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Sep 17, 2013 08:04 AM

Rao's comes to Hollywood

Rao's, the legendary 117 year old Spanish Harlem institution serving great Italian, and said to be the most difficult reservation to get in America, has opened in Hollywood. 323-962-7267 for reservations. Good luck. Try the meatballs.

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  1. Or buy the great Raos cookbook and make the meatballs.

    1. Their Harlem location is legendary.

      I ate at their location in Vegas (friends made the reservations) and it was horrible. One of the worst italian meals I've had in a really long time. I hope their Hollywood location is better . . .

      1 Reply
      1. re: thimes

        If I were a gambler, I would bet that the Hollywood location will be subpar too.

      2. I don't think the reservation will be difficult at all.

        It's only the original East Harlem location that is beyond difficult to get into where the regulars essentially own their seats year in and year out.

        17 Replies
        1. re: kevin

          New York's Rao's has only 10 seats, Hollywood will offer 95 seats and both indoor and outdoor dining.

          1. re: wienermobile

            Not 10 seats, 10 tables. They are booked through the rest of 2013, call Harlem in November for 2014 reservations.

            1. re: Veggo

              There are really no such things as "reservations" at Rao's Harlem (at least not in the traditional sense).

              1. re: ipsedixit

                True. A friend of mine who was a famous journalist (R.I.P.) loved that he could eat at Rao's. He got another famous journalist's table when he was in NYC. I know one other person who managed to dine at Rao's in NYC. Suffice it to say he "knew a friend who knew a friend."
                Don't knock yourselves out looking for WeHo reservations & expecting a slice of NYC. What makes Rao's is it's history (for better or worse). I suspect you are likely to find an adequate Italian restaurant of the "old stye.". I posted earlier about the cookbook. It is really excellent. The meatballs, bolognese, lemon chicken are all stellar. BTW, Rao's Marinara sauce is availabile at Bed and Bath for about $2.00 less than supermarket prices.

                1. re: maudies5

                  Which rao's cookbook? There are several.

                  1. re: ns1

                    Rao's Cookbook: Over 100 Years of Italian Home Cooking
                    I am pretty sure this was the first one. I so mangled my first Rao;s cookbook, that I had to buy another. It is really that good. Nothing frou frou about that food. I have tried most of the recipes and they are all damn good.

                      1. re: ns1

                        They've got a few recipes on their website, meatballs and marinara are a couple.


                        1. re: James Cristinian

                          Just took a look at their online recipes. It appears that it is designed to sell their retail products, e.g. Lemon Chicken calls for their bottled lemon dressing and the roasted peppers antipasto calls for their jarred roast peppers. Please do not make these recipes. Get the cookbook and make your own lemon chicken using fresh lemons. The one recipe which remains authentic on website is Meatballs.

                          1. re: maudies5

                            I certainly wouldn't use their products in these recipes either, but for instance the meatballs call for Rao's olive oil as does the marinara plus Rao's Italian tomatoes. These are easily subbed with things most people have in their pantry, roast peppers and lemon dressing as well. I use these recipes as a guide only.

                            1. re: James Cristinian

                              It's a very common marketing ploy to write the recipes of their popular dishes with the ingredients listed as their own products. It's called cross - selling.

                              I wouldn't bother to buy any of their products...... Homemade marinara is always better tasting than anything jarred, IMO.

                              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                The only reason I got involved in all this is because it's finally cooled off enough where I can use my stove top for meatballs and marinara. I looked at Rao's meatballs but have decided to go with the Bobby Flay recipe I've had success with, only I cut out the veal and go 50/50 pork beef. I tried it with veal, but the wifeacita and I prefer it without.


                                Yes, it's a Food Network recipe, but delicious.

                                1. re: James Cristinian

                                  I mainly use all pork & beef too, as veal, as much asi love it, tends to make them a bit soft, and we all love the flavor the pork adds. I save my ground veal for meatloaf ;)

                    1. re: ns1

                      Don't bother with the Rao's sequels. Get the original with the original recipes.

                    2. re: maudies5


                      Rao's (Harlem) is like a public restaurant cum private diner's club.

              2. re: kevin

                I agree, kevin.... And once the hype has died down, I think out of us will agree,it's not gonna be as good as the authentic east coast Italian, no matter whose name is behind it. It will just never be the same here on the left coast, so lets get over it already.....

                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                  For those old enough to remember, Rao's is Villa Capri redux.
                  IMHO, those who really love good Italian food in that neighborhood will still eat at close by Osteria Mozza or Angelini. Not venturing east to Rao's for that "cuisine." I will say that this thread has motivated me to make that lemon chicken this weekend, So good and so easy with FRESH lemons.

              3. As someone who was lucky enough to eat at the NYC Rao's a handful of times, I've gotta say that it is excellent but no better than what you'd get at Sunday dinner at my nana's house - she was born and raised on Mulberry St. in what used to be Little Italy , Manhattan - or from any other Italian American grandma with a knack in the kitchen.

                The recipes are old school Italian American and their Sunday Gravy - the recipe is in the first cookbook, I believe - is something you can easily recreate at home given the time, effort and access to ingredients.

                Now, finding the crusty coal oven baked Italian round loaves to go along with the gravy is a different story entirely. Still haven't found anything even close anywhere in SoCal.

                1. Apparently, the back patio is considered to be "Siberia."This, according to folks who were there on opening night. Source: eater LA quoting THR.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: maudies5

                    The actual quote:

                    "By 8 p.m. on opening night the place was packed, except for the rear patio, which was treated as Siberia."


                    For the person who hated Rao's LV...

                    "It no doubt helps that Nicole Grimes, the executive chef, transferred from the well-oiled third Rao's location, at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas"

                    1. re: ns1

                      Well hopefully she had left when I ate there this past Memorial Day. If not I hope the glow of Harlem keeps them running.