Amadeo Iafelice, owner of The St. Rita restaurant
Photo: Dino Iafelice
By Alexa MacKie
Nestled in the heart of the Glebe at 753 Bank Street sits The St. Rita, a quaint and comfortable restaurant with Victorian-era decor and a menu of Italian delicacies. For owner Amadeo Iafelice, inviting members of the community inside his doors for a “cozy, intimate experience” is one of the most rewarding parts of running a restaurant.
The red-brick and wood-finished walls are lined with paintings of flowers enclosed inside elegant golden frames. Vintage Victorian light fixtures – each slightly different than the other – cast a dim, golden glow upon the white-linen-covered tables, prepared to welcome the next guests with warm food and wine.
“We’re doing something that people enjoy and makes them feel warm and welcome,” he said. “We’re all just super close here.”
The Iafelice’s family friend Dany Bittar opened The St. Rita on Bank Street last January in the space previously occupied by Anthony’s Pizza. Iafelice took possession August 1 and “switched a few things around.”
“We’re more comfortable cooking Italian, and we find that people just want more Italian food,” said Iafelice. “People want their pizza, people want their spaghetti and tiramisu – we’re just catering to what we see that the people want.”
The St. Rita offers a plethora of vegetarian Italian dishes as well.
With eight wood-fired pizzas to choose from, they offer styles ranging from a classic St. Margherita pizza with leaves of basil to their Diavolo pizza with chili-infused honey and Calabrese soppressata, a type of Italian sausage.
Guests can watch Iafelice behind the counter as he regularly tosses pizza dough up in the air, to “get a kick” out of the crowd.
The St. Rita also offers a variety of penne and linguine pastas with pomodoro or rosé sauces, as well as various salads and appetizers, including burrata, truffle potatoes and arancini.
The restaurant uses all homemade and fresh ingredients. Iafelice undertakes a two-day process of making the restaurant’s pizza dough from scratch, and his Nonna (grandmother) prepares The St. Rita’s gnocchi by hand.
“People really notice the difference between something cooked from frozen versus something we’ve prepared for 48 hours,” said Iafelice.
Operated by family and friends, The St. Rita is “as family as it gets.” Iafelice’s mother runs the restaurant’s social media, and father Dino, with previous experience opening Johnny Farina on Elgin Street in 1997, is helping Amadeo run the business for the first few months. “I don’t think our food is good, I think our food is excellent,” said Dino.
Other employees have either worked in the space since it was Anthony’s Pizza or previously worked in restaurants with the Iafelice family.
Iafelice’s grandfather and father both worked in the food industry, so his calling to cuisine was “in his blood.” The restaurant business has been a part of his life since he was five years old.
“I always wanted to run my own place.” “Not necessarily a multi-million-dollar franchise, but someplace I can call my own.”
Amadeo Iafelice worked at Johnny Farina for 10 years, spending his last three years as kitchen manager before deciding it was “time to move on.”
“It was a challenge to adjust to being a more customer-facing individual,” he said, but he has “no complaints” now that he is accustomed to the smaller business environment.
Iafelice added that The St. Rita is growing and “moving in the right direction.” His goal for the restaurant is to “keep making it better.” From changing up the wine list to planning to install a garage door-style front window, he hopes to continuously enhance the experience at The St. Rita for new and returning guests.
He has built a community connection with some of the restaurant’s regulars, including older couples and fathers with sons.
“I don’t think there is ever an end goal,” Amadeo said. “Just giving people an experience that they can enjoy and makes them want to come back.”
The St. Rita (https://tsrglebe.ca) is open from 5 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and from 12 to 10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday.
Alexa MacKie is a freelance journalist and a second-year journalism and law student at Carleton University.