239 Johnston Street Abbotsford, Victoria 3067
|Opening hours||Daily 7.30am-11pm|
|Features||Vegetarian friendly, Gluten-free options, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Mastercard, Visa|
|Phone||03 9419 8233|
WHERE AND WHAT
It's not on the wrong side of the tracks; it's almost directly under the tracks near Victoria Park station, which suits the low-key ambience of this sweetly realised trattoria helping lead the Abbotsford revival. Yes, even the territory south of Hoddle Street is now being colonised by the young and hirsute. Opened by the savvy crew behind the Lorne revival (Bottle of Milk and Pizza Pizza), Rita's Cafeteria is a smart operation that delivers a bit of bang for your buck in the kind of surroundings that suggest lingering over tiramisu could well be an excellent idea.
WHERE TO SIT
Follow the smell of pizza to the Rita's threshold, where the name is spelt out in cracked mosaic tiles. Tactile, warm and inviting behind its 1950s white venetians, Rita's is a typically Melbourne-by-way-of-Italy design-savvy mix of scarred timber and white tiles, upholstered booths and high seating along the long bar, all the better for watching the pizzaiola in action. The take-away crowd tend to plonk themselves at the long communal table waiting for their order.
There's a decent little wine list with Italian varietals, and the beer list goes from hyper-local (Abbotsford Stout) to Italy with Birra Moretti and long-necks of Peroni.
Breakfasts play the Melbourne-standard line with only the occasional hint of Italian accent: the likes of eggs with hollandaise, bircher muesli and mushroom bruschetta. At dinner, simple Italian food, done well, starts with small plates of things such as pickled octopus in a herby olive oil slurry, and a fluffy blanket of properly fishy salt cod brandade to slather on crisps, or a snacky plate of marinated olives, roasted almonds and red chilli. The pizza dares to stray away from the gospel of Ladro and Supermaxi et al: the bases are thicker, chewier and semolina-coated for a slightly gritty texture. It's a noticeable difference that might challenge a few die-hard purists; nonetheless, there's plenty to like about a classic capriciossa with nice salty ham and rustic black olives. Orecchiette pasta with vongole owes its charms to heaps of garlic and chilli, and from the mains list there's a pork belly that oozes seasonality with wilted cos lettuce, snow peas and broad beans in a salty stocky base.
A harmonious mix of hipsters and young families.
A sweet Italian spot in the Abbotsford 'hood.