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Bill Boggs' Corner Table: Patsy's Italian Restaurant

Bill Boggs' Corner Table: Patsy's Italian Restaurant

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The TV presenter and journalist heads to the renowned New York restaurant

Boggs with chef Sal Scognamillo

Patsy's has been going strong for almost seventy years, and during all those decades they have only had three chefs—the original Patsy, his son Joe, and currently Joe's son Sal Scognamillo. The place is a haunt of many celebrities. I dined there once and George Clooney was sitting behind me with his dad. Another night Tony Bennett and John Travolta were at tables in the back.

The food is straight-ahead southern Italian cooking that to many represents America's comfort food. It’s a red sauce world at Patsy's, and their sauces are available in the better supermarkets. The place is like your trusty neighborhood checkered tablecloth Italian restaurant that got dressed up and went to New York and made it big.

Classics with a Neapolitan heritage abound—stuffed calamari, linguine marechiare (clams out of the shell with garlic, herbs and a touch of tomato), shrimp scampi, spiedini alla Romana (layers of bread and mozzarella, fried and served with an anchovy butter sauce), rigatoni Sorrentino (baked with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano), and sausage pizzaiola with peppers. Sinatra's favorite back in the day was a thinly pounded veal piccata.

Of particular note on the menu is the crowd-pleasing lobster fra diavolo, which is split, pan seared, and simmered in a spicy marinara sauce and served with linguine.

What has always stood out for me at Patsy's is the family tradition. Joe and his cousin Frank work the door and seat you. Joe's lovely wife Rose is at the register; Sal is back in the kitchen. You call Patsy's for a reservation the second time and they will know you. The third time you are in, you'll get a hug. The Scognamillo family prides itself in saying about their cozy spot on west 58th street, "There are the restaurants you go to and the restaurants you go back to."

Patsy’s Frank Sinatra’s Favorite Restaurant Pays Tribute

Patsy’s of New York Italian Restaurant, known as Frank Sinatra’s favorite restaurant, will pay tribute to the legacy of Frank Sinatra, 20 years after he passed away on May 14 th , 1998. The legendary New York City Italian restaurant will host the special event on Saturday, May 19 th from 12:30pm to 3:30pm to commemorate the 20 th anniversary of Frank Sinatra’s death.

The celebration will be headlined by four-time Emmy Award winning television host, Bill Boggs. Known for interviewing some of the greatest names in the music industry, Boggs was the first talk show host whom Frank Sinatra trusted enough to allow him to interview him on camera.

“I am honored to be part of the legacy of the greatest performer of the 20 th century. It may be 20 years since his passing but he is more relevant now than ever before. His talents will continue to influence generations of musicians for a long time. He was always ahead of his time including his beliefs on equality and inclusion,” stated Sal Scognamillo, owner of Patsy’s of New York Italian Restaurant.

Festivities include a four course meal featuring dishes Frank Sinatra always ordered from his favorite restaurant, great stories from those who knew him well and memorable video clips. ‘Sinatra: The Song Is You,’ and music and pop culture writer for the Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair and Playboy writer Will Friedwald, will be signing copies of his rereleased book which features a new forward penned by Tony Bennett.

Tickets to join Patsy’s of New York Italian Restaurant and relive Frank Sinatra’s legacy are available to purchase for $125 per person. To purchase and make your reservation, call (212) 247-3491.

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One of New York City&rsquos greatest Italian dining experiences NYC can be found at Il Cortile. Located on Mulberry Street in the heart of Little Italy,

A 9,000-sq-foot classic-style steakhouse in the heart of the Theater District with a classic yet contemporary menu of exceptionally prepared steaks and game.


A Young Frank Sinatra …. Hoboken, New Jersey

Frank Sinatra

“Come Fly with Me” .

PATSY’S “Franks Favorite Restaurant”

Frank’s Favorite Restaurant in The World, was Patsy’s on West 56th Street in New York, in The Theater District near Times Square .. Frank’s Favorites were Calms Posillipo, Spaghetti Pomodoro, Veal Milanes (extra Thin & Crispy) and Spaghetti & Meatballs of which patsy’s makes The Best in The City ..

PATSY’S is by far the restaurant most associated with SINATRA — on its website, the restaurant notes that it “has been known for years as the restaurant Frank Sinatra made famous.” You can still order up old-school Italian there, but you might not have the exact same experience as Sinatra, who was said to have entered through a special door to sit at a reserved table on the second floor. Sinatra became especially loyal to the restaurant after making a solo Thanksgiving reservation one year, not realizing the restaurant was slated to be closed that day. Patsy Scognamillo didn’t want to turn Sinatra away, so he allowed the reservation. He also didn’t want Sinatra to know the restaurant was opened just for him — so he had the entire staff bring their families to fill the place up, something Sinatra didn’t learn until years later, according to Patsy’s lore. The restaurant still celebrates its connection to Sinatra: At right, in 2002, Joe Scognamillo served actor Bill Boggs, who had dressed up as Sinatra . (236 West 56th St.)

Mangia Bene .

Want to Eat Like SINATRA? It’s quite a fun thing to do, follow in the footsteps of the great Francis Albert SInatra, and eat and hang at Frank’s favorite haunts of all-time. You can go to The 21 Club and eat there famous 21 Burger, and get some Jack Daniels while you’re at it, it was Sinatra’s favorite drink.

Also, not far from The 21 Club, and a lot more affordable, is PJ Clarke’s on 3rd Avenue at 52 nd Street. Get one of their tasty Burgers, Frank loved them. And again, do like Frank and order up a Jack Daniels while you’re at it. This is the place that Johhny Merver and Harold Arlen were thinking of when they wrote one of Sinatra’s most beloved song, “One For My Baby.”

Go up to East Harlem for Frank’s Favorite Pizza at Patsy’s Pizzeria at 2287 First Avenue, New York.

And there’s another Patsy’s down on West 56th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway. No, it has nothing to do with Patsy’s Pizzeria. Patsy’s on W. 56th is a full fleged Italian Restaurant, and as almost anyone knows, this was Sinatra’s favorite restuarant ever. It’s still run by the same family who started cooking for Frank way back in the 40s. Go in and eat like Frank. Order some Clams Posillipo, Spaghetti Pomodoro, and Veal Milanese just the way Frank did.

