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Culinary spotlight: Palizzi Social Club

Palizzi Social Club is much more than just an experience for your palate. Revitalizing the old-time “member’s only” tradition, it’s an Italian-themed trip to yesteryear and beyond.

Riding a surge of attention from national publications like GQ, Vogue and Esquire, the club has temporarily ceased accepting new memberships. Here’s why it’s the most popular spot in town among those lucky enough to already be members (or to know someone who knows someone who is).

A new life, courtesy of Joey Baldino

Faux-wood panels, Formica-covered bar, ‘70s-style bar stools complete with the sparkly shine of a brand-new bowling ball. From the vintage cigarette machine to the artwork, the glassware and the checkerboard flooring, Palizzi Social Club bleeds authenticity.

But unlike a start-from-scratch engineered theme meant to replicate a bygone era, what’s happening at Palizzi is the renaissance of a century-old club formed in 1918 for descendants of the town of Vasto, Italy.

Joey Baldino, the 39-year-old chef who inherited the club from his uncle Ernest Mezzaroba, says, “A lot of restaurateurs come up with concepts like this. But this isn’t a concept—this is the real thing.”

Getting a table

In practice, “members only” is more of a tradition rather than a locked-door policy, at least until an abundance of interest and an intimate space with only 30 seats forced the club assembly to temporarily close membership. Before that, the club offered a certain number of new memberships to anyone who was sponsored by a current member for just 20 bucks.

For now, the only way for non-members to get in is to come with a member (each member may bring up to three guests).

What to order

It’s hard to go wrong with any of the family heirloom recipes that make up the card at Palizzi Social Club. Most start with a classic Caesar salad topped with heaps of shaved parmaggiano and imported anchovy.

The lamb chops or spiedini impress off the grill and the blue crab spaghetti is a must when craving pasta.

Fritto misto, brasciole and stuffed artichokes are house specialties along with a caciocavallo and eggplant tripe that will change your opinion about tripe.

Mom’s ricotta cheese pie tops a dessert menu that also features a spectacular spumoni and an authentic sfingi.

Stay for a drink or ten!

A house rule is to be social. On Friday and Saturday night, members and guests fraternize well into the wee hours of the morning. The bar closes at 3am on the weekend, leaving plenty of time for a pair of Mezzaroba cocktails with Fernet-Branca and 12-year-old rum.

Eat, drink and be merry.