Rao's Las Vegas: Bite into New York legend
By now you must know that getting a table at Rao’s is no longer impossible—at least, not if you are dining at Rao’s in Caesars Palace. Like its forefather in New York, Rao’s is a cheery place, with photos of celebs decorating the walls and Christmas décor up year-round. Two dining areas are referred to as “replica rooms,” and they are very nearly what you’d experience in the original, down to having Rao’s owners rolling through and interacting with guests.
Bread baskets often get short shrift—and that’s often undeserved. Here at Rao’s, big slices of Italian loaves and crispy lavosh greet you along with a trio of butters worthy of recognition on their own—including one with a concentrated roasted red pepper flavor. Yum.
If you get here early enough, sit at the bar and order a couple of the dishes off executive chef Fatimah Madyun’s new happy hour menu—fried green tomato caprese with sweet basil pesto is quite the twist on the Southern staple. And watermelon, arugula and mandarin orange salad keep those starters light. But if you’re not an early diner, by all means go for classic appetizers such as seafood salad, a refreshing mixture of crab, shrimp, calamari and lobster with a light lemony dressing. Roasted beet salad comes studded with golden raisins, goat cheese and pistachios.
How to choose your main courses? Rao’s has made it incredibly difficult; each offering entices. Spinach and ricotta ravioli are perfectly complemented by sweet, rich cherry tomato sauce, and the celebrated ravioli purses, stuffed with pear and ricotta mixture, come in a brown butter and sage sauce. If you’re adventurous, try ordering the dish for dessert; it won’t disappoint. But really, you won’t go wrong with any pasta here; most is imported from Italy—but some are house-made, such as a recently sampled pappardelle with a creamy sauce with a touch of smoked paprika. Amazing. The quattro formaggi, although listed under side dishes, could easily make a meal—gorgonzola, mozzarella, Parmesan and provolone combine in a decadent sauce over pasta shells.
Dishes from the original Rao’s stud the menu—Uncle Vincent’s lemon chicken lives up to its reputation, and eggplant Parmesan loads marinara and cheese over crispy breading and tender slices. And Italian standbys such as osso buco and veal Milanese may tempt you even more. Chicken scarpariello combines tender fowl, sausage, and sweet and slightly spicy peppers in a white wine sauce.
Dessert? Yes, you must. Cheesecake and tiramisu are prettily plated, with the very best elements of the New York classics. The peanut butter tart will pull you off in a more modern direction—that’s certainly OK, and definitely delicious.
Caesars Palace, 5-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 5-10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 702.731.7267