RPM Italian, the third restaurant collaboration between celebrity couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic, partners R.J. Jerrod and Molly Melman and chef Doug Psaltis, opened in the Mount Vernon neighborhood this summer. In just a few short months, this modern restaurant’s homemade pastas have become the new standard in the District. RPM Italian offers a respectful ode to traditional, comforting Italian cuisine, while also managing to add its own elevated twist to each dish.
Our waiter encouraged the table to order dishes to share, and we started the meal with truffle garlic bread and prime beef meatballs. The bread was crisp and cheesy on the outside but moist and soft on the inside. The truffle added an intense, savory flavor to the bread but was not overwhelming. Everyone at the table could not help but go for seconds of this flavor-filled bread.
The prime beef meatballs were served with parmesan cheese and pomodoro sauce. Although I generally do not enjoy meatballs, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed RPM’s version of them, which was significantly more flavorful than any meatball I had eaten before. The slightly sweet sauce served as a perfect, flavorful complement.
After the appetizers, we ordered our entrees and were pleasantly surprised at how quickly the dishes arrived. My entree, the strozzapreti — a type of hand-rolled pasta — was served with pesto, summer tomatoes and stracciatella di bufala, a cheese made from buffalo milk. The dish was incredibly fresh, and the strozzapreti was cooked perfectly al dente. The vibrant green pesto, dominated by olive oil, basil and pine nuts, was rich. The stracciatella tempered down the richness of the pesto, creating a fresh and comforting combination. The summer tomatoes were perhaps the best addition to the dish, adding yet another fresh element. The tomatoes also added a hint of sweetness and a pop of red, orange and yellow colors to the otherwise green dish.
Despite being completely stuffed after the first two courses, we ended the meal — at the watier’s insistence — with RPM Italian’s signature dessert: the torta meringata. This extravagant dessert is composed of a salted caramel and gelato cake that is flambeed tableside. As expected, we were all wooed by the beauty of the flaming spectacle. Once our awe had worn off and we got around to eating the cake, I was equally impressed. RPM Italian found a way to successfully create a classy ice cream cake. The salted caramel gelato added texture to the moist cake underneath. The flambeed exterior added a crisp crunch to the smooth gelato and cake inside. All the elements of the cake worked together to form an equally refreshing and rich dessert.
In addition to the extensive menu and outstanding cuisine, the service and ambiance are other praiseworthy elements of RPM Italian. Although the restaurant was completely packed, our dishes arrived in a timely fashion. We did not feel rushed, but we also felt that we did not even have to wait for the food to arrive. Our waiter was friendly and knowledgeable, helping us navigate the initially overwhelming menu. The restaurant itself has tones of black, gray and white paired with dark wood, giving the restaurant a sleek and sexy atmosphere.
RPM Italian offers a truly unique dining experience. From the food to the service to the ambiance, the restaurant maintains an impressive standard of excellence. While Mount Vernon is a trek from the Georgetown University main campus, the extravagant meal is well worth the journey.