And if you want to do it like Sinatra in the comfort of your own home, get yourself a copy of Daniel Bellino’s great book SUNDAY SAUCE

with recipes for DOLLY SINATRA ‘S MEATBALLS and ITALIAN-AMERICAN SUNDAY SAUCE GRAVY … You’ll be eating like the Sinatra Clan anytime you like. Cook up some Meatballs and Sunday Sauce, get a nice bottle of Chianti, throw on some Sinatra LPs and you’ll be in your own little Sinatra Heaven. “What’s Better than that?”







East Harlem



No Relation to PATSY’S on 56th STREET

SINATRA at JILLY’S New York with Friends and Daughters NANCY and TINA

Frank loved going to his close Pal JILLY RIZZO’S New York Restaurant JILLY’S where Frank would eat Chinese Food, tell stories, and drink JACK DANIEL’S to the Wee Hours of the morning …

Dean Martin looks on as Sammy Davis Jr. pours Frank a Jack Daniels

Jack Daniel’s and Frank Sinatra


Dom of DOM’S BAKERY Hoboken , New Jersey

FRANK SINATRA had DOM Send him BREAD to Palm Springs , California




by Daniel Bellino “Z”

Author Daniel Bellino “Z” has the same ancestral Sicilian Roots as Frank Sinatra and one Charles “Lucky” Luciano who was born in LERCARA FRIDDI SICILY , as was Frank SInatra ‘s father Martino Severino Sinatra and Bellino ‘s maternal grandparents Giussepina Salemi and Fillipo Bellino who both immigrated from Lercara Friddi to New York through Ellis Island in 1904 . In 1906 Luciano ‘s parents immigrated and settled on the Lower East Side of New York when young Charlie (Salvatore ) was 9 years old.

Charles “Lucky” Luciano


PATSY’S in Eats Harlem , New York NY

2287 1st Avenue neat 117th Street

Opened in 1933 by Patsy Lancieri

The 21 CLUB

A Favorite SINATRA Haunt For Years

SINATRA arrives at The 21 CLUB with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Good Friend and Bodyguard JILLY RIZZO and a U.S. SECRET SERVICE AGENT

7. GINO’S on Lexington Avenue (closed in 2010)

8. PATSY’S PIZZERIA … East Harlem, NY (still Open)

A New Mayor Likes the Red Sauce Simple

New York’s mayors have often seemed to govern from a corner table.

Edward I. Koch cut a wide swath through the city’s restaurants, from the Peking Duck House to the Four Seasons, dining on porchetta and fatty pastrami, with little regard for his arteries. (After a successful quadruple bypass in 2009, he took his 20 doctors and their spouses to dinner at Peter Luger Steakhouse.) Rudolph W. Giuliani had his favorite spots in Little Italy and the Upper East Side. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who eats out most nights, favors clubby establishments like Quatorze Bis, Nippon and Shun Lee Palace.

And Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio? His dining habits may change with the power and perks he acquires at his swearing-in on New Year’s Day, but they are fairly well set. In keeping with his just-folks, no-frills style, his favorite New York restaurants have been a handful of modest places within a few blocks of his home in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Now that he and his family — his wife, Chirlane McCray, and children, Chiara and Dante — are moving into Gracie Mansion, those local haunts are enjoying a flurry of attention, even as they say a bittersweet farewell to some of their most famous customers.

In the statement announcing their decision to move, the de Blasios emphasized that they would return to Brooklyn as often as possible to visit places like Bar Toto, a casual Italian restaurant on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 11th Street — half a block from where a police car now lingers in front of the de Blasio rowhouse. Bar Toto has been a staple of the family’s life since it opened 12 years ago. Mr. de Blasio goes there for family dinners and business meetings, and listens patiently to other regulars who bend his ear about issues in the neighborhood.

“We knew he was going to run for mayor, so people would always say, ‘There’s the next mayor,’ ‘Here comes the next mayor,’ ” said Jodi Walter, an actress who tends bar at the restaurant. “Of course, it was in good fun, but it came true.”

She said that while she would miss seeing the family as often, she understood their moving to Gracie Mansion. “How do you not?” she said. “Think of the parties you could throw.”

If the de Blasios do have parties, don’t expect home cooking.

In the early days of their marriage, Ms. McCray cooked often, sometimes working from Italian recipes passed along by Mr. de Blasio’s mother: spinach pie, pasta e fagioli and Ms. McCray’s favorite, baccalà with onions, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. But in recent years, Ms. McCray said, campaigning has left little time for cooking. And although she belonged to the Park Slope Food Co-op before she met Mr. de Blasio, the couple never joined together, knowing they couldn’t keep up with its strict demands that members volunteer their labor.

Instead, they ate at restaurants like Bar Toto, a low-key neighborhood place where you are unlikely to find, say, white truffle risotto or fettuccine with bottarga. The food is simple: some basic pastas, pizzas, panini and burgers, plus the odd non-Italian item like hummus, with few dishes over $15.


What Bar Toto may lack in culinary distinction, it makes up for in friendliness. When Ms. McCray asked the owner, Peter Sclafani, to add a grilled shrimp salad to the menu so she would have another light option, he obliged. Mr. Sclafani and some Bar Toto regulars hold an annual block party, serving spaghetti puttanesca and homemade wine, where the de Blasios are often guests.

And the night before the November election, when Mr. Sclafani walked in to find Mr. de Blasio eating at the bar with a political consultant, Mr. Sclafani pulled out a few bottles of prosecco and led the whole restaurant in toasting the next mayor.

What to Cook This Weekend

Sam Sifton has menu suggestions for the weekend. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

    • Gabrielle Hamilton’s ranchero sauce is great for huevos rancheros, or poach shrimp or cubed swordfish in it.
    • If you’re planning to grill, consider grilled chicken skewers with tarragon and yogurt. Also this grilled eggplant salad.
    • Or how about a simple hot-dog party, with toppings and condiments galore?
    • These are good days to make a simple strawberry tart, the blueberry cobbler from Chez Panisse, or apricot bread pudding.
    • If you have some morels, try this shockingly good pan-roasted chicken in cream sauce from the chef Angie Mar.

    Mr. de Blasio praised the warm atmosphere and the food, particularly the grilled chicken salad and, when he’s more in the mood to indulge himself, the rigatoni with roasted eggplant and smoked mozzarella. “That’s a Southern Italian soul food dish right there,” he said.

    Ms. Walter, the bartender, said Mr. de Blasio often has a Moretti, a pale lager from Italy, or a glass of Nero d’Avola, an Italian red.

    The de Blasios have a handful of other favorite restaurants that they either visit or order takeout from — the old-fashioned way, by telephone. (When asked if he used the meal-ordering website, Mr. de Blasio replied, “What’s that?”)

    They are regulars at Smiling Pizzeria on Seventh Avenue at Ninth Street. Mr. de Blasio often has breakfast meetings at Little Purity, a diner on Seventh Avenue at 12th Street. The family orders mole poblano and other specialties from Tacos Nuevo Mexico, a homey restaurant on Fifth Avenue. Mr. Falafel, a little farther north on Seventh Avenue, still sports a “De Blasio for Mayor” sign on the door the owner, Aladdin Habib, said the de Blasios had been coming there for nearly two decades. “They eat very healthy,” he said.

    During one visit last fall, he recalled, people at the next table started peppering Mr. de Blasio with questions about the campaign. “I said, ‘Guys, wait until he finishes his food,’ ” Mr. Habib said.

    For more special occasions, the de Blasios go to Convivium Osteria, an Italian and Portuguese restaurant on Fifth Avenue that Mr. de Blasio praised for being quiet. They dined there with William J. Bratton and his wife, Rikki Klieman, shortly before Mr. de Blasio named Mr. Bratton as his police commissioner. (The de Blasios also like Al Di La Trattoria, an Italian mainstay on Fifth Avenue, but Mr. de Blasio noted that its no-reservation policy makes it a difficult choice.)

    Whether the de Blasios will find new hangouts near Gracie Mansion remains to be seen. Patsy’s Pizza, a restaurant favored by mayors from Fiorello La Guardia to Mr. Giuliani, is 30 blocks away in East Harlem.

    Despite their Everyman style, the demands of being the city’s first family may induce them to hire a full-time chef. If not, they may want to learn to use Seamless.

    How to Celebrate Sinatra’s 100th Birthday in Style in Las Vegas

    Tina Sinatra confirms John Legend and Jamie Foxx are among those hitting the desert on Dec. 2 to celebrate her dad's star-studded centennial, which will later air as a two-hour concert special on CBS.

    Laurie Brookins

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    This story first appeared in the Dec. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

    Frank Sinatra died in 1998, but you wouldn’t know it from the celebrations taking place in Las Vegas on and around Dec. 12, the day the legendary crooner would have turned 100. Ol ‘ Blue Eyes’ spirit remains alive and well in the desert oasis. “Without dad, Las Vegas’ history would be very different,” says Tina Sinatra, the youngest of Sinatra’s three children. “He epitomized a lifestyle and an idea of glamour that made a genuine impact on Las Vegas in the 1950s and ‘ 60s .”

    That impact will be on star-studded display at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas, where “Sinatra 100 &mdash An All-Star Grammy Concert” will tape Dec. 2 to air as a two-hour special Dec. 6 on CBS. Tina, together with longtime Sinatra family attorney Bob Finkelstein , brought the idea of the concert to CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves two years ago. Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga and Garth Brooks are among those set to appear Tina confirmed exclusively to THR that John Legend will perform “Young at Heart,” and Jamie Foxx will sing “In the Wee Small Hours” &mdash both will use the original arrangements by Nelson Riddle. &ldquoThese are some of the greatest arrangements of all time,&rdquo says Neil Portnow , president and CEO of The Recording Academy. &ldquoUsing original arrangements by Nelson Riddle and Quincy Jones was one of the many elements we desired to create a truly authentic experience.&rdquo

    The lobby of the Encore features Jeff Koons&rsquo ‘Tulips,’ which Wynn bought for $33.7 million in 2012.

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    The location for the concert was a natural &mdash few people in Las Vegas are as respectful of the Sinatra legacy as Steve Wynn: With the cooperation of the family, in 2008 he opened Sinatra, a restaurant at his Encore resort. Among other memorabilia loaned by the family, you’ll find Sinatra’s Oscar for 1953’s From Here to Eternity here. Wynn’s history with the entertainer dates to the 1980s , when Sinatra struck a deal to perform four times a year, a total of 16 shows, at Wynn’s Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City, for the then-princely sum of $50,000 per show. “It was a small, intimate room, only 500 seats,” remembers Wynn. “Frank couldn’t understand how I could afford to pay him that much. I told him, ‘I’m not going to charge people it will be invitation-only. Because with Frank Sinatra in my showroom, I’ll make it up in the casino.’ ” In the second year, Sinatra asked if Dean Martin could join the show. “Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in my showroom? Are you kidding me?” Wynn recalls thinking.

    Legend will sing &ldquoYoung at Heart&rdquo at the tribute concert, using the arrangement by Nelson Riddle, who introduced Sinatra to the song.

    At Sinatra at Encore, a series of dinners have taken place throughout 2015 featuring Italian dishes that ranked high among Frank’s favorites, including “ Ossobuco My Way” and a custom “Sinatra Smash” Jack Daniel’s cocktail. Two special “Sinatra 100” seatings , featuring a four-course prix-fixe menu ($195 per person), are planned for 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Dec. 12.

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    Through Dec. 31 at the Golden Steer Steakhouse, on Sahara Avenue just west of the Strip since 1958, diners can sit at Sinatra’s favorite booth &mdash Table 22, which accommo­dates four &mdash and order “Frank’s Menu,” which includes clams casino and a New York strip steak, for $100 a person. On Dec. 12, Table 22 can be booked for $1,000 for a four-person reservation, with only three seatings , at 4:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. the night will include live entertainment. Rat Pack-era standards can likewise be found at Franklin at the Delano, where “Frank’s Drink” (two fingers of Jack Daniel’s, four ice cubes and a splash of water) will be served in a commemorative glass for $15.

