Founded in 1896, Rao’s is an institution in East Harlem, New York. The wait for a table at the restaurant is legendary — namely because there is no wait list or reservations. Everyone who has a table are lifetime-status regulars.
So to allow more consumers to partake in the alluring Rao’s experience, the restaurant founders launched Rao’s Specialty Foods in 1992 to help expand the company’s presence on to grocery shelves. When the line launched, it was one of the most premium priced sauces in stores.
Much has changed over the brand’s two-decade lifetime; most recently its ownership. The line of Italian sauces and pasta — founded by Frank Pellegrino — was acquired by newly created food and beverage company, Sovos Brands, an offshoot of private equity group Advent International. Terms of the acquisition, which closed last week, were not disclosed. Eric Skae, former CEO of Rao’s Specialty Foods, will remain with the company as general manager. Rao’s will join fellow Italian heritage brand, Michael Angelo’s Gourmet Foods, under the Sovos umbrella.
“The Rao’s brand will always have deep meaning for me and my family,” Frank Pellegrino Jr, principle of Rao’s Restaurant Group and son of Rao’s founder, said in a statement. “I am pleased to know that the Sovos team will honor and preserve our heritage as they lead the business into the future. “
Though the line is no longer under the larger Rao’s umbrella, the family history of the brand remains. At this year’s Summer Fancy Foods Show, Project NOSH Editor Carol Ortenberg sat down with Pellegrino Jr. to discuss why his father started the specialty food company and what other restaurateurs who aspire to enter CPG can learn from the Rao’s model.
To see the full interview, watch the video below: