Modernism Week is in full swing in the Coachella Valley, with the Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach in sight on the horizon. Ye, Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and Carrie Underwood are bringing the drama back to the desert this year, and these three restaurants will keep the party going.
For those who are starved for a good old-fashioned tableside stage show, Palmina by Puglia in North Palm Springs offers pasta carbonara made at your table by owner Antonello Zito, as well as a flaming tiramisu for dessert made with 20-year-old rum. The visuals are matched with authentic Southern Italian dishes, including traditional Neapolitan style pizzas like the Margherita-based, spring topped with fresh mushrooms and quartered artichokes on a paper-thin crust. Salads are topped with fresh mozzarella that Zito makes himself at his other Puglia restaurant in Lake Arrowhead.
There’s an extensive pasta selection, including octopus ragu, lasagna and the creamy tableside carbonara that comes in a choice of truffled or traditional with crispy imported Guanciale and pecorino. Zito adheres strictly to his Puglian roots and tells his rapt audience in mid-performance that if any place serves parmesan on your carbonara, you should immediately get up and leave.
Located in the Plaza del Sol Shopping center with plenty of easy parking, the lively Bar Cecil opened less than a year ago and it’s a must visit. The chic, art-filled restaurant and bar offers a classic and yet updated Palm Springs vibe in a buzzing space that feels like it’s been there forever. Famous for its $50 martini, General Manager and partner Nate Vandeventer, along with Executive Chef and partner Gabe Woo, created a decadent drink that combines a perfectly chilled glass of Beluga vodka with a hint of Alessio vermouth that is poured dramatically tableside and then served on a silver tray with a Regiis Ova caviar-topped deviled egg and sunchoke chips.
Follow that up with the exquisite caramelized onion tart in puff pastry and the juicy smoked bone-in pork chop with au gratin potatoes and housemade chutney. For dessert, the Aniston’s Pavlova is a one-of-a-kind whimsical constructed Eton Mess with fresh raspberries, filled with coulis and dusted with dried berries.
Further down Highway 111, locals are celebrating the opening of the much anticipated Willie’s Modern Fare in Rancho Mirage. Co-owners Willie Rhine and Chad Gardner from the Gardner Hospitality Group and 1501 Uptown Gastropub in Palm Springs have transformed the former dark Bernie’s Supper Club space into a bright restaurant humming with energy. Along with Executive Chef Richard Perez, the team has a large following in the valley.
The martinis are just as good, and the menu has been elevated to include updated versions of the classics like prime rib and a crisp wedge salad, as well as an interesting selection of game dishes, including rabbit, duck breast and lamb three ways (porterhouse chop sirloin, shepherd’s pie, beans and rosemary lamb demi glace.) Intriguing starters include an approachable caviar selection and a soft-boiled egg with pickled red mustard seeds, American black sturgeon caviar, imported lemon oil and micro herbs. A refreshing sashimi of hamachi and tuna floats in a soy lemongrass broth topped with chili oil, cilantro, lime zest, French radish and salmon roe.
Rhine and Gardner work the rooms from table to table, chatting with guests nightly. A new outdoor patio with a fire pit has been added and the lounge area has a separate bar menu.
Things are heating up in the valley and reservations are highly recommended everywhere.