    Sinatra’s life in Las Vegas also is explored in a photo exhibition at the Las Vegas Convention Center. “Sinatra’s Centennial” (free and open to the public through May 31) includes 120 photos, many rarely seen, from the archives of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority’s News Bureau. “In our efforts to digitize the millions of images we’ve collected, we’ve come across photos we never knew we had,” explains Lisa Jacob, the News Bureau’s director. “You’ll recognize outtakes from performances and iconic Rat Pack moments at the Sands, but we’ll also show the side he rarely discussed, the quiet philanthropic efforts that made a real contribution to the community.”

    Gaga (pictured), Usher, Adam Levine, Alicia Keys and Carrie Underwood also will perform.

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    For decades it was not uncommon to find Frank Sinatra at Patsy&rsquos Italian Restaurant, located since 1954 on W. 56th St. in New York City. The spot held a table for him upstairs, in a corner partially hidden from prying eyes, and once famously opened on Thanksgiving when he mentioned he had no other plans. Since the singer&rsquos death, the restaurant has celebrated his birthday each year with a menu featuring his favorite dishes, including fusilli with fileto di pomodoro and veal Milanese, &ldquosliced very thin, just the way he liked it,&rdquo says Sal Scognamillo, grandson of founder Pasquale &ldquoPatsy&rdquo Scognamillo and the third generation to helm the kitchen. For Sinatra&rsquos 99th birthday in 2014, Tony Danza, Danny Aiello, Vincent Pastore, Nick Jonas and Marky Ramone (yes, of those Ramones) turned up, while an onsite broadcast of Sirius XM&rsquos &ldquoSiriusly Sinatra&rdquo included call-in interviews with Michael Buble, Frankie Valli and Frank Sinatra Jr. Demand for this year&rsquos 100th birthday celebration became so intense &mdash at one point, the wait-list topped 500 &mdash that Scognamillo decided to expand the event to five dates: Dec. 7 and Dec. 11-14 the prix-fixe menu is $175 per person. You&rsquore too late to book a reservation for Dec. 12, says Scognamillo &mdash Sinatra&rsquos birthday has been sold out since last year.

    Actor Vincent Pastore (left) and TV host Bill Boggs at Patsy&rsquos for Sinatra&rsquos 99th birthday.

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    In 2015 a theatrical world record was set in New York City. The Metropolitan Room had hopes of shattering.

    BIll Boggs may be ensconced in his Palm Beach residence with the boredom that comes with COVID-19.

    Patsy’s of New York Italian Restaurant, known as Frank Sinatra’s favorite restaurant, will pay tribute to the.

    Teen Idol On The Rocks – A Tale of Second Chances is Bobby Rydell’s autobiography and Emmy Winning Talk Show Host Bill Boggs interviewed him at the Friars Club during “An Evening With Bobby Rydell” Check out the video

    Last night Le Cirque welcomed it’s creator Sirio Maccioni back to the legendary restaurant. Sirio’s many friends.

    An Evening With… are three of the most powerful words in the entertainment world and they are.

    Surrounded by Tommy Tune, Sunny Sessa, and Billy Boggs you can barely see the rest of us.

    Ben Vereen later remarked that he “knew something was up when Chita started texting so much in.

    The word got out and Bill Boggs didn’t have a problem packing the house at Le Cirque.

    As the film ended there was a surprise for the Long Island movie goers. Norman Lear appeared.


    T2C is the go to place for the best-kept secrets and latest up-dates for the tourist but for Hell’s Kitchen, Clinton and Times Square this is their neighborhood. Times Square may be the tourist hotspot of North America, but New York residents are the community members who live and breathe city life and make dedicated readers.

    How I Walked Into Rao's

    Last night was cold and rainy, with hail, in New York City. It seemed like a good night to attempt something I've wanted to do since I was little: eat at Rao's.

    I grew up eating the restaurant's famous bottled tomato sauce on pasta my mom made at home and when I moved to New York five years ago and started covering food and restaurants at New York magazine, I heard about how impossible it is to get a table at the 119-year-old, family-owned East Harlem institution. "You would have better luck getting invited to dinner at the White House than getting a proper reservation at this wiseguy Italian joint," New York reported.

    My girlfriend Emma and I got dressed up and took a cab up to 114th Street and Pleasant Avenue. The taxi driver asked if we were going to the restaurant&mdashhe'd apparently transported similarly dressed patrons there before.

    "Every table has been booked every night for the past 38 years."

    Luckily the restaurant was open (it had been closed when I attempted this once before), since when I'd called earlier in the day the line was either busy or, when I did get through, played a recording stating, "Thank you for calling Rao's. At this time, the reservation book for 2015 is closed. Unfortunately, we will not be accepting any reservations left on the phone as a message or reservations in person coming to the restaurants. Thank you for your call. Have a great holiday season and a happy and healthy new year."

    The prospect of actually having dinner there didn't seem good, but I thought it was still worth a shot and my wonderfully tolerant girlfriend was willing to go on an adventure with me. We figured that if we were turned away, Patsy's Pizzeria was a decent backup. (I should add that in a couple of days I'm leaving for three weeks in Tanzania where I'm climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, so this was a bit of a special farewell dinner.)

    The first thing I noticed when we walked in was how bright the place is. It may be the brightest fine-dining establishment I've ever been to. The second thing I noticed was all the Christmas decorations (a story I'd read said they stay up year-round). Every chair at every table was full and the bar was crowded. An older bespectacled man sat on a stool in the corner, surveying the room, and motioned to suggest we sit at the two stools open next to him.

    "Whose table are you at?" he asked. I said we weren't at a table and had stopped in for a drink. (The tables, as I knew, are all "owned" by regulars who come themselves, invite friends, or donate the table to charity auctions where just the reservation regularly sells for thousands).

    After we settled in and ordered a negroni and a white wine, the gray-haired man asked how we'd heard about the place. "How haven't I heard about it?" I responded. I explained that I'd been eating the tomato sauce since I was a kid.

    "The sauce has done well for us," he said. It was clear that this was a guy worth knowing. He introduced himself as Frank Pellegrino, one of the owners (I'd heard he's known as "Frankie No" since he has to decline so many requests for reservations). He said he's there every weeknight (Rao's is closed on Saturday and Sunday) except when he's on the West Coast visiting Rao's locations in Las Vegas and Hollywood, which his son manages.

    I asked about the reservation policy, and Frank said he started assigning tables to steady customers after a three-star review from the New York Times' Mimi Sheraton in 1977 made it nearly impossible to deal with demand.

