How to Get Into Rao’s

Here’s the thing: you’re not getting into Rao’s. Not to eat anyway. You can go sit or stand at the bar, but you can’t eat there. You can only eat at a table. And there’s nothing you can do to get a table.

You can’t make a reservation: there are no reservations. You can call, but all you’ll get is a tape telling you that the reservation book for the year is “closed” … filled up. It’s closed next year too. And every year after that. There are no newcomers to Rao’s, ever.

You have to know somebody who has a “slot” at a table at Rao’s if you want to eat there. They either have to take you, or 1. give you their slot, and 2. call the place and let them know your name, and that you’re using their table. If they forget to call, you’re not eating at Rao’s that night. Sorry.

Tables at Rao’s are booked by regulars on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. Same table, same night, same folks. You’re not getting their table, ever, unless they loan it to you, or they donated it to a charity to raffle off and you won.

I’ve never seen this actually work.

Now I’ve heard that some people come to Rao’s and loiter at the bar hoping to get a regular’s table after he/she or his/her guests are finished. But I’ve never seen this actually work. At Rao’s, dinner starts at about 7 to 7:30, and you have the table for the entire night. Most dinners are marathon events with hot and cold antipasti, salad, a few pastas, the famous huge, soft meatballs, and a main course. Dessert follows, and then cappuccinos and cordials. There’s always storytelling, and sometimes singing. Most people head out near midnight. Maybe after that the bar crowd gets to eat, I dunno. I doubt it.

Your best bet for getting to eat at Rao’s? Be my friend.