Waiting for Rao’s — Can Meatballs Bring Happiness to an Unhappy World?

It’s Important to Stay Positive and Maintain Perspective During a Crisis

6/17/2020 – – Over the last few months we’ve all been dealing with cascading, overlapping crises over which we have little or no control.  So, the findings of a survey released yesterday should come as no surprise: Americans are not happy. In fact, fewer of us feel very happy than at any time in the last half century.

The University of Chicago has been conducting the General Social Survey at least every other year since 1972. Two years ago, 31 percent of Americans said they were “very happy.” Today (the survey was conducted in May), just 14 percent answered so positively. The previous all-time low was 29 percent. And while 23 percent of respondents in 2018 said they often or sometimes felt isolated, 50 percent do now.

Maintaining a positive attitude contributes to the successful navigation of all crises, no matter how challenging. That’s not easy. It takes creativity and a sense of humor to take your mind off the unrelenting pressure and crushing emotional toll.

I’m hoping that meatballs from Rao’s will bring me a brief respite from unhappiness.

That’s right, the legendary New York restaurant famous for great Italian cuisine and no available reservations is at the heart of my survival strategy. Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down all restaurants, a table at Rao’s was out of reach for mere mortals. Here’s Bon Appetit magazine’s description of the establishment:

Getting a seat at Rao’s is like buying a time-share. Since 1896 the tiny Italian-American restaurant has been serving up family-style lemon chicken and seafood salad beneath strings of Christmas lights on a corner in East Harlem. But after New York Times food critic Mimi Sheraton gave it a three-star review in 1977, Rao’s enacted a notoriously strict reservation system to preserve its devout community of regulars. Now table assignments are made in weekly, monthly, or annual increments, and only a rare few get inside. Forget being somebody—you need to know somebody to get past co-owner Frank Pellegrino Jr. (His father, Frank Pellegrino Sr., was nicknamed Frankie No for his stalwart ability to turn away celebrities and regular folks alike.)

Facing its own mortality, Rao’s turned to take-out in a uniquely Rao’s way. Even if you don’t control a table, you can get your name on a waiting list on Instagram. There are no menu choices. Just dinner for two of Rao’s signature meatballs, pasta, lemon chicken and salad. It can take weeks to hear back. But when they call, you must confirm your order or be sent back to the end of the waiting list. You pick up your food curbside (you still can’t get in the restaurant) that evening. Cash payment only.

My daughter got our family on the waiting list about two weeks ago. Every morning my gloom over the state of our world is diminished a bit by the anticipation that this will be the day my meatballs will come. I keep my car’s fuel tank full, book no conference calls after 5:00, keep cash in my wallet and have Rao’s address loaded on Waze.

Do you have any silly diversions from the uncertainties of today’s unprecedented business and social environment? You may not be able to get to “very happy,” but it’s important in a crisis to maintain perspective. The sun will come out tomorrow. And someday the call from Rao’s will come.

Boy those meatballs better be good.        



Categories Uncategorized
%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close