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Rao's in East Harlem, the original G

  • k

Does anyone happen to have a hookup to get me in here ?

I will be in NYC in March.

Thanks a bunch.

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  1. Kevin, you're a funny guy.

    Good luck.

    1. Just show up. A classy guy like you should have no trouble talking your way in.

      5 Replies
      1. re: grampart

        I dunno, most Kevin's are Irish, and their last name doesn't end with a vowel...:)

        1. re: Veggo

          Yeah, I'm not a classy guy and I'm not Italian, so sadly I guess I won't be able to grab a perch there.

          Veggo, I'm presuming you've been many times before ????

          1. re: kevin

            Only in my dreams, when my name is Vito.

            1. re: kevin

              Go in and drop a lot of f bombs like you occasionally do. I'm sure they'll effing let you in.

        2. Just call for a reservation. Highly entertaining.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Motosport

            Ok, but calling won't get me anywhere, right ????

          2. They open at about 4:30 and just about anyone can get a drink at the bar. But not a table.

            There's a reason co-owner Frank Pellegrino's nick-name is "Frankie No."

            And this thread's in the wrong category. Rao's is indeed on the island of Manhattan.

              1. re: c oliver

                That is funny. What is really funny is the one time I went, I saw Rusty Staub there.

                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                    It IS a good read. And, as I suspected, it has really NOTHING to do with the food. It's an event. A happening. And from what I've read, it sounds like, nowadays anyway, the majority of the diners aren't even Italian :)

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Please do let me know if you do garner a table. Dinners on me if I can join up in time.

                      And that ain't no joke.

                      1. re: kevin

                        Ya know, when we're in NYC, we're so focused on GOOD food that it's unlikely we'd even try to go. But a drink at the bar is always possible.

                      2. re: c oliver

                        The food is fine, and you always get a good story out of it, which is priceless.

                        1. re: coll

                          As the saying goes, to each his own. Our visits to NYC don't happen nearly often enough so, when there, we want better than "fine."

                          1. re: c oliver

                            So, then, we'll agree: To each his own. I like a full experience and luckily I can afford to take some chances. Tomorrow's another day, either way.

                  2. Tell them Frankie Pellegrino sent you.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                      And they'll tell you that his name is "Frankie No" :)

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Oliver, have you been before ?????

                        1. re: kevin

                          Oh, heavens, no!!!! I think I'm an EXTREMELY persuasive person but they're above my pay grade :)

                          1. re: c oliver

                            If you get in, please post in copious detail how you gained entry. :)

                            1. re: kevin

                              I DO like Harlem so if I venture over there I might try. But I'm not that charming :)

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I thought you mentioned you are an extremely persuasive person. If you are, then you don't even really have to
                                Be charming.

                                Sadly, I'm neither and hence the post which you guys prolly get about once or twice a day on this board.

                                1. re: kevin

                                  From what I've read no amount of charm or persuasion will work. If I'm in the nabe I may try just for the fun of it.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    And if you don't get in there's always the Red Rooster or Chalres' Southern style kitchen.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Oh yes. I haven't tried that just yet.

                                        1. re: kevin

                                          Amy ruth's is absolutely worth the trip! Just be sure to go hungry....

                              2. re: kevin

                                I've been there a few times. I only got in because my friend has a" table" on Thursdays. The food is good, not gourmet, the roasted peppers are delicious. The atmosphere is exactly how you would imagine it. Sometimes people auction off their table for charity. They get around $5000 just for the seats, no food.

                      2. How to eat at Rao's:
                        1. Buy a Jar of Rao's pasta sauce (available at many, many food stores).
                        2. Pour over cooked pasta.
                        3. Eat.
                        4. As you eat, suddenly become aware that the sauce doesn't taste all that special or better than many other sauces on the market and is over-priced for what it is.
                        5. There- now you've had the exact same experience you'd have if you ate at the restaurant.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Ann900

                          That is just not true. Rao's has a unique ambiance. The best I can describe it is like it is Christmas every day there. You should go once if you have the opportunity.

                          1. re: tpigeon

                            Pigeon, how'd you gain entry ????

                            1. re: kevin

                              I will be absolutely no help here...

