455 E 114th St., New York, NY (@ Pleasant Ave.)
Shorthand for Rao’s Specialty Foods, Rao’s is renowned for its jukebox, quirky decor, unmatched hospitality and most of all, exquisitely simple Italian cooking. With a seating handicap of only ten tables, it’s also notorious for being one of the most difficult restaurants in New York in which to get a reservation. If, hypothetically, you are lucky enough to snag one, here’s a teaser of the fabulous classics you can look forward to: the famous marinara sauce, seafood salad heaped with squid, crab meat, lobster, shrimp and octopus, roasted peppers with pine nuts and raisins, baked clams, lemon chicken and chicken scarpariello. As if anyone need say more, it is said that you can actually taste the love that goes into each dish. Frequented by the who’s who of New York cognoscenti, from Woody Allen to Martin Scorcese to this Old School East Harlem gem should be on everyone’s bucket list.