Though chef/creator Joey Baldino contends that Palizzi Social Club is not a restaurant, it's nonetheless made Bon Appetit's list of best new restaurants in America. It was ranked fourth, behind Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans, Elske in Chicago, and Mister Jiu's in San Francisco.
Palizzi, tucked inside a rowhouse on 12th Street near Reed in South Philadelphia, is licensed as a private club and as such is open to members and their guests. The hard part is not obtaining a membership, which can be purchased for $20 at the speakeasy-style peephole at the door. The catch is the no-reservation policy. You have to wait your turn at this 35-seater, open for dinner Thursday to Sunday.
The decor is South Philly Midcentury Rec Room, down to the (nonfunctional) cigarette machine, Formica bar, throw-back soundtrack, and wood paneling that screams Hechinger's.
The food quality reflects Baldino's sterling pedigree, as he is chef/owner of Collingswood's Zeppoli. Inquirer critic Craig LaBan – assiduously not writing a formal review about his Palizzi experience – praised the "soulful resonance" that "goes beyond the familiar clichés of South Philly's remaining red-gravy restaurants." Plus, the cocktails are outstanding.
"They just don't make restaurants like this anymore," the Bon Appetit-ers noted.
Res Ipsa, the chic Italian on Walnut Street near 23rd Street, made this year's list of 50 finalists, as did the Stephen Starr-owned Le Coucou in New York City.
In other best-of news:
Michael Schulson's Monkitail at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Fla., won USA Today's 10 Best reader poll as best hotel restaurant in America. Lacroix made the list at No. 7.