Joey Baldino's day job is chef-owner of Zeppoli in Collingswood, which sits high on most best-Italian-restaurant lists in the region.
But for the last two years, he's been working under the radar on a passion project near his boyhood home in South Philadelphia.
Joey's family ran the Filippo Palizzi Social Club since the early 1950s, and when his uncle began to decline, he decided to fix it up - restoring it to its early glory and serving a South Philly-style Italian American menu (smelts, spaghetti and crabs, and the like).
It opens later this week - cash only, no reservations, four nights a week. Through the quirks of the Pennsylvania liquor code, it's a private club.
Potential patrons must buy a one-time membership for 20 bucks, which admits them and three guests. (They've sold out already; more may be available at a later date.) Vincent Stipo, the bar consultant/hospitality broker, set up the bar with old-fashioned cocktails.
Most of all, Baldino insists, it's intended to be a fun place.
"If you look at Zeppoli, you feel like you are in Grandma's house, right? This place is like you are in Grandpop's spot. So they're two drastically different places. That's what this place was always for - to me, in my head, this was Grandpop's place. My grandparents owned the bar right on the corner two doors down. After they would close down, my grandfather would come here and drink and they would just drink and have fun."
Stay tuned. I'll have the full details soon. Website is here.