Palizzi Social Club was founded way back in 1918, one of many South Philly social clubs catering to Italian immigrants and descendants, this particular one exclusive to people from Vasto, Italy. The spot stayed open despite waning crowds through the 20th century until 2016, when the current chef and owner Joey Baldino inherited the space and sought to give it new life. Hanging onto much of the old decor, from the checkered floor to the retro furniture, Palizzi offers a step back in time. It sets the scene for family-grown recipes from crabs and spaghetti to calamari. A hundred years later, the club is still members-only (though has broadened its criteria), and now more people than ever are after that coveted $20 membership card.
Palizzi Social Club breathers life back into the old members-only tradition and makes it modern with hearty dishes in a vintage setting. Despite updates, the digs stay true to when the club first opened in 1918 specifically for South Philly’s Italian immigrants. Now with an expanded kitchen and menu, it’s still tough to get into the club, but worth the effort for tender, garlic-doused lamb chops and house specials like the locatelli-stuffed baby artichokes. Keep in mind you have to be a member—or guest of a member—to dine. Even with a res, if you don’t have proof of membership, they’ll kick you to the curb.
Named after the Italian Painter, Filippo Palizzi, this social club opened its doors in 1918 as a private spot specifically for immigrants from the city of Vasto in Italy’s Abruzzo region. Over time, the club’s membership guidelines have relaxed, and now it’s known among discerning Philadelphians as a destination for old-school Italian cuisine, amazing cocktails, and vintage decor that feels like a page torn from a history book. You might recognize the name of owner and chef Joey Baldino from his Sicilian BYOB, Zeppoli, in Collingswood, New Jersey. At Palizzi Social Club, expect a mouth-watering menu of shareable bites and entrees, every recipe passed down and perfected in the Baldino kitchen. A coveted dish among members is the raviolo vasto, a large ravioli made with spinach and brown butter. The cocktail menu also draws on traditional, classic mixes, with each drink named after a former club president.
How to get in: You’ll need a membership or a friend with one (Palizzi Social Club members can bring up to three guests per visit). Look for the South Philly row home with a red neon sign that says “Filippo Palizzi Club.” Once inside, curb your urge to take a selfie. Cell phone usage is discouraged.