South Philly’s speakeasy-style Palizzi Social Club, a reinvention of a century-old hangout for Italian immigrants, is a members-only establishment — meaning if you aren’t able to score a membership card on one of the rare occasions they’re up for sale, a night of feasting on chef-owner Joey Baldino’s stuffed artichokes, grilled lamb chops, and spaghetti and crabs in an atmospherically retro dining room is out of reach. The next best thing? Making friends who someone who has a membership. The third best thing? Making Baldino’s Italian dishes at home.
The chef’s first cookbook, Dinner at the Club: 100 Years of Stories and Recipes from South Philly’s Palizzi Social Club, written with Adam Erace, is out October 29. It’s worth flipping through for the photos alone: moody shots of the neighborhood, a table laden with a feast of seven fishes, cheese dripping out of fat arancini, diners, including Marc Vetri, conversing at the club.
The recipes, which Baldino describes in the book as “not fancy and, for the most part, not complicated,” start with bread (tomato pie, mozzarella and anchovy panzarotti) before moving onto pastas (sauces, tagliatelle with lemon and bottarga, the coveted giant raviolo with sage brown butter) and vegetables (escarole and beans, stuffed peppers). The seafood section includes grilled swordfish spiedini and calamari and peas; the meat recipes cover braciole with Sunday gravy, tomato- and cinnamon-braised tripe, and steak pizzaiola.
The book closes with desserts and cocktails, like the Mezzaroba with aged rum, Fernet-Branca, ginger syrup, demerara syrup, club, and lime juice.
When Baldino took over Palizzi from his uncle Ernest Mezzaroba a few years ago, he was already known among Philly diners for his Sicilian BYOB Zeppoli across the bridge in Collingswood, New Jersey. His Italian cooking cred goes back longer than that. Before Zeppoli, Baldino was the chef de cuisine at Vetri Cucina. Further back, he started his restaurant career as a busboy at Mr. Martino’s.
His co-author, Philly-based food writer Erace, also co-wrote Nick Elmi’s new cookbook; both are from Running Press.
Preview Dinner at the Club with the spreads below, including recipes for grilled lamb chops, parmigiano crespelle en brodo, shrimp and beans, and ricotta pie alongside the stories behind the dishes: