Rao’s 10 tables in Harlem are still the toughest booking in New York, 115 years on. And here it is in Caesars Palace, overflowing with marinara sauce and the whoops of wine-soaked celebrants. The Vegas outpost is four times larger than Manhattan’s, but it’s divided into separate dining rooms, each scaled like the original. There’s a warmth here that’s hard to quarrel with: soft-glowing sconces, burnished plank floors, the obligatory head shot. Waitstaff are prone to laughter; even the busboys slap your back. Rao’s inspires confidence. This is a place where, when they offer grated Parmesan, you say, “Yes,” and when they offer another bottle, you say, “Hell, yes.”
You say “Hell, yes” to a lot at Rao’s. To a zesty insalata di mare—calamari, shrimp, PEI mussels, lobster, and sweet crabmeat. To penne alla vodka and toothsome fiocchetti, stuffed with ricotta and pear, in a sage-butter-cranberry sauce.