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Frank Pellegrino Jr.
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., owner of the original Rao’s in Harlem and Rao’s at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, 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, Frank 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 and his wife at the time 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. Frank then decided to bring his skills and talents to Las Vegas to open the second outpost of Rao’s.

Frank 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. Frankie 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.

Read TravelsinTaste.com's exclusive interview with one of Rao's owners, Frank Pellegranio and another exclusive interview with Chef Pellegrino. Still hungry? For an in-depth look at Rao's, complete with dinner menu, please click here.

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