Ricolita’s Café | Latrobe, PA
Food Like Nonna Used to Make
It wasn’t long ago that the delicious Italian recipes of Ricolita’s Cafe were available only at the local farmers’ markets. When the brand new cafe opened its doors within the Latrobe Art Center on Memorial Day 2016, owners Rita and Harry Witte didn’t know exactly what to expect from their new venture and location. Several months later, they are thrilled with the reaction of the community and flattered by the extreme loyalty of their past customers. Still, they are not surprised, said Rita. “My philosophy is that if you are true to yourself, do what you believe in and don’t give up, you will succeed. This is what we have done.”
Serving breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, Ricolita’s Cafe offers quick, delicious and nutritious meals to the many office workers of Latrobe, as well as visitors to the popular art center. In addition, the farmers’ market patrons who became accustomed to the fresh and innovative foods at the Ricolita’s stand have not missed a beat. Rita says she sees them daily, as they stop in to stock up on her signature breakfast sandwiches, meatballs, stuffed cabbage and other specialties she creates from scratch daily, inspired by her traditional family recipes.
Born and raised in Italy, Rita came to the United States when she was 19. Along with her family recipes, she brought with her a love for food, a passion for artistry and a demand for excellence. “I make it my goal to teach people how to eat again,” said Rita. “Getting people to taste real food and walk away from the microwave is my biggest challenge, and I am prepared to meet it,” she said. Rita says she is dedicated to making food that tastes fabulous and looks beautiful. She uses only the freshest of ingredients, nothing frozen, and is always looking for new and better ways to introduce unique and interesting food to her customers. As an example, Rita cites her signature breakfast sandwich, which features egg, pancetta, arugula, fresh mozzarella, and tomato on a ciabatta bun. “Our sandwich is a picture of the Italian flag,” she said.
Right now, the cafe is run by Rita and her husband with the help of two part-time employees. “I look for employees who share our passion about food and the business. I know the importance of a good worker.” In addition to their regular walk-in fare, Rita and Harry also cater special events. Rita says that one thing she has learned is to stand by the old restaurant adage: The customer is always right, no matter how wrong he is.
As for creative inspiration, Rita needs to look no further than to her three children for advice. “I make something I think is healthy, creative and good, and I offer it to my children. If they eat it, it makes the menu.”
- Author: Mindy Kolof
- Posted: January 04, 2017
- Categories: In Our Communities, VOL 5 - ISSUE 1 • WINTER 2017