The toughest restaurant reservation in the US

Rao's will soon open its third location, giving West Coast diners a taste of something most New Yorkers rarely get to experience.

By Kim Peterson Sep 17, 2013 5:17PM
© Verena Dobnik/AP
Rao’s in New York CityThink getting a reservation in your city's hot spot is tough? Just try to nab a meal at Rao's, which is so popular with its regulars that the phone lines never open.

The tiny eatery in New York's East Harlem is "the toughest restaurant reservation in this country," writes Forbes' Larry Olmsted. The Italian restaurant only has about a dozen tables, and each one is pretty much spoken for at all times.

The regulars have had long-standing reservations for years, and when they can't go, they ask friends to go in their place, Olmsted adds. As a result, you'll never see a Groupon (GRPN) deal or an ad of any sort for the restaurant. Rao's has been permanently sold out for decades.

If you aren't a regular, you pretty much have to be a politician, celebrity, musician or athlete to get in. For the rest of us muggles, the doors are closed.

"As a result, Rao's is equal parts legend and myth, so hard to get into that very few restaurant critics have been -- and not for lack of trying," Olmsted writes. The restaurant doesn't take credit cards, and it has no menu (a server will tell you the daily options). It's closed on the weekends and it never opens for lunch.

Rao's opened a second location in the Caesar's Palace resort in Las Vegas several years ago. The Las Vegas menu features spaghetti alla bolognese, veal parmesan, ossobucco and Rao's famous lemon chicken.

This week, Rao's is getting ready to open the doors at a third spot in Hollywood that can seat 95.

The newest location is in a drab, empty area of town near some film studios, Eater LA reports. Sounds like a perfect spot to begin courting the celebrities and studio honchos who crave special treatment and exclusivity -- and have the money to ensure they get it.

More on moneyNOW

Sep 17, 2013 8:54PM
wow.....sounds exactly like the kind of place i DONT want to go
Sep 17, 2013 8:58PM
sounds more like a private club than a public restaurant
Sep 17, 2013 9:08PM
Ooooo a restaurant that only caters to certain people and thinks its unique when it is not. Never heard of it until now and won't be giving it any of my money.
Sep 17, 2013 9:15PM
Not a Restaurant it's a place for people who are stuck up on themselves and can sit there and think how COOL AM  "I"
Sep 17, 2013 9:18PM
It would be a waste of my time. So many great restaurants around with great chefs so it's not a tear in my eye. Enjoy.
Sep 17, 2013 9:37PM
Earth to Rao's. Earth to Rao's. The 80s and 90s are over. You can't play the "we're so exclusive!" card anymore. That doesn't make us want to eat at your establishment anymore. It just makes us look elsewhere. No shortage of good restaurants out there. 
Sep 17, 2013 9:17PM
Terrible article - what is the food ????  or the decour ??????  Maybe -  who cares !!!!!
Sep 17, 2013 9:15PM
Sep 17, 2013 9:20PM
Oooops, clicked on one of those "who cares" articles ;-)
Sep 17, 2013 9:32PM
This kind of publicity doesn't create much enthusiasm.  Nothing is worth waiting for years except an education with the degree.
Sep 17, 2013 9:35PM
why put it in the net?  for advertising? i dont want to hear or read about this kind of place.
Sep 17, 2013 9:16PM

wow.... I'd probably be better of at Chile's than this place! 1 because its not a big hassle. and two it actually has a MENU!!!!!


Sep 17, 2013 9:37PM

RAOS spelled backwards is SOAR. I find no meaning to that, just thought I'd throw it in.

Sep 17, 2013 9:33PM
I'll bet the prices are outrageous...
Sep 17, 2013 9:23PM
yep a place for them that think there bertter than the rest of us so i say they can have it as its prob a joke  any way as i would not go there if they paid me a million bucks
This is the very reason why us 'MUGGLES' get so fed up with celebrity lifestyles.  It is absolutely despicable how much money movie stars, sports players, etc, make.  This country is in such dire straits right now, and people are living on such meager means.  Why would we even care if we could get into this restaurant.  Are we even supposed to feel bad, that once again, we have been "put in our place" by the wealthy.  Letting us know that there is no way we are worthy of this restaurant.  Are you kidding me???!!!
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