Fine is exactly the word I would use to describe RPM Italian in Chicago. The food was good, for sure, but was it amazing? Not really. At the same time though, as long as you don’t order a steak, the prices are very reasonable.
For the first time since STK, we ventured down into Chicago to have a nice adult dinner with some friends at RPM Italian. And let me just get this out of the way before we get into the food aspect of everything… If you valet your car, be sure you don’t hand them your ticket 3 minutes before the 4 hour time limit is up (4 hours being when the price jumps up to $22 from $15).
We got to the restaurant at 6:18PM, our dinner reservation was not until 7:30PM, but we wanted to grab a drink down the street at Sunda before we ate, no problem. We pulled up to the valet, gave them the keys, took the ticket, and wandered over to Sunda. After completing our dinner, we walked out to the valet stand and handed the guy our ticket at 10:15PM, I know because I checked to make sure we weren’t over the 4 hour limit… It obviously takes a couple minutes for them to get the car, but it took them like 10 minutes to get the car and subsequently try to tell me that the charge was going to be $22.
I tried to argue with the guy for about 30 seconds before I realized it was going nowhere, and I really wasn’t in the mood to get heated over $7, but his exact words were “well, if you were to use self-park and you’re one minute over, you would be charged the higher amount”. And I get that, but I handed you my ticket 4 minutes before the 4-hour mark. If it was self park I would have gotten my car out of the garage in less than 4 minutes… so that was a pretty lame excuse.
Either way though, I paid the guy and we left. I wasn’t about to have our nice night out ruined by some idiot at the valet.
So now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about RPM Italian.
RPM Italian Chicago
I can’t remember if anyone in our group had been to RPM Italian before, but I know my wife and I have not. When we first walked in we were both a little surprised with how “not upscale” it seemed. Not that this is a bad thing, but for some reason we both had in our heads that this was some fancier Italian restaurant, when it really just felt like a slightly fancier Maggiano’s. Which is fine, we love Maggiano’s.
I think the reason we may have felt that way was because of the people that were in the restaurant that day. It was the Saturday before St. Patrick’s day, so there were a lot of people in there that had been out drinking all day. Or large groups of families, with kids, that came downtown to check out the river dying and parades and what have you. So that probably contributed to the feel of the restaurant that night, but it still didn’t feel as upscale as we both had imagined. Especially with the steaks on the menu being priced the way they are.
Our server was extremely attentive and made some good suggestions regarding our meal, which we were excited to dig in to.
Before we even sat down my wife knew that she wanted to order the Wood-Roasted Octopus, and being the ever-daring food eater that I am, I told her that I would at least try some of it if she did. Well, she did, and I did.
And it wasn’t half bad.
The octopus appetizer came with chickpeas and celery as as well as being placed on top of some sort of sauce. I thought the octopus itself was great, no complaints there, but I didn’t care for whatever the sauce on the plate was. I’m not even sure what it was as it’s not listed on the menu. It also came as sort of a salad, which isn’t what I was really expecting, but that was fine. Overall though I just ate the octopus parts of it and those were good, you’ll have to try the rest of it yourself I guess, although everyone else at the table seemed to enjoy it. I’ve gotten octopus before, so this wasn’t too out of the ordinary for me, but it’s not something I regularly order.
Next up we ordered some warm Rosemary Focaccia bread with Whipped Lardo… It’s bread. It was good, but it’s really just bread.
The beet salad was next to come out and I didn’t even try that. Sorry. The rest of the table liked it, but beets aren’t my thing so I stay away from them. But the real food lover in the family, my wife, could not stop raving about the dish the next day, so take that as you will. If you’re into beet salads you should probably order this.
And lastly on our appetizer tour, we were served the Zucchini Fritti.
I kind of enjoy zucchini, if it’s mashed up, mixed with a ton of sugar, and baked into a loaf of bread, so I wasn’t too sure about fried zucchini, but in this case you really couldn’t even taste the zucchini. Now, I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, probably good for me, but bad if you like zucchini. There was so much “fried” that the zucchini itself just got totally lost in the friedness, and we really didn’t see the point.
It was fine, I guess, but I would probably not suggest ordering this if you are looking for a good hearty zucchini appetizer. Yes, the fried coating is nice and light and fluffy, but the zucchini pieces are cut so thin, that they basically just dissolve into nothingness. It’s like Thanos snapped and the only thing he made disappear was the zucchini, leaving just the fried outsides.
After all the appetizers were cleared it was time to figure out what we all wanted to eat for our entrees, and seeing as how I can’t eat garlic or onions, this was going to prove difficult at an Italian restaurant.
Now it’s not like I’m going to die if I eat those things, but it could prove to be a problem a few hours later at home, but since we don’t go out that often these days, I was willing to risk it and I figured maybe the Chicken Parmesan (pictured at top) would be one of the safest choices outside of a $45 steak that I didn’t feel like paying for. I did have them go light on the red sauce, since that (and probably the breading for the chicken) are where I’d be most likely to find garlic and onions. I hoped that those reductions would be enough to keep my digestive system in check. And it seemed to be ok.
The Chicken Parmesan was very good. The chicken was nice and moist, the breading was delicious, and the red sauce wasn’t overpowering. I’m pretty sure there were just straight up huge cloves of garlic in the sauce though, which was a little disconcerting, but whatever, I wasn’t about to let the meal go to waste at this point.
The portion was also pretty large with two big pieces of chicken covering the plate, although the spaghetti side left a little to be desired. I’m not a huge fan of noodles cooked al dente, I don’t like the toughness or the stickiness of them, but that’s just a personal preference, so I won’t complain about that too much. I did, however, think that the sauce was a little bit too spicy. And another person in our group, who got a pasta with the same red sauce thought the same thing about hers. So that was definitely not just an overstatement by me.
Overall though I really enjoyed the Chicken Parmesan and would definitely order it again if we ever make it back here. I thought it was well cooked, the portion size was good, the price was reasonable (only about $10 more than Maggiano’s).
As for the rest of our party, I think my wife got the Seafood Risotto, which she of course loved. And I believe a Bone-In Ribeye was also devoured at the table.
For dessert they brought us out 4 little samples of gelato for my wife’s birthday, which were all pretty good. Although I was a little surprised when the vanilla gelato turned out to be mango instead. Talk about a surprise first bite. It was still pretty tasty though.
As for the actual desserts we ordered, I believe we ordered the Hazelnut Tartufo and the Amalfi Lemon Cake.
I didn’t try the Amalfi Lemon Cake just because… Not for any particular reason, just didn’t feel like having much dessert. The Hazelnut Tartufo was ok, but I wasn’t super impressed. It was like a big block of chocolate/hazelnut ice cream wrapped in a ball of hard chocolate. I don’t know, it just took too much work to break open the chocolate shell, and the insides weren’t worth the effort in my mind.
It was still delicious, don’t get me wrong, but I think I would have like a chocolate cake or something.
Overall though our experience at RPM Italian was fine. Our service was good, the food was good, the ambiance was good, it was all good… just nothing that really blew me a way. Maybe if I would have gotten a $50 steak, or actually had an alcoholic beverage, I would have though differently, but based on the experience I had, it was just fine.
Would I go back here? Yeah, for sure. Like I said, nothing about our experience turned me off the restaurant, it was just that nothing really impressed me to the point where I would absolutely recommend it as a place you can’t miss when in Chicago.