Verdun’s small Italian food scene is a little bigger these days, with new neighbourhood restaurant Rita now open on Wellington (at Regina).
It comes from two key figures at Verdun pub Balconville, which closed last winter — Joey d’Alleva and Sophie Bergeron — as well as two other principals, Marc-André Paradis (O’Thym) and Frédéric Leblond (Wellington), the latter two known best for working on well-loved BYOB restaurants.
Rita is something new for all of them: It’s a restaurant, not a pub, and with full alcohol service. It’s unpretentious and homey — it’s not fully like visiting Nonna’s house for a meal, but it takes some cues from such an experience (one which d’Alleva knows first hand from his Italian upbringing). Even the restaurant is named after Bergeron and d’Alleva’s grandmothers, both of whom are named Rita (there’s even a charming note for each of them on the menu: see below).
The menu is tight and affordable, with pizzas figuring most prominently. Those are done Neapolitan-style in a Forno Bravo oven — expect classic flavours like a fior di latte pie with olives, basil, and pecorino, but a few twists too. One comes with crème de maïs, while another features a mushroom paste, alongside smoked creminis and provolone.
There’s also a few pasta options, and a couple of bigger plates, like a classic osso bucco, and smaller bites like fried polenta, meatballs, and charcuterie from local favourite Philip Viens. Desserts feature some classics — an olive oil cake with mascarpone and affogato with pistachio gelato, and one notably wild new creation, a rhubarb tart with raspberry, dates, and Sichuan peppers.
It’s all available with a list of mostly-microbrewery beers from places like Oshlag and La Chouape, some fresh cocktails (such as an Italianized margarita with tequila and limoncello, or the bitter-sweet amaro sour with bourbon), and a wine list with ample Italian and natural options.
The space itself has a warm, welcoming vibe — with a speckled floor and plenty of wooden furnishings, it leans towards being more timeless than hyper-trendy.
STATUS — Rita is open at 3681 Wellington from 5 to 10:30 p.m., Wednesday to Monday (closed Tuesday).