The Italian restaurant Rao’s, a legendary tiny place in New York City popular with celebrities and politicians, is closing its Las Vegas branch at Caesars Palace next month.
Co-owners Frank Pellegrino Jr. and Ron Straci said this week the Rao’s at Caesars Palace on the Strip is closing for good on Nov. 28, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The restaurant was opened at that location in December 2006. The owners did not give a reason for the closure.
In a prepared statement, the owners said they are “filled with a variety of emotions and will always look back and cherish the memories made within these walls.”
The owners left the door open for a potential next step in Southern Nevada.
While our future in Las Vegas is not yet decided, we are very excited about the possibilities of what lies ahead,” the statement reads.
Carla Pellegrino, the chef who opened the Las Vegas Rao’s 15 years ago, also opened Bratalian in Henderson in 2011, the newspaper reported. In addition, she was a partner in another Las Vegas restaurant, The Meatball Spot, and plans to open one called the Dough House Restaurant & Bar in the Las Vegas Valley.
Rao’s Boss in ‘Goodfellas’
Rao’s reputation in the culinary world dates back to its opening in a large East Harlem Italian neighborhood in 1896, according to Vanity Fair magazine.
The Rao’s in East Harlem has only a handful of tables and booths. Since Mimi Sheraton awarded it three stars in the New York Times in 1977, the New York Rao’s has had “among the toughest restaurant reservations in the country,” Vanity Fair reported.
Among those who have dined there are actors, US presidents, and even now-deceased Gambino crime boss John Gotti.
When film director Martin Scorsese was shooting 1990’s New York Mafia movie Goodfellas, he cast Rao’s owner, Frank Pellegrino, in the movie. He appears most notably in the prison scene, where several wiseguys are cooking a large meal.
New York journalist and screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi recalled having to order ahead on days the restaurant made its red sauce, also known as “gravy.” The movie Goodfellas was based on Pileggi’s 1985 book Wiseguy. Pileggi cowrote the screenplay with Scorsese.
The Sunday gravy is fabulous,” Pileggi told Vanity Fair in 2016. “They only make 20 servings, so I order in advance.”
Pileggi and Scorsese also co-wrote the 1995 Las Vegas Mob movie Casino, based on Pileggi’s true crime book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas.
Cajun Restaurant Opening at Harrah’s
As the Las Vegas branch of Rao’s is preparing to close, a popular Louisiana restaurant plans to open at a different location on the resort corridor.
Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux, a Baton Rouge-based restaurant, is opening its first Nevada location at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino on the Strip, according to a news release. Walk-On’s plans to be in operation at Harrah’s by early 2022.
In addition to such items as burgers and salads, Walk-On’s features Louisiana-inspired dishes, such as crawfish etouffee, duck and andouille gumbo, and Krispy Kreme doughnut bread pudding.
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