    The tables are "owned" by regulars and "no one gives them up," says Rao's owner Frank Pellegrino. "In every three-month period, I see all my clients. And now I'm dealing with their children and grandchildren."

    "No one gives them up," he says. "Every table has been booked every night for the past 38 years. There's weeklies, biweeklies, monthlies, and quarterlies, so in every three-month period, I see all my clients. And now I'm dealing with their children and grandchildren."

    So how does someone get a table?

    Frank looked around the room. "That first table there, they gave their table to this group at the bar. These guys are all executives from PepsiCo. If you have a table, you can give it to your friends, your business associates, or to a charity auction. I had Bobby Flay, Michael Romano, a whole bunch of big chefs last week and I didn' t know they're coming. I never know who's coming in. That's what makes it wonderful. It's serendipity. There's no grand design or plan. The only caveat is if you're not going to use your table and no one else is going to use that table, that's when you call me."

    Getting in touch with Frank isn't especially easy, though. He doesn't have a cell phone and "doesn't touch computers." So when people want to contact him, "they call everybody else who's associated with me and then they come and say, 'Frankie, so-and-so called,' and I'll say, 'Okay, call them back, lemme talk to them.'"

    We survey the room. "These are my four big tables and then I have six booths."

    So there's only one two-top, right?

    "One deuce," Emma&mdashwho's in graduate school and until recently worked part-time as a restaurant hostess&mdashcorrects me.

    "One deuce," Pelligrino said. "And if you're willing to wait, I'll feed you at that deuce."

    There's only one table for two in the restaurant. "And if you're willing to wait, I'll feed you at that deuce," Pellegrino says.

    Hallelujah! Fifteen minutes at the bar with Frank Pelligrino, and we'd cracked the impossible code of getting a table at Rao's.

    We were in for a wait, but didn't care. We'd been promised a table.

    "This is Vinny Sciortino," Frank says. "He's my tailor. Vinny makes all my clothes. He's great." (Frank's herringbone jacket is especially handsome.) Sciortino, who has tailor shops in Red Bank, NJ, and New York City, says he's making suits for Frank for 27 years.

    "He's like a second father," Sciortino says.

    "I am that old! I could be your father!" says Frank, who will celebrate his 70th birthday this year.

    Sciortino, who recently celebrated his 50th birthday at Rao's in Los Angeles, gets a table about once a month, but the days vary. Tonight he has a Monday. Next month he has a Thursday. Like the rest of the table owners, he gets his assignments at the beginning of the year. He's been coming here&mdash"coming home," as he calls it&mdashfor 25 years.

    "And this is Tony Tantillo. He's on CBS every day, cooking with his daughter," Frank says, introducing us to another friend who's come up to the bar. "Listen, Tantillo. I gotta tell you. You're too good-looking. You're too handsome."

    "I'm not as debonair as you, Frank," says Tantillo, whose cooking segments appear on the 5 and 12 o'clock news. He and Frank spent time together in Italy, where Frank met some cousins for the first time. When Tantillo pointed out how beautiful Italy was, Frank said he'd rather be in East Harlem.

    "I need your help," he tells Tantillo. "You remember my cousin? He sent me an invitation to his son's wedding and I need you to interpret the letter. I want to send him them something." Tantillo speaks fluent Italian. Frank doesn't.

    "Anthony! This is Anthony Abbot," Frank says. "He's a member of Stanwich, a great golf club. He invites me to play golf with him." Abbot went on a golf trip with 11 other guys 20 years ago. Frank was one of them, and when names were drawn out of a hat, he and Abbot were matched up.

    "We laughed and cried for two days and at the end, he says to me, why don't you come by the restaurant?" Abbot tells me.

    In the old days, Abbot says, Frank used to open the reservation book on a quarterly basis and when he came by to get his table assignment, Donald Trump was waiting in line outside the door with other regulars.

    "This was in January, and Frank said, 'Can you come here May 6?' I didn't know anything. So he writes the date on a business card and hands it to me and says, 'Two things just happened: One, you got a reservation at Rao's which is no small deal. Two, you can always get a reservation at Rao's. I love you. [Abbot makes a kissing sound.] Both cheeks."

    Frank turns back to us and starts crooning Stevie Wonder: "I just called to say, I love you. I just called to say how much I care. I just called to say I love you, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart" he sings melodiously to Emma, who's clearly smitten.

    As it turns out, Frank sang in a group called the Holidaes in the 1960s. "I was an old doo-wop guy," he says. "I get Billy Joel, Sting, Jimmy Fallon in here. Jimmy Fallon loves to sing doo-wops! So whenever he's here, I start singing, and boom, he jumps up and starts singing. And before you know it the whole room is going nuts."

    After the musical interlude, Frank's back to making sure his guests are happy: "Give Tony a drink, give this guy a drink, give that guy a drink," he says to his bartender (who's also named Tony).

    "Tony, who's this kid?" he asks, pointing to a preppy young guy in a blazer sitting on the stool next to Frank's. "He's a neighborhood guy," Tony tells him. It turns out Kevin has lived five blocks away from Rao's for all 23 years of his life. He likes to come in for a drink from time to time.

    "Congressman! Does Hillary have a shot?" Frank asks U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, who represents the 9th District of New Jersey and is with a group that was given a table by its regular owner. "Bill is a Democrat like I am," Frank tells me. He points out his picture with Hillary Clinton on the wall, alongside the other photos of celebrities who have dined here. I say I don't think I've ever met a congressman out in the world. "Come here! You'll meet them!" he says.

    Last week U.S. Rep. Peter King, from New York, was in. He's a Republican, I point out.

    "Good guy. I like him. He's okay. I could sit with Peter King and say what I like and what I don't like. I'm a political junkie," Frank says. There's a letter from President George H.W. Bush on the wall. Frank doesn't discriminate.

    He checks in on another couple of tables: "How are you? Did you enjoy? Everything good?"

    It's 10:20 p.m. We've been here since 7:45, but the hours have gone by in a flash and I have no desire to give up my bar stool and leave the center of all the action.

    "Give my girlfriend a drink," Frank tells his bartender, referring to my actual girlfriend. "Give my friend a drink," he says, referring to me. Emma says she would come back here just so she could sit at the bar and hang out with Frank.

