Why is it that so many children's stories are synonymous with suffering? We're talking lots of dead dogs, dying trees, a dead spider, and one existentially doomed stuffed rabbit. But perhaps no story is as tragic as that of orphaned rat-turned-entrepreneur Chuck E. Cheese, who recently launched a new premium pizza brand so that he and his animatronic pizza party peddlers (and bandmates) could weather the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, Grubhub users in search of local pizza options stumbled upon a new chain called Pasqually's Pizza & Wings. An inquisitive Philadelphia couple did a quick Google search and revealed that Pasqually's address was the same as their local Chuck E. Cheese pizza arcade.
In a statement to Food & Wine, a Chuck E. Cheese spokesperson confirmed that the company had branched into food delivery, and said that while Pasqually's Pizza & Wings is a product of CEC Entertainment, the pizza is considered a “premium” offering when compared to that of the traditional Chuck E. Cheese pie:
"CEC Entertainment, Inc. recently launched Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings nationwide. The inspiration was rooted in the desire to create a premium pizza while staying true to the CEC brand. Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings, named after another favorite member of Munch's Make Believe Band, shares kitchen space with the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, ensuring high-quality, fresh ingredients. Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings’ recipes use fresh, homemade pizza dough, just like Chuck E. Cheese, but it is a different pizza that features a thicker crust and extra sauce, giving consumers a more flavorful, more premium pizza experience. While Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings recipes are currently only available for delivery, select items might be added to the Chuck E. Cheese menu in the future."
Metro Times confirmed this when we called the Southgate Chuck E. Cheese location and asked if Pasqually's and Chuck E. Cheese were one and the same. A polite man named Jim answered the phone and confirmed our suspicion. (And no, they don't have vegan options.)
Pasqually P. Pieplate, an Italian immigrant, is a chef and drummer of Munch's Make-Believe Band. As an adult, he inherited his family's restaurant, where he paired his traditional Italian fare with his lukewarm standup comedy routine, which did not go well. Apparently, customers found his jokes to be inappropriate and business began to tank. Pasqually and his nephew Gino faced a harsh reality: They were going to have to shut the place down.
Those plans were dashed when Pasqually discovered an unwelcome rodent who had been residing in his restaurant. It was none other than Chuck E. Cheese, a fucking singing rat and the answer to Pasqually's business woes. OK, well not quite: Pasqually's dumped the family name in favor of Chuck E. Cheese's, where he basically forced the singing rat to perform like he was Judy Garland or something. Being an orphan with little to no social skills, not to mention unresolved childhood trauma, Chuck E was unable to perform under such intense pressure. People fucking hated him. Without the gift of song, Chuck E was just a rat in a T-shirt.
It wasn't until Chuck E saw a child (no, we're not kidding) leaving the restaurant wearing a birthday crown that he decided to sing his favorite song to the boy, who appeared sad as fuck that his parents dragged him out to degrade a small animal. Chuck E. Cheese's favorite song is, of course, “Happy Birthday,” because according to his origin story, he always wanted a birthday but never got one.
However, more tragic than the orphaned rat living out his unfulfilled childhood dreams of having a birthday (his birth certificate has apparently been "lost to the sands of time") is the restaurant chain's struggle to survive. From livestream sing-a-longs and sad grabs at relevancy on Twitter, Chuck E. Cheese, now 43 years old, is struggling to keep his beloved chain afloat.
In the first quarter, the chain saw sales take a 21% dive due to coronavirus. But it wasn't necessarily smooth sailing before the pandemic, either. In 2012, the chain rebranded Chuck E as a “rock star mouse,” as they were under the belief that business was sluggish because its mascot was an animatronic rat. However, the makeover wasn't enough, and the company was purchased by a private-equity firm for close to $1 billion dollars — not tokens.
So whether you choose to take a gamble on some premium pizza from a chain you've never heard of or consciously order from Pasqually's Pizza and Wings knowing damn well that it's just a sauced-up version of Chuck E. Cheese's cardboard pie, you can rest easy knowing you're supporting a nightmare 43 years in the making.
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