A beacon of friendly service leading the renaissance of Abbotsford.
Leading the renaissance down the eastern, grimy end of Johnston Street, Abbotsford's Rita's Cafeteria has hit the sweet spot. A beacon of friendly service accentuated by Italian undertones and a classic diner vibe, it's a charming neighbourhood local that will satisfy at all hours of the day.
Its positioning just-not-quite under Victoria Park station makes Rita's an intimate, low-lit space that feels as welcoming as your own dining room. With dark timber tables and glossy white walls that are at once sleek and endearing, peering through the venetian blinds will take you back to the 1960s. Mix this with Aretha Franklin's voice booming across the sound system over the buzz of conversation, and you've got yourself a local that is as much a casual all-day diner as it is an upmarket offering.
Such diversity is reflected from diners both young and old; you'll find families enjoying themselves harmoniously amongst the hipster set and the boomer crowd. The brilliance of Rita's is clear in its ability to provide different moods within the one setting. The expansive wooden bar, classic booths and large communal table all give you enough room to enjoy your meal comfortably whilst still feeling a part of the community.
The all day outpost plays Melbourne breakfast to a tee, with subtle variations of an Italian accent, but it's at dinner that Rita's truly stands out. Simple, honest fare is executed with the right amounts of nonchalance and passion. The fettuccine and meatballs in rich tomato sauce ($20) is authentic and all the more pleasing when noted that the pasta is cooked fresh, as is the gnocchi with mushroom ($22) that hits the perfect spot between the rich and the passionate. Rita's pizzas ($10-20) dare to push the boundaries: the bases are rolled in semolina for extra texture, resulting in a puffy, thick crust that is slightly more filling than the thin-crust style seen from many of Melbourne's other artisanal pizza makers. A simple aperitivo list that features all of the must-have favourites caps it off perfectly.
Despite its youth, Rita's is already an unwavering stalwart leading the revival and progression of Abbotsford. A true local diner with a snug interior and comfort food to match — even if you aren't from a few streets over, it's well worth the visit.