Owner Frank Pellegrino Jr. Tells Us How To Land A Table At Rao's - Exclusive

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The over 125-year legacy of Rao's now includes a line of jarred tomato sauces, cookbooks, and a multitude of celebrity fans — but it all goes back to the original restaurant located in Manhattan. The legendary restaurant is known for its standout southern Italian fare, including massive meatballs and seafood salad, but unfortunately, most won't make it inside those famous doors. The reason? Rao's original New York City location has just 10 tables — and most have been claimed for decades. During Mashed's exclusive interview with the fourth-generation owner, Frank Pellegrino Jr., the acclaimed chef and author of "Rao's On The Grill" and "Rao's Classics" shared how to dine in the now-iconic establishment.

Its very, very shortlist of regulars have held standing reservations for years, some even decades. The complexity of their reservation system goes back to a 1977 review from The New York Times, and since then, the late Frank Sr. vowed to maintain the integrity of his restaurant by catering to his people — the local Italian-American immigrants in his Harlem neighborhood that came in week in and week out.

Frank Pellegrino Jr. proclaimed: "Those are the people that my family came over with that ultimately became the patrons of Rao's Bar and Grill back in the day. And my father refused to displace them for new business. So at least 60% of those tables in the restaurant were already accounted for, so that only left you with 40%, which is basically four tables to get reservations to."

Your best bet is to try their Los Angeles location

With only four tables available, your best shot to snag reservations — if you don't have an in — is the call the phone number listed on the website. If that doesn't work, you will have to head to their Los Angeles location — but don't worry, you won't be sacrificing on the taste or the experience. Frank Pellegrino Jr. promises that the experience at their Los Angeles location will be of similar integrity. He added: "Customers become part of your family. They're friends. I mean, it's real. And that also sets the standard for what we do anywhere else in any of the other restaurants. Because if my dear friend Susan, who has been coming to the restaurant for 35 years, goes to the Los Angeles spot, you bet your bottom dollar that if it ain't right over there in Los Angeles, Frank Jr's going to hear about it and I better do something about it to correct it. So, there's that synergy that just really was an undocumented plan that worked and out of respect, appreciation, and gratitude for the people who made Rao's what it is today."

In Los Angeles, you'll find the same overall vibe and quaintness of its original New York City outpost down to the signature jukebox playing the classics, including Frank Sinatra. He explained: "Here, we're dishing out the hospitality the way we do in New York. It's real. It's authentic. You can't make it up."

You can visit Rao's locations in New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. You can also find some of Frank Pellegrino Jr.'s favorite recipes in his cookbooks "Rao's Classics" and "Rao's On the Grill."