For the first time, East Harlem’s exclusive Rao’s is offering delivery

December 14, 2020

Photo courtesy of Thrillist

Noncelebrity New Yorkers will finally be able to taste the iconic Italian food of Rao’s, long considered the city’s most exclusive restaurant. As part of a joint program led by culture brand Thrillist and ghost kitchen operations company Zuul, the East Harlem institution will offer delivery of its signature dishes for the first time ever. As part of the program, ten New York City restaurants will lead a two-week chef residency with limited-edition menu items available for takeout and delivery.

Rao’s first opened 124 years ago, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the restaurant’s impossible-to-book reservation system came to be. In 1977, a New York Times food critic described the restaurant as serving  “wonderfully simple, honest and completely delicious Italian food, all prepared strictly alla casalinga—home style.” After the review, the one-room restaurant became overwhelmed with reservation requests.

“It changed overnight,” co-owner Ron Straci and grandson of founder Charles Rao, told Thrillist, “and became a place everyone wanted to go to.” The restaurant began issuing regulars, those who dined at the restaurant pre-Times review, an exclusive slot at one of its 10 tables.

But when the coronavirus pandemic struck the city in March, closing restaurants and bars for in-person dining, Rao’s had to pivot their old-school operations and offered takeout for the first time.

As part of the Thrillist Ghost Kitchen program, Rao’s is now more accessible to regular New Yorkers than ever before. From December 9 through December 18, Rao’s will be available for delivery on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings. To-go orders can be picked up from 30 Vandam Street and delivery will be available in Manhattan neighborhoods of Union Square, West Village, Tribeca, Soho, Lower East Side, and the Financial District.

Rao’s dinner for one costs $50 (or $100 for two) and includes penne marinara, meatballs, lemon chicken, and house salad. Orders also come with an artist-designed t-shirt inspired by the restaurant, an insulated reusable bag, wine tumbler, and cutlery set.

Other restaurants participating in the program include Chinese Tuxedo, Sylvia’s, Caracas Arepa Bar, and Milu.

“As an experience-based brand that is fervent about the culinary industry, we wanted to create a program that would help the industry as it works to evolve and reinvent itself during this difficult time,” Meghan Kirsch, Thrillist’s Chief Content Officer, said. “Our ambition is to continue offering our passionate audience the experiences they crave while helping the community endure this unprecedented time.”

Find more details about the program and place an order here.


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