photo credit: Jason Varney
Palizzi Social Club
If a members-only restaurant like Palizzi Social Club existed anywhere other than Philly, it’d be filled with a bunch of rich and powerful people who paid thousands of dollars to be a member. The whole thing would be so obnoxious and elitist that even if the food was great, it would be hard to enjoy.
So thank god it’s in Philly, on a residential block right off East Passyunk, where it costs $20 for a year-long membership. No matter who you are or who you know, you have to wait in line for hours to get a chance at one of their coveted membership cards. There are no celebrities at Palizzi either - it’s filled with locals from the neighborhood that come here with their families for a weekly pasta fix. And most importantly, the Italian food here is f*cking phenomenal.
Palizzi has one very strict rule: they don’t allow reviews. But since we never had a membership in the first place - we have nothing to lose. We did what everyone who doesn’t like waiting does and went as a guest. Every member is allowed three guests per visit, so if you don’t want to check Instagram for new membership releases, we recommend you find someone who did the work for you.
One of the best parts of having dinner at Palizzi is waiting at the bar for a table. Once you get inside (by ringing a doorbell and checking in with someone), you have to post up at the bar. Within minutes, you’re asking the lady next to you where she got her shirt, and she’s giving you the number of her tailor because you’ve already discussed needing to get a jacket hemmed for a wedding next weekend. It doesn’t hurt that while all this is going on you’re being served strong cocktails - all made with Italian liqueurs, like grappa and fernet, with twists of things like chili salt or ginger cordial.
The food, though, is what will make you want to forge someone else’s membership card. From the classic caesar salad to the spumoni for dessert, everything’s incredible. There are a few specials every night, set by the owner and a family friend who also acts as a server and runs the dining room most nights, but there are a few things that never change. Like the pepperoni stromboli, which is by far the best folded-pizza creation we’ve ever tasted.
Palizzi might feel exclusive because of how tough it is to get a membership card, but everyone can get one if they try hard enough. It’s a social club without all the pretenses of a social club, where it doesn’t matter who you are or what college your parents paid your way into. What they’re really about is keeping the same people coming back every week to eat some really good food. Food worthy of a review, even if it breaks some rules.
Since Palizzi doesn’t allow reviews, we don’t have any photos of the dishes on our rundown. You’ll just have to use your imagination.
The caesar here is simple, perfectly-dressed, and delicious. It’s almost like a bag of potato chips, where the seasoning on every chip is evenly distributed throughout the entire bag. Yes, we just compared a salad to potato chips.
If you’re at Palizzi, you have to order this. The crust is buttery and crispy on the outside and flaky and chewy on the inside. If you needed one example to show how a stromboli could compete with a pizza, this is it.
Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and topped with a simple salsa verde and lemon. A great way to pregame some pasta.
One enormous raviolo to end all other ravioli. It’s filled with a creamy spinach ricotta mix and is massive enough to feed at least three people.
Forget every other stuffed artichoke you’ve ever had. Cool, now you’re ready to eat these buttery, pecorino romano-filled baby artichokes that have been grilled and then baked.
Mom’s Ricotta Cheese Pie
Have you ever thought about why we call it cheesecake and not cheese pie? If you think about it (which we have extensively), cheesecake has a crust and a filling so it should be categorized as a pie. This one is creamy and excellent. Order it.