Frank Pellegrino Jr. – Rao's Restaurant Group
Author: Rao's On the Grill
Being a restaurateur, let alone a successful one, has never been easy, even when you've got a legendary restaurant such as Rao's in New York in your arsenal. Frank Pellegrino, Jr., co-owner of the original Rao's in Harlem, Rao's at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and Rao's in Hollywood, however knows that a successful restaurant is made by making guests feel like they're part of the family.
"Frankie" as he is known to Rao's regulars, grew up helping his father and family at the restaurant – waiting tables, cooking, managing the restaurant – basically learning the family business, even though his father, Frank Sr. attempted to talk him out of it.
The fourth generation owner of Rao's, Pellegrino attended Connecticut State University on a wrestling scholarship; where he studied graphic design and eventually went on to open his own advertising agency in New York. The restaurant business never left his blood, as he continued to work at the restaurant nights. Frank, however, knew that this was his legacy and where he belonged, ultimately returning to work at Rao's full-time.
In 2000 he opened Baldoria in New York's tony Theater District, a 200 seat restaurant that managed to still carry off the intimate ambience, and stellar Italian cuisine of Rao's, except at Baldoria, people eventually would be able to get a reservation. Pellegrino then decided to bring his talents to Las Vegas to open the second outpost of Rao's, and eventually Los Angeles to open the third.
Pellegrino moved to out west to open Rao's at Caesars Palace in 2006 and Rao's in Hollywood in 2013, and has since brought the same Southern Italian fare and sense of family and camaraderie that one used to only be able to get if they had their standing reservation at the original Rao's. He can be found not only greeting guests, but floating from table to table, ensuring that the Las Vegas and Hollywood experience is the same warm, familiar and inviting one they'd feel in New York.
In 2012, Pellegrino released Rao's On the Grill (St. Martin's Press), which is full of signature Rao's dishes and new creations from "Uncle Vincent's Lemon Chicken," to pastas, salads and even desserts, this book is a must-have for anyone with a passion for cooking or dining al fresco.
Ron Straci is one of the founders and co-owners of Rao's Specialty Foods, Inc. A graduate of Fordham College & Law School, he is now of Counsel to Pitta & Giblin, LLP specializing in Labor Relations. Among other clients, they represent the Bakery and Confectionery Local Union 3. Rao's Specialty Foods, Inc. was started in 1992 to bring to the consumers' home the signature marinara sauce of the legendary Rao's Restaurant. A loyal Fancy Food Show exhibitor, for almost twenty years, Rao's Specialty Foods, Inc. has grown its product line to include a variety of flavors of pasta sauces – not to mention imported pastas, olive oils, vinegars, roasted peppers and dressings – with both domestic and international distribution to traditional gourmet stores and supermarkets.
Proprietor and nightly host at the famous Rao's Restaurant in New York, Frank Pellegrino was born and raised in East Harlem, surrounded by a wonderful family including many good cooks! Frank welcomes his guests to the restaurant and in part the East Harlem neighborhood, in the most hospitable and generous way. After Frank's warm welcome, you are treated to the best southern Italian cooking in New York City, and now on the west coast at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
To that end, Frank is constantly consulting with his Executive Chef Dino Gatto at Rao's New York, vigilantly ensuring the consistency of the food served at Rao's. He does the same with Rao's Las Vegas Executive Chef Nicole Grimes. They review the recipes regularly, discussing ingredients, preparation, and working on new dishes to serve while preserving the traditional foods of our ancestors.
In 1992, Frank founded Rao's Specialty Foods to produce and sell the highest quality gourmet products. In 1998, he wrote the Rao's Cookbook (Random House) providing a wonderful look back at family and neighborhood history, as well as sharing Italian recipes from the restaurant, giving everyone the opportunity and the basics to prepare the simple recipes. The main theme of the cookbook is gathering family and friends around the dining table, sharing food and sharing lives.
In 2004, Frank followed up with a second cookbook, Rao's Recipes From the Neighborhood (St. Martins Press) focusing on and giving credit to the many wonderful cooks who came from East Harlem. In each of the recipes, a bit of heritage and pride comes across; "food from the heart"; again also encouraging cooking at home, with family and friends around.
Frank is a man of many talents; singer, actor, writer, producer, restaurateur and philanthropist. He has a warm and gracious personality, which shines through at Rao's every night.