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Mar 9, 2007 07:52 AM

Rao's Las Vegas in Caesars

Has anyone been to Rao's in Caesars? I love the east harlem original. Any data would be greatly apperciated. Thanks.

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  1. I ate at Rao's at Caesar's Palace in Vegas this week and I can honestly say it was one of the ten best meals I have ever eaten. We started with the Insalata Caprese, a terrific arugula salad lightly dressed with vinegar and oil and shaved parmesan and an order of delicately breaded calamari and zuchinni. These are dishes that don't so much explode with flavor as bathe your tongue in subtle flavors. Our server gave us great suggestions as to how much food we should order and we finished our first course the way you are supposed to feel: a little bit sated but ready for the secondi and primo.

    We ordered a pasta dish of Pennete Alla Vodka (a creamy sauce of San Marzano Tomatoes, proscuitto and vodka and cream) which was heavenly. We also shared Uncle Vincent's Famous Lemon Chicken, amazing pan-seared pork chops with sweet and hot peppers, and the amazing Bisteeca alla Pizziaola, the best steak I've ever had. They take a 17 ounce Prime Shell Steak and saute it in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Fresh Oregano and then top it with some fresh tomatoes. The outside carmelizes into a subtle char and the inside is as tender as any steak I've had. Simply delicious.

    The food at Rao's is simple but expertly prepared. The bill for four fame to nearly $300 -- not bad for Vegas -- and worth every penny. I know that it isn't the same as the original, but I would return to Vegas simply to eat at Rao's again.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jwagnerdsm

      Nice. I've been wanting to try Rao's since it opened. I will have to make a pilgrimage there once I have the time. Thanks for the review.

      1. re: jwagnerdsm

        I would hope with this review it is better than the original. Rao's, the one in East Harlem that is, is a good restaurant but but no means one of the best in NYC. As a matter of fact, it would have a hard time cracking the top 20 Italian restaurants in NYC. The food is good but what attracts people is the impossibility of actually getting a table.

      2. What a disappointment!!

        I finally got a chance to try Rao's at Caesars. After everything that I had heard about the NY eatery I was expecting the best Italian meal ever. What a let down. It started with the famous juke box, it was so loud that having a conversation was painful. After a while I was tired of shouting. The service was sub par. We spent allot of time waiting, and it was very rare the server came by to ask if we needed anything. Not once did anyone ask to refill my iced tea. I should have known what was to come as soon as I tried the Rao’s bottled EVOO that was on the table for the bread. It was horrible. I've never had such a terrible tasting olive oil in my life. I grew up Italian, so I've had gallons of the stuff, and this just tasted bad. I asked for butter which I never do in an Italian restaurant. We started with the Antipasto for two. For $25 I was expecting a little more. Two not so ripe tomato slices with two slices of mozzarella, a few olives, some tasteless prociutto, and parmigiano reggiano cheese. AND blue cheese! Who ever saw an Italian antipasto with blue cheese on it! I ordered the Fusili con Cavolo e Salcicce, italian sausage, cabbage in San Marzano tomato sauce. It was in a word, disgusting. As any Italian would know San Marzano tomatoes are the best. My mother will not use any other kind. This plate had absolutely no tomato taste at all. It wasn't nice and red and flavorful like a San Marzano sauce should be. It was pinkish and watery. My guest ordered the Orecchiette con Broccoli Rabe, italian sausage, broccoli rabe in evoo. She at less the half the dish and just pushed it away. I tried a bit and it had no taste at all. Normally anything made with broccoli rabe, garlic, and olive oil would make any Italians mouth water. But this was not even worth the effort of picking up the fork. We should have stopped, but we ordered dessert. Ricotta cheese cake. It was flat and dry. Normally a good ricotta cheese cake should be light and high, the cheese moist and with some texture. The crust was dry and brittle, obviously over cooked. If this is what the NY Rao's is like, I'm glad I was never able to get in. I've had better Italian food at a buffet. There are much better Italian restaurants in Las Vegas that you could try instead of wasting your money here. Even if the casino comps your meal, go someplace else.

