The original Rao’s, in East Harlem since 1896, has been touted as the toughest reservation in the country (possibly, the world) to get a reservation at.
Because they don’t really take reservations.
You kind of have to know somebody.
And since I’ll never know anybody, I’ll have to just make due with the location that just opened up in Hollywood.
Which isn’t the easiest to snag a ressie at either…but since I’m Bun Boy, I got in.
Cuz I called a ton of times.
While it can’t match the intimacy of the tiny, ten-table NYC eatery, Hollywood Rao’s still feels cozy and warm, like we had just walked into grandma’s house to escape a snow flurry on Christmas.
The latter part comes mostly from the fact the joint is decorated for the holidays year round. Love it.
Another thing I loved about our epic, almost 4 hour meal was that the crowd wasn’t LA at all. It was like they transplanted the exact kind of east coast crowd I would have expected at the original location.
Even Billy Crystal was dining here this evening.
No pretention. No snobby waitstaff.
Just good, old-fashioned, old-school Italian food in a super fun, casually upscale environment.
The highlights were the incredible Meatballs (best I’ve ever had and I’m not exaggerating) the famous Lemon Chicken (if you Google it, Ina Garten can show you how to make it) and the Penne with Vodka sauce and pancetta.
In fact, I could eat those three things on a weekly basis, they were so damn delicious.
While the prices are a bit higher than Angelenos may be used to, keep in mind the “small plates” movement wouldn’t dare step foot inside Rao’s without getting it’s ass kicked so you get a lot of grub for your dough.
Appetizers and Entrees, just like God had intended.
Near the end of our crazy fun meal (we closed the place down) we met Louie, who I think is one of the managers (my memory is a bit hazy, thanks to the bottle of liquer he placed on our table to help ourselves to) and by the end of the night, we felt like family.
I RARELY revisit a restaurant (life’s too short) but I would make an acception for Rao’s. I want to come here to celebrate every holiday.
Unless it falls on a weekend, because Rao’s isn’t open on weekends.
1006 Seward St
Los Angeles, CA 90028