing franchises in the Delaware Valley.

La La Lobster has experienced explosive growth, adding three other locations in Cape May and Princeton, New Jersey, and Doylestown, Pennsylvania, with more on the way. Bickle shared his enthusiasm for the brand’s success. “We are very excited to partner with La La Lobster, one of the most exciting emerging fast-casual dining franchise brands to come out of the Philadelphia market,” Bickle said.

Territories are available in hot markets across the U.S.

Brianna Bohn

Club Industry

Nov 7, 2022

RockStar Martial Arts Announces Ambitious Franchise Growth Goals

Club Industry Was Not Involved In The Creation Of This Content.

FRISCO, Texas – Rockstar Martial Arts, the premier martial arts concept that is revolutionizing the boutique fitness industry through its youth character development programs, is looking to positively impact the lives of more kids nationwide.

The brand, which was founded in 2014, has grown organically and has been widely celebrated by families for its clean, upscale environment and curriculum of leadership lessons. With seven successful locations throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Rockstar Martial Arts is now striking franchise growth while the concept is hot.

“After almost a decade in business cementing our presence in the DFW market, we’re ready to take RockStar to the next level,” said Founder Shiva Boecker, who credits martial arts for being a key component of her own personal development. “Martial arts has changed my life in so many positive ways, and my husband and I started RockStar to bring those same benefits to others. We’ve seen such an overwhelming positive response from the communities we serve, and are confident our business model will have the same results across the country. We’re eager to expand into new markets and bring our proven model to more cities and families.”

Shiva Boecker first became invested in martial arts after her now-husband and business partner James Boecker, introduced her to the practice. With his professional experience in the fitness industry and Shiva’s passion for personal growth, they recognized a need for a concept that not only promoted health and wellness, but also placed a special focus on practical leadership lessons for kids.

Today, RockStar Martial Arts offers a variety of jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai kickboxing and other self-defense classes for kids of all ages. To further youth development, instructors teach self-respect, self-discipline, goal setting and perseverance, all while getting in shape and having fun. The business has been particularly praised by school districts for its anti-bully program, which is designed to provide children with both physical and verbal skills to use when being bullied.

A strong membership model and loyal community following has driven impressive store performance throughout 2022 for all seven existing RockStar Martial Arts. In fact, locations added between 60 to 100 new clients per month.

In addition to further expanding the brand’s presence outward in Texas, RockStar has its sights set on nationwide expansion and is actively seeking aspiring entrepreneurs with a passion for fitness and youth development to open franchise locations across the country. The goal is to double the brand’s footprint by 2024.

“The interest in our concept has skyrocketed in recent years, with existing clients at our locations in the DFW area approaching us to open their own RockStar gyms because of the positive experience they’ve had at our locations,” said James. “That is the beauty of the RockStar model and of martial arts itself— the benefits are evident from both a franchisee and client standpoint. RockStar is a chance to truly invest in yourself, your children and your community, and we couldn’t be more optimistic about this next level of growth we are approaching.”

As RockStar Martial Arts looks to grow, it is seeking franchise partners who are interested in multi-unit investment opportunities and looking for ways to invest in their local communities. Offering a robust corporate support system and existing dedicated clientele, RockStar has signed and sold units in a number of territories, and with prime development markets remaining, franchise candidates have the opportunity to launch their new location in variety of different communities. Qualified candidates are encouraged to apply. For more information on the RockStar Martial Arts franchise opportunity, visit

About RockStar Martial Arts

RockStar Martial Arts is a leading martial arts concept with a variety of jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and self-defense classes for all ages. Founded in 2014 by Shiva Boecker, RockStar Martial Arts facilitates the development of leadership and discipline skills in children through classes taught by dedicated instructors. With seven locations throughout Texas, RockStar Martial Arts is focused on growing its brand into new communities while continuing to better the lives of their clients through martial arts.

For more information about the brand, visit the company website at

November 8th, 2022

November 08, 2022 // // CELINA, Texas – Rockstar Martial Arts announced today a signed franchise agreement for a location in Celina, Texas. Set to open in early 2023, the new location will be located within Heritage Plaza, the bustling retail block at 695 North Preston Rd

Corey and Remy Yow, forthcoming owners of the new Celina location, are existing RockStar clients who are already familiar with the business. Having prior work experience in the education space, investing in RockStar was an ideal opportunity for the Yow couple.

“Our relationship with RockStar began when our kids took lessons at an existing location, and we saw the benefits right away,” said Remy. “From their confidence levels to interpersonal skills, RockStar played a significant part in our kid’s development and we knew we wanted to get more involved with the brand…opening our own location provided the perfect avenue to do so. As an opportunity that serves our children and our local community, we know that our RockStar location will be a welcome addition to the Celina area, and we’re confident that we will offer other families the same positive experience that we had.”

