On the corner of 114th Street and Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem sits a restaurant that every foodie dreams to dine at, but few are able to walk through the red doors. Since its opening in 1896, Rao’s has entertained past presidents, celebrities and everyone in between, while serving family style Italian cuisine.
The intimate Rao’s experience begins when you are seated at one of their 10 tables, and wait to be served. Instead of the usual menus that most restaurants have, Rao’s has each waiter come to the table to discuss all the delicious choices that are offered. The options are limited, but what are included are iconic Italian dishes.
Some of the enticing appetizers include their seafood salad which has calamari, lobster and crab meat blended together to make an amazing starter. Seafood may not be everyone’s favorite, but coming from someone who rarely eats fish, the seafood salad is highly recommended. Other options include baked clams and mozzarella en carozza, which is fried fresh mozzarella on bread dipped with breadcrumbs.
The must try dishes for the main course include orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage, fusilli pesto, lemon chicken and of course, their famous meatballs.
After ordering the entrees the fun begins; as people sit down, they can look around to see all the pictures of celebrities that have visited Rao’s and are now part of this big Italian family. Scenes of A Bronx Tale or Goodfellas may run through their mind, but for foodies it’s like having that golden ticket.
When the moment comes and it’s time to eat, people will realize why it is impossible to reserve a table. The pesto sauce seems to have a special ingredient that makes it creamy, yet doesn’t overpower the basil, making it a perfect pasta dish. For people that pick the lemon chicken, there is enough for everyone at the table and it is lightly seasoned making it a delicious dish.
If there is room for dessert, patrons can choose one of the two choices including homemade ice cream or cheesecake. Pair it with a cup of coffee, espresso or the after dinner drink Frangelico and the night is complete. Rao’s offers a surprisingly simple menu, but perfects each dish and makes everyone leave feeling satisfied and excited for the next visit.
Twisted Talk: Have you been lucky enough to dine at Rao’s? What’s your favorite Italian spot in the city? Discuss below!