Melmans parter with reality-TV stars for Italian restaurant

RJ and Jerrod Melman

RJ and Jerrod Melman Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

This just in: Continuing their River North streak, Melman brothers RJ and Jerrod (whose increasing role within Lettuce Entertain You was chronicled last year by David Tamarkin) and their sister, Molly, are teaming up with Bill and Giuliana Rancic to transform the about-to-close Ben Pao into an Italian restaurant, slated to open in January 2012.

[Sidenote: Am I the only person who just had to Google Bill and Giuliana Rancic? If you stand with me on this one, allow me to save you the search by directing you here, where this gleeful couple jump into a pool together....Anyway, they are, I now know, reality-TV stars.]

In the kitchen at the yet-unnamed restaurant will be chef-partner Doug Psaltis (an alum of several Alain Ducasse restaurants as well as the French Laundry) who was part of the post–Laurent Gras contingency plan at L2O and then one of the four chefs who opened Paris Club. "Doug cooks such authentic, progressive Italian food, having grown up in New York City around some of the nation’s best Italian restaurants,” said RJ in the press release.

That Italian touch will be carried through by Giuliana Rancic (born in Naples, Italy) and her mother ("Mama DePandi"), though for now, the "really important question" on Giuliana's mind is (per the press release): "What are the servers going to wear?”

The untitled Melman-Rancic Italian Project is slated to open at 52 W Illinois St in January 2012.

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