One of the original establishments to spring up on Garden State Parkway’s northernmost artery into Atlantic City, W.L. Goodfellows and Co. has had an extensive history of pioneering new ground.
The attractive and highly recognizable Galloway Township landmark, located on the eastbound side of the White Horse Pike near Exit 40 of the Parkway, is lauded as home to the French-fried lobster tail, which was invented — and emulated by several establishments since — by John Cicarelli Sr.
The grandson of one the co-founders of the San Giorgio Macaroni Company (Nicholas Forte, with cousin Girolamo Guerrisi), Cicarelli created the crispy culinary delight at Chick’s Restaurant, which he founded and operated on the beachfront of Brigantine for 22 years.
“Chick’s was known as home of the French-fried lobster tail, and it’s a tradition we still carry on here today,” says the founder’s son, Jim Cicarelli, who perpetuated the tradition by founding Goodfellows in 1984 with brother John Cicarelli Jr. “Our family has an extensive history in the food business, and recipes from our Italian heritage [using imported ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes and the finest cheeses] have been passed down for generations and used in most of the foods we serve. Our homemade pizzas and all of our pastas and sauces are from recipes created by my great grandmother, who was from Naples.”
Goodfellows also prides itself as the first area establishment to introduce microbrew beer to southern New Jersey. Its beer menu consists of more than 50 different bottled brews from around the world. There are a dozen beers on tap that rotate with the seasons, and an inventory of about 30 martinis and 30 frozen drinks from which to choose.
Goodfellows’ half-price happy hour has become the standard by which others in the area are measured. Every weekday all drinks and most appetizers are half priced from 4-8pm, and the offer is extended every day of the week from 10pm-midnight in the bar area. Dubbed “happy-tizers,” selections include such delectables as Chesapeake crab bread (lump crabmeat spread over French bread and topped with melted cheddar), Portobello fries (thick-sliced Portobello mushrooms topped with parmesan cheese and marinara sauce), calamari fritti (squid rings in seasoned flour served with marinara sauce), crispy Thai shrimp (large shrimp batter fried and tossed in spicy Asian remoulade sauce) and jumbo lump crab-tini (chilled crab chunks served in a martini glass with seafood sauce — presented stacked, not shaken or stirred).
Goodfellows’ bar area has seating accomodations for maybe 50 at the bar itself, and at least that many more in comfortable booths and tables surrounding it. Total seating capacity in Goodfellows’ dining room — which is tastefully decorated with rich woods, attractive artwork, Italian blown glass and Tiffany-style lamps — is about 220. The bar area has a sort of ski-lodge, pub-style feel to it, and is equipped with eight large plasma TVs and two giant screens. Every Wednesday and Friday night, Mike Maggio entertains the masses with a karaoke party starting 8pm each night. Not your garden-variety karaoke host, the gregarious Maggio is an accomplished musician who helps singers navigate through numbers if they struggle, and performs solo on his guitar while waiting for others to muster the courage to take the mike.
“[Maggio’s] well known in this area,” says Cicarelli. “He doesn’t just let you hang out there; he backs you up, plays guitar, and does his best to help you sound good and have some fun.”