One of the best parts of my job is getting to meet people like John Pellolio, whose grandfather Pete won himself a bar in a poker game. My coworker Leah and I were treated to a tasty pizza and caprese salad, and heard the stories of his multigenerational family business. Besides the tailgate parties for the Pacifics at the nearby ballpark, Pete’s 881 Club on Lincoln Avenue in San Rafael is the only place to legally gamble in Marin. Can’t forget to mention that they serve food until 1 a.m.
For the magazine:
When A.P. “Pete” Pellolio sat down for a game of poker at one of his favorite watering holes at 881 Fourth Street back in 1951, he wasn’t expecting to win not only the game, but a family business that would span three generations and counting. But he did. Today at the helm is grandson John Pellolio, just back from time spent in Europe as a gemologist. Now located at 721 Lincoln in San Rafael, this spacious one room (plus an outdoor patio) saloon is possibly more sports bar than actual dive, but it still made our list. Secret to the longevity? It could be that it’s the only legal gambling spot in Marin with a daily Texas hold ’em game or that the kitchen stays open until 1 a.m. or that there are 10 TVs constantly broadcasting sports games. However, most would agree it’s the warmth of the Pellolio family — patrons love to order Grandma Mame’s old country minestrone— that keep folks coming back for more.
What They Say: John Pellolio, owner
Is Pete’s 881 a dive bar? By definition, yes.
Your definition? Beer, booze, sports, pool table, darts, strong local clientele.
Define Pete’s 881? Patrons are like family. Great place to watch a game, have a cheap cocktail and enjoy great food.
Dive Bar Checklist:
Games? Four poker tables, one pool table, two dartboards.
Celebrity photos? Yes, autographed Joe Montana, Mr. Miyagi and Seabiscuit.
TV is always on? Yes, all 10.
PBR available? Yes, on tap.
Muddled cocktails? Only for old-fashioneds.
Fake fireplace? No.
Food is served in bags (chips, nuts, etc.)? No — chef on site.
Pete’s 881 T-shirts? Yes, short- and long-sleeved.