The Truth About Giuliana And Bill Rancic's Restaurants

America loves a power couple. Beyonce and Jay-Z. John Legend and Chrissy Teigen. Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. We root for their successes and mourn with them during their failures and shortcomings. Even with the test of time, Bill and Giuliana Rancic have flourished. They have amassed an empire that not only includes television ventures but grand successes in the restaurant industry. Way back in 2004, the public first met Bill when he was one of the 16 contestants fighting for a job on the first season of NBC's smash hit reality show, The Apprentice. He went on to win that inaugural season and manage the construction of a Trump hotel in his hometown of Chicago. A captivated viewer, budding journalist, and entertainment host on the E! Channel, then Giuliana DePandi decided to turn business into pleasure when the opportunity arose to interview Bill. The rest, as they say, is history.

They have showcased their love story in front of the cameras on their own reality show, Giuliana and Bill, on the Style Network and even told all in a co-authored 2010 New York Times best-selling book release. The Rancics have since translated their skills in front of the camera and in the boardroom to become power players in Chicago's cutthroat dining scene. The RPM brand is now synonymous in Chicago with fine dining and outstanding service. Let's peel back the curtain to learn the truth about Giuliana and Bill Rancic's restaurants.

Giuliana and Bill Rancic's original intention was on a small restaurant

The idea for Giuliana and Bill Rancic's first venture into the restaurant business began on their reality show. Giuliana's mother, Mama DePandi, was a beloved fixture on the series and was always there to throw in her two cents while simultaneously cooking up an Italian feast. The DePandi's roots are in Italy, and Giuliana was even born there. According to an interview with Open Table, the fan's outcry was too strong to ignore and so was born the idea to open Mama DePandi's in Chicago. 

The original intention for Mama DePandi's was to be a classic, old-school Italian restaurant, like the ones with loud accordion music playing in the background while dining over red-and-white checkered tablecloths. Wine would be flowing in this 40-seater restaurant set for somewhere in the 'burbs of Chicago, Bill's hometown. The Rancics were slow and methodical in the process of both approaching and entertaining the restaurant arena. They knew that in order to achieve success and survive the Windy City's restaurant scene, it was crucial to place the focus on the quality of food. 

RPM Italian was Giuliana and Bill Rancic's first restauant to open in Chicago

Did you Google Mama DePandi's in Chicago? You probably discovered that there isn't a place of that name and never was. The concept actually evolved into something much greater than Giuliana and Bill Rancic had ever imagined. RPM Italian, a 10,000-square-foot spot in Chicago's River North, opened its doors in early 2012. The contemporary elegant design is a sharp contrast to the hole-in-the-wall Italian spot originally envisioned, but it filled a much-needed void in the local restaurant scene.

The menu does feature a few homages to Mama DePandi in the form of her signature dishes, but more attention is placed on Italian small plates and large-format dishes meant to be shared. Favorites include fresh homemade ricotta with rosemary focaccia and a prosciutto service that features 600-day aged meat. In a sea of high-profile Italian spots, RPM Italian has won over the locals and visitors alike. Although it's a far cry from what was to be Mama DePandi's, it's a spot for the well-to-do to gather over carbs and just the first of many successes to come from Bill and Giuliana. 

Giuliana and Bill Rancic's restaurants work with some of the best in the business

As Giuliana and Bill Rancic were dreaming up their Italian spot, they were approached by some of the biggest heavy-hitters in the biz, Lettuce Entertain You. It's led by R.J. Melman, Jerrod Melman, Molly Melman, and their father Richard Melman, LEYE (for short) heads up over 120 of the most successful restaurants in Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and beyond. Their founder, Richard Melman, even accepted the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement award in 2015. Lettuce Entertain You jumped at the opportunity to help the Rancics when the enterprise first caught wind of their Italian concept.  

Based on their long pedigree and expertise, they approached the Rancics and encouraged them to think beyond Mama DePandi's, as they felt it evoked dated images of Old World Italian and therefore could have face limitations. Bill Rancic explained the relationship: "We made sure it was going to be the right partnerships because that's important. You don't want to get into business with someone and it not work out. We definitely took our time, and they got to know us, we got to know them, and it worked out great." Such was the beginning of a fruitful relationship, and they remain partners to this day. 

Giuliana and Bill Rancic's restaurants' RPM Group dominates Chicago

Giuliana and Bill Rancic and Lettuce Entertain You opened RPM Italian and have never looked back. The smashing success of their first venture led to the highly anticipated opening of their next spot, RPM Steak, in the summer of 2014. Chicago may be a city overrun with steakhouses, but RPM Steak holds its own. While many steakhouses here are more of the old-school vibe (think dark wood booths and men in suits sipping martinis), RPM Steak is meant to play to the younger crowd. Of course, you'll find your usual suspects on the menu, inlcuding quality cuts of meat and stellar seafood, but you'll enjoy these in a more contemporary, albeit slightly scene-y setting.

