Jetsetting With Restaurateur Frank Pellegrino Jr.
Frank Pellegrino Jr. is a co-owner of Rao’s Restaurant Group and the author of “Rao’s On the Grill.” It’s no surprise then that his travels are often dictated by food—whether he is checking in at one of Rao’s three locations or exploring the globe for culinary inspiration. Read on to learn about Frank’s favorite far-off locales and weekend getaways and, of course, his most memorable meal.
Q: What type of traveler are you? (i.e., adventurer, cultural explorer, free spirit, rejuvenator, spa aficionado, etc.)
A: I would say I am a free spirit when it comes to traveling. I often travel back and forth to our restaurant locations in New York, Hollywood, and Las Vegas (the latter of which I call home). So when I have the time to travel for myself I enjoy traveling in style.
Q: What types of activities do you like to do on your travels? Do you look for a place where it’s quiet and you can relax or someplace that has great activities or nightlife?
A: For me, I try to have a nice blend of activity and relaxation. It’s kind of necessary when you travel for work often to set aside some time to relax, take in the atmosphere, and take a few days away from daily life for yourself.
Q: When thinking about where you will travel to next, what inspires you to make a decision? And what, if any, research do you do about that destination?
A: I tend to travel to places with amazing food. I love finding hidden gems where I can enjoy a genuine, authentic culinary experience. I enjoy walking the town I am visiting to see where I end up. I have traveled all over the world, but I especially loved visiting Italy, Berlin, Croatia, Paris, and Argentina, just to name a few.
Q: What is the most memorable trip you’ve taken and why?
A: All of my trips to Italy have been remarkable. Beautiful scenery, warm people, amazing sites, incredible food … what more could you ask for? From the people to the culinary talent, I have had the chance to meet and work with some of the most exceptional individuals. One time in Italy I met a fabulous chef named Doro. He prepared for me the best insalata tiepida di mare, also known as a warm seafood salad. It was actually the best I have ever tasted and one I’ll never forget. And to see how Italian cuisine has evolved in the 20 years I have been visiting has been truly amazing to witness.
Q: What is the best food you’ve ever found on a trip?
A: It’s hard to say the best food I have ever found, but if I had to choose one I’d say in Ibiza I had the most amazing olives and mayonnaise ever. It was a complete novelty to me.
Q: What, if anything, do you always take with you when you travel?
A: As I pack my bags with all the items I need for my travels, I can never forget my toothbrush!
Q: What’s your best piece of travel advice?
A: My best piece of advice is to relax and take it easy.
Q: Is there a destination to which you can’t imagine not returning?
A: Since I travel quite often, it’s always nice to return home—even if it’s just for a little while.
Q: Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A: Being from New York, I enjoy escaping to Southampton for a quick weekend getaway. It’s a great place to visit, and it has plenty to offer. Usually when I am there, I like to spend time with my family and bring everyone together over food. In fact, this is where I fueled my passion for my recent cookbook, “Rao’s on the Grill,” which launched last year. Many of my family and friends, including our New York executive chef Dino Gatto and our Hollywood executive chef Nicole Grimes, were a huge part in finalizing the recipes for the cookbook, which partly took place in Southampton.
Q: Where would you like to travel to next?
A: I would love to visit Capri again. I love Capri because I feel as though I am in a Woody Allen movie when I am there. At any given moment, I feel as though I can expect to see him. Capri itself is beautiful and charming and is a specular island when in full bloom. The food is also quite delicious; the fish tastes like the ocean.
Q: Tell us about your upcoming project(s)?
A: This summer, I will be returning to Sicily, Italy, for some R&R and some culinary inspiration for our restaurants. Plus, we will be celebrating our one-year anniversary of Rao’s Hollywood in September!
Frank Pellegrino Jr.’s Bio:
Frank Pellegrino Jr. is a co-owner of Rao’s Restaurant Group with locations in New York City (1896), Las Vegas (2006), and Hollywood (2013). An accomplished cook in his own right, Pellegrino took signature Rao’s dishes, added a few twists and turns of his own, and demonstrated how to wonderfully recreate these classic dishes in his book, “Rao’s On the Grill.” Pellegrino has done live cooking on shows such as “TODAY,” “Good Morning America,” “Fox News,” and “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” and has appeared as a guest judge on “Top Chef Masters All-Stars.”