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The Weekender: Chicago with Giuliana Rancic

The L.A. transplant shares her must-see Windy City spots

When you think of Chicago, you think of groundbreaking architecture, deep-dish pizza, and the Cubs. You might not think of TV personality Giuliana Rancic. After all, the E! host, fashion influencer, and best-selling author has been a Hollywood fixture for over a decade. But two years ago, she, her entrepreneur and The Apprentice winner husband Bill Rancic, and young son Duke began living full-time in the Windy City. Here, just in time for Lollapalooza, Rancic dishes on the restaurants, retail and hidden gems that lured her away from tinsel town.

Where to eat

For me, Chicago always been a food city but it’s been cool to see other neighborhoods evolve, almost strictly around food. The West Loop is a great example. What was once (and not too long ago) all meat and fish packing warehouses is now where some of the best restaurants in Chicago reside (Randolph Street is nicknamed Restaurant Row for a reason! My top two favorite restaurants, though, are RPM Italian and RPM Steak and not just because Rancic is the “R” in RPM. They truly are two of the highest regarded and bustling restaurants in the city and the food is consistently delicious and flavorful night after night. Ema is also one of my favorite restaurants right now. It’s California-style Mediterranean food by head chef (and Top Chef favorite C.J. Jacobson). Everything is super fresh and tasty and the wine list is spot on too, with options from all over the world, including lesser-known regions like Israel. 

Where to stay

I love Bucktown and Wicker Park, as there’s just so much to see and do within walking distance (stores, restaurants, bars, the 606, etc.) There’s finally a hotel over there, The Robey, which has a really unique and contemporary design, a small pool and a really cool rooftop bar with excellent views of the neighborhood.

As far as a revival, Pilsen has gone through a lot of changes the last 3-5 years and it’s become the new arts district, which has been really cool to watch. Plus, it’s next to Bridgeport, a place to which many residents are starting to move. I haven’t spent much time there but I’ve heard great things. It’s like more of a classic Chicago neighborhood that’s having a moment right now, and it’s home of the Bridgeport Arts Center which is an awesome venue.

RPM Italian

RPM Italian

Where to shop

For shopping, I love the Gold Coast and, of course, Michigan Avenue is great. The new Credo store in Wicker Park is amazing for clean beauty. I love Oak + Fort and Robin Richman for apparel and the new huge Ulta store on Michigan Avenue for all my beauty needs is great too. 

Chicago architecture

Chicago architecture

Can’t-miss festivals

One of my favorite events of the year is the Windy City Smokeout for the country music and delicious variety of BBQ. It’s a major scene! Lollapalooza is huge and is a good time if you’re into music festivals.  Pitchfork is also cool as it’s more low-key and has a mix of both emerging and established artists.

Every neighborhood has its own festival too (Taste of Lincoln, Wicker Park Fest, Do Division, Taste of River North…I could go on forever). So those are always fun to literally get a taste of every neighborhood. There’s also a bunch of food truck festivals in the summer, which is fun (especially for those who don’t work in the Loop where the food trucks typically park for lunch.) Whether you’re interested in music, food, art… Whatever it is, there’s always tons to do in Chicago any time of the year. 

Main image: Bill Rancic, Giuliana Rancic – (Photo by: Brian Bowen Smith/E!)