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Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood: Frank Pelligrino Cooks Italian with Family and Friends
Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood: Frank Pelligrino Cooks Italian with Family and Friends
Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood: Frank Pelligrino Cooks Italian with Family and Friends
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Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood: Frank Pelligrino Cooks Italian with Family and Friends

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With Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood, Frank Pellegrino-of New York's celebrated East Harlem restaurant Rao's-returns to what he knows best: authentic Italian food. With over one hundred recipes and beautifully illustrated with both full-color and vintage black & white photographs, Rao's Cooks For The Neighborhood is Pellegrino's tribute to the place he grew up and the women who taught him how to cook. From Ida's baked chicken to Rose Milano's Spaghetti Frittata, everything a home cook needs to reproduce their favorite home-style meals is in this book.

This classic cookbook is filled with newly discovered recipes of generations past, as well as holiday cooking, kitchen secrets, and some of the favorite menu items from Rao's. It's a love story devoted to Italian family cooking and its heritage. Every single dish is easy to prepare and satisfying to eat. Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood will be eagerly awaited by readers who loved The Rao's Cookbook, but will also attract new fans who have come to know Rao's through the successful national brand of sauces sold throughout the U.S.

Release dateNov 4, 2004
Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood: Frank Pelligrino Cooks Italian with Family and Friends
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Frank Pellegrino, Jr.

FRANK PELLEGRINO, JR. is the fourth generation co-owner of the original Rao’s in East Harlem, New York, and its locations in Las Vegas and Hollywood. Pellegrino moved out to open the Las Vegas location of Rao’s in 2006 and the Hollywood location in 2013. He is the author of Rao’s on the Grill. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife.

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    Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood - Frank Pellegrino, Jr.


    The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way. Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author´s copyright, please notify the publisher at: us.macmillanusa.com/piracy.

    This book is dedicated to

    all those who have come before us.

    We can never repay them,

    but we can honor them through achievement.

    Table of Contents

    Title Page

    Copyright Notice





    Chicken Stock

    Beef Stock

    Pasta with Lentils - Pasta con Lenticchie

    Wedding Soup - Minestra Maritata

    Meatballs and Escarole Soup - Polpette e Zuppa di Scarola

    Chicken Soup with Pasta or Rice - Zuppa di Pollo con Pasta o Riso

    Escarole and Beans


    Millie Pellegrino’s Beef Soup - Minestra di Manzo

    Simple Pasta e Fagioli


    String Bean Salad - Insalata di Fagiolini Verdi

    Zucchini Salad - Insalata di Zucchini

    Italian Potato Salad - Insalata Italiana di Patate

    Tricolor Salad - Insalata Tricolore

    Chopped Salad

    Orange Salad - Insalata d’Arancia

    Josephine’s Tuna Pasta Salad - Pasta al Tonno di Josephine

    Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes - Insalata di Pasta con Pomodori Secchi

    Spinach Salad with Mushrooms and Pancetta

    Egg Dishes

    Potatoes and Eggs - Patate e Uova

    Peppers and Eggs - Peperoni e Uova

    Eggs in Purgatory - Uova in Purgatorio

    Spaghetti Frittata - Frittata di Spaghetti

    Zucchini Flower Frittata - Frittata al Fiore di Zucchini

    Zucchini with Eggs and Cheese - Zuppa di Zucchini con Uovi e Formaggio

    Pizza, Calzone and Bread

    Pizza Dough - Pasta per la Pizza


    Pizza Sauce - Salsa per la Pizza

    Pizza Rustica

    White Pizza - Pizza Bianca

    Pizza Fritta

    Spinach Pie - Pasticcio di Spinaci



    Sausage Roll - Panetto di Salsiccie

    Home-Baked Italian Bread - Pane Italiano di Casa

    Dipping Oil for Bread

    Pasta, Rice, Polenta, and Sauces

    Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil - Spaghetti con Aglio Olio

    Fettuccine Alfredo - Fettuccine Alfredo alla Franco

    Penne with Sage and Butter - Penne con Salvia e Burro

    Ida’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese - Maccheroni al Forno di Ida

