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Restaurant information
Established 1896
Food type Southern Italian
Street address 455 East 114th Street (at Pleasant Avenue), East Harlem, Manhattan
City New York City
State New York
Postal/ZIP Code 10029
Country United States
Website raosrestaurants.com

Rao's is a Southern Italian restaurant founded in 1896 and located at 455 East 114th Street, on the corner of Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem, New York City, with sister restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Nevada.[1][2]


The restaurant was started in 1896 by Charles Rao, who moved with his parents from Italy to the United States. He bought a small shop in Italian Harlem, once a very large Italian-American community, and ran the restaurant until his death in 1909. Louis Rao took over the business. He was seen by many as a very suave man. He had his hair cut at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and wore many fancy suits. Former co-owner Frank Pellegrino described those days as "the days of big Cadillacs and usually convertibles." He was much more conservative in behavior and looks and refined the cuisine into a simpler Italian menu, with the help of "Aunt Jake." After Vincent Rao's death in 1999, the restaurant was taken over by Frank Pellegrino, Anna Pellegrino Rao's nephew, and Ronald Straci, another close relative. Anna Pellegrino Rao refined the menu even more with the help of Vincent and she is the source of the menu's identity today.[citation needed]

On December 6, 2006, Rao's opened a second restaurant in Las Vegas, under executive chef Carla Pellegrino, with two ten-table rooms and additional seating available on an outdoor garden patio.[3] In early 2009, Rao's in Las Vegas opened a bocce bar outside and began offering bocce lessons and cocktails there.[4] On July 25, 2013, Frank Pellegrino Jr. announced on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon that Rao's will open in Hollywood soon.[5] It has since been opened.[6][7]

Rao's now sells products in gourmet markets and supermarkets. Products include pasta, sauces, as well as olive oil.[8]

Though small, Italian Harlem culture is still kept alive by Rao's and the Giglio Society of East Harlem. Every year on the second weekend of August, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the "Dancing of the Giglio" is performed while thousands of visitors and onlookers celebrate the once largest Italian community in New York City.[citation needed]

The New York Post describes the restaurant as "one of the hardest places to get into in the city".[9]

In media[edit]


In the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, which premiered in December 2013, Leonardo DiCaprio is seen eating dinner in Rao's Restaurant.

Woody Allen and Mia Farrow would regularly eat at Rao's in the 1980s. Mrs. Rao inspired the character Tina Vitale in his 1984 film Broadway Danny Rose.


In 2009, Jay-Z shot the music video for "D.O.A." (Death of Autotune) at Rao's.[citation needed]


Rao's was the basis for "Raimondo's," a fictional restaurant featured as the site of a murder in the Law & Order episode "Everybody Loves Raimondo's." The owner of the fictional restaurant was played by actor Ray Abruzzo, who later co-starred with Pellegrino on The Sopranos.[citation needed]

On Top Chef: All Stars, season 8, episode 8, an elimination challenge required the chefs to cook a three-course family-style Italian meal at Rao's restaurant for the judges and Rao's owners and staff.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History of Rao's". Raos.com. 
  2. ^ "Rao's | Manhattan | Restaurant Menus and Reviews". Zagat. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  3. ^ "Caesers Palace Rao's". Harrahs.com. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  4. ^ Shindler, Merrill (May 28, 2009). "A Rao's-ing Tale". Zagat.com. 
  5. ^ "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon". Internet Archive - TV News Archive. NBC. July 25, 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2017. 
  6. ^ Baum, Gary (September 18, 2013). "Opening Night Report: NYC Landmark Rao's Debuts in LA". HollywoodReporter.com. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 14 June 2017. 
  7. ^ Nagourney, Adam (January 21, 2014). "At Rao's in Los Angeles, Red Sauce and Rivalry". The New York Times online. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 14 June 2017. 
  8. ^ "Rao's Specialty Foods, Inc. -Premium Pasta Sauces, Pasta, Oil, Vinegars, Marinades and Gifts". Raos.com. 2004-03-23. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  9. ^ Landman, Beth (22 November 2015). "Inside the restaurant that's the hardest reservation in town". New York Post. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°47′38.16″N 73°56′3.2″W / 40.7939333°N 73.934222°W / 40.7939333; -73.934222