IT WAS time to revisit a Maylands institution and see if it was still keeping up its game.
Rifo’s Cafe has been around for a couple of decades, presiding over the Guilford Road and Eighth Avenue intersection like Emperor Nero in a pair of thongs.
Their lunch/dinner menu was classic Italian – woodfired pizzas, pasta and mains – with a decent range of burgers and salads.
Nothing too adventurous, but there were daily specials and on Tuesday it was duck ravioli and Atlantic salmon, so a solid range to chose from.
The interior was a tad small and lacking in natural light, so on an overcast November day it felt a bit dim.
The walls had a sort of curious fresco/artwork on them which resembled torn wallpaper with glimpses of what lay behind, and there was a mural of a girl with 1970s disco hair looming over the pizza oven.
The theme was muddled with the menu screaming classic Italian and the walls whispering urban art.
Overall the place felt slightly tired and could do with a refurb; perhaps windows to let more light in and a brighter, cleaner colour scheme so the dining area looks bigger and more appealing.
It could also do with an indoor men’s toilet, as I had to get a key and make the short walk to the carpark to spend a penny. But covid has ravaged hospitality, so we shouldn’t be too critical about investment and upgrades.
Thankfully my spaghetti marinara ($29) compensated for the decor – a high quality and very satisfying dish.
Piled high with mussels, squid and prawns, they hadn’t skimped on the seafood, which was piping hot with a lovely aroma.
No rubber prawns here with the fresh seafood perfectly cooked and teeming with flavour.
The highlight of the dish was the sauce; rich and moreish it was so creamy it almost verged on a mascarpone and I could detect traces of garlic and white wine, although I could have been mistaken.
The soft, thinly cut onions went well with the fine and light spaghetti, rounding off a very enjoyable and filling marinara.
Across the small table, my wife was enjoying her Green Piece salad ($25) a healthy pile of wild rocket, cherry tomatoes, roast pumpkin, ricotta cheese and pan-fried asparagus.
“It has a delicious light dressing and I like how they include the asparagus stalks and cut them into bite-size pieces,” she noted.
“The pumpkin has a nice texture, but I would have liked it warm, especially on a coolish day. Overall a great salad and plenty of it.”
Just when I thought my wife was on a health kick, she ordered a slice of warm rhubarb pie with ice cream ($10.95), which on a chilly afternoon was just the ticket.
A mug of chai latte ($4.60) also met with her approval – creamy and nice and spicy.
The food at Rifo’s was hearty and tasty – my marinara was one of the best I’ve had – while the service was polite and efficient without any faux patter or fake enthusiasm.
The cafe also does breakfast dishes, is licensed, and has a nice alfresco with cafe blinds overlooking the street.
Rifo’s is a Maylands institution and with a few changes to the decor and interior I’m sure it can keep up with the new eateries on Eighth Avenue for years to come.
By STEPHEN POLLOCK
189 Guildford Road, Maylands