Food Drink

New Rita’s Bar & Kitchen to bring fresh Italian twist to North Adelaide

New Italian restaurant Rita’s is set to open on Melbourne Street, bringing a warmth and fresh vibe to the strip.

Located along charming Melbourne Street, surrounded by heritage mansions and workers’ cottages, sits a large, mostly empty venue, with exposed copper pipes, stacked tiles, plaster board, and a bright red oven.

In just a few weeks time, that very same venue will be Adelaide’s newest casual Italian restaurant called Rita’s, injecting a fresh energy into the North Adelaide retail and hospitality strip.

“We believe in the potential of Melbourne Street,” says co-owner Maeve Marryat, reflecting on the neighbourhood’s past glory and its opportunity to become a busy strip once again. “There’s some great places around here, but it just needs a bit of a revival.”

That fresh and modern energy will be immortalised inside Rita’s, which has been designed to reflect an Italian way of life.

There’ll be a beautiful open kitchen where guests can see the magic unfold, cozy booths, timber tabletops, high ceilings with industrial touches, and a colour scheme that mixes neutrals with dark red, “just like wine“.

One interior feature you won’t be able to bypass is the fire-hydrant – which is ironic since Maeve’s last role was General Manager at Fugazzi, where the fire-hydrant is the first thing you see.

“It’s quite a [coincidence] that the fire-hydrant plays a large role at Fugazzi and does here too, so it feels a little symbolic,” Maeve says. “I loved working [at Fugazzi]…but now’s the right time [to start something of my own].”

Rita’s co-owner is Darcy Dawes, who was an apprentice at Osteria Oggi before becoming head chef at Stem, and he’ll be bringing his strong Italian cooking background to the fore.

“We’re no doubt an Italian restaurant, but we’re not afraid to use different ingredients and [incorporate] fresh ideas,” Darcy says.

Rita’s will have a focus on using ingredients from Asia as well as native Australian ingredients, to try and put some spin on his dishes setting the venue apart from other Italian restaurants. Collaboration will be key, with Darcy’s Sous Chef (who’s worked at Bar Lune and Stem), bringing his expertise in Asian cooking to the table.

“It’s not fusion cooking,” Darcy emphasises. “The term [fusion] is a little bit out of the Zeitgeist now.”

“I think it’s about having an open mindset with cooking, and bringing in ingredients where they fit well to create food where people go, ‘shit, that was tasty‘.”

One standout dish that is sure to captivate diners is the Veal Tongue Pastrami. This unconventional offering sees tender veal tongues brined, smoked, and expertly sliced, then served atop rye bread, showcasing Dawes’ inventive approach to Italian dishes.

For those seeking a blend of heat and creaminess, the Burrata with Crispy Chili Oil is set to be a crowd-pleaser. Enhanced with the numbing sensation of Sichuan pepper, this dish marries the creamy richness of burrata with the fiery kick of chili oil.

A focus of the menu will be beautiful, fresh, hand rolled and hand filled pastas, which will rotate on the menu frequently.

“We’ll keep the menu nice and concise, but frequently rotating so we can use ingredients that are local and in-season,” Darcy says. He says early days will be focussed on setting up strong relationships with local suppliers.

Looking to the future, Darcy and his team will expriment with bold flavour combinations, such as the tantalising prospect of Mapo Tofu Gnocchi. Blending the distinct notes of Sichuan cuisine with the comforting familiarity of Italian gnocchi, blending Eastern and Western flavours on a plate.

Coincidently you won’t find pizza on the menu, despite the big red pizza oven which is a focal point of the kitchen. That big red masterpiece was originally purchased when the project started in October last year, and the venue was going to be known as ‘Marg & Rita’s’.

But now, with the decision to step away from pizza and let other dishes do the talking, the team decided to drop the ‘Marg‘ but stick with ‘Rita’s‘. “It’s short, sweet, and feels homely—like you’re going to eat at nonna Rita’s place,” Maeve says.

The goal is to bridge a gap between formal dining and cheap Italian. “There’s definitely a very happy mix in there somewhere, and we’ll be bringing that to North Adelaide,” Darcy says.

To go with the tasty yet casual food, there will be a well thought out wine list that’s still to be locked in.

It’s been a feat deciding on blends that not only pair with the dishes, but are mix between local South Australian drops and imported Italian varieties. “We’re so blessed to have such beautiful wines surrounding us,” Maeve says.

While the venue is still a work in progress, the final touches aren’t far away. “We’re just so excited to get in there and get started,” Darcy says.

Rita’s
Where: 69-71 Melbourne Street
Opening: Early May
More info: @ritas.adelaide

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