The DC offshoot of RPM Italian, brought about by reality-TV stars Bill and Giuliana Rancic, opened just under a month ago and is the first RPM concept outside of Chicago. Giuliana says that’s partly because she grew up in this area, but also because DC is a great city with a great dining scene. “We have a thousand lawyers upstairs. That doesn’t hurt, either,” Bill joked during a walk-through. The couple definitely went all in with this sparkly location, which will be able to serve around 400 diners when its three patios are up and running. If you haven’t made it in yet, here’s what you can expect to find when you do:
There’s an amaro bar
While these Italian digestivi have been gaining in popularity for a while now, you can really get up close and personal with up to 12 of the bitter after-dinner drinks by requesting a spot at the six-seat amaro bar. There, diners can take advantage of the dedicated bartender on hand to give one-on-one attention to those lucky enough to snag a seat. You can pump your bartender for information on the flavor profile of Cynar versus that of Montenegro, ask for food-pairing suggestions or just sip and chill out. By the way, the full food menu is also available at the amaro bar, and the amari also pop up in cocktails.
The kitchen is very serious about pasta
General manager Juancarlo Parkhurst estimates that 40% of the kitchen staff is dedicated to making pasta, including five pasta-makers that arrive each morning to make the dough and shape it for the 10 pasta dishes on the menu, and four other kitchen folks who work the pasta station each evening. Extruded pastas, sheet pastas, dried pastas — you name it, they make it. Parkhurst also estimates that at least 60% of his diners order a pasta dish, with the spicy king crab spaghetti, lobster ravioli and Mama DePandi’s pomodoro flying out of the kitchen most frequently.
There are several DC-only dishes
Chef Gabe Thompson says he expects to infuse the DC menu with more seafood than is offered in Chicago. In fact, there’s a crudo section of the DC offerings that he says didn’t work for the Chicago market, which he pegs as “more of a meat town.” Currently, the crudo selections include a tuna carpaccio, a Mediterranean sea bass (aka branzino) and a veal and truffle tartare — all of which we’re guessing will play very well with the DC market. There’s also a cold bar unique to DC that serves oysters, tiger prawns, Alaskan king crab and lobster cocktail, as well as a decadent seafood platter that includes a crudo that changes daily. One additional dish just for DC is an Atlantic cod in corn brodo with clams and local blue crab.
Believe it or not, there’s a focus on value
Bill Rancic told us he wants there to be a perception of value with customers, which is interesting because it seems as if the team is swinging for majorly high-end. “We want anyone to be able to come here, sit at the bar and have a glass of wine,” he said. Parkhurst says they work to achieve that by offering a wide range of prices, from a $5 order of ’nduja crostini to the $135 seafood platter. He also steers folks on a budget toward stick-to-your-ribs classics like the chicken or eggplant parm or spaghetti and meatballs, which he says are pretty shareable and filling. “So it really is up to the diner where they want to take the meal,” he says of the price point.
You can blow a mortgage payment (or two) on a bottle of wine
For all you high-rollers out there, the highest priced wine currently on RPM Italian’s list is a $5,500 bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon. “It’s a very boutique and sought-after wine with very limited allocation,” says Parkhurst. For the rest of us, there are $10 wines by the glass and bottles priced in the mid-$50 range. And if you’re flummoxed by the 40-page wine list and a bottle inventory in the thousands, “we have somms on the floor every single evening, and they’re happy to steer you in any direction you want — and are very conscious of price,” Parkhurst adds.
Photos courtesy of RPM Italian
601 Massachusetts Ave. NW; 202-204-4480