Abbotsford local Brett Graham had been lamenting the lack of food options available at what was once the ‘dodgy’ end of Johnston Street when he spotted a ‘for lease’ sign on a vacant shop-front last spring. Eight months on and the newly opened Rita’s (less than a week old and already a popular place, judging from the crowds and coverage) is a welcoming beacon on a dark and cold night in the north.
Run by three friends – owners and managers Brett Graham and Rob Lowther (of The Bottle of Milk and Pizza Pizza in Lorne) and chef Daniel Spizzica (formerly of the Stokehouse in St Kilda) – Rita’s Cafeteria is a charming pizza and pasta diner that is already cultivating a community vibe.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Rita’s open kitchen fills the cafeteria-style restaurant with the warm aroma of baking pizza. There are two sizes (10-inch and 13-inch), which are topped with classic combinations and served on a crispy base. House-made pastas are also on the menu, as are risottos and some tasty Italian-influenced sides. There’s beer on tap and wines available by the bottle and glass since the liquor license came through over the weekend.
With work beginning on the site in September, the boys have seen plenty of other cafes and bars pop up in the area. It’s something that is sure to impress Graham’s barber, who has been cutting local gentlemen’s hair on Johnston Street for 40 years. Over many a haircut, the barber has regaled Graham with tales of what Johnston Street was once like – a thriving business strip that slowly petered out.
We hope that places like Rita’s will put this end of Johnston Street back on the map.
239 Johnston Street, Abbotsford
(03) 9419 8233