Do you remember when the MacBook Air was first announced? All the way back in 2008 when Steve Jobs surprised the audience by pulling it out of a manila envelope to drive home just how ludicrously thin and portable it was? It was the thinnest laptop in the world (according to Steve at least). It was Apple’s first laptop that included a backlit keyboard. Scandalously, it was also the first Apple laptop that didn’t have a CD drive or FireWire ports. In 2016 that doesn’t seem like a big deal. I’ve been CD drive-less for almost a full year, and only once in all those months has that been a problem. When it comes to laptops, we’ve almost entirely left the CD drive behind.
But in 2008, that was a problem. The original Air was heralded for it’s construction, but vilified for what people saw as a lack of utility. As a 15-year-old with a burgeoning obsession with technology, that deeply confused me. When I watched Steve pull that sliver of silver out of an envelop, it was clear to me that this computer wasn’t meant for college students or stay at home parents or casual users. This was a business laptop. This was for someone flying across the country for a meeting. This was for someone who needed backlit buttons for dark conference rooms. This was for someone who, even in 2008, hadn’t used their CD drive in years because every file they ever needed was sent in an email attachment. It wasn’t a laptop for the people, it was a laptop for a specific kind of person.
RPM Italian is the first generation Macbook Air of restaurants. Everything it’s supposed to do, it does well. Incredibly well. But it’s not made for everyone and that’s exactly the point. This is a restaurant that is proud of the fact that half of the dining space can be reconfigured and split into different private rooms that all happen to contain flat screen TV’s and VGA hook ups. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it certainly sets a tone. Everything is black, from the bar to the dining room. There are a few bright spots of white marble, but the shortage of windows and dark color palette don’t make it feel like the kind of place you can stop in for some appetizers before a movie.
It’s a restaurant made for business meetings. The kind of restaurant you hope your boss takes you to because the food, while expensive, is immaculate. It’s certainly not the most unique or inventive menu I’ve ever seen, but it’s filled with classics that are done very well. The pastas are all homemade. The gelato is all homemade. If I could buy the gelato by the pint, I would be very poor and incredibly unhealthy. It is maybe the best gelato I’ve had in D.C.
I didn’t buy a Macbook Air in 2008 and I will probably never go back to RPM Italian. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy every minute of my time there. From top to bottom, every dish I had was incredible, but this kind of restaurant isn’t made for me. This is a restaurant made for business professionals. It’s on the first floor of a building full of lawyers. If I want good quality Italian food, I’m going to go somewhere like Red Hen, but I will be pining over that gelato for the rest of my life.
Oh, and did I mention it’s owned by Bill and Giuliana Rancic?
RPM Italian is at 601 Massachusetts Avenue NW. Hours are 4 p.m. – 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4 p.m. – 12 a.m. Friday through Saturday. RPM Italian is closed on Sunday.