As part of a special Tonight Show episode shot entirely on a Samsung phone, Jimmy Fallon hit up a few of his favorite New York City places last night, including impossibly exclusive East Harlem Italian restaurant Rao’s.
In the clip, Fallon sits down with co-owner Frank Pellegrino, Jr. who explains the restaurant’s unusual seating policy. “It’s basically squatters’ rights,” he says. “When the restaurant started to gain a lot of notoriety back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, my father refused to displace anybody who was already coming here, and that was really the beginning of table rights. So if you were here before, we never want to let you go.” There are only 10 tables at Rao’s, and if you want to have dinner in the dining room, you need an invitation from one of the table holders.
After Fallon shares some memories of eating and schmoozing with his celebrity pals at the restaurant, the late night host enters the kitchen to learn how to make Rao’s famed meatballs with Pellegrino and chef Dino Gatto. The instructions for cooking the meatballs and the sauce are incredibly simple, and Pellegrino swears the marinara recipe is the same one used in the restaurant’s popular jarred sauce. Once the cooking is finished, Fallon serves his meatballs to his Tonight Show cronies Questlove, Black Thought, and Steve Higgins, who are all clearly impressed by the specialty of the house.
While this segment isn’t funny, exactly, it serves as a good crash course on the history and allure of this legendary New York restaurant. In the other segments of this unusual Tonight Show episode, Fallon pals around with UFC star Connor McGregor at Midtown East pub Paddy Reiley’s, he grabs a beer with comedian Michael Che at the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village, he watches the Roots perform at Soho nightclub the Django, and he delivers the leftover meatballs to the firefighters at Engine 54 in Hell’s Kitchen.
Check out the scene at Rao’s in the clip above, and watch Fallon drop off the Rao’s meatballs at the fire station in the video below.
• The Tonight Show [YouTube]