Modern American restaurateurs Missy and Gabe share their culinary success
New Guard: The co-founders of Rita’s restaurant have just opened a new prime location site in Soho, ten years after their Dalston launch in a converted toilet. Here the pair share the ins and outs of their journey.
To celebrate London’s venues bouncing back stronger than ever, THE FACE has teamed up with Beefeater Gin to create New Guard: a directory of people shaping the future of nightlife in the city. We’ve brought together a mix of talented individuals – from DJs and musicians to venue owners and restaurateurs – who are as eclectic and intoxicating as London itself.
Rita’s evolved at a very specific time. An era when fried chicken sandwiches were hard to come by and Harry Styles hung out in East London. Around 2012 the restaurant became the hottest property in a city obsessed with the shiny and new. They sold Insta-friendly dishes to the Facebook generation. It was food way better than it needed to be, made for a young crowd not yet used to having their tastebuds catered to. It was culinary dynamite. And all from a converted toilet in a bar in Dalston.
Ten years on Missy Flynn and Gabe Pryce – the front-meets-back-of-house power couple – have evolved with their peers and outlived the hype. Just a few months back they opened the doors to their first central London venture. Still Rita’s, they now join a cohort of independent London icons – neighbours to Bao, Mildred’s and Andrew Edmunds – on Soho’s Lexington Street.
The pair have a natural feel for the city that could only come from being born and raised here. Flynn’s Dad ran pubs in Central London, whilst Pryce’s parents worked in the West End. He remembers hanging out in iconic luvvy-haunt Joe Allens: “It was cool but relaxed, like a perfect slice of New York in a Covent Garden basement.” He still pictures it through a six-year-old’s eyes, “The long dark wood bar, the white shirts and aprons, my first Shirley Temple and the glowing duke box. Potatoes skins with melted cheese and sour cream, brownie with ice cream. HOME FRIES!!! Eggs Benedict. It was everything.”
It’s little wonder, then, that Rita’s serves up what the pair describe as Modern American; the catch-all term being broad enough to allow for a menu that takes in everything from dressed oysters to tear&share garlic bread. But, as Flynn explains, everything comes “through the lens of Gabe and I, as Londoners. It’s not a pastiche of Americana or a themed restaurant: it’s what two bright-eyed and hungry kids saw when they started to discover the world of travel.” Still, whether they meant it or not, there’s something quintessentially local about their offering. “There’s an energy that’s very London about it that I can’t explain!” she adds.
Both co-founders are incredibly proud of their new postcode. “We’ve worked hard for it,” says Flynn. “There’s a lot riding on this but we feel great about being one of the many indies maintaining a foot in what is usually perceived to be the land of big chains and flashy groups. Putting our flag in the ground here means a lot to me.” Perhaps the secret to their longevity is rooted in their thoughtful approach. “I know for a fact we’ve encouraged a lot of people to take the leap into starting their own thing, and that’s important to me,” she continues. “Also I hope our role is to champion good producers, support valuable supply chains and create meaningful employment.”
“I feel like all roads have led to here,” says Pryce. “It’s where we grew up and where we had those formative experiences. The idea that we could maybe be part of that for someone else is really special.”