The toughest reservation in New York City just became available. Rao’s, the East Harlem red-sauce institution notorious for being impossible to get into—unless, of course you’re a regular with a standing reservation—is now offering takeout for the first time in its 124-year history.
But in keeping with tradition, they make you work for it.
Here’s the drill: First, you get on Instagram and direct message longtime Rao’s waiter Marc Mel and tell him what day you would ideally like to pick up. Then, he adds your name to a waitlist—currently about two weeks long—and will call you the morning your dinner is available to pick up at the East 114th Street eatery. (Delivery, according to Mel’s posts, could become available soon.)
The reward for your patience will be a feast for two of Rao’s signature classics: penne marinara, meatballs, lemon chicken, and a salad. The price tag is $80, cash only.
If going through this rigmarole sounds too arduous or you don’t live nearby, do yourself a favor and buy a jar of Rao’s Arrabiatta Sauce. Unlike any of the thin and sickly-sweet sauces you might normally associate with grocery-store shelves, Rao’s Arrabbiata truly tastes homemade—like made-by-your-nonna-level homemade.
It’s a rich and velvety tomato sauce flavored with garlic and crushed red pepper, with just the right amount of heat. And it’s the perfect base for adding other ingredients: shrimp, sausage, meatballs, whatever. It’s the little black dress of your pantry; it goes with everything and is suitable for every occasion.
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