RockStar Martial Arts offers a variety of jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai kickboxing and other self-defense classes for kids of all ages. To further youth development, instructors teach self-respect, self-discipline, goal setting and perseverance, all while getting in shape and having fun. The business has been particularly praised by school districts for its anti-bully program, which is designed to provide children with both physical and verbal skills to use when being bullied.

The Yows will work alongside their location’s martial arts coach and manager to act as a resource for the kids they train and their families. Additionally, they plan to work with public health professionals to incorporate mental health tools to offer their clients both physical and emotional development skills.

“The Yow family represents everything that RockStar stands for,” said Shiva Boecker, Founder of RockStar Martial Arts.

SOURCE RockStar Martial Arts


By Chris Rollins
September 21, 2022

La La Lobster Announces Massive Expansion Across NJ & PA

One of your favorite seafood places is expanding all over New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

This is great news if you don’t have a La La Lobster near you…chances are you probably will soon. Lol.

I just heard from the sole owner of La La Lobster, Nicole Rabena, and she filled me in on where the new locations will be opening. Exciting.

Here is where the new La La Lobster locations will be in NJ & PA
Marlton, NJ

Cherry Hill, NJ

Ocean City (that’s my “Happy Place” so I’m thrilled about this location)

Margate, NJ

Media, PA

King of Prussia, PA

Ardmore, PA

Villanova, PA

They’re going to be everywhere. Yum.

If you haven’t been to a La La Lobster, what are you waiting for?

There are four locations open right now in Princeton, Yardley, Doylestown and Cape May.

Make sure to try their lobster rolls (they’re chilled and wild caught), Lobster Bisque, Lobster Mac & Cheese, Lobster Grilled Cheese and so much more.

If you remember I thought a La La Lobster was going into the old Friendly’s Restaurant in Morrisville, PA, but, I was wrong. More news on that coming soon.

Rabena, by the way, is the Owner of the Yardley Restaurant Group, which includes La La Lobster, Yardley Distillery, Sauce Yardley, Millees Yardley Diner and Yardley Joe. Impressive.

To learn more about the Yardley Restaurant Group, click here. The group’s mission is to offer you fun, casual dining experiences, 7 days a week.

As soon as I get the exact locations of the new La La Lobster locations, I will let you know.

What Now Philly

By D.G
March 10, 2022

Santucci’s Opening 3 New Pizza Shops in PA and NJ

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the original location as Southern Jersey instead of South Philly.

Santucci’s Original Square Pizza has three new locations in the works in Sewell, NJ, Wildwood, NJ, and Paoli, PA. Joseph and Philomena Santucci originally founded the first Santucci’s pizzeria in South Philly in 1959 in Juniata Park. Their square pizza made with sauce on top of the cheese quickly spread to other Philly restaurants.

“We are a third-generation brand. The founders are my grandparents. Our roots are in Philadelphia, but in 2020 we decided to franchise and grow the brand to reach communities that were outside of Philadelphia’s footprint,” Santucci’s Owner and President Alicia Santucci told What Now Philadelphia. “There’s just been such a huge reward on our end helping people to become entrepreneurs and offer them the opportunity to create something in their communities which they love.”

The Sewell location, in Washington Square Town Center at 261 Hurffville-Cross Keys Rd., will be owned by Alicia Santucci’s younger brothers, Anthony and Frank Santucci, and Brett Tenuto. The 2,400 sq. ft. quick-service restaurant will offer counter service and seat 20 to 25 people. A large outdoor patio will seat about 40 people.

The Santucci’s in Sewell and Wildwood are both aiming to open toward the end of April. Santucci’s Wildwood is owned by franchisees James and Erica Burke. The 2,000 sq. ft freestanding space, which is about a block away from the boardwalk at 402 East 26th Ave., will seat about 30 to 35 people inside, with additional outdoor casual dining space. The location will be open year-round and offer delivery.

Santucci’s Paoli, at 1776 East Lancaster Ave., will have a smaller dining room that seats about 10 to 15 guests. Kurt and Christina Morath will open the Paoli franchise location in May. In addition to their signature square pizzas, Santucci’s serves stromboli, flatbreads, salads, wings, and sandwiches and offers takeout, delivery, and catering. There are currently four Santucci’s locations in Pennsylvania in Downington, Italian Market, North Broad, and Roxborough, as well as two in New Jersey in Ocean City and Ventnor City.

