RJ Melman Chats about Doug Psaltis’s ‘Progressive’ Italian Cooking

RJ Melman
RJ Melman Photo: courtesy of Lettuce Entertain You

RJ Melman told us upfront that he wasn’t going to “say much about the food” that will eventually be served at the recently announced Italian restaurant he’s planning to open in River North with his brother, Jerrod, and reality TV stars, Bill and Giuliana Rancic. That was to be expected, especially since the project was just unveiled this morning. But unlike the Melman brothers’ last restaurant, Paris Club — which featured a menu created by a committee of Lettuce Entertain You chefs — this one has Doug Psaltis as an official chef partner. We talked briefly with RJ Melman about what it was like to work with Psaltis, and how the “very current” Italian menu was coming along.

So, we realize you can’t say much, but what can you tell us about the menu?
We’ve been working really hard on the food. Doug is really, really knocking it out of the park.

How did Doug Psaltis get involved?
He’s been in Lettuce Entertain You’s corporate test kitchen for a few years and helped us with Paris Club. I loved working with him and admired his work ethic. He created some great dishes there.

What are some specific dishes that he created for Paris Club?
He just redid the steak tartare, and now it’s probably the best version I’ve ever had. We’re using filet mignon now, and it has this mustard-y sauce with blue cheese toast. He also did the braised pork belly dish on the menu, which is also great.

In the press release, you mentioned that Psaltis cooks “authentic, progressive Italian food,” is that what the restaurant’s menu will eventually be like?
The restaurant will be very current. Doug is definitely a very progressive chef, but he also has a classical background, so he’s very versatile.

What’s in store for the wine list?
We have not started to write that list just yet.

Anything else you can tell us about working with Psaltis?
More stuff will definitely get out along the way. We’re really excited. I know Doug is an amazing talent, and we’re so glad to have him here. He’s worked at some great restaurants, and even did a stint at The French Laundry for a time. But he can also do some casual stuff really well, too. He’s a chef that can executive both.

RJ Melman Chats about Doug Psaltis’s ‘Progressive’ Italian Cooking