Sometimes we just want a taste of Italy close to home. So we often choose Italian restaurants here in our hometown of Washington, DC (which is, btw, having a bit of a food renaissance, in our humble opinion...)
Paul received a gift card for RPM Italian for his birthday and we hadn't gotten around to going until now. It's a restaurant owned by the celebrity duo Giuliana and Bill Rancic. We had heard good things, and after checking out the menu, thought a happy hour visit would be the perfect way to check them out.
We arrived on one of the hottest days of the summer and walked into a cool atmosphere (in all senses of the word). The dark interior had a beautiful bar with shades that were drawn just enough to let us people-watch the overheated commuters. It was also quite frigid, so Eliza was grateful that she had the forethought to throw a light pashmina in her bag.
Certain cicchetti (i.e., appetizers) were the stars of the show here, including the fried mozzarella and the prosciutto involtini (tiny prosciutto wrapped around mozzarella with a delicious balsamic sprinkled on top). (The prosciutto is already something we have been recreating at home!)
Certain other cicchetti were quite forgettable. Our Vermont Pepperoni pizzette was drenched in grease and was no better than a microwaved Lean Cuisine pizza, yet half its size -- something we would definitely skip if we ever return.
For the main course, Paul ordered the Pappardelle Bolognese, which was delicious. The small hint of "hand cut pasta" written on the menu indicated that it was made from scratch, and it showed.
For Eliza's main, the Shrimp Scampi was incredibly overpriced for what it was. A few tough and seemingly overcooked shrimp on a bed of seemingly straight-from-the-box spaghetti were served with a semi-spicy tomato sauce. I will say the tomato sauce had a nice subtle heat to it -- it was the star of the show. But shrimp scampi is not typically served with a red sauce...it was an odd dish, and I would never order it again.
The drinks were a saving grace of our visit. Go during happy hour and they're even better at $7 a pop. For a pre-dinner sip, Eliza sampled a well-crafted vodka, prosecco, raspberry, and mint spritz which was delightfully refreshing in the hot summer heat. Meanwhile, Paul opted for a bourbon, cucumber, and mint spritz that we both agreed was delicious.
With dinner, Paul ordered a decent (but not great) Chianti, and Eliza had a smooth Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.
2 out of 5 stars (one for the good cocktails, one for the good cicchetti)
This place is certainly overpriced. We made the mistake of looking up a couple of the wines on our Vivino app (since the menu didn't give many tasting hints), only to find a single glass was nearly the price of an entire bottle at retail. We realize markups are a part of the game, but it's a bit insane here.
On our way home we agreed that this place is most likely a good place for dinners that go straight on the company card (for those in that sort of game). Recently, our go-to spots have been located in more up-and-coming areas, and we found that we had grown accustomed to the rustic charm, which RPM is not. This place is nice, but a little too polished for us. It did not feel authentically Italian at all, and aside from a couple of good cocktails and cicchetti, it wasn't worth a return trip.
650 K St NW
Washington, DC 20001