Frank Pellegrino, Jr.Rao's Homemade®
Frank Pellegrino Jr. – Rao’s Restaurant Group
Author: Rao’s On the Grill and Rao’s Classics
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 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.
Pellegrino moved to Las Vegas to open Rao’s at Caesars Palace in 2006, 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 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.
In the fall of 2013, Pellegrino opened Rao’s Hollywood, taking over the space of the historic Hollywood Canteen on Seward St. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating, with room for approximately 95 guests, creating an intimate setting reminiscent of the East Harlem original.
Pellegrino most recently co-authored Rao’s Classics (St. Martin’s Press), which was released in the fall of 2016 to critical acclaim, a collection of recipes and stories from the neighborhood where he grew up with his family and loved ones.
Pellegrino also served as Rao’s Specialty Foods (RSF) chairman of the board prior to the packaged good company’ 2017 sale to Sovos, a food and beverage company formed by Advent International, and remains a consultant for RSF’s new ownership group.