    "And you would be protected," he tells her. "I am a gentleman and I only allow gentlemen. If anybody is stupid, I would be right there. I only allow ladies and gentlemen. I don't want anything else."

    What about Frank's own companion?

    "I am married 46 years," he says. "Same woman. She's great. I love my wife. 46 years. Does she come here? No. I don't want her here. When I come here, I work. What am I going to do? Sit with her at the bar? I have people I have to talk to, things I have to do."

    "I say to my wife, 'I wish I had a Rao's to go to. I wish I had a Rao's to go hang out in, to go sit at the bar and meet wonderful people, and then sit down and have a wonderful meal," he says. I can see why.

    "Just think about what happened while you were here," he tells me, putting his hand on my forearm for emphasis. "You met my tailor. You met Tony Tantillo. You met Tony Abbot." (I met a trio of Tonys, if you include Tony the bartender.) "You met all these people. You met the congressman. You're seeing Rao's." And because it's so bright, which Frank says is because "it adds to the energy of the room," I really am seeing everything.

    Someone brings over two copies of the Rao's cookbook for Frank to sign, which he points out is the second best-selling cookbook in the history of Random House. It seems like an appropriate moment to ask what we should have for dinner.

    Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?--the President : Restaurants: Chief executives usually give up dining out, but not this one. George Bush is known for roaring out of the Oval Office and into his favorite eatery.

    Read his lips: Sichuan Beef Proper, baked stuffed lobster, whiskey steak, chicken fajitas. There’s nothing like a good meal to chase those S&L blues away.

    George Bush, who never met a menu he didn’t like, eats out in restaurants about once a month--more than any President in recent history. Whenever he finds himself with a free evening and a craving for Chinese food, he slips out of the White House and into a corner table for a little Yan Chow fried rice. Just like your average all-American guy.

    Well, not exactly. Where the President is concerned, there’s no such thing as a casual dinner on the town.

    Your average guy doesn’t have someone who brings special bottled water for him to drink. Or salt, pepper and sugar for his table. Or an entourage of White House staff, Secret Service and reporters in tow.

    Not to mention the food taster.

    Yes, Virginia, the President does have a food taster. And no, the White House will not comment on food tasters--or anything else, for that matter--when it comes to protecting the Presidential palate.

    But whenever the chief executive goes out to eat, there’s a man in the kitchen standing over the food. Sometimes he just watches sometimes he digs right in.

    The night the First Couple went to I Ricchi, an Italian restaurant in downtown Washington, the food taster washed their plates, glasses and utensils before the meal and kept them in sight at all times tasted every dish to be served to the President watched as the food was put on the plates and served and uncorked and tasted the bottle of wine reserved exclusively for the President and Mrs. Bush.

    In April, right after traces of benzene were found in Perrier water, Bush joked with an audience in Indianapolis: “I’m sorry I couldn’t get over here to have lunch with you today I wasn’t allowed to. On the way over I was notified that the Secret Service had found my food taster face down in the salad. Somebody had washed my lettuce with Perrier.”

    Traditionally, Presidents give up public dining when they move into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

    Nixon occasionally strolled across Lafayette Square, Secret Service alongside, for dinner at Trader Vic’s at the Capital Hilton. Ford and Carter rarely dined out. The Reagans, especially after the assassination attempt in 1981, kept close to the White House for meals. When Nancy Reagan did venture out, she favored the cloistered atmosphere of the Jockey Club.

    But George Bush, determined to maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible, roars out of the Oval Office and into one of his favorite restaurants at the drop of a Daily Special.

    The restaurants love it, of course. It inevitably boosts business. And it’s a big thrill for other customers.

    But any spontaneous jaunt is a complicated logistical maneuver for the Secret Service. His security staff gets nervous when the President goes out in public and even more nervous when he does it unexpectedly. But these excursions are safer than his announced appearances in two respects: There’s the element of surprise--what the public doesn’t know can’t hurt him. And he goes out to restaurants so often, they’ve got the drill down pat.

    When George and Robert Tsui get a call from the Secret Service reserving Table N-17, they know exactly what to expect.

    By now, the two brothers who run the Peking Gourmet Inn in Falls Church are old hands at handling the hullabaloo that accompanies a visit from the First Customer--it’s the President’s favorite spot for a family dinner. Bush has been a VIP customer of the restaurant for the past five years and still stops by every couple of months: He came right before his inauguration, on the eve of the trips to Poland and Colombia, and to celebrate his son Marvin’s birthday, to name a few occasions.

    “They treat this, just like any other American family, as their little favorite Chinese restaurant,” says Robert Tsui. “We try to be as low-key as we can.”

    Low-key, all things considered. The President is brought in one of the restaurant’s seven doors it varies each time and is always a last-minute decision by the security detail. There are Secret Service agents and police both inside and surrounding the restaurant. Customers are waved with a portable metal detector when they arrive for dinner. And then there’s the taster . . . er, make that “nutrition expert.”

    “When President Bush was vice president, he didn’t have a nutrition expert in the kitchen,” says George Tsui. “After he became President, the nutrition expert stays in the kitchen to understand what he’s eating.”

    The President sits at a big round table in a partitioned area that has a bulletproof window installed by the Tsuis. The Secret Service waits right on the other side of the partition, and only the Tsuis and waiter Tak Chung Pang--all wearing official pins--are allowed past. Bush reportedly wields a mean chopstick and is partial to the Sichuan Beef Proper, a spicy shredded-beef dish with roasted sesame seeds Peking duck and the giant spring onions the Tsuis grow on their Virginia farm.

    After dinner the President comes into the dining room to greet customers. “There’s no better attraction than the No. 1 man--wherever you go,” says Robert Tsui. “Whether they are Democrat or Republican, whether they politically agree with the man or not, they always love the fact that they’re dining with him.”

    An “above average” tipper (20%), Bush pays most of the time by check, which the Tsuis cash. “The thing is, it would be abusing the privilege not to cash the check, because the check may be more valuable uncashed,” Robert explained. “We cash them out of respect to the President.”

    But elsewhere in the country, there’s at least one Bush check on display: “George Bush, Business Account, The White House"--now hanging on the wall of Patsy Clark’s restaurant in Spokane, Wash.

