Jlee’s Review – RPM Italian Restaurant

My big request for my 33rd birthday was for my husband to take me to RPM Italian, the trendy new restaurant of Chicago’s own Bill Rancic (winner of the 1st Apprentice) and his wife, my future BFF, Giuliana Rancic.

If you watch the reality show Giuliana and Bill on Style Network you know that they wanted to open a restaurant featuring recipes from Giuliana’s mom, the bubbly Mama DePandi (and P.S. Mama DePandi is on Twitter, and while she hasn’t tweeted much lately her tweets were seriously hilar).

Bill and Giuliana were kicking around whether to open “Mama DePandi’s Italian Restaurante” (much better name in this Italian’s opinion) in LA or Chicago; Bill fought hard and won with RPM Italian ultimately residing in River North on Illinois Street.  Yayy Chicago!

The Rancic’s joined forces with Lettuce Entertain You’s Melman siblings; R.J., Jerrod and Molly, and Doug Psaltis, who is also RPM’s chef.  The name RPM is derived of the three owners’ last names; Rancic, Psaltis, Melman.

The décor is sleek and modern; think very black and white chic, but with a cozy feel.  Be seated in inviting round-table booths, enjoy the romantic and intricate lighting and select your drink knowing it will be prepared by the best ‘mixers’ in the biz since RPM features two fully stocked bars.

Our waiter, I’ll call him John, was fantastic – very professional (which the vibe I got was that the waiters are to be a little on the stuffy side) but we were jokesters from the get-go so bless his heart for not wanting to kill us.  Or maybe he wanted to, but he didn’t let on as much and we had him joking and laughing by the end.

Waiter John answered all of our questions, ranging from questions about Giuliana and Bill (I couldn’t NOT ask!) and we had several questions on the menu as well.  John said he had tried everything – we said every single thing? – He repeated EVERYTHING on the menu.

Now that’s how you train your wait staff!  Hopefully they let him try all the cocktails, too, but I didn’t branch out to try a speciality birthday cocktail.  Sorry to disappoint, but you know me, I stuck with my cab the wino that I am!

Waiter John suggested I order the Short Rib Pappardelle and omg, it was delish.  The only problem was I could have eaten like double, or maybe triple, what I was served.  I ate my entire meal with no leftovers to take home.

Hubs played it safe with Spaghetti and Meatballs and his portion was rather small as well.  One of my two complaints on RPM is that all of our portions were very small.

What I’ve learned from researching RPM is that the modern over old-school Italian flair R, P, and M are going for plus the French style of chef Psaltis (who helped craft Paris Club’s French fare) = smaller plate sizes.  Waiter John did encourage us to order many plates to share.

My bonus daughter ordered the Maine Lobster Ravioli, and while she said that it was absolutely delish, we all left feeling like we could go demolish a Big Mac at McDonald’s.  I think we counted five ravioli’s on her plate, and they were the size of a half dollar coin.

Now maybe we’re just pigs, but I’ve never been shy about the fact that as an Italian girl I was raised to eat, and I like to eat, so when I’ve starved myself for two days in anticipation of this beautiful meal I was disappointed to not be so stuffed that I needed to be rolled out of the restaurant….especially after also eating appetizers and salad.

This brings me to complaint #2, which is if you open an Italian restaurant please give your customers free bread.  That’s the way Italians want it to be because you can’t eat a meal without bread, right?  I don’t know, maybe I’m just cheap, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that you feed me some bread when I dine in your establishment.

So after our very first important task of ordering the booze (bonus daughter and I split the bottle of cab), we then ordered our $7 Truffled Garlic Bread followed by an order of Fritto Misto.  Again, it was amazing; however, I myself could have eaten the entire loaf of bread, the entire appetizer AND my meal.

Yet still, I can’t repeat enough how delicious the food really was.  See the entire menu here.

I found the pricing to be in line with what I expected of a trendy celebrity owned restaurant in the big city.  I didn’t expect the pricing to be the equivalent to some favorite Italian restaurants; however, the portions were one quarter of the size.

Waiter John did surprise us with four mini ice cream cones and a candle which was a very pleasant surprise.  No, RPM is not the restaurant where the wait staff will come out singing ‘Happy Birthday’ at the top of their lungs, and I was OK with that.  However it was a nice added touch that topped off my birthday dinner.  We also ordered a yummy dessert to share.

My take on RPM is that it’s a great restaurant to attend for a bachelorette party (small plates, cool vibe) or a happy hour drink and app, however, to go there again for a full blown meal I probably would not.  Reason being simply because as an eater, if I drop the Benjamins on a meal I’d like to leave feeling absolutely stuffed and like I won’t be able to eat for the next week or so.

One last note, no, I did not have any celeb sightings.  :( I had a brief fantasy of Giuliana running out of the kitchen demanding to meet the girl with the blog who claims to be G’s future BFF.  We would share a martini and laugh and laugh….but no, that didn’t happen.

My family (minus the Chiquita) celebrating my 33rd birthday at RPM Italian
Waiter John – Handsome isn’t he?

Don’t you love this?
Dessert!