A table for eight at $10,000 a night

The reservation list for Rao’s has been closed to all but a lucky few for the past 38 years.


Leonardo DiCaprio: just one of the stars keen to bag a table at Rao's

Who needs celebrity chefs? Certainly not Bo Dietl. Richard "Bo" Dietl is a former New York detective who now has a regular table at one of the most sought-after restaurants in the world. He calls it his "prized possession... like having a Picasso".

The restaurant is Rao's, a family owned trattoria in East Harlem; when Sophia Loren went there, she ate stracciatella, a thin soup with shreds of egg and parmesan, and pasta with cabbage and sausage. "She spent her childhood near Naples," says one frequent visitor, "so it was familiar to her. She called it kitchen food' and she was in seventh heaven."

According to Barbara McMahon in The Times, the reservation list for Rao's has been closed to "all but a lucky few" for the past 38 years. Once a favourite of Mafia godfathers, it became the place to go in the 1970s when The New York Times gave it a three-star review. The phone began to ring off the hook, but the family refused to expand the tiny "red-sauce joint" with its ten tables. There is no menu the matre d'htel just sits down at your table to talk through what's on offer.

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When the place was mysteriously burnt down in an arson attack in 1995 a set designer was brought in to replicate it exactly, "right down to the stamped-tin ceiling, wall sconces and darkly painted wooden booths". In the 1970s, so as not to disappoint regulars,the family allocated dining slots to those who had been patronising the place for years. Bo Dietl was one of them. He secured his eight-seat Thursday night table during his time at the New York police department.

"I get ten phone calls a week from people begging to go," he says. Once, Warren Buffett rang. "That Italian place up in Harlem? You got a table there? I want to take some friends'." Dietl offered to host the financier, but he said no, he wanted a table to himself (and being Buffett, eventually got one).

Film stars are not so choosy: Dietl has dined with plenty, from Leonardo DiCaprio (a scene from The Wolf of Wall Street was filmed in Rao's) to Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. Sometimes he auctions his table for charity. The minimum is $10,000, though sometimes he gets $25,000. And not a celebrity chef in sight.

Bruiser of a cruiser

Southampton will be pleased to see the back of the Harmony of the Seas, which set off on its maiden commercial voyage this week. At full power, says The Guardian, the Harmony's three four-storey, 16-cylinder Wartsila engines will burn about 96,000 gallons a day of some of the most polluting diesel fuel in the world. Even in port, where they burn low sulphur fuel, the pollution is bad enough. "These ships are like blocks of flats," says one local. "Sometimes there are five or more in the docks at the same time."

Cruise ships are growing in popularity: 24 million passengers are expected to sail in 2016. It's baffling to me that anyone should want to spend even a day on something like the £783m Harmony of the Seas, which, at 361 metres, is the biggest cruise ship in the world longer than the Shard and boasting 20 restaurants and 23 swimming pools. But plenty of people feel differently, including the 6,780 passengers aboard the Harmony for her maiden voyage.

Tabloid money... Will the Party be over before the party's over?

Tory party wounds will take a long time to heal after the European Union referendum takes place this June, says Andrew Pierce in the Daily Mail. Long-standing friendships are already under strain. "So which bright spark thought it was a good idea to stage the party's annual summer ball, only six days after the votes have been counted?"

Both Boris Johnson and David Cameron will be at the Hurlingham Club gala. Drawing up the seating plan will be "a nightmare. We will have to put the Remain and Leave supporters at opposite ends of the room,' sighs my Tory mole." Tickets range from £5,000 for a standard table of ten to £15,000 for a Premium Plus table. "So which table will Gove and Johnson be put on if the Brexit side wins?"

Tom Conti "rages from his £18m home in North London's lush Hampstead about being called a luvvie'", says Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun. It is a term of abuse, he splutters like being called the N-word or a Yid. Well, not quite, Tom. "You may be right to say it is pejorative, denigrative and demeaning'. But so is the tendency of your fellow make-believe luvvies to keep telling us, unasked, how to vote, where to donate our money and how many immigrants to invite to live next door."

"Have you had sex with Serena Cowdy yet?" asks Rod Liddle in The Sun. "I'm sure she'll get around to you sooner or later. Cowdy is the Westminster journalist who's been working her way through the Scottish National Party. She had an affair with the married MP Angus MacNeil, then swiftly moved on to another married bloke, the SNP's grim-looking deputy leader Stewart Hosie.

Angus spent thousands of pounds of your money at a posh hotel where he wooed Ms Cowdy. He spent more than £2,500, presumably buying her loads of those pies that have a hole in the top. Anyway, a Labour MP friend of mine reckons his party should sign her up. We've been looking for a way to f*** the SNP for ages,' he said."