                              An old friend of mine won a bid for a charity event back when the bidding was not so high and you got a free meal for 4 people with the winning bid, which apparently is not the case anymore. The food was not amazing, but the experience was. I am generally an all about the food guy, but this is one of the rare restaurants I would go back just for the experience.

                              I think foodwhisperer did a good job describing the food...

                          2. re: Ann900

                            The sauce in the jar, is not like the sauce at Rao's. It was supervised to get the sauces in the jar tasty, but it is made by Victoria Packing, who makes many brands including there own. Actually the Victoria Brand tastes better than Rao's brand. Another thing is, the contadina ( chicken , sausage potatoes is the best dish there. Simple, no sauce.

                          3. Buy the cookbook:

                            Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood: Frank Pellegrino Cooks Italian with Family and Friends
                            by Frank Pellegrino


                            Buy it used, it's cheaper.

                            1. We dined about once a month, with my boss's boss, at Rao's, from about 1978 until 1982. Vinnie and Ann Rao were still alive and working. The dishes were delicious but it was also a lot about great, hand-picked ingredients. And just when you thought you couldn't have another bite, they'd bring out a beautiful platter of chilled, perfectly ripe fruit -- which they said Ann Rao selected herself each day at the greengrocer. Back then it wasn't the big celebrity magnet it is now, but we got an eyeful of some of New York's most note-worthy and also most notorious. The guy I used to go with passed on in about '85.

                              Speed up to about 2001 or so. I went in on a Tuesday or Thursday night and sat at the bar and had a drink. Frank Pellegrino was there and I got his attention by talking about a business idea he'd pitched to my boss and others at our table, so many years ago. Even the fact that he remembered me, my bosses, *and* the business idea, the way the conversation went it became very clear to me that if I asked him for a seat for dinner, the answer would nevertheless be "no."

                              Another small detail that *may* make the original poster feel a bit better, the Rao's you pass when you visit the corner of 114th and Pleasant Avenue *looks* like it's been there over a hundred years, but it's actually a very clever, expensive re-creation. The place burned completely in the summer of '95.

                              The Vegas incarnation is nothing like the original. Decent food and a great, energetic vibe -- but nothing like the original.

                              I'd hazard a guess that the best advice I could give Kevin is that he needs to get in touch with someone who could perhaps advance Mr. Pellegrino's acting career. It's my understanding that lots of people ate there who didn't "own" a table during his gig with HBO's "The Sopranos."

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: shaogo

                                That is so true, I have a friend an actor from a popular tv detective series no longer airing who never has a problem getting a table when he is in NY.

                                1. re: chowdom

                                  And I'm betting he's neither Italian nor a part of "the mob."

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    So acting it is.

                                    Perhaps the time has come to pursue acting.

                                      1. re: chowdom

                                        Cool! Do you think he gets a table cause he's Italian or cause he's a celeb?

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          He gets a table because he "knows somebody". That's how it goes usually.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            And he may KNOW somebody cause he is/was a celeb.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  Could have put in the sound system. Could be the food purveyor salesman, or the owner of that company. Could be the liquor salesman, or the garbage company owner. Could be someone doing a small favor and it's a payback. Could know somebody who can ask a favor for you. The possibilities are endless. You don't have to be famous! Or Italian.

                                2. According to the NYt it isn't worth it. Open a few cans of chef boy at dee and enjoy yourself.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Stuartmc910

                                    Oh please! Rao's is good home style Italian/American food. It is better than most restaurants, although not gourmet by any means. But to even think of it on a Chef BoyarDee level , sheesh. BTW i had a can of Chef Boyar Dee meat ravioli a few weeks ago.

                                      1. re: Stuartmc910

                                        I have no sense of humor. I'm grumpy when it's cold outside

                                  2. Why don't you try the Rao's in L.A.? The experience would be an interesting conversation-starter for you and Frank.


                                    1. Also,, does anyone happen to have a link to Mimi sheraton's original review of Rao's from 1977 ?????


                                      6 Replies
                                        1. re: squid kun

                                          Damn. It costs money to access the article ?

                                          Anyone have a free link or a code ?

                                          Thanks again.

                                          1. re: kevin

                                            You must have looked at the Times 10 times already this month, that's your limit for free stories. Wait til Saturday and google it then.

                                              1. re: kevin

                                                If acting fails , try comedy. I think you may have a true talent.