As a die hard Lettuce Entertain You restaurant fanatic, I knew I had to make reservations as soon as possible for their newest restaurant opening in Chicago. This time around, Melman siblings RJ, Jerrod and Molly collaborated with chef Doug Psaltis and celebrity couple Giuliana and Bill Rancic, to open an Italian restaurant with a name featuring each of their initials, RPM Italian.
It's no surprise RPM Italian was inevitably bound to become a place to see and be seen in Chicago because of the names attached to its development. I made reservations about 1.5 months in advance to go with two girlfriends for a mid-week dinner. We were all very excited to try this hot spot and had high expectations from the hype that had surrounded the restaurant in its first few weeks of business.
When you enter RPM, it's obvious that attention was paid to create an elegant and sleek atmosphere. A cream and black motif are evident with sweeping cream brick walls and dark woodwork and leather throughout. The waitstaff is even decked out in white tuxedo jackets and dark slacks, adding yet another classy touch to the ambiance.
At 7:00 PM on a Wednesday, the place was packed, buzzing and energetic. We were seated at a table near the rear of the restaurant, affording great views for the inevitable people watching. It was obvious from the moment we stepped inside, people really dress to impress here. Imagine the pages of Michigan Avenue magazine coming to life and you have yourself a pretty accurate description.
We ordered a few glasses of wine, however, I was unimpressed by our server's lack of knowledge when it came to the wine and food offerings. I'm not sure if he was new or just uniformed, but it was obvious that my numerous questions would go unanswered.
RPM Italian features a fairly large menu of hot and cold small plates meant to be shared. We started off with the fresh burrata appetizer which was a scoop of fresh mozzarella served with arugula, roasted tomato and toasted bread. It was obvious the cheese was fresh and it had a slightly creamier texture than typical mozzarella because of its addition of cream.
|Gnocchi al Forno with Gorgonzola and Sage|
|Wild Boar Sausage Pasta with Fennel and Pecorino|
While these photos definitely make the food look larger, the pasta portions were larger than the appetizer portions. Each dish was about the size of your fist, but I definitely recommend ordering several options if you have a larger party than we did. Between the three of us, we were each able to take about two little servings of each. Interestingly, these dishes were probably about the size of a "normal" portion of pasta for one (talk about portion distortion!).
|Mama DePandi's Bucatini Pomodoro|
|Big Eye Tuna with Olives|
The manager gave her his card and told her to take her shirt to the dry cleaners and bring her receipt back to the restaurant for him to pick up the tab. Really? You just spilled food on an innocent patron and you want her to come back on her own time for you to pay for her cleaning? No bueno.
Fortunately, the manager must have read my mind (I also let it slip that I would be reviewing the restaurant on my blog--although, I'm not sure you can really ignore my DSLR camera on the table) because he ended up comping a few appetizers and our dessert (see below). In that awkward situation, that was probably the best outcome, however, it just rubbed me the wrong way after the mediocre food and uninformed waitstaff. I do have to give him credit for making the situation right again; that was much appreciated.
Luckily the best part of the meal was next, and we went with our waiter's suggestion. The tartufo was a large hazelnut gelato ball rolled in rich chocolate and hazelnuts. It seemed as if every table around us had ordered the same option for dessert, so I knew it must be good. The tartufo was unquestionably the largest portion of the evening, and I couldn't have been happier (let's be honest, I was still hungry!).
The shell tasted just like a Ferrero Rocher chocolate candy and the gelato was creamy and not a bit too sweet. Although it was a bit difficult to cut and split, I did enjoy eating it from what I dubbed the "Willy Wonka spoon".
|Tartufo Hazelnut Gelato Ball Rolled in Chocolate and Hazelnuts|
|I had to take a photo of the Willy Wonka spoon :)|
Maybe because RPM Italian had been hyped up by so many that my expectations were held high, or maybe it was the celebrity name attached that made me really want to like it, but I just couldn't see myself returning and forking over $130 for a few small plates and some wine. After all, looks can only take you so far...
52 W. Illinois
Chicago, IL 60654
Reservations at OpenTable.com