Sunday, March 18, 2012

RPM Italian

Location: 52 W Illinois
Cost: About $50 per person

I've explained many a time about my early bird family dinners on Sunday nights. Most recently we went to Buona Terra because my parents saw it on TV. I'd previously stated that the places we go are mostly based on what some local show had featured, but there's one caveat to that. We often go to places where my parents have gift cards, and being from the north side of Chicago, that's code for Lettuce Entertain You restaurants. So, last Sunday night, we decided to put some gift cards to use at the newest LEYE option in Chicago, RPM Italian.

Logistics
RPM is right in the middle of River North. Accordingly, it has a rather impressively designed interior. They have valet parking, but my mom was able to find a street spot after looking for a little while. We tried to make reservations for 5PM and were told they only had 5:30 availability, which speaks a lot to the crowd. This place was flooded with north shore Jewish families as you might expect any recently opened Lettuce Entertain You spot to be. We even ran into some neighbors of ours celebrating their daughter's birthday. Anyways, you should try and make a reservation, but if you can't, there's a lot of bar seating that seems ideal for walk-ins.

I've heard that things get a little loud and trendy later at night, but we were there early enough to enjoy a pretty quiet experience. Our server was really something else. She noticed that our table had a little wobble to it and was quickly down to her hands and knees trying to fix it. We had a lot of questions for her regarding the menu, and she handled them all very well.

The cost is a little bit up there for Italian food. They have a large section of small plates that ranges from $7-$13. The pasta dishes are in the $10-$17 ballpark. They also have some classic entrees floating in the mid 20's. We ended up getting the whole fish option which is listed at $29 per person and served for two. I don't know why they can't just list it as $58 (but I can guess it's to trick people into ordering it).

The Food
To get the evening started, we ordered some small plates including the Caesar Wedge Salad, the Gnocchi al Forno, and a plate of Cheese and Salumi. The salad was loaded with anchovies which my dad and I loved. The gnocchi was made with semolina flour, and was much lighter than a traditional potato dumpling. It had plenty of roasted and melted cheese over the top leaving a flavor profile of a saganaki dish. The cheese and salumi plate was an excellent starter for us as well. The meats were fatty and spicy while the cheeses packed an unctuous kick. The jams and bread that came on the side fit with everything very smoothly.

The Cheese and Salumi Plate

The Caesar Wedge

 The Gnocchi al Forno

For our main course, we split the Whole Grilled Branzino and a plate of the Duck Agnolotti. The Agnolotti was a plate of little stuffed dumplings. The figs gave a sweetness to the dish, but I thought it was a bit bland overall. The fish was enough to serve four people. It was flaky and had a tasty, crispy skin. It wasn't spiced much beforehand, but the lemon wedges and capers took care of that for us. They didn't do the best job of taking out the bones, but clearly I survived. If you go for white fish and can look past the price tag, I'd suggest you try this dish out.

The Duck Agnolotti

The Branzino

 The side of Asparagus

When dessert came around we ordered the Rice Pudding Gelato and the Cannoli. The manager overheard our order and tossed on the Tartufo for free since he thought we should try out the house favorite. So this tartufo was a ball of chocolate ice cream, coated with hazelnuts and chocolate. It was exactly like one of those Nestle Crunch Ice Cream bars, but in an elegant presentation. Our favorite was the rice pudding gelato (definitely better than the tartufo) which actually came out with some rice pudding on top. It was light and refreshing. The cannoli were baked and not fried (like other chips and snacks). I don't usually like cannoli but I think these are worth a try. They have some orange rind and a really flaky shell.

The Tartufo

The Rice Pudding Gelato

 The Cannoli

Overall
I'm the first to say that I'm a bit of a Lettuce Entertain You homer. I was raised going to a ton of their restaurants, and maybe I'm a bit biased in their favor. That being said, I think RPM gave off a strong feel of one of their restaurants. The service was impeccable, and most of the food was great. I want to go back and try the eggplant parmesan and get some more of the gnocchi. I'm giving them 4 out of 5 Pearls.


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