Learn more at


April 10, 2021

Famous Santucci’s Original Square Pizza Coming to Washington Township! Delicious Sandwiches Also!

This one snuck up on us! The famous Santucci’s Original Square Pizza of Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore, is opening a new location in Washington Township! We’ve since heard from the Santucci family and they are targeting a Fall opening!

The specific location is the new Woodmont Townsquare complex on Hurffville-Cross Keys Road, between Fries Mills Rd and the Virtua Building.

The news was made available by one of the Santucci family members, who publicly shared the news on their Facebook page.

So excited about this location! This has been one of those locations that everything just fell into place. IT’s DEFINITELY MEANT TO BE! Washington Township…. we can’t wait to serve you!

When will they open? Well this is all we know at this time, and we’ll try to get more information soon!

The Woodmont complex previously announced they were adding Bison Coffee Company, and Jenaro’s Pizza. We still believe Bison Coffee is coming, but have doubts on Jenaro’s… especially with the announcement of another Italian eatery signed to the complex.

Thank you to an alert 42Freeway reader for pointing us to this!

Santucci’s Original Square Pizza

Santucci’s Original is a Philadelphia legend in pizza… and they’ve opened several locations including two at the Jersey Shore and a third on its way for 2022.

And I hear their cheesesteaks are top contenders also!

Their pizza’s are unique for our area… they make a square pizza, but it’s not as thick as a sicilian style … and many say it is upside down… the cheese is on the bottom, and the sauce is on top!
Their website say the family started in South Philadelphia but opened their first location in Northeast Philadelphia back in 1959!

Today multiple generations of the Santucci family operate the restaurants! According to a 2019 Inquirer article, there are three factions of the family operating different sets of stores.

The Washington Township store is part of the group of locations which include; South Philadelphia, Roxborough, and at the Jersey Shore in Ventnor and Ocean City.

Announced previously the are adding a location in Wildwood, but for the 2022 Season.

And now they are opening a location in Washington Township!

More than Just Pizza!

The Original Santucci’s offers more than just pizza… with delicious wings, sandwiches, pastas and more!

They even offer catering.

And while I haven’t tried their cheesesteaks, I do follow a few Facebook cheesesteak groups and the sentiment is Santucci’s can put out a top notch steak.

More to Come!

We’ll look for more details from the owners… timing of the store, what they will include.

The Woodmont Complex still owns an unused liquor license… the Santucci Restaurant will NOT be using it.

Links and Locations

Santucci’s Original Square Pizza
Planned Location
Woodmont Town Square
247 Hurfville-Cross Keys Road
Washington Township New Jersey


225 Magazine

By Julia-Claire Evans
March 8, 2021


Baton Rouge seems to be getting the ax. The art of ax throwing, that is.

Civil Axe Throwing opened its Baton Rouge location in April 2020 on Government Street.

Of the 13 stores Civil Axe operates across the South, Baton Rouge is already one of its top five, according to Vice President of Sales and Marketing Scott Brewster.

At Civil Axe, groups of customers get their own lanes and targets. They can take turns throwing large, metal axes. The objective is to get as close as possible to the bull’s-eye on a wooden target. While the games can get competitive, they’re less about keeping score and more about learning how to throw, Brewster says.

Customer group sizes can range from one person to 16, and for groups of 16 or more, larger events are available.

After checking in and signing some paperwork, groups get instruction from an “axe-pert,” who teaches them how to throw the ax and enjoy the activity safely.

Brewster loves watching people’s faces light up the first time they stick an ax on the target. “People get so excited,” Brewster says.

The amount of people the store sees purchase an additional hour after their first session—and the people who make repeat trips to Civil Axe Throwing later on—speaks to how fun and exciting the activity is, according to Brewster.

The sport of ax throwing started trending nationally before the pandemic, and by 2020 championships and competitions were even showing up on channels like ESPN.

Brewster thinks this visibility has been a big factor in bringing new faces to Civil Axe’s doors.

“People are taking it on as a hobby,” Brewster says, “and we’re starting to see people purchase axes and even bring in their own. … People are starting to see it’s a legitimate sport.”

Over in Central, Gotham Archery and Axe Throwing has been open since fall 2017. The locally owned facility offers introductory archery and ax throwing courses and even participates in championships and social tournaments.

Owner Ken Hsu says he has also seen ax throwing getting more popular locally and nationally, with some even turning it into a social gathering with drinks. Gotham Archery offers team building, birthday and bachelor/bachelorette parties.

“It’s just something different to do,” Hsu says.

