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SilkCity

Rao's

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Will Rao's face the problem of Alain Ducasse, or will it manage as Jean-Georges has in considerable degree?

I think categorizing Rao's in the same breath as Ducasse and Jean Georges is quite a stretch, IMHO. These are 2 of the most acclaimed chefs in the world. Rao's is just a bit of pop culture, urban legend, folklore, and Hollywood. I don't think too many folks are going to Rao's for the cuisine.

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is there a notable chef at rao's? I'd read about six months ago their longtime chef left for destino on 58th street but I've read nothing on egullet about destino and only negative reviews elsewhere on the web.

alas gaf, I'm jealous. at the taste of the lower east side a few months ago, a dinner for two at rao's was a silent auction item and when I left at the end of the night it was up to $2000 with another two hours of bidding to go.

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Will Rao's face the problem of Alain Ducasse, or will it manage as Jean-Georges has in considerable degree?

I think categorizing Rao's in the same breath as Ducasse and Jean Georges is quite a stretch, IMHO. These are 2 of the most acclaimed chefs in the world. Rao's is just a bit of pop culture, urban legend, folklore, and Hollywood. I don't think too many folks are going to Rao's for the cuisine.

I think the point re: Ducasse and JGV was well made and appropriate. The issue is whether Rao's (or any place for that matter) can maintain a level of quality with expansion.

Rao's already has a line of products (spaghetti sauces, the peppers, the marinade for the lemon chicken etc) on the shelves of gourmet shops (Whole Foods for one carries them).

They are quite good.

There is an interesting topic for discussion here--does a fine restaurant need a recognizable chef at the helm to be considered great? Are simple "classic" dishes executed perfectly with superb ingredients worthy of comparison with those "designed" by big name chefs. I think we are talking about different experiences that can be equally satisfying for a diner.

Also worth noting. Rao's-- as I understand it-- is a small place-- eleven tables or so--that is more akin to a private dining club than a restaurant. The tables are "owned" For eg Mr X has a permanent reservation for Wednesday nights while Mrs Y has the table for Saturday evenings. (much the way Yankee stadium is "booked" for the season).

Therefore one has to have a connection to Mr X or Mrs Y to get use of the table. Also each table is available for the entire evening--they don't turn tables.

Anyway that is my understanding.

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We felt fuzzy, warm, and welcome, and were ready to spend on the dubious assumption that the size of our bill and our repetitious enthusiasm might at the end of this honeysuckle eve translate into a candied, "you'll come back now, boys."

  With two dishes split among four, we were on the right track.

   

So, how was Rao's? If I claimed that it was a once-a-lifetime experience, I might falsely be on record that I have no desire to return. 

Nice report, gaf. However, you didn't talk about the prices at Rao's. What are the various menu item prices? How much was your meal for four people?

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Been to Rao's twice over the last couple and years and on each occasion it was the same - nothing spectacular, nothing bad. It's a good Italian- American serving very large doses of myth.

The best part of Rao's is getting your car washed while having dinner. And since it's your table for the evening, they have the time to do a great job cleaning every nook and cranny.

Rao's is the quintissential definition of "Dinner and a Show."

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Our dinner for four including tax, tip, and wine was $600. However that included two bottles of wine for $110 each. The bill for the food alone was about $250 for four.

My point is that some restauranteurs can manage a far-flung empire, others can not. Rao's is known for its local persona. To what extent will having a Rao's empire detract from this. Of course, no one expects Jean-Georges to be like Spice Market in the level of attention or cuisine.

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Frankly, I think that you can get much better food of the same ilk (70s Italian-American cuisine) on Arthur Ave in the Bronx. But none of those places have the cache of saying "I got in to Rao's and hob-nobbed with the VIPs".

And, IMHO, to put Ducasse and Raos in the same sentence for any reason is pure madness. Just apples and oranges, apples and crawfish.

P.S. Rao's food products is a licensee, nothing much to do with the restaurant at all, except that they get a piece of the action of everything sold.

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You probably get all upset when people mention Thelonius Monk and Mozart in the same paragraph, too.

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Frankly, I think that you can get much better food of the same ilk (70s Italian-American cuisine) on Arthur Ave in the Bronx.  But none of those places have the cache of saying "I got in to Rao's and hob-nobbed with the VIPs". 

This is simply not true. I have eaten at Roberto's, Dominick's and Mario's and neither one of those compare with food at Rao's.

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Although I haven't eaten at Mario's on Arthur Avenue, I felt that Rao's was producing food with a greater level of competence than Roberto's and Roberto's was in a different class than Dominick's. And this come from one who really enjoyed his meal at Dominick's, but one had to appreciate it for what it was, a neighborly, neighborhood joint - and cheap.

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Frankly, I think that you can get much better food of the same ilk (70s Italian-American cuisine) on Arthur Ave in the Bronx.  But none of those places have the cache of saying "I got in to Rao's and hob-nobbed with the VIPs". 

And, IMHO, to put Ducasse and Raos in the same sentence for any reason is pure madness.  Just apples and oranges, apples and crawfish. 

P.S. Rao's food products is a licensee, nothing much to do with the restaurant at all, except that they get a piece of the action of everything sold.

I believe you are wrong.

The food products are all strictly controlled/overseen by the family/ owners of Rao's--Pellegrino and Straci.

Frank Pellegrino is the Chairman and CEO and Ron Straci's wife Sharon runs the business--"Rao's Specialty foods"

The marinara sauce is an old family recipe.

I have tried a number of them and I can say--they are quite good!

As for "hobnobbing with VIP's" most of the people who "own" tables are probably not known to most people.

