Palizzi Social Club chef-owner Joey Baldino pulls back the curtain of his members-only Italian hot spot with a new cookbook.
If you haven’t been lucky enough to snag a coveted membership card to Palizzi Social Club, there’s another way to get into one of Philadelphia’s top restaurants. Well, sort of. Chef Joey Baldino is spilling the secrets of his nationally acclaimed Italian kitchen in Dinner at the Club: 100 Years of Stories and Recipes From South Philly’s Palizzi Social Club ($35, Running Press). Baldino, the third-generation owner, says the 222-page cookbook is an homage to Palizzi’s spirited history as a members-only club for Italian immigrants. “I was going through old meeting ledgers throughout the years, and the food was an integral part of society there,” says Baldino, who also owns Zeppoli in Collingswood, N.J. “There was no better way to honor those men than to write the book and share our culture with everyone.” More than just a compilation of old photos and family recipes—Palizzi favorites like brasciole, escarole and beans, and spaghetti and crabs are neatly detailed, along with a traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes menu—the book is a love letter of sorts to South Philly itself. “A huge part of the book is to provide context about the neighborhood with a chapter about its history and a map of landmarks,” says co-author Adam Erace, who grew up in the area and resides a few blocks from the restaurant. It was what Erace describes as a “shared language” of the community that prompted Baldino to tap the veteran food writer for the project. “It would be hard to divorce what Palizzi is from South Philly,” adds Erace. Of the restaurant’s meteoric success, Baldino says that he’s most proud that people from all walks of life can share in the experience that he had growing up. “This is a true American story about immigrants who came here to make a better life for themselves,” says Baldino. “This is why we’re all here.”