Atmosphere aside, this restaurant has gone on to win numerous awards and accolades, including recognition from Michelin on their shortlist as one of Chicago's Best Steakhouses. This may be in part thanks to a more chef-driven approach than a casual steakhouse. The team handpicks over a dozen different cuts of meats and sources them from all over the world. On any given night, you may find a Japanese Kobe A5 strip steak or a 20-ounce grass-fed ribeye from Slagel Farm, located in Illinois. You'll also not want to overlook their nonsteak options, like their signature thick-cut bacon with bourbon-vanilla bean glaze or their coal-roasted king crab. 

Giuliana and Bill Rancic's restaurants have since expanded outside of Chicago

After the heightened success of two establishments in Chicago, Giuliana and Bill Rancic and Lettuce Entertain You saw the opportunity to bring their unique concepts to other cities. RPM Italian debuted its second location in 2016 in Washington D.C. Housed in a former NPR building, the opening was a star-studded affair, bringing along with it a bit of glamour to the sometimes static and perhaps sleepy city. According to the Washingtonian, the Rancics aren't the first celebrities to try to breathe life into the old city, but they may be the first to deliver with some seriously good eats.

They have since been showcasing consistently good Italian-American bites to locals and visiting tourists who flock to the destination at the sheer chance they'll catch a glimpse of someone important. While it's been met with some reserve by critics (perhaps they're a bit jaded), it's a welcome addition to an area that isn't exactly known for its Italian scene. Popular dishes include their house-made Wagyu beef carpaccio and the meringue torte that is set aflame tableside. 

Giuliana and Bill Rancic are quite busy outside of their restaurants

It's no surprise that while Giuliana and Bill Rancic are now successful restaurateurs, their entrepreneurship is firmly planted in their television roots. Giuliana moved from Italy to America and credits local news anchors with assisting her in learning English. After obtaining her master's degree, she arrived in Los Angeles without knowing a soul and worked her way up at E! Network after working in mailrooms and serving as a personal assistant. Finally, she landed a gig as the host of E!'s Fashion Police and Live From The Red Carpet. She has since scaled back her television work to focus on raising their son, Duke. 

Bill Rancic, a graduate of Loyola University Chicago, found success on television during the first season of The Apprentice. He went on to take charge of the construction of the Trump Tower in Chicago, but his love of entertainment landed this serial entrepreneur on the other side of the camera again. He has since hosted a slew of reality television programs, including NBC Universal's In The Loop with iVillage and We Mean Business on A&E. His love of cooking led him to host the Food Network competitive cooking series Kitchen Casino. With their successful restaurant business and focus on family, television has now taken a bit of a backseat to their other endeavors, including their restaurants and Chicago real estate

Giuliana and Bill Rancic's restaurants feature menu items inspired by their families

It's evident in their actions that Giuliana and Bill Rancic put family first. Since the birth of their son, Duke, their priorities have shifted away from the limelight and collecting real estate and have focused more toward their inner circle. Throughout their restaurants, you'll find subtle nods to those most important people in their lives. At RPM Steak, you'll find one of their signature cuts to be a ten-ounce ribeye filet lovingly named The Duke after their eight-year-old son.

Much can be credited to Mama DePandi, and Bill & Giuliana felt it important for her family recipes to play a key role on their menus. Since RPM Italian made its debut, Mama DePandi's Bucatini has long been a fan favorite and features fresh pasta, hand-grated Parmesan cheese, and a robust pomodoro sauce. Available on the menu at both RPM Italian locations, Giuliana's mother's recipe is the epitome of classic Italian comfort food and is constantly praised by adoring diners. If you're feeling adventurous, Lettuce Entertain You has shared the recipe

President Obama is even a fan of Giuliana and Bill Rancic's restaurants

According to the Chicago Tribune, the RPM motto may as well be, "For celebrities, by celebrities." Both RPM Italian and RPM Steak have gone on to become favorites of local personalities and even attract clienteles of globally known celebrities. They're places to see and be seen. Aside from their openings that welcome the well-known, their list of regulars is rather impressive too. In its first year of operation alone, RPM Italian in Chicago hosted the likes of LeBron James, Michelle Obama (more on that), Ashton Kutcher, and Michael Jordan, with regulars including Jenny McCarthy and Lady Gaga.

The most regal of the bunch may be the Obama family. Little did the restaurant know that the then-First Lady Michelle Obama would show up. She would later show up again with a group of gal pals and dine on white truffle risotto and Wianno oysters. Former President Barack Obama recently dined out at RPM Steak during the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities, and this wasn't even his first visit. According to People, he had visited previously with White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and feasted on dry-aged bone-in Kansas City steak and the grand Seafood Platter. 

