Front-of-house expert Martin Cugine and chef Brad Spence outside Angelo's in South Philly

The first public showing of a celebrated local chef’s oil paintings will also be the first special event at the space above South Philly’s hottest new pizzeria.

Brad Spence is joining forces with Danny DiGiampietro of Angelo’s to host a “Dinner of the 7 Parms.” As guests dig into riffs on the classic Italian-American dish, they’ll be surrounded by brightly colored art inspired by the energy, action and general madness of life in the kitchen.

Spence made a name for himself in the food world partnering with Marc Vetri to open Amis on 13th Street in Center City in 2009. He became culinary director for the restaurant group, then expanded the trattoria brand to several other locations under the auspices of Urban Outfitters, which purchased the Vetri restaurants in 2015.

Then he left URBN this spring — and discovered he had a hidden talent.

If you visit the Spence house in Haddonfield, N.J., it’s obvious the chef has been bitten by a second muse. Hanging on every wall and leaning on every corner are canvases of all shapes and sizes.

The Spence house in South Jersey has been overtaken by paintings Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

“I paint what I know,” Spence explained. “I just go down into my basement and paint what I feel. They’re about stress and cooking and mental health and trying to stay sane.”

All of the artworks are related to the culinary world, both in subject matter and construction: Spence has been using kitchen tools and coffee grounds to help texture his neo-impressionist swirls.

Many of the red, blue and yellow tangles emit the stare of what is unmistakably a tortured line cook.

A few are even more recognizable. Spence has completed two portraits of the late Anthony Bourdain, which garnered immediate requests for prints when he showed them off on Instagram.

Good news: those prints will be available for purchase at the 7 Parms dinner — along with original art.

Angelo’s opened near the Italian Market this year on 9th Street just below Fitzwater in the former home of Sarcone’s Deli. Owner Danny DiGiampietro, whose wife is a Sarcone, is buying the building and turning the apartment on the second floor into a private event space, Spence said.

The ground floor pizzeria, which relocated from Haddonfield, was the first place one of Spence’s paintings was hung on public display.

“Danny’s been feeding my family for years,” Spence said. “We’re here to support him.”

The dinner — a South Jersey/South Philly twist on the Christmas Eve “Feast of the 7 Fishes” — goes down at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28.

There are 30 seats available for the four-course BYO event, at $85 per person. (See menu here and below.) Reservations are on a first-come, first-serve basis, available via email to Martin Cugine, the longtime Amis front-of-house manager.

After that debut, Spence has a few other shows lined up at more traditional venues, he said, including on Nov. 17 at the Works on Paper gallery in Rittenhouse.

If you want to own an original before Spence blows up the art world like he did in cooking, now’s your chance.

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Painting by Brad Spence Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn
Painting by Brad Spence Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Danya Henninger is a Philadelphia-based journalist who believes local news is essential for thriving communities, and that its format will continue to evolve. She spent six years overseeing both editorial...