    House Speaker Tom Foley invited Bush, who was visiting Washington state for its centennial celebration, to join him, his wife, Heather, and Environmental Protection Agency Director Bill Reilly for dinner there last fall. Foley had intended to pick up the tab, but the President pulled rank and paid the $121 bill with a check for $140.

    The next morning, a newspaper article said owner Tony Anderson planned to keep and frame the check as a souvenir. “About 2 p.m. that day, a Secret Service guy showed up at the restaurant with an envelope,” says Anderson. “It was a thank-you note from Bush with $140 in cash enclosed. He wanted to pay for dinner. He was insistent on it.”

    Anderson only had 20 minutes’ notice of the Presidential supper, which had been reserved under the name of an assistant to the President. There were Secret Service agents “everywhere--35 or 40 guys” including, says Anderson, the one who brought salt, pepper, sugar and bottled water for the table in a shopping bag. The food taster watched, but did not sample, the President’s medium-rare Jack Daniel’s whiskey steak. Anderson found out later that the Secret Service had been visiting his restaurant for two weeks, posing as regular customers, and had the place thoroughly staked out.

    “He was a wonderful person to have as a customer,” says Anderson. But having both Bush and Foley under his roof was nonetheless nerve-racking. “I was thinking, ‘These guys are two of the most powerful people in the world. What if something happens?’ I was actually sort of relieved when they left.”

    Until it happens, no restaurant can imagine what goes into a visit from the President.

    The operative word is secret .

    Palm owner Wally Ganzi, who is also a personal friend of the President, knew several weeks in advance that the Bushes would join him and his wife, Reva, along with actress Cheryl Ladd and her husband, Brian Russell, for sirloin steak, onion rings and cheesecake last November. But his staff was told only the day before, when the Secret Service arrived to inspect the premises.

    “Someone should pay the Secret Service a compliment,” says Ganzi. “They really try their best in every possible way. They’re not rude, very courteous. They really try not to disturb your business. They don’t strong-arm you.” The one thing they really concentrate on is egress--the quickest way to get the President out if there’s a problem.

    Christianne and Francesco Ricchi, on the other hand, got the shock of their lives when I Ricchi’s owners found out they’d be cooking for a very VIP guest--only one month after the restaurant opened last year.

    “My husband approached me and said, ‘You will never guess who’s coming to dinner,’ ” says Christianne Ricchi. “The Secret Service flashed their badges and says, ‘Are you the owner?’ He thought it was immigration.”

    The couple only had two hours’ notice to prepare for the presidential appearance at the dinner, hosted by former Bush speech writer Vic Gold. “Our concern was making sure that everything was absolutely perfect,” says Christianne Ricchi.

    Meanwhile, the Secret Service searched the restaurant, brought in bomb-sniffing dogs, stationed men outside all the entrances and on the roof across the street, and brought in the food taster, who played an unusually active role--sampling all the food and wine.

    Time and security were equally tight in May when the Bushes joined former Republican National Committee chairman Dean Burch and his wife, Pat, for dinner at La Chaumiere in Georgetown. Antoine de Ponfilly, who served the Presidential party, found out at 5 p.m. that “someone important” was coming that night, but the Secret Service would not say who it was.

    The Secret Service chose the private room upstairs for the President and then positioned two men on the roof, two in the back, three on the stairs and “a lot” in front of the tiny French restaurant, de Ponfilly says.

    When the Bushes went up to eat, customers were inspected with portable metal detectors but didn’t find out who was in the restaurant until Bush came downstairs after dinner.

    It was more down-home last July at Rio Grande Cafe, the Tex-Mex restaurant in Bethesda, when Bush and fellow Texan Robert Mosbacher, the secretary of commerce, came in for quesadillas, cheese enchiladas, beef and chicken fajitas and the specialty of the house: mesquite-broiled quail.

    Manager Jerry Green noticed two police cars in front of the restaurant when he arrived at 3 p.m. Three hours later, the Secret Service toured the restaurant and picked a table for Bush in a back corner.

    The food taster asked Green to point out what food would be served to the Presidential party. Green pointed to the 40 pounds of beef already cooking on the grill.

    “He got the same old stuff that everybody gets here,” says Green. “Honestly, I’m not going to change my food just for the President. But I did give him an extra quail. I figured I could do that much for him.”

    The party lasted two hours and everyone else in the restaurant lingered to watch Bush tackle his fajitas since he sat facing the front, the customers could get a good look.

    “Nobody would leave,” says Green. “The Secret Service finally closed the door when we were filled to capacity with a two-hour wait.”

    After Mosbacher paid the bill with his American Express card, Green grabbed the chair Bush had been sitting in “right after he finished with it.” Within two days it was back on the floor--painted red, white and blue.

    When Mabel Hanson of Mabel’s Lobster Claw Restaurant in Kennebunkport, Me., curls her hair, you know something’s up.

    “The President said, ‘Hiya, Mabel. How are you? What are you all dressed up for?’ ” says Hanson, who just happened to be spiffed up when Bush dropped by last year. “I cried when he came--just a few sniffles. I can’t help it. It’s the President coming through your door.”

    Mabel’s has been a Bush family favorite for almost 20 years. There’s a whole wall devoted to the Bushes: lots of pictures of George and Barbara, a few of George and Mabel, a portrait of the President with “He’s Our George” above it and a banner from the President’s inauguration--Mabel’s first trip ever to Washington.

    You can usually pick out the Secret Service: They’re the only guys in Kennebunkport wearing suits.

    Bush sits at his favorite corner table, where he usually has lobster stuffed with sea scallops. He’s “not too much for desserts” but occasionally treats himself to butter-crunch ice cream or Mabel’s famous peanut butter ice cream pie.

    “These people couldn’t change if they tried,” she says. “They’re as natural as grass growing.”

    Earlier this month, the Bushes and daughter Dorothy Bush LeBlond went to the Breakwater Inn in Kennebunkport with Bush golfing buddy Spike Heminway, his wife, Betsy, and daughter Alex. Unlike most dinner visits, owner Carolyn Lambert got advance word when Heminway made the reservation the night before and said the Bushes would be joining them.

