Women-Owned Brooklyn Business #3: Rita by Shyda Hoque

Have you stopped by Rita in Red Hook? Mary Ellen Amato who was the former executive chef at Court Street Grocers decided to pursue the solo project at the former home/made spot at 293 Van Brunt.

Rita is an inviting space with delicious Spanish influenced items including:  Torrijas (Spanish French Toast), La Mallorquina and a porridge with chili-garlic mojo. There are the classics of grilled cheese, fried egg sandwiches and chicken broth as well.  It’s a seasonal menu of winter tonic with orange, turmeric and ginger water kefir. Rita also sells Lancaster Farm Cooperative juices. There is a little bit for everyone!

 Red Hook has been a foodie destination over the past ten years but most restaurants open later in the day and this is a great addition to the neighborhood with the recent closing of the breakfast spot Hope and Anchor. Rita serves Ninth Street Espresso and vegan drinks such as “Decaf”, which is an elixir of roasted dandelion & chicory roots, ashwaganhda, coconut oil, oat milk and honey.  The garden will open in the late spring and they will change their menu for the season.

Currently Rita is open 6 days a week from 8-4pm with Tuesday being the only day they are closed. It is currently counter service but as the menu shifts and the seasons change it will transition to table service and the hours will change.  If you are in Red Hook during the day be sure to visit Rita and read below for a little more info I learned from Mary Ellen about the menu’s Spanish influence and how she came up with the restaurants’s name!

I have always been fascinated by Spain and the food/cuisine of that country. I’ve spent significant time there and it’s influenced a lot of the way I like to cook so it was important to me to have the name be associated with Spain to some degree. I have a favorite tapa that is simply a toothpick skewered with a really delicious olive, a pickled pepper and an olive-cured anchovy ribboned through – definitely the essential building blocks of Spanish cuisine. The tapa itself was invented in the 1940’s and actually looks like a curvy woman dancing. At that time, the movie Gilda starring Rita Hayworth had just been released and was wildly popular in Spain (she is half-spanish and her father is a famous flamenco instructor). They decided to name the tapa after her character in that film (a dancer), so they named it a Gilda. I had thought about naming the restaurant Gilda, but there was another spot that opened up recently with a very similar name – so I decided against it. Throughout this process, I did a little research on Rita Hayworth herself and found out she was actually born and raised in Brooklyn. Between that, her Spanish heritage and her strong feminine energy (felt right as a woman-owned business) I decided to name the restaurant, Rita. 

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