During the pandemic, Brewster and the Civil Axe Throwing team have come up with ways to continue business while catering to people who prefer to stay at home. Its mobile targets and axes can be rented for ax throwing gatherings in residential backyards.

And the sport will continue its growth across the region. Up next: Civil Axe Throwing has a New Orleans location coming soon.

“Things are trending positively for us, and we’re excited for what’s coming down the pipeline in the next few months,” Brewster says. and


Visit Civil Axe Throwing at 3001Government St. and

Gotham Archery and Axe Throwing at 14455 Greenwell Springs Road.

Atlantic City Weekly

Oct 27, 2020

Both the dough and the traditions keep on rolling at Santucci's

Alicia Santucci has had a lot of pizza in her life.

Her grandparents, the late Joseph and Philomena Santucci, opened the very first Santucci’s Original Square Pizza in Northeast Philadelphia in 1959. Alicia’s father Frank worked in that restaurant since he was 12 years old, getting early outs from high school every day so he could go to the family business and get the dough ready for dinner service.

Frank took over the family business in 1976, maintaining the name and quality of the pizza for more than 40 years at the original location on O Street, where Alicia and her siblings ate and worked.

But Alicia didn’t really decide she wanted to take over the family business until Frank was already closing the original O Street location. But, after meeting her future husband Blake Barabuscio, destiny just kicked in.

“I was destined not to worry about calories from pizza,” says Alicia Santucci, whose family name now sits on the front of 10 different pizzerias, mostly in Philadelphia, under various monikers. “And I guess it was destiny to end up running the family business. When Blake and I went to talk to my father if he would consider allowing us to take the name and open a location in South Philadelphia, we were only engaged. To our surprise, he gave us his blessing. We asked if he would come on as a silent partner to teach us what he knew and he was so happy to help build the business for the third generation.”

So Alicia and Blake opened their first Santucci’s Original Square Pizza on North Broad Street in Philly in 2011, an operation that has expanded to five Santucci’s Original Square pizza locations, including their most recent on Ventnor Avenue in Ventnor.

“It looks Sicilian but it’s a medium crust … not too thin, not too thick,” Alicia says. “We haven’t changed a thing when it comes to the pizza. In fact, we kept my father on as a partner in all of the locations. He is our quality control expert. He goes to one of our locations several times a week and his main focus is the pizza and cleanliness. If the pizza isn’t right and the place isn’t spotless, we hear about it immediately.

“He has given his blessing as long as the pizza doesn’t change. That’s what he cares about most. He doesn’t care what color our walls are, if we have a liquor license or not, if we play country or rock music … as long as the pizza doesn’t change he’s content. And why would we change it? You don’t fix what’s not broken. The pizza is excellent.”

The Ventnor location is the Santucci’s Original Square Pizza brand’s biggest location yet. Situated in a former hardware store building, the completely renovated Ventnor restaurant is huge. Broken into three areas, the Ventnor Santucci’s features a large indoor dining room downstairs with a bar that seats more than 30 people as its centerpiece. Outside of the main dining room, Santucci’s offers outdoor seating, some which is covered right outside its entrance and more that extends onto the street. Upstairs, an enormous, gorgeous, 3,500-square-foot outdoor deck overlooks Ventnor Avenue and features two more bars. There’s also a mini arcade with video and skill games such as air hockey to keep the kiddies busy. In total, Santucci’s Ventnor can seat more than 300 people (during non-pandemic times) and encompasses more than 6,000 square feet.

“No matter where we go, the community has welcomed us with open arms,” Alicia says. “They love our pizza and love all of our food. We are a family business that offers a family environment. It’s a fun place to come and have lunch or dinner with friends and family. It’s casual. It’s not pretentious. It’s not expensive. Wherever we open, we want to be part of the community.”

Getting back to the pizza, Santucci’s offers 17-inch large ($19) and 9-inch personal ($10) sizes and can be topped with everything from homemade meatballs to long hots and banana peppers. There are also specialty pies, including The Works ($13, $22) with extra cheese, pepperoni, sausage, green peppers, mushrooms and onions, and BBQ or buffalo chicken ($14.75, $27).

“Square pizza right now is trendy,” Alicia says. “But we were the original square pizza in Philly, so I guess we were always ahead of the trend. Even places that never offered square pizza before are trying to come up with ways to latch on to the square pizza craze.”

The famous Santucci’s dough can also be found wrapped around fresh ingredients in their stromboli ($15 to $16), including the classic pepperoni and cheese, provolone cheese and spinach, cheesesteak with provolone cheese and onions, and The Uncle Joe Coke with provolone, soppressata, salami and hot capicola.

