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Can't get reservations at Rao's? Your luck may have changed...

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In New York, a city where most social activities revolve around a degree of exclusivity, one restaurant is even harder to get into than the rest: Rao's.

Founded in 1896 in Harlem, the original Rao's has only 10 tables and offers one seating per night. It is closed on Saturdays and Sundays and the only form of payment accepted is cash.

Why the fuss? For decades Rao's existed as a neighborhood restaurant. Its local customers would fill the tables with such regularity that eventually they were given standing reservations - bookings that persevere to this day. The Rao's phenomenon exploded in 1977, when New York Times food critic Mimi Sheraton gave Rao's a gushing, half-page, three-star review, outing a well-kept secret to millions of readers. Today, year-long waits for reservations are not uncommon, according to the restaurant website.

But now you have a chance to dine at Rao's too. Starting TODAY through June 3, 2010, NIAF is offering a chance to bid on dinner for four (4) at the restaurant on July 27, 2010. Dinner includes Rao's famous Neapolitan cuisine, house wine and taxes (although gratuity is not included).

Click here to place your bid! Please note that dinner is only valid for the night of July 27, 2010. No exchanges will be permitted.

Fun fact: Rapper Jay-Z filmed part of the video for his single "Death of Auto-Tune" on site at Rao's Restaurant, including a poker game played in the back with actor Harvey Keitel. Click the link below to view the video (restaurant scenes start 1:28 into the video, the poker game is at 3:22).

Have you dined at Rao's? If so, share your experiences!