        8 Replies
        1. re: sjs5259


          What do you recommend as much better Italian resturants in Las Vegas?

          1. re: suebro

            Onda in the Mirage is excellent. Bartolotta in Wynn specializes in seafood (flown in daily from Italy), but their pasta is also delightful.

            1. re: suebro

              If you want the best New York italian in Vegas--it's not Rao's. It's Il Mulino at Caesars Forum Shops. Rao's is way overrated. Il Mulino's truffle ravioli, pappardelle al pesto, and veal chop are unbeatable. That is if you can still eat after their incomparable gratis appetizers (especially the spicy zuchini, garlic bread and hunks of fresh Reggiano).

            2. re: sjs5259

              wow, sorry about that. I would agree with you that the olive oil was nothing special but everything else we had was terrific. And are server was almost annoyingly helpful, from making sure our water glasses were continually filled to checking on our drinks from the bar to see if we needed another, to helping us get a nice balance of dishes that sated our table without overwhelming us. Sounds like you know your Italian -- I am a Scandanavian -- so you probably know what's good better than I do. I didn't order anything that you ordered. We found our meat dishes to be outstanding. Don't know if this is a 'to each his own' deal or if I have no sense of taste.

              1. re: sjs5259

                "AND blue cheese! Who ever saw an Italian antipasto with blue cheese on it!"

                While I can't comment on Rao's, I just wanted to mention that in my husband's VERY Sicilean family - blue cheese is always on their anitpasto plates. Gorgonzola is a traditional Italian blue cheese and is not only seen on antipasto plates, but used in risottos and various pasta dishes.

                In their family, no meal is complete without it.

                1. re: sivyaleah

                  We ate at Rao's in Las Vegas, we liked everything we ate, but one of my favorites was the antipasto, the gorgonzola was great, and a great part of it.

                2. re: sjs5259

                  I have to agree with your assessment of Rao's. A fellow Chowhounder was gracious enough to treat me to lunch there last week but unfortunately, I was underwhelmed. We had the caprese salad that jwagnerdsm raves about and I found it completely uninspired. The olive oil wasn't fruity or nutty or interesting at all. Their caprese salad consists of four slices of bland tomato (I've had robust tomato before!) drenched in a generic olive oil with a few ripped pieces of basil and two mounds of fresh mozzarella. Also, our waitress was utterly helpless/clueless. My dining partner asked if she had escarole. Oh, but you should have seen the look on her face! Hilarious, in a sad way. She had no idea what he was referring to. Then I asked about kale, same reaction. How can you work in a supposed high end restaurant and not know your veggies? I ordered some cabbage - they sliced some cabbage, steamed it and served it in a side dish. I added a little pepper out of desperation for some flavor.
                  For all the hype, it was a real disappointment overall. Weird environment with Christmas decorations at the bar (not sure I get the reason why there are Christmas ornaments in June?) and a crowd of safe 50 year olds in khaki shorts and pastel polo shirts. Icky.

                  Sorry. Maybe they need to concentrate less on their obnoxious advertising ("don't even dream about getting in for dinner and lunch will soon be impossible, too") and work on improving their menu.

                  Heartless, that place.



                  1. re: arcosdesign


                    Apologies for poor punctuation. I thought the arugula salad was terrific but I too found the Insalata Caprese uninspired. The tomatoes were lousy. I still stand by my original assessment that the food was good.

                3. Ate at Rao's this past weekend. We were a party of 4 and all of us agreed that this place is way over hyped. The waiter (Jim I think) who built himself up as much as the food we were about to receive did not deliver. I've had much better Italian food in Boston's northend for half the cost.
                  Two of us had the pork chop with vinegar peppers which was just ok and another had the veal chop with vinegar peppers.. A little to well done for my liking. the other main was a veal parm. which was a pounded veal chop with the bone still in. Looked great but it really had no flavor, and the red sauce was tasteless. Salads and sides were fine. Portions were large. Received a bad bottle of wine which was kindly taken off the bill.
                  Service was excellent.
                  I was not totally disappointed, just a little let down.

                  1. a recent review by the local newspaper food critic


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kjs

                      Ate at Rao's, Vegas with my SO this Saturday evening. He made the reservation and was put-off by the extremely snotty disposition of the man answering the phones. Turns out, upon arrival at 8:30pm for a 9pm reservation, the maitre'd never made the res, but the AGM was extremely hospitable and found us a nice table (Turns out we had spoken to a NYC Rao's transplant via phone. Guess they do have a little attitude to spare! No biggie). Sat in the bar for drinks to take a look at the wine list pre-meal. No specialty cocktail list, enjoyed a bellini and tom collins at the bar. The wine list is pretty decent, especially with their verticals of extremely marked-up (even by Vegas terms) Italian wines, i.e. Sassicaia.

                      We were seated at our table by 9pm, greated by what is probably the friendliest, most genuinely happy service staff in Vegas. The table was nice and private, only to be irked by the myriad of other loud, obnoxious diners in the bustling room. The restaurant walls are laced with pictures of celebs and the owners, and is decorated in Christmas decor year-round. It is dark, yet fun at the same time. I appreciated how the booths let you sit across from your honey, but not at an uncomfortably large distance. White table cloths, but not in a stuffy way. Chose a decent bottle of Banfi Summus 1999 for $166, decanted by the sommelier. Beautiful wine opened up nicely throughout the meal. Lot's of cedar, cherry, plum and white pepper.

                      Began with the house olive oil (must be summer press, extremely green and peppery, delicious) accompanied by what looked like a wheat and standard white ciabatta.

                      Unlike B&B ("that's not the way Chef Batali does it!"), we were able to order as we liked (antipasti and pastas, wanted to wait on entrees).

                      We began with caprese salad and a fritto di mare assortment. The caprese was two slices of proper mozzarella di buffala with a slice of red and yellow heirloom tomato, basil, s&p with olive oil. The mozzarella was completely luscious, with a firm skin a milky, silky, melt-in-your mouth interior. Simple, yummy. The fritto di mare was standard, but good with fried cod, squid, shrimp and zucchini accompanied with a lemon aioli and marinara dipping sauce.

                      Next we shared half-portions of the gnocchi bolognese (but, upon our server's recommendation we substituted rigatoni for gnocchi, as she felt their gnocchi were a bit "dense") and the gamberi risotto. Both pastas were split for us table side and we were offered parmesean and pepperoncino to top. The pastas were tasty, cooked al dente. Nothing special, nothing bad. The bolognese was classically meaty, probably a blend of veal, beef and pork. The risotto had good, comforting creaminess, chicken broth and white wine flavors came through. 3 large shrimp to share.

                      Next we went for the veal picatta and veal parmigano (another server rec). We also had the peas and prosciutto as a side. The veal parm was "grub" to say the list. Huge in portion with tons of cheese and light marinara sauce. The breading wasn't overdone as the veal was tender and flavorful. The picatta, with mashed potatoes, was just ok. A very mild, caper sauce and thinly pounded veal loin. The peas were probably my addiction, reminding me of childhood.

                      We were far too stuffed for dessert, and had little time to rescue our vehicle before the "wonderful" Caesar's valet closed at 11pm (a whole other story! Ha!), so we skipped on dessert.

                      I have to say, Rao's was an extremely fun Saturday, date-night of stereotypical Italian/American fare. Don't go expecting to be blown away and gastronomically moved on another level. If you love good Italian home cookin' and friendly service, go for it! Bill for two was somewhere around $160 for food, $170 for wine + 20% tip.

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