Di Rita’s Italian Cuisine – St Ives, Cambridgeshire (UK)

UPDATE: This restaurant has changed location to 2 The Pavement (still in St Ives) and is now known as Di Rita’s at No 2 (The Old Bank).

I was born and raised in Canada but I’m from Italian parents (Lazio and Molise regions). I often miss the old-school Italian food I grew up on. I’m talking comforting plates of pasta, succulent sauces and traditional favourites. As much as I love modern cuisine, sometimes I’m just looking for some no-nonsense linguine. Di Rita’s Italian Cuisine is just the place we needed to be on a Monday evening.

With an enviable location right by St Ives’ historic bridge in Cambridgeshire, Di Rita’s is open Mondays to Saturdays. The family-run restaurant lights up this little corner of Bridge Street with colours of the Italian flag above their sign and soft purple tones inside.

It’s popular with families, children, couples and groups – these customers and the staff give the place its warm ambience. What it lacks in décor, it makes up in charm and friendliness… and Di Rita’s has these in spades. Their video below is a good representation of their food and atmosphere – it tells the story better than my pics. I didn’t want to photograph the other diners (the place was buzzing) and the multi-coloured lighting made it tricky to take proper photos.

With a Peroni beer and a bottle of Aqua Panna to quench our thirst, we ordered our starters. The gamberoni all’arancia featuring whole king prawns flambéed with orange and brandy were spectacular – such a classic flavour combo with aromatic citrus notes of both the oranges and brandy, elevated with the plump freshness of the prawns. A must-have dish at Di Rita’s!

I ordered my primo piatto from the specials menu. The peperone ripieno (red bell pepper filled with vegetables and rice) sat on an Italian bean purée and was topped with breadcrumbs (al gratin) for a delicious texture contrast. This rustic dish with fresh ingredients was a good start to my meal.

I got my pasta fix with my main course, a heaping plate of linguine allo scoglio featuring mixed fish, shellfish and seafood with cherry tomatoes. There was just the right amount of chilli in the light tomato sauce so it didn’t overpower the dish.

Paulo chose from the carni (meat) menu, which states Di Rita’s steaks are locally sourced and dry hung for 28 days, then pan seared in their own juices for a fuller, more succulent flavour. He thoroughly enjoyed the 6oz fillet steak (filetto Luigi) with a tangy, silky sauce of gorgonzola, cream and brandy poured over it. The fillet was cooked medium and it was spot on. The dish came with potatoes parmentier sautéed with onion and peppers but Paulo also ordered an extra side dish of spinaci ripassati con fagioli (spinach and beans with garlic and olive oil).

Di Rita’s has a great selection of homemade desserts – too good to pass up! The millefoglie con crema pasticcera (puff pastry layered with pastry cream and strawberries) was deliciously light and creamy. I would have liked a bit more fruit though, especially on top.

Paulo loves a good homemade tiramisù and this one did not disappoint. Savoiardi (ladyfingers) drenched in coffee and lightly flavoured with Marsala wine and Sambuca Caffè in mascarpone cream… what’s not to love? Paulo enjoyed an excellent espresso, served with a charming cup and spoon (you’ll have to see the original designs for yourself) and a shot of grappa, a grape-based pomace brandy. Both desserts were a wonderful end to a 3-course dinner prepared by talented chefs.

It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for good, authentic Italian cuisine. Di Rita’s combination of family history (two generations – the owner Andrew and his chef father Luigi), welcoming service and good hearty dishes all add up to one great place to eat.

Dinner at Di Rita’s Italian Cuisine is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.

Unless otherwise noted, I am the legal copyright holder of the content and images on this blog. Please contact me for permission if you wish to use, reprint or publish any material.

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