73722 El Paseo #1
Palm Desert, CA 92260
1967 was a great year, (not that I was around for it), but it was the year that the Beatles released the Sgt. Pepper's album, the first ATM was put in service in London, Evel Knievel jumped his motorcycle over 16 cars, and it was also the year that Vanilla Ice was born. Okay, they all can't be winners, but you get the point. You can also add one more great event to that list, it was also the year my parents got married.
50 years is a big deal. For awhile now I was trying to think what I could do to show my parents how much I admire their relationship and show them how grateful I am that they decided to take the plunge all those years ago, which ultimately lead to me being around. It dawned on me that they had honeymooned in Palm Springs, and as oppressive as the heat can be out in the desert in mid-June, I decided to take them out there for a weekend at a five-star resort and of course, try some of the local restaurants. After a two-hour car ride and checking into our hotel, we hightailed it to our first restaurant for the anniversary weekend, Piero's PizzaVino.
Located on famed El Paseo, Piero's has been operating since 2011, and in those six plus years they have amassed a four-star rating on Yelp, and have gotten plenty of local praise for their Italian cuisine. Owner and Italian native Piero Pierattoni, along with his wife, Sheri opened Piero's in order to bring the best and most authentic Italian pizza to the Coachella Valley. The Pierattoni's also own the more upscale Ristorante Mamma Gina, which is located right across the street from Piero's. Talk about cornering the market.
We arrived at Piero's around 7:30 on a Friday evening, and were surprised with the rather large crowd inside the restaurant, as there was not much action to speak of on El Paseo on this early summer evening. As is customary for this time of year, many businesses close for the summer, as a good amount of the population of this desert city goes back up to Canada for the warmer months and returns when it gets too cold up north.
We were seated on their enclosed patio, which was rather quite comfortable temperature wise, but a little on the noisy side. Part of the reason I picked this restaurant is that their menu is pretty diverse and has plenty of options. They offer 22 starters without even counting their eight salad selections. Predictably there are lots of pizzas to choose from, but they also feature a good amount of pasta and heartier entrees. Let's see if Piero's would be a good start to my parents anniversary weekend.
I let Katie and the anniversary couple pick the apps we would start with, and they selected the Fried Zucchini Blossoms ($11.90) and the Bruschetta ($7.90). I have to admit I was not totally on board with these selections when they made them, but I liked them well enough. The lightly fried zucchini blossoms were filled with ricotta cheese and topped with raw honey. I was afraid that texturally this was going to be awkward, but it worked out fine. I liked the sweet honey with the zucchini, while the ricotta did not overpower as much as I thought, and was nice and creamy. The bruschetta here was not overly loaded with tomatoes, and they were placed under the mozzarella cheese, which is different than most versions we've had. There was also plenty of garlic and basil to keep things interesting. This is definitely a bruschetta for people like me that are not huge tomato lovers, as it was more like a garlic cheese bread with a few tomatoes thrown in.
Katie and I must have been very hungry because along with the starters that we had, we also got these salads. The Small Mixed Salad ($6) is not listed on their menu, but it really brightened up the table when it made its appearance. This eye popping salad came with a boatload of fresh greens, red onion, tomato, cucumber, and her choice of ranch dressing. A very generous size for a small dinner salad. I went with my usual, the PizzaVino Small Caesar ($8.90). I love Caesars, and this was an excellent version. It was dressed with plenty of dressing, which is very important to me. The romaine was fresh, and there was plenty of big squares of parmesan cheese included on this. Sure there were no croutons, but the addition of the anchovy was a nice touch, which you don't see too often anymore. Two pretty impressive salads.
As we were having our salads, my dad asked for some bread, and this little ensemble came out for us. The bread came wrapped in parchment paper, which I thought was a little over the top, but still nice. The bread was solid, and it came served with two oil based dipping sauces. One was a garlic version and the other, which I preferred was a spicy pepper. You have to ask for this, but you'll be glad you did when it gets to the table.
Even though Piero's is known for their pizza, only Katie got one on this evening. It was a tough choice but she went with the Pollo Pizza on this night. This white sauced pizza came topped with chicken, spinach, artichoke hearts, caramelized onions, garlic, mozzarella, and Romano cheese. Katie loved the way all of these ingredients worked together, and she was surprised that this pizza was so light. She compared it favorably to one that she had at Pizzeria Mozza earlier this year. She'd definitely get this again.
My mom is not a big eater, so she opted for this small Chicken Salad ($9.90), which really wasn't very small, even to me. Whenever I see fruit in a salad, I know it has piqued my mom's interest, and she ended up loving this salad which included sliced apples, baby lettuce, grilled chicken, caramelized walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, and it was finished with an apple cider vinaigrette. She did manage to eat most of this and loved it, even though she ate around the gorgonzola, which she forgot to ask to have left out of this. Along with the flavors, this had tons of great textures included. The crunchy apples and walnuts, along with the tender chicken and creamy gorgonzola made this an interesting salad for her taste buds all the way through.
There was a time when my dad and I would almost always get the same thing in a restaurant, but as he's aged, he's become a lighter eater. This was evident when he selected this Shrimp Entree ($23.50) on this evening. Not that I have anything against this dish, but I like something a little heavier, which you will see in a moment. The shrimp that came out with this was bathed in a white wine, herbs, and garlic sauce which added a nice flavor to these six shrimp. This also came with some roasted potatoes and asparagus that were simply done.
As I stated earlier, a heartier meal would be in my future on this night. This Lasagna Bolognese ($19.90) was delicious. I believe this was the first time I ever had a Bolognese lasagna, and I can say that I'm hooked. Instead of the usual ricotta and mozzarella version of lasagna you can get everywhere, this one uses a meaty bolognese sauce, along with a delicious bechamel sauce, and to top it off are two fennel sausages. With all of this meaty goodness, I did not even miss the cheese. I loved how the bechamel and the Bolognese interacted with each other, and the fennel sausage was an added bonus. One of the better lasagnas I have had in recent memory. Now I have to be on the lookout for a version of this back home in OC.
Dessert time, and since I had told Piero's it was my parents anniversary when I made the reservation, we got two sweet endings to our meal on this evening. My parents love Creme Brulee ($7.90) so of course, we had to give Piero's version a try. It had a great crystallized crust on top, and the inside had a sweet and smooth custard base. It was good, but kind of like all the other creme brulees we have had out there. The Spumoni Cassata ($7.50) was not like what we were expecting. My only run in with spumoni is the little silver dish of it that you get for dessert at the Spaghetti Factory. This was not like that at all. This was more like a layered ice cream cake, with the first and most prominent flavor being lemon, and then there was a small ribbon of chocolate and a bigger base of vanilla with nuts and fruit inside of it. It was okay, but I'm not much of a lemon guy, but I appreciated the cooling effect this had since it was still quite warm outside.
Even though the desserts at Piero's were just okay, this was a great first meal for my parents 50th anniversary weekend. A month later and I still look back fondly on my lasagna, and everything else we had on this evening was pretty much above average. I thought the price point for this restaurant was pretty low considering this was on El Paseo and the meals in this part of town can get rather pricey. The service on this evening was fine, and we had no complaints. Piero's was a great kickoff for what we hoped would be a fantastic weekend of food, fun, and celebrating my fabulous parents.
Out of five golf tees, (because Palm Desert is home to over 30 golf courses, and one can assume that golfers go through plenty of tees in this desert city), five being best to zero being worst, Piero's PizzaVino gets 3.5 golf tees.
For more information about Piero's PizzaVino, head to their website here: http://www.ppizzavino.com/