    “It was very important to me that this didn’t get out of hand,” Lambert says. “I told my employees when they came in the next night, ‘If you told any of your friends to come down here and hang around, call them back and tell them not to come.’ ”

    In the morning, the Secret Service and a White House staffer showed up and told Lambert, “There need to be people in the dining room. If Mr. Bush felt you were going to lose business because of him, he would be unhappy.”

    The restaurant, not surprisingly, was full of the inn’s regular customers and a few enterprising reporters who had wheedled reservations that afternoon for the remaining tables. Except for the food taster in the kitchen, it was a typical Sunday-night dinner in Maine. The President had the pan-fried chicken breast special and mud pie.

    When Bush goes to his other hometown, he usually makes a beeline for Otto’s Barbecue in Houston, where he chows down on pork ribs or link sausage with beans.

    On his first visit there as President, the Secret Service checked out the bathrooms and sneaked Bush through the back door into the back dining room. “But the customers knew something was up,” says manager June Sofka. “Then the President came in the main dining room and shook hands with everybody. It was just exhilarating.”

    “I was busy running around so I didn’t get my picture taken with the President. But I picked up his plate and the silverware and took it home. I still have it.”

    $50 Veal Parm and Why Carbone Is New York's Hottest Restaurant Right Now

    An actual person answers the phone at Carbone and tells you that they book tables 30 days out. The person is even affable. This is notable because Carbone, on the premises of an old Italian-American joint named Rocco's in Greenwich Village, is easily the hottest restaurant of the moment in New York and getting a reservation is only slightly less difficult than getting an audience with the new Pope, which says a lot more about a kind of feeding frenzy driven by two sectors: the food media that hyped Carbone's opening for months in advance, and those people who always need to be the first to say, "Yeah, I've been."

    iPhones snap fuzzy photos tweeted on the spot. Bloggers boast, "u GOTTA have the meat-a-balls," and "veal parm is 50 freaking dollars but AWESOME!" And this is before the New York Times has even reviewed the place.

    Did you catch that price? Fifty bucks for veal parmigiana? That's right. And it's good, too. But its quality is almost beside the point. The food overall has gotten mixed reviews thus far &mdash some fantastic, some decidedly un-fantastic &mdash but the stratospheric prices have been causing sticker shock.

    Plenty of new places get their three months of hype, but not since Keith McNally opened Minetta Tavern around the corner has a restaurant been as eagerly awaited as if Tom Brady were coming to the Jets.

    Carbone's owners, Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, have been the food media's darlings since debuting their tiny storefront Torrisi Italian Specialties on Mulberry Street, where their excellent five-course meal started out costing only fifty bucks. They refused to use any imported products, not even prosciutto, and the media proclaimed Torrisi's a welcome antidote to the high-priced Italian ristoranti in the city like Del Posto, Babbo, SD26, and Marea. Torrisi and Carbone then opened Parm, a little shop selling veal parm for $25 and baked ziti for $12. Once again the media raved that the food was cheap and delicious &mdash just the way Italian-American food should be! Not like those uptown truffle-oiled $26 pastas and $40 caviar-topped branzinos. This, despite the fact that the same media have largely ignored popular Italian-American restaurants like Patsy's and Il Mulino in Manhattan and a slew of others in Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn.

    So why is Carbone getting such attention? It's certainly not the location or the décor. The premises certainly didn't cost millions of dollars to renovate and Greenwich Village rents are not (yet) as high as they are in midtown. Carbone did not cost $20 million to build like Lincoln Ristorante at Lincoln Center did. And they're not paying $22 an hour to union dishwashers. Yet Torrisi and Carbone, who once championed good, inexpensive Italian food, are now charging $50 for veal parm, $28 for penne primavera, and $33 for chicken scarpariello &mdash not to mention $78 and up for lobster fra diavolo.

    According to Torrisi and Carbone, they really just wanted to showcase and refine the old-fashioned, out-of-fashion red sauce Italian-American restaurants of the post-war period, where families shared a cold antipasto plate, got a big plate of spaghetti with meatballs and expected a side order of spaghetti with the veal parm, watched the waiter whip up zabaglione tableside, and finished off with drip-pot espresso with a lemon peel and a bottle of Sambuca on the side.

    And they want people to have fun. There's a neon sign outside, and inside there are three small, cramped, loud rooms, made to look like stage sets. The waiters are outfitted in shiny maroon Zak Posen tuxedoes and Adidas sneakers. The rear room (supposedly the VIP section, made to look like one where goombahs would meet) has no windows, just brick walls, and tables so close you have to move them to get out. It's a certain kind of aesthetic that borrows equally from a nostalgia for Little Italy eateries like Angelo's (where veal parmigiana sells for $24) and S.P.Q.R. (where linguine with clam sauce goes for $18) and the cool modernism &mdash Carbone's artwork was curated by Vito Schnabel. There are white tablecloths &mdash three of them &mdash on each table. The menu is about three feet wide. The huge wine list has very few red bottlings under $95. They play 1960s doo-wop. You get Sambuca at meal's end.

    I ate at Carbone last week and had a pretty swell time. Everybody was cordial, and the crowd seemed giddy to be there. There were tables of women dining together, tables with raucous Wall Street guys in shirtsleeves slugging back $400 bottles of Barolo, and a table of slouching Eastern Europeans with Sharapova wannabes. At 6:30, the place was packed, and it hadn't let up when we got up to leave three hours later.

    We had some excellent langoustines in a "scampi" sauce, glorious carpaccio, a first-rate Caesar salad, and the $50 veal parm was terrific, though not enough so to make me forget plenty of other versions at half the price. Not everything clicked: a nugget of Parmesan cheese was served cold salty, smoky Kentucky ham was bewildering in an Italian-American restaurant "spicy rigatoni vodka" was good but insanely rich ravioli Caruso with chicken livers swam in a pool of butter, and the lobster fra diavolo, de-shelled and put back, sat in a puddle.

    Was any of it transformative? Does Carbone make a strong case that Italian-American food should cost as much as French haute cuisine? At this point I'd say no, not because Torrisi and Carbone aren't using top-quality ingredients but because for our bill of $543.41 for two people that night (including two cocktails, one inexpensive bottle and one glass of wine, and the tip), I should have been blown away by food way better than any Italian restaurant's in New York.

    Watch the video: Inside Editionss Deborah Norville with Bill Boggs at 21 Club (July 2022).


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