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Exclusive New York Italian hotspot Rao’s opens location in Miami

The new outpost channels the original restaurant’s décor and menu in a much larger space

Rao’s — New York City’s famously exclusive Italian restaurant — opened in 1896 in Harlem with just 10 tables and a menu serving Neapolitan Italian red-sauce dishes. Since then, the family-owned and operated restaurant has been one of the most desired and hardest to get reservations in the country. If you’re not a regular, or a guest of a regular, chances are slim you’ll ever walk through those doors.

Diners’ chances of experiencing the restaurant increased when Rao’s expanded to Las Vegas in 2006 (the location has since closed) and later to Los Angeles in 2013. Then on Oct. 25 this year, Rao’s opened its newest location inside the historic St. Moritz Tower at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. It replaces another New York transplant, Lure Fishbar, and is open for dinner seven days per week.

“Rao’s is a legendary experience, where every night feels like a Sunday dinner, and we are excited that our iconic Harlem eatery and years of tradition can now be celebrated in Miami,” co-owner Ron Straci said.

Like the New York institution, Rao’s Miami has white tablecloths, red chairs and framed photos on the walls, but it has 166 seats and is operating with significantly more real estate than the original. The dining room and bar are joined by an oceanfront terrace, plus additional space for private events.

Executive chef Dino Gatto has been with Rao’s for nearly 30 years. He’s brought many of the restaurant’s classic dishes to the Miami menu, including Rao’s traditional meatballs and Uncle Vincent’s lemon chicken, but he also created new dishes exclusive to the Miami location.

The menu includes a raw bar with caviar and seafood towers, plus soups, salads and antipasti like baked clams, fritto misto and mussels sauteed with white wine, butter, garlic and fennel. Pastas range from rigatoni pomodoro, penne vodka and linguini carbonara to lobster fra diavolo and gemelli pesto.

Main courses include several steaks and chops, as well as veal or chicken Milanese, veal piccata, and pan-seared red snapper.

Rao’s co-owner Frank Pellegrino Jr. said that the opening has exceeded expectations, as Miami guests have quickly filled the books.  

“Procuring a reservation is almost as challenging as getting one in NYC, but not impossible,” Pellegrino Jr. said. “Presently, we are fully committed for the foreseeable future. However, given the size of the restaurant, we have a bit more flexibility, especially as it pertains to last minute requests than we do in New York City. With that understanding, we will always do our best to accommodate all requests.”

Reservations are available on Resy, and a quick look at the website shows a few tables available throughout the week, particularly outside of prime dinning hours, with the majority of slots open at 10pm or later.

Since opening in Miami, Rao’s is back to having three locations in major U.S. cities, but the owners are keeping their eyes on the road ahead.

“As we look to the future, I could see ourselves finding a new home in Las Vegas, a relocation in L.A., and possibly a spot in Dallas,” Pellegrino Jr. said.

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