Television is a somewhat surprising career choice for a woman who left Naples, Italy, at age 7 with her family and arrived in the United States speaking not one word of English. But it was watching television, including the local news, that helped Rancic overcome the language barrier. Afterward, “I would spend hours in front of my mirror in my pink bedroom pretending I was NBC anchorwoman Barbara Harrison,” she said by e-mail.
Rancic fondly remembers her childhood home, where her parents, Eduardo and Anna DePandi, still reside, and its “large, beautiful neighborhood, overflowing with kids” who used the family’s cul-de-sac as a base for after-school adventures.
Eduardo and Anna DePandi bought the home in 1984 because it was close to Walt Whitman High School. Rancic has an older sister, Monica, and an older brother, Pasquale.
“We have their friends all the time in the house, and Anna cook for everybody,” said Eduardo, a master tailor who owns the Bruno Cipriani menswear store at White Flint Mall. “She was like the mama for everybody.”
Eduardo had hoped his daughter would one day join him in his shop, which is moving to Chevy Chase, but he realized early on that her aspirations lay elsewhere. Still, Rancic hasn’t completely eschewed fashion. She’s a ubiquitous presence at award shows, buttonholing stars on the red carpet to ask which designers they are wearing.
“Even when she was a small girl, she always dream to go into television,” Eduardo said.
Rancic earned her undergraduate journalism degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s from American University, where a professor suggested she might be better suited to covering the entertainment industry than politics and wars. Less than a week after she graduated, she was off to Hollywood.
Eduardo and Anna have kept their children’s bedrooms exactly as they left them. Rancic describes hers as “very girly and very pink and super sweet and young.”
“There is no feeling like going back home,” Rancic said. “I love lying in bed at night and thinking how all the dreams that I used to dream as a little girl in that room have finally come true.”