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The chef of RPM Italian, coming to 601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, has yet to meet the restaurant’s TV celebrity co-owners Giuliana and Bill Rancic. And frankly, Gabe Thompson hasn’t spent much time watching Fashion Police or the reality show Giuliana and Bill.

“My wife was like, ‘Do you know who these people are?’ I was like, ‘No,'” Thompson says. “But I knew of Giuliana a little bit because I do like the red carpet stuff for the Oscars, and I’m a little disappointed they got rid of the mani cam.” 

Minimal pop culture knowledge is probably all for the best. Instead, Thompson has been spending time in the kitchen preparing for the May opening of the modern Italian restaurant, which is operated by Lettuce Entertain You (the restaurant group behind Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab and Summer House Santa Monica). RPM Italian also has a location in Chicago.

Thompson comes to D.C. from New York, where he worked with the restaurant group behind Italian restaurants Dell’Anima, L’Artusi, and L’Apicio. (He says he’s still a partner but not actively involved in operations anymore.) Thompson says his wife is from Arlington, which was part of the draw of the new gig.

Thompson has spent recent months learning the ropes at the Chicago location. One particular thing that will be new for both RPM Italian and Thompson is lunch. The chef says the restaurant makes its own bread, so he’s hoping to utilize that for some sandwiches in addition to pizzas, pastas, and other entrees.

For dinner, signature dishes (including the housemade pastas) will be the same at both locations, but Thompson says the menu will ultimately be dictated by what Washingtonians want.

“We want this to be a D.C. restaurant,” Thompson says. “We don’t want this to be a Chicago restaurant in D.C.”

Photo courtesy RPM Italian