Rita’s Cafeteria

Over a summer spent at the beach in Lorne I discovered the excellent Bottle of Milk cafe, a new addition to the town.  Serving up great coffee and even better burgers it quickly became my favourite place to eat so I was excited to hear that the boys from Bottle of Milk and Pizza Pizza in Lorne have just opened a place in Melbourne, Rita’s Cafeteria, a pizza place in Abbotsford.

Peeping through the window to Rita’s

I went for dinner there with my fellow food obsessed friend Joyce from Mel: Hot or Not and on a wintery night Rita’s certainly looked cosy and inviting. There’s a lovely mosaic when you walk in the door and the fit out inside is simple with austere white tiled walls broken up by the occasional shelf filled with cans of Italian tomatoes.  Seating is at counters overlooking the kitchen, in clubby leather seated booths or at a big wooden communal table.  A pizza oven dominates one corner of the open kitchen signaling the staple food on offer at Rita’s.

Pork sausage pizza

Rita’s offers classic pizza combinations like Marinara and Capriosca alongside some of its own concoctions which are rather creatively named including the Bingo Bango, topped with salami and pancetta, and Punk Rock topped with pumpkin and goats cheese.  The pork sausage pizza ($17) looked the goods when it arrived with its meaty topping of sausage freshened up with the addition of fennel, peas and a few basil leaves.  However the pizza base was so thick and crunchy that it was quite difficult to eat.  The pizza also seemed to be undercooked and lacked that lovely smoky char that is the signature of great pizza.

There’s lots of counter seating at Rita’s

Pizza isn’t the only thing on offer at Rita’s, there’s also a selection of pasta and risottos.  Thick ribbons of papardelle pasta ($16) were dressed with greens broad beans, cavelo nero and rocket.  However the broad beans hadn’t been double podded and so they had an unpleasant chewy texture and the greens had been overcooked leaving the whole dish an unappetising green sludgy colour.

Sludgy green pappardelle

There’s no dessert menu as such at Rita’s, instead there are a selection of dessert specials which on our visit was limited to a chocolate calzone, a crumble and ice-cream.  The crumble ($9) was made from apples and berries with a grain heavy crumble topping.  It was simple stuff but decent enough.

Apple and berry crumble – topped with a scoop of pistachio ice-cream

Unfortunately there is a major ventilation issue in the restaurant and our eyes were stinging during the meal from all the cooking fumes.  Arriving home stinking of smoke really topped off a meal marred by disappointing cooking.  Rita’s is still very new but given that the restaurant is not in a soft opening phase and is charging full price for its food I haven’t cut it too much slack in this review.  I hope that it does find its feet with a bit more time and can replicate some of the solid, simple cooking at the Bottle of Milk.

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Details: 239 Johnston Street, Abbotsford (Ph 03 9419 8233) Open daily 7.30am–late.
Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve. $42 for two without drinks (Rita’s liquor licence is still coming through).

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  1. Agree, agree, agree! I was hoping for better things from Rita’s and I hated smelling of pizza when I got home.

  2. Ooof, seems like they could have done with some more testing and sorting their issues.

    The pizza looks a bit oily, and that crumble looks a bit heavy!

  3. What a shame about the pizza, because it looked oh so good!

  4. Shame that this place didn’t meet expectations!

    I love love love broad beans, and agree re: double podding them – it’s a dealbreaker! 🙂

  5. What a shame about the pizza: it looks a little bit oily but crispy…

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