Consider the Meatballs -If You Can Get In

Rao’s opens in Miami Beach, creating an instant clientele

NEW YORK'S TOUGHEST RESERVATION MOVES TO MIAMI

“THE New York one was always this mythical thing. You see it on the way to and from the airport. It’s just there, staring at you, like a tease,” recalls Lorin Munchick, a former New Yorker now living in Miami, on the nearly impossible feat of dining at Rao’s (pronounced Ray-ohs) Italian restaurant, which opened a Miami Beach location in October. 

The restaurant serves southern Neapolitan Italian cuisine. The original, 1896 New York location has such a fanatical following that regulars have reserved tables year-round. If you’re not a regular, but are “someone,” you may be able to get a seat. “I have to call up one of our clients and say “Hey, I need a favor…can I get your table on such and such night?” says Executive Chef Dino Gatto, who came to Miami to oversee the new opening. 

For reservations here, you can find Rao’s on Resy. However, if you’re not a regular, availability is rare short of weeks in advance, unless you dine on a weeknight or plan on taking a table at 10 pm. A regular? Yes, they already have a loyal clientele.  

We arrived at Rao’s Miami Beach, housed in the Loews Hotel, on a Thursday night. Frank Sinatra was playing in the background, at a decibel that was high enough to be fun yet still allow for intimate conversations. Thin, shaved head, impeccably dressed in a tailored sui and wearing European-style sockless loafers and a permanent smile, our host Sal showed us to our table. 

Rao’s exudes classic glamor, clad with red velvet chairs and olive-green velvet booths, white tablecloths, and black and white photos of celebrities that dined at Rao’s in New York over the years. Waiters in white jackets and black bow ties pushed in women’s chairs, poured water, and chatted-up the customers. All good, but we were for the food. 

Meatballs with special marinara 

We started with the storied meatballs ($25). Each the size of a tennis ball, and cooked for 8 hours, they were fluffy and velvety, with just the right amount of marinara sauce. The sauce, their house special, is so good it’s sold on market shelves nationwide. Next, we had the seafood salad ($36) which comprises lobster, calamari, shrimp, crab meat, red bell peppers and a citrus dressing. Light and delightful. The Fiochette ($28) were “ravioli purses,” with bartlett pears, ricotta cheese, cranberries, and just the right amount of brown butter and sage. We thought this was the star of the night until we tried Uncle Vincent’s lemon chicken ($35). The broiled half bird was unlike anything we’ve had; the lemon essence is sewn into the meat and each bite, no matter how small, delivers a flavorful punch. 

Seafood salad with citrus 

Rao’s has some interesting desserts, but we were happy to cleanse our palettes with a couple of cocktails: The Andrea Doria ($24), a spiffed-up pina colada named after the ship that sank in 1956, and the Vulcania ($25), a combination of campari, carpano, antica, gin and amaretto, presumably named after Vesuvius. We’ll make sure to order them again when we secure a regular’s table.

 

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