People & Profiles

Entrepreneur and author Bill Rancic on the joys and flavors of Chicago

By Vivian Ewing

April 11, 2024

A man wearing a navy blazer and a blue plaid shirt smiles outdoors

Bill Rancic (BS ’94), author and co-owner of RPM Restaurant Group, talked with us about what makes the Chicago food scene special, some of his favorite spots in the city, and the impact his education has
had on his work.

Tell us about some of the restaurants you have opened.

The first one, RPM Italian, opened about 13 years ago. There are locations in Chicago, Las Vegas, D.C., and we’re continuing to grow. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished. We make all the food from scratch—the pasta, it’s all handmade, not dried. We really focus on the food first, and that’s always been our goal.

What are some go-to places for you and your family in Chicago?

The Pancake House on Bellevue. My son loves it. That’s a great stop. Happy Camper—that’s pizza in Old Town. It’s just a great scene. They have a great outdoor patio, which I think makes Chicago so special because, once the weather gets above 50 degrees, the streets come alive. The outdoor sidewalks open up and it just really blossoms. Then there’s Miru, which has some of the best shrimp fried rice I’ve ever had in my life.

How would you describe Chicago’s food scene?

We like to say it’s attainable luxury. At RPM Italian, you can come in and have a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine and you’re out the door for 25 bucks. And the Chicago scene is very authentic. It’s real. People aren’t trying to be someone that they’re not. You can go anywhere and you can really get immersed in the food. I love going to Greektown, Little Italy, Chinatown. When I take my son, who just turned 11, it’s amazing for him because we’re going into these neighborhoods and it’s authentic. It’s real, it’s generational. It’s third, fourth, fifth generation, and they’re still running the restaurant. To me that’s what makes it really special.

What do you feel is especially exciting about opening a restaurant in Chicago?

Well, people love food. It’s a city that loves to go out and that expects a lot, so you better be prepared. We always try to underpromise and overdeliver because there’s so much great competition. So many people are passionate and have their heart and soul in it. Food is life in Chicago. And that’s what I love about it.

What resonates most from your time as a student at Loyola that you’ve carried with you into your work creating restaurants?

Loyola gives you a very well-rounded education which I think is very important, that liberal arts education. And I definitely try to carry the values and morals into business. We want to do business the right way. We want to treat people the right way, whether it’s our employees or our customers. Whenever people come and work for us, I always make them a promise: You’re going to leave us better than the way you came in. We try to help people grow and achieve their goals. And then we’re happy when people move on and graduate. I think what goes around comes around, and that’s a motto that we live by. We try to make the world a better place.