I mentioned in my first post that my love of food was one of the reasons I chose to start a blog. Well, my excitement as I described my experience at a Chicago restaurant was the deciding factor. You see, a few weeks ago two of my Wichita friends told me I should start a blog. I told them I wouldn't be interesting and what would I write about? They both said I should start a food blog. Then, a few weeks later as I discussed healthy eating tips with a Kansas City friend, she told me I should start a blog so she could read all my tips conveniently. Then, when I returned from my Chicago trip and filled my family in on every last detail (probably to their boredom) of my meals my brother suddenly looked at me and said, "You should start a blog." So, it took some nudging, but I decided if three different groups of people think I should start one I might as well give it a whirl.
I'm thrilled that my first blog where I actually discuss a specific restaurant is so exciting! For Memorial Day weekend my friends and I took a girls trip to Chicago. I had not visited there since I was little so I really didn't remember it. If I was planning my own trip with just me and the hubby I would have taken one of the Chicago food tours. But, that takes a big chunk of the day and I was with 5 other girls for a quick two days and let's be honest, shopping on Michigan Avenue was priority! So, I wasn't about to suggest that to everyone. However, months before the trip as we made plans I did tell them (as politely as I could in an e-mail) I did not care what we did except for one thing. I just had to eat at RPM, the new restaurant Bill and Giuliana Ransic just opened. (I even went so far to tell my friends I would be going alone, without them, if they didn't want to go) I realize it was a bit risky as I could have come across a little demanding, but I mean business when it comes to food. Thankfully, after sending them the link and having them look the menu over, the price was right and the options were plentiful. Dinner plans were set and they were all very excited to go as well!
Six weeks out from our trip I was checking Twitter and saw a famous person tweeted about eating at RPM. My stomach dropped...I had no idea this was a celebrity hotspot. I got on opentable.com and there were no tables available for reservation. At this point, I was beginning to sweat. My dreams were going to be crushed. Why, oh why, didn't I make reservations yet? Where on earth would I eat now? (I know, a bit dramatic considering it's Chicage and there's a bazillion placed to choose from) My family used to own a restaurant so therefore, I know through Opentable a restaurant can put a cap on how many tables can be reserved online, but tables may still be available if you call. (A little tip for you if this ever happens to you) So, I grabbed my phone and made a call. The soonest they could get us in was 9 pm. SIX WEEKS out and that's the first available time. Of course, I took it! All I know is, they are making some serious dough at this place. I'm contemplating moving to Chicago to be a server there. Just kidding. Sort of.
All that introduction, now let's get to the good stuff. I had high expecations because I had only read good reviews, but I was a little skeptical because just throwing a menu together and putting your famous faces on the promotional tour does not equal good food. (I was HIGHLY disappointed in Eva Longoria's restaurant Beso a few years ago) But, my girl Giuliana did not disappoint. Her and her mama, known on her reality show as "Mama DePandi", did not disapoint. These Italians know how to cook!
We started with Provolone Stuffed Peppers ($5) and Zucchini Fritti ($8) as appetizers. The stuffed peppers came first and I got a little nervous. There were six on the plate and the peppers were the size of a cherry tomato. For the price and amount, I wasn't overly impressed. I started thinking the prices are so affordable because we'll have to order so many things to get full. However, then the Zucchini came and I relaxed a bit. They were perfectly breaded and fried. Nothing too heavy, not greasy at all, and delicious! So good, that we ordered another one. (Don't judge, six girls-one pregnant-at 9 p.m after walking/shopping all day, we deserved some more fried food!) Oh, and I have an old Iphone with no flash so my pic of the zucchini didn't work. I won't bore you with the decor of the restaurant, (fab.u.lous!) but it was pretty dark and my phone had a hard time.
I had studied the menu a bit before I arrived (okay, a lot and yes, I know that's weird) and had a few questions for our server so I would be able to narrow it down. I was already planning on ordering a couple things just so I could try them, but my friends were awesome and suggessted we order a bunch of items and share. Loved the idea! I could try so many items in one visit. We ended up ordering two orders of Giuliana's Italian Salad. ($11 each) Our entire table agreed it was an excellent choice. Perfectly seasoned dressing and perfectly proportioned. And, while little miss twig Giuliana probably only eats her self named salad, we were just getting started.
I knew I was going to get the signature dish, Mama DePandi's pasta. My questions were in regards to the Eggplant Parmesan, the Gnocchi, and the Sweet Pea Risotto. How's a girl to choose? Well, after asking our server a couple questions I weeded out the gnocchi dish. Turns out it's in a meat sauce, and I don't eat much meat. A couple girls wanted ravioli and our meal was set. We ordered: Mama DePandi's Bucatini Pomodoro ($10), Eggplant Parmesan ($18), Sweet Pea Risotto ($13), Ravioli Americano ($10), and Maine Lobster Ravioli. ($15)
Mama DePandi's was my favorite!
There's something so light and refreshing about the simplicity of authentic Italian, but yet it's so full of flavor. I could have eaten much more of this, but I wanted to sample it all. The ravioli was good, but didn't stand out from anything else I've had. I am allergic to Lobster so I did not sample that one. Eggplant Parmesan is one of my all time favorite dishes and I would definitely order it again from RPM. Not greasy or heavily breaded and full of flavor. It was not served atop any pasta, which at first I was disappointed by, but once I started eating it I realized it didn't need anything; it was perfect the way it was served. It also wasn't drowned in a thick, red sauce so you could really taste the eggplant and fresh tomato sauce. I also love, love, love, risotto. The peas were perfectly crisp, but I could have used a bit more cheese. It was good risotto, not great. (Although, I have high expactions after Kansas City's TASTE restaurant's sweet pea risotto. I'm yet to find one that comes close and this was no exception. Sadly, TASTE closed a few months ago. RIP, you are missed)
We chose to skip dessert since we were pretty full at this point. If I haven't convinced you to eat here yet, maybe the fact that we left at 11:45 and the place was still packed will convince you. Just remember, call early for a reservation!
To sum it up in Giuliana's words, it was, "Amazeballs!"
P.S. I feel I should thank my wonderful friends for coming with me and being open to trying so many things. It was very nice to know I could look around and get a little giddy about the contemporary atmosphere, the wine case, the menu, the bathroom, the bar, the server outfits, etc. I may not have been the best conversational diner that evening, but I had a blast!