For a “gourmet” take, check out Santucci’s flatbreads ($14 to $15) with Santucci’s dough and flavors including mushroom, roasted pepper and chicken.

“Ventnor is our biggest location in size as well as in menu,” Alicia says. “Our other locations don’t have as many items, but overall we found that simple is the way to go. You don’t have to complicate things to be successful.”

Popular sandwiches are all served on Aversa’s Bakery seeded rolls and include their Mama’s Meatball ($11) with mild provolone and parmesan cheeses; their chicken cutlet ($11) with mild provolone and spinach; and their cheesesteaks ($11) with fresh ribeye and choice of cheese. If you really want to do it right, all of their sandwiches can be served on garlic bread for just a buck more. It’s worth it.

Santucci’s even has a limited pasta menu with items such as spaghetti and meatballs ($15), Grandpa Joe’s chicken parm ($15) with spaghetti, and penne alla vodka ($15).

But nothing goes better with pizza than some snacks. Starters include a beautiful antipasta board ($19) with cured meats, artisan cheeses, olives, roasted peppers and veggies; their signature short rib gravy fries with provolone whiz ($12) featuring short rib braised in house for eight hours; and their awesome wings (six for $10, 12 for $17, 25 for $30) with a wide array of homemade sauces, including mild, hot, garlic parm, smoked BBQ and honey chipotle.

One of the biggest surprises might be that Santucci’s sells more salads than anything on the menu except for pizza. Whether you choose their classic Caesar ($12); their Farmers ($12) with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, carrots and balsamic vinaigrette; or the Granny Smith Apple ($14) with lettuce, gorgonzola, pickled red onions, candied walnuts, celery, apple slices and apple cider vinaigrette, you can’t go wrong.

“I think the salads are so popular because, like everything else here, we make all of the dressings in house,” Alicia says.

Save some room for dessert. Santucci’s offers cannoli ($5) made in house as well as an array of Aversa’s Bakery desserts such as ricotta cheesecake, triple chocolate cake and, for the season, pumpkin cheesecake.

Santucci’s also has a full liquor license so they can offer a wide array of great cocktails, including their signature lemonade ($9) with Tito’s vodka in a mason jar and the Italian Stallion Margarita ($12) with Espolon Blanco Tequila, blood orange juice, Campari and orange juice. There are 16 beer taps — available upstairs and downstairs — that currently include crafts from Double Nickel, Cape May and Firestone Walker, and more in bottles and cans. Santucci’s is hoping to grow its nighttime bar business, so they have been bringing in live music 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, and 7 to 10 p.m. Fridays to Sundays. On Nov. 10, Santucci’s will start a comedy night that will be offered twice a month on Tuesdays featuring a host comic and open-mic.

“In the summer, we had so many people from the Philadelphia area tell us they were so glad we were here because we gave them a sense of normalcy during the pandemic,” Alicia says. “And we want to have locals feel the same way about us. We are here for them all year round and will offer local specials to really show our appreciation for them.”

Santucci’s Original Square Pizza is all about family. That’s why Alicia’s brothers Frank Jr. and Anthony are involved in their Roxborough and Broad Street locations, and their first franchised location on the boardwalk in Ocean City is owned by Marc Bongiovanni, a longtime friend of Blake’s who is like a member of the family.

“My brothers and other family members have joined the business because we have outgrown ourselves,” Alicia says. “We are all hands on deck. Even though our Ocean City location is franchised, Blake and I are always there. I love working there while listening to waves crash onto the beach. We started with a list of dream locations, and we are opening them one by one. We planned on Wildwood, and the pandemic has put that on hold for now, but that is a dream location where we know we can be successful. The ultimate plan is to keep growing the brand through our own locations and franchises. We want to reach into new communities and make the Santucci’s name a household name wherever you live.”

CBS News Philadelphia

MAY 24, 2019

Philadelphia Favorite Santucci's

OCEAN CITY, N.J. (CBS) — There’s no shortage of fun and food to be had in Ocean City. When CBS3 anchors Ukee Washington and Jessica Kartalija heard a Philly favorite just opened up a shop in Ocean City, they had to check it out.

Folks were flocking to the food and games on a beautiful Friday night on the boardwalk. So when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Let’s eat.

Santucci’s, a Philly favorite, is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and better yet, Day 1 on the Ocean City boardwalk.

‘Unlock The Ocean’ Officially Launches Jersey Shore Towns Into Summer Season

So what’s the secret to Santucci’s?

“I would say tradition. This year is our 60th year in business, so we’ve been doing the same thing for 60 years and it’s exciting that finally we’re getting to do what our customers ask, is bring Santucci’s closer to all of them,” one worker said.