Wellington Street in Verdun is set to get a new Italian dining destination, with wood-fired pizza and fresh pasta, seven days a week at lunch and dinner.
Rita is the name, and it comes from two owners of recently-closed Verdun pub Balconville (chef Joey d’Alleva and owner Sophie Bergeron, also a partner at Verdun’s Wellington). And while Rita will serve alcohol, they’re joined by BYOB royalty, with partner Marc-André Paradis (O’Thym), and Frédéric Leblond (Wellington).
D’Alleva tells Eater that his team is getting its hands on a Forno Bravo pizza oven, to do wood-fired Neapolitan style pizza, and they’re currently working on a dough recipe with a 72-hour fermentation period. But Rita isn’t a pizzeria — fresh pasta dishes will figure on the menu, alongside some salads, vegetable dishes, and fried items.
It’s not Italian in the strictly traditional sense — d’Alleva qualifies that Rita will use Italian techniques but suggests that dishes will work local ingredients into Italian cuisine. They’re also aiming to keep it hyper-seasonal — for example, using fall produce to make giardiniera (pickled vegetables) to work with throughout the more barren winter.
“It’s been a really cool process of finding [local] ingredients, butchers, charcuterie, wine, the aperitifs... there’s so much to offer here, a couple of kilometres away from Montreal,” says d’Alleva.
Rita will offer a similar, affordable wine list to Balconville, and is working with beer sourcing company Transbroue to fill out a beer list with Quebec craft brews.
The building housing Rita at Wellington and Regina, was previously abandoned, but with the help of the owner, it’s getting a major refresh. With some of Balconville’s fixtures and warm colours, d’Alleva says it will be a little like a modernized version of visiting Grandma’s (or Nonna’s) house — some soothing pink walls, vintage wallpaper (see above), tapestries, and hanging lights — he’s hoping for a certain timelessness that’s “not too trendy, and not too modern”.
That grandma aspect is a recurring theme at the restaurant — Rita is the name of both d’Alleva’s and Bergeron’s grandmothers, and d’Alleva says it’s a way of honouring a family matriarch.
“My grandfather passed away when I was young, so she had to take care of all the people. [She] cooked for us and took care of us and was this one superwoman, so I felt it was a really nice way of saying ‘Nonna, this is for you’.
And those grandmothers’ food could even make a cameo at Rita, d’Alleva adds.
“I have another [grandmother] who’s just as important, and her recipes and Rita’s recipes are all implemented in certain ways...my grandmother offered to make desserts for us too, so that would be a cool touch.”
Rita is expected to open in June or July.
- Rita [Instagram]
- Verdun Loses One of Its Few Bars as Balconville Closes Permanently [EMTL]