    Fusilli with Summer Tomato Sauce - Fusilli Estiva al Pomodoro

    Penne Rigate with Cauliflower - Penne Rigate con Cavolfiore

    Spaghetti with Zucchini - Spaghetti con Zucchini

    Spaghetti with Mussels Marinara - Spaghetti con Cozze alla Marinara

    Spaghetti with Red Crab Sauce - Spaghetti Marinara al Granchio

    Christmas Eve Seafood Pasta - Pasta di Mare della Vigilia di Natale

    Linguine with Anchovy and Hot Cherry Peppers - Linguine con Acciughe

    Rigatoni with Meat Sauce - Rigatoni Bolognese


    Risotto Primavera

    Sausage and Mushroom Risotto

    Rice Pie

    Polenta with Sausage and Tomato Sauce - Polenta con la Salsa di Salsiccia

    Marinara Sauce

    Puttanesca Sauce

    Sunday Gravy - Ragù della Domenica

    Rice Balls - Arancine


    Broiled Stuffed Lobster - Aragosta Ripiena e Arrostita

    Uncle John’s Fried Shrimp - Gamberi Fritto

    White Crab Bake - Granchio Bianco al Forno

    Mussels in White Wine Sauce - Cozze in Vino Bianco

    My Mother’s Stuffed Calamari - Calamari Ripieni di Mia Madre

    Seafood-Stuffed Calamari - Calamari Ripieni

    Flounder Puttanesca - Passera di Mare alla Puttanesca

    Whiting with Garlic and Lemon - Merlango con Aglio e Limone

    Baked Scrod

    Baccalà in Red Sauce - Baccalà in Salsa Rossa

    Baccalà Salad - Insalata di Baccalà

    Octopus Salad - Insalata di Polpo


    Chilken, Sausage, Potatoes, and Peppers in the Oven - Pollo, Salsiccie, Patate e Peperoni al Forno

    Chicken Cacciatore in the Oven - Pollo Cacciatore al Forno

    Stove-Top Chicken Cacciatore - Pollo Cacciatore sulla Stufa

    Chicken Piccata - Pollo Piccata

    Ida’s Baked Chicken - Pollo al Forno di Ida

    Grilled Lemon Chicken - Pollo al Limone Grigliato

    Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Sauce

    Chicken Parmigiana


    Beef Spiedini - Spiedini di Manzo

    Baldoria’s Steak alla Pizzaiola - Bistecca Pizzaiola di Baldoria

    Beef or Pork Braciola - Bracile

    Old-Fashioned Steak Pizzaiola - Bistecca Pizzaiola all’Antica

    Simple Beef Stew - Stufato di Carne Semplice

    Frankie’s Meatballs

    Mario’s Meatballs,

    Meat Loaf - Polpettone di Carne

    Stuffed Breast of Veal - Panzetta

    Veal Milanese

    Herb-Roasted Leg of Lamb

    Braised Pork Ribs with String Beans and Tomatoes - Costolette Brasate con Fagiolini e Pomodori

    Broiled Breaded Pork Chops

    Stuffed Bell Peppers - Peperoni Ripieni

    Sausage and Peppers in the Oven - Salsiccie e Peperoni Arrostiti al Forno


    Stuffed Italian Frying Peppers - Peperoni Italiani Ripieni

    Oven-Roasted Peppers - Peperoni Arrostiti

    Fried Zucchini Flowers - Fiori di Zucchini Fritti

    Eggplant Parmigiano - Melanzana Parmigiano

    Marinated Eggplant - Melanzana Marinata

    Eggplant Croquettes - Crocchette di Melanzana

    Grilled Vegetables - Verdure Grigliate

    Baked Beefsteak Tomatoes - Pomodori al Forno

    Sautéed Broccoli Rabe

    Vegetable Chiampotta - Giambotta

    Stuffed Artichokes - Carciofi Ripieni

    Potatoes, Peppers, and Onions - Patate, Peperoni, Cipolle

    Stuffed Mushroom Caps - Cappelli di Funghi Ripieni

    Batter-Fried Vegetables - Verdure Fritte in Pastella

    Zucchini Pie - Torta di Zucchini

    Potato Croquettes

    Potato Pie


    Grandma’s Ricotta Pie - Torta di Ricotta di Nonna

    Simple Ricotta Cheesecake

    Grand Marnier Cheesecake - Torta di Formaggio con Gran Marnier

    Panna Cotta


    Nonni’s Chocolate Ravioli - Ravioli Ciocolatti di Nonni

    Sweet Pie for Easter - Pastiera di Grano



    Butter Cookies - Biscotti al Burro

    Wine Cookies

    Icebox Cake

    Easter Bread - Pane di Pasqua

    Roasted Chestnuts

    Quaresimali Biscotti

    Anise Drops

    Family Secrets

    Frank’s Pantry




    Copyright Page


    Few reviews that I wrote during my eight years as the restaurant critic of The New York Times were more satisfying to me or had longer-lasting effects than the one that appeared on August 19, 1977, in which I awarded three stars to Rao’s.

    Rao’s? Whoever heard of Rao’s? was more or less the reaction of many readers and local food professionals. After all, if a place that good existed in New York, they surely would have heard about it. Not that Rao’s was unknown at that time. Open only five nights a week, closed in August and having just eight tables, and located in one of the more foreboding and invisible pockets of the city, it was always packed with a loyal coterie that cut across social and cultural strata and included journalists and publishers, corporate executives, entertainers, and a more raffish clientele that gave this cult hangout its most colorful and enduring reputation. Already difficult to get into when my husband, Richard Falcone, and I were introduced to it by a friend, local New York State Assemblyman William F. Passannante, it became virtually impossible for those without longtime standing reservations after my review. Understandably, some of the old-time regulars resented my review that let their secret out, none more so than Norman Mailer. When we were introduced at a party twenty years ago (about seven years after the review appeared), he immediately said, Ah! The woman who ruined Rao’s.