Whatever Rao's is --it ain't Spago!

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P.S. Rao's food products is a licensee, nothing much to do with the restaurant at all, except that they get a piece of the action of everything sold.

Until my retirement we did a lot of business with the Rao family. The nicest and hardest working people imaginable.

I would love to know from Menton 1 where he got his information from as to their licensee agreements. We were always under the impression that they were quite involved in that aspect of their business and a very successful one at that.

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Rao's is a place that trades more on its Runyonesque ``Guys and Dolls" aura than on the intrinsic quality of its food... get Frank Pellegrino's cookbook and it's all there: solid, honest red-sauce Italian-American food, all done no better and no worse than a dozen other places with similar menus.

The menus and preparations at its midtown cousin Baldoria on 49th are virtually the same. Then too, the venerable Patsy's, Sinatra's old haunt on 56th, is probably better practitioner of this genre than either of them.

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I have tried a number of them and I can say--they are quite good!

As for "hobnobbing with VIP's" most of the people who "own" tables are probably not known to most people.

Whatever Rao's is --it ain't Spago!

Is it worth 10 bucks for a jar of marinara? I picked up a jar last time I was in S. Florida. I couldnt find a price anywhere so I asked the cashier to tell me how much it was. I don't care how good it is, its not worth 10 bucks.

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Frankly, I think that you can get much better food of the same ilk (70s Italian-American cuisine) on Arthur Ave in the Bronx.  But none of those places have the cache of saying "I got in to Rao's and hob-nobbed with the VIPs". 

And, IMHO, to put Ducasse and Raos in the same sentence for any reason is pure madness.  Just apples and oranges, apples and crawfish. 

P.S. Rao's food products is a licensee, nothing much to do with the restaurant at all, except that they get a piece of the action of everything sold.

I believe you are wrong.

The food products are all strictly controlled/overseen by the family/ owners of Rao's--Pellegrino and Straci.

Frank Pellegrino is the Chairman and CEO and Ron Straci's wife Sharon runs the business--"Rao's Specialty foods"

This is true. Had the pleasure of meeting them at the food show on Sunday.

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I have tried a number of them and I can say--they are quite good!

As for "hobnobbing with VIP's" most of the people who "own" tables are probably not known to most people.

Whatever Rao's is --it ain't Spago!

Is it worth 10 bucks for a jar of marinara? I picked up a jar last time I was in S. Florida. I couldnt find a price anywhere so I asked the cashier to tell me how much it was. I don't care how good it is, its not worth 10 bucks.

it's about 6 or 8 bucks up here in jersey. 8 bucks plus 1 buck for pasta plus 2 bucks for lettuce and red onion. 11 bucks to feed 4 people in 10 minutes? it's sure worth it to me. nothin' but good stuff in their sauce, too.


Edited by tommy (log)

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I think some folks are getting caught up in the semantics of the word "licensing".

Does a separate, independent company actually manufacture the product? Albeit, under the specifications and supervision of Rao? Most licensees are just like that.

Unless the Rao family itself has full ownership of the manufacturing company, hires all employees, and is in total control of all operations, I would call this a licensee-manufactured product. Of course there is advice and consent and a degree of control, but it is still a license, by my definition.

As far as being a good value, I think we addressed this issue at length on a bottled-sauce thread a while ago. I suppose they have done their market research and many folks think that $8-$10 bucks is not too much for a bottled sauce, but I am not one of those folks.

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P.S. Rao's food products is a licensee, nothing much to do with the restaurant at all, except that they get a piece of the action of everything sold.

So I gather from your earlier post today you cannot substantiate any of the above.

Rather, it is a supposition as to how the Rao family runs their businesses.

They would be very unhappy with your post and I would think that before you make any more statements of any kind you should first get the facts. Three posters including myself know that they do in fact own and totally run their food products business and it is not as you claim "just a piece of the action."

Without trying to insult you sir, you have put your foot in your mouth and a bit of research before posting goes a long way.

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Oh Oh - sounds like someone is about to make someone and offer they can't refuse. La Familigia - bene, no familigia - brute, facia brute.

If I were Menton, I wouldn't walk down Pleasant Avenue without protection. Sounds like it's time to go to the matresses.

Buon Natale, morte destefano, morte papa!!! This could get a lot worse before it gets better. I think we're all very lucky Italy won the World Cup - most of the elders are still celebrating.

A la Siciliano tu amore!!!

Ciao bella!!!

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As far as being a good value, I think we addressed this issue at length on a bottled-sauce thread a while ago.  I suppose they have done their market research and many folks think that $8-$10 bucks is not too much for a bottled sauce, but I am not one of those folks.

I would certainly agree that is a personal preference. For me, the Rao's Marinara is the best sauce out there (short of what one can make at home), hands down, and is worth the extra price. We probably only have pasta once a week at home, though, so it's not like it's breaking the bank.

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Actually, in the interests of accuracy, I would love for someone with all the details of the sauce operation to chime in here. If this is a totally owned factory, I stand corrected.

However, hoovers.com says that Rao's sauce operations are out of lower Manhattan, 9 employees. The sauce production is outsourced to a factory elsewhere, according to the website. Are they in error? It also says that they import pasta made in Italy, by a different 3rd party.

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think anyone is claiming that the Rao family is actually cooking the sauce that gets put in the bottles. I think the question is whether they maintain control over the recipes or whether they simply let some manufacturer use their name on a product that in actuality has nothing to do with them.

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At this point, unless someone has something meaningful and of verifiable accuracy to say about the production of Rao's bottled sauces, we're going to consider that fork of this discussion closed. Let's get back to talking about Rao's the restaurant. Thanks!

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