Giuliana and Bill Rancic's restaurants now have a seafood-focused spot

After shelling out rather impressive seafood selections at their restaurants, like their Spicy Miso Lobster and Colossal Tiger Prawns, Giuliana and Bill Rancic and Lettuce Entertain You decided to take the leap into the murky waters with a high-end seafood restaurant. 2020 may be a bit of a year, to say the least, but it hasn't slowed them down. RPM Seafood opened along the river in downtown Chicago in early 2020. As part of a four-floor restaurant megaplex, this RPM endeavor puts the focus on fresh seafood with a side of some serious fancy pants and sweeping views of the waterfront and city.

Menu highlights include the large Florida Stone Crab Claws and a $180 seafood tower that is loaded with Maine lobster, shrimp, East and West Coast oysters, and Alaskan King Crab. While the restaurant is high-end, the Rancics haven't forgotten their roots. A menu favorite pays homage to a classic Chicago dish, Shrimp DeJonghe. Traditionally featuring shrimp, RPM Seafood's interpretation of the dish swaps out the crustacean for Peekytoe crab that is then sauteed in butter, Parmesan cheese, and spices. There's also plenty of love to go around for the land lovers, including a dry-aged beef Porterhouse at the meager price point of $250.

Bill Rancic has personal ties to Chicago

Bill Rancic may have made it big in the boardroom and then in Hollywood, but he holds firm to his humble beginnings in Chicago. The born-and-bred Chicagoan grew up in the suburb of Orland Park and has gone on to find success of his own in the city. His work with the Trump organization led him to take charge of one of the most ambitious projects along the skyline, the Trump Tower Chicago. Also a budding real estate mogul, his acquisitions in the city include a century-old Gold Coast row house that he extensively renovated, a condo on the 50th floor of the sought-after Park Tower building on the Magnificent Mile, and a 19th-century house on Bellevue Place.

It's no wonder that he has decided to make his mark on the food scene. Bill told the Food Network: "My favorite food city is clearly Chicago — not only because we have two restaurants there, but it's a town you can literally eat your way through, from Giordano's deep-dish pizza to the incredible independent-restaurant scene, like the Girl and the Goat. I can go on and on. We have some really incredible chefs in Chicago that are now finally getting the recognition they deserve."

Giuliana Rancic has her own line of wine

While Bill Rancic is evidently a wildly successful entrepreneur, his wife Giuliana is certainly holding her own as well. The Italian-American entertainment personality impressively received her master's degree in journalism and has gone on to become a fixture on television. With hosting responsibilities and even Daytime Emmy wins, the correspondent set her sights on expanding her empire while acknowledging her roots.

The breast cancer survivor launched Giuliana Prosecco in partnership with Bill Terlato, CEO of Terlato Wines, the company predominantly known for introducing the American palette to quality Italian wines. This bubbly, with origins in North Italy, is a DOC prosecco made from 100 percent Glera grapes that are harvested in Italy's top wine-making region, Veneto, and then cold macerated. With a finish of subtle notes of apples and florals, Giuliana Prosecco can be found across RPM's wine lists as well as online. Giuliana is no stranger to the grape game, as she also launched a brand of single-serve wine, Xo, G in 2014.

Giuliana and Bill Rancic's restaurants even have an Amalfi Coast-inspired spot

With Giuliana's strong roots in Naples and Bill's love of Italian cooking, it's no surprise that they would expand RPM beyond their flagship Italian spot. Their first venture into casual dining, Pizzeria Portofino, opened on the famed Chicago Riverwalk in the summer of 2019. Giuliana and Bill wed on the coast of Capri, and this concept is their love letter to the Amalfi Coast that they hope to share with all of Chicago. Pizzeria Portofino delivers hand-stretched pizza with inspirations from both the Italian Riviera and Chicago.

Visitors will also find Mediterranean-inspired charcoal-grilled seafood options and beverages that include a selection of spritzes (Venetian, Amalfi, and Portofino) as well as coastal wines. This approachable spot has quickly built up a loyal following thanks to its reasonable prices and desirable location along the water. With most items under $30, this is a far cry from Giuliana and Bill Rancic's other more expensive menus. While it does appeal slightly more to the touristy clientele who freely tolerate a subpar meal, we'll gladly pay a visit to this almost yacht-like setting that is ideal for summertime sips of an Aperol spritz

Giuliana and Bill Rancic's restaurants have revolutionized the Chicago Riverfront

The Chicago Riverwalk is an open pedestrian waterfront walkway that stretches along the south bank of downtown. Once a shipping channel, this now-urban park features boat access, outdoor seating, and a plethora of tourist-forward restaurants that have since become a major draw for visitors to Chicago. It had one major flaw: the lack of any true quality dining options that would draw out the locals. Enter: The Rancics and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises.

Working closely with the former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Giuliana and Bill Rancic set out to turn the Riverwalk into an attraction of its own that would draw not only the tourists but locals with top-notch tastebuds alike. The center point of this ambitious plan is the now-opened four-floor restaurant megaplex. Home to RPM Seafood, Pizzeria Portofino, and an event venue, this 35,000-square-foot space cost a reported $50 million. According to the Tribune, this was the largest project along the river in almost five decades.