    In a way, Rao’s was ruined for those who cherished it as their private hideaway and resented what they considered the bourgeois arrivistes who poured in as quickly as they could following my three-star accolade. Then—as now—it looked like an unprepossessing corner bar and grill, a few steps down from the street and with low ceilings and year-round Christmas decorations. Incredibly and fortunately, it has remained very close to what it was when I first saw it in size, decor, and menu. To the credit of Anna Pellegrino Rao and her chef-husband, Vincent Rao, and later to their nephew Frank Pellegrino, they resisted the tempting notion to expand—either by enlarging the original premises or by opening branches in midtown Manhattan. They were content to attract a wider audience simply by selling Rao’s branded sauces and condiments such as the delectable roasted peppers with pine nuts and raisins and their authentic marinara sauce, both longtime favorites on their menu. And, although some dishes have been added since the deaths of Anna and Vincent in 1994, there has been no deviation from the type of Italian-American cooking that was traditional in the neighborhood formerly surrounding the restaurant. It was local cooking, and how!

    That is the most interesting part of the Rao’s phenomenon. At a time when cutting-edge restaurants feature what is fashionably known as fusion cuisine, none has a longer waiting list than this one. Although Rao’s food would not be identified as fusion in the contemporary usage of the term, that is precisely what it is. It is not the kind of fusion cooking devised intellectually or philosophically by hotly competitive chefs, but rather the Italian-American fare that fused naturally as immigrants adapted dishes of their homeland to local ingredients and cooking facilities and traded recipes and seasonings with new neighbors from various regions of Italy. Gradually their palates and eating habits and, even more so, those of their children were modified by American tastes and lifestyles. To the horror of their parents, some second- and third-generation Italian Americans even began having pasta as a side dish alongside meat and vegetables, instead of as the traditional separate first course.

    Italians immigrated to this country mostly from the poor southern provinces—Naples and elsewhere in Campagna, Sicily, Calabria, and, on the Adriatic coast, from Abruzzo and Apulia. As explained most intriguingly in the book Hungering for America: Italian, Irish & Jewish Foodways in the Age of Immigration (Harvard University Press) by Hasia R. Diner, a New York University professor specializing in Jewish and immigrant history, poor Italians in their homelands relied upon the simplest, cheapest foods, mainly pasta, bread, olives, vegetables, some cheese, and fish, depending on their locale, whereas meat was had only a few times a year, such as Christmas and Easter. Still, they knew of the food eaten by rich people because even farmers tended to live in towns where they were in close proximity to the upper classes and so could observe them. Once in America, these Southern Italian immigrants opened modest restaurants that served the humble dishes of their homeland that they themselves ate, because that was what they knew how to cook and because they could not afford to open elaborate dining places. In America, they were able to expand their cuisine to include more meat, because it was plentiful and relatively cheap. Back at home, a rich sauce might be as close as they could come to experiencing the reassuring flavor of meat. That goes a long way toward explaining the southern Italian proficiency with subtle, soul-warming sauces based on poultry, meat, and innards, like so many that are regulars on Rao’s menu—pappardelle with hot sausage sauce, pasta with Sunday gravy, veal sauce for gnocchi or risotto.

    In what came to be known as mom-and-pop restaurants, the home-style dishes—casalinga—were prepared on home stoves and in home-style pots and pans, giving evidence that the quality and flavor of most dishes do not depend on using the costliest equipment. Only when such moms and pops became really successful did they add professional equipment that might enable them to cook more rapidly and in larger quantities. Even then it usually remained the custom to consider the restaurant kitchen home, with children and other family members gathering there at about five o’clock in the evening so that all could dine together before customers arrived.

    Gradually such cooking identified the entire cuisine that inevitably came to be considered inexpensive, making it difficult for later immigrants to open more elegant and expensive restaurants featuring Italian food. But somewhere during the late sixties and seventies and up to today that barrier began to be overcome by chefs and restaurateurs who presented the food of the northern regions of Italy: Tuscany, Piedmont, Lombardy, and the Veneto. The more familiar Southern Italian-American dishes were snobbishly labeled with the pejorative red sauce cooking. Now we seem to have come full circle and tony, pricey restaurants featuring the lightest, freshest, and most delicately prepared examples of the Southern Italian kitchen are attaining the culinary high ground. Some examples include the Neapolitan polpettone (meatloaf with tomato sauce), served in thin slices rather than thick and with a sheer sauce of fresh tomatoes, all mounded on mashed potatoes and spinach in the trendy manner, or seafood salads arranged on leaves of radicchio, or pizzas with paper-thin crusts that suit lighter appetites and with toppings that no Neapolitan ever

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