RPM Italian, the latest venture from R.J.,Jerrod and Molly Melman opened its doors last night. Although the restaurant was slated to open early next week, R.J. Melman spread the word via his twitter status, "And...RPM Italian is officially open." The modern Italian restaurant, a partnership with reality stars Giuliana and Bill Rancic and executive chef Doug Psaltis (the partners last names making up the RPM) occupies the former Ben Pao space in River North, but the revamped, contemporary look leaves no resemblance of its former occupant.
The space is very modern with the focal color being white as seen in the white walls, white leather chairs and white pole in the dining room. This is sharply contrasted by a black ceiling, floor and black tables. Light gray leather lines the banquettes. Dozens of lights shine down around the restaurant giving the feel of a space more Miami than Chicago, and definitely not what you'd find in a typical Italian restaurant.
The main bar in the front of the restaurant is large and meant to be a central place to congregate. Again tying in the white and black color scheme, the white leather bar stools are set up around the entire length of the white bar top, on a black wood base, allowing you to pull up a seat and watch the bartenders shake up cocktails created by Paul McGee.
As the space suggests, this is more of a place to grab drinks and food with friends rather than have a long, authentic Italian meal. Although chef Psaltis did include some classic Italian dishes on the menu (spaghetti, eggplant parmesan, bistecca Florentina), the majority of the menu focuses on antipasti, cichetti (Italian small plates) and unique pastas. Items like duck agnolotti with Brussels sprouts and mission figs; lobster caprese; and the polenta with poached egg, black truffle and parmesan definitely show the emphasis on modern Italian. For fans of Mama DePandi, Giuliana's mother who appeared often on Bill and Giuliana's reality show, you will still find her recipes present even if the restaurant wasn't named after her. She has her own Mama DePandi's Bucatini Pomodoro on the menu and consulted on some of the other dishes as well. Take a look below for the full menu.