Four tables and six booths, and, yes, that’s all, folks. Framed celebrity photos crowd the walls, and a years-long remnant of Christmas décor lies near the bar in this most exclusive restaurant in Manhattan — and who knows, possibly the world.
Rao’s remains in East Harlem on 114th Street at Pleasant Avenue in an old-fashioned Italian neighborhood dating back to more than a century.
An occasional Beverly Hillbilly and/or Californian managed to break entry, thanks to “connections,” in this hallowed haven considered the toughest booking in town. To wine and dine on its “red sauce” menu — as New York Times’ venerated critic of bygone days, Mimi Sheraton, described it.
Whether thou will ever dine there or not is moot and beside the point. Rao’s history is compelling for the many perennially curious about the global food scene.
Vanity Fair profiled Rao’s last October with a lengthy feature by Alex Witchell, no less, and for those who may dream of snagging a table or booth, which is yours for the night, Rao’s is a story worth retelling.
Rao’s is pronounced RAY-O’s, not RAH-Os.
We dined there once, thanks to the polite auspices of PR empress Susan Magrino, who’s represented Martha Stewart since birth.
Indeed, we met Rao’s Grand Seigneur, Frank Pellegrino, Sr. who lost his life last week to lung cancer. A longtime smoker of his favored Parliament 100 cigarettes, he often sipped a hooker of Chivas Regal at the bar. All the while standing tall as the unyielding commando or the reservation book, the toughest nut for any gourmet/gourmand to crack.
Over time, Frank became known as Frank No.
Frank appeared in the HBO series, The Sopranos, as the FBI chief Frank Cubitos, and as a cigar-chomping prison guard in Martin Scorsese’s 1999 gangster classic, Goodfellas.
He wore gold turtle cufflinks of his own design. Turtles being an obsession – “with their improbable exterior, resilience and pluck … be careful when the turtle snaps.”
Were you an early on and decades-long regular such as Woody Allen or a paisano like Martin Scorsese, one of the four tables or six booths might be available. And, as we noted, they are yours for the night.
Our dinner was prepared by a Yugoslav cook, and the menu offered the anticipated drill of antipasti, pastas upon pastas, seafood and veal, chicken and beef, along with New York cheesecake.
Handsome Frank Pellegrino, Jr., having toiled alongside his dad is the generalissimo heir.
People are talking about the thrills and spills of Super Sunday and Super Tom’s historic comeback with the New England Patriots.
They’re talking about Paris planting fragrant flower gardens in the smelly public pissoirs of the City of Light.
And they are talking about radical billionaire George Soros’ cash outlay empowering the Republican campaigns of Paul Ryan, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.
According to financial filings reviews, big bucks were shelled out by Soros henchmen, with high hopes (now fallen) of destroying the powerful political inroads of Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Trump has commanded the Oval Office for barely three weeks, and the media keeps flogging nonstop. Even our vice-president Mike Pence was branded as merely a presidential “pet” by a New York Times columnist who had the gall to confirm the election (in print, no less) was won by Mr. Trump’s rival the weekend before the vote.
The attack dogs will bite day after night. Please, may we allow Mr. President time to build the country without any of the corruption from his election opponent.
He is our President. Let’s be civilized and give him a chance.