“Welcome to our home” is the feeling you get when you enter the magnificent La Spiga Ristorante Italiano. La Spiga was recommended by friends as a wonderful place to eat, but not until our recent visit did I learn of the freshness of their ingredients – many right out of the restaurant’s onsite organic gardens.
La Spiga is visually stunning, from the Tuscan architecture to the warm Italian artwork. “Our idea was to build a house with gardens,” says owner Connie Cultraro whose husband, Vince, is the talented chef. They have certainly achieved their goal.
You can enjoy your meal in the quaint dining room or amongst the colorful gardens. The open court yard seats 100, but is designed to make each table feel private. We were seated on the porch overlooking the gardens and felt as if we had just arrived in the Italian countryside.
“We grow Japanese persimmons, figs, peaches, apricots, plums, citrus, grapes and pomegranate here at the restaurant, which we incorporate into a variety of dishes and deserts,” says Connie. Throughout the year, they cultivate eggplant, Swiss chard, asparagus, arugula — and a whole lot of garlic (40 pounds last year!). The herb garden produces a bounty of basil, mint, sage, oregano, and thyme.
Vince, who is from Sicily and Connie from Calabria, brought Nonna’s kitchen with them. Everything is done the old fashioned way and nothing is packaged. “Our sauces are naturally reduced and we flavor our own oils. We use only sea salt and whenever possible organic products.” La Spiga sources local growers and imports fresh ingredients from the region.
Their meats are natural too, with no hormones or antibiotics, providing exceptional flavor. “We grind our own meats, make our own sausages, and fillet our own fish (only line caught wild fish flown in daily).” Only organic eggs from free range chickens are used.
This is La Spiga’s fourth season in its current home. You may remember the former little restaurant on El Paseo (where the Apple Store is now) which the Cultraros ran for 7 years. They have been in the restaurant business for 31 years having operated 5 different restaurants in Canada.
Our table started with the tomatoes and Burrata, a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream with an exceptionally soft, melt in your mouth texture. Accented with fresh basil, it may have been my favorite part of the meal. The John Dory fish special was seasoned perfectly and served with fresh, crisp vegetables. Vince’s version of “fettuccine alfredo” (a true test of a chef’s talent) was the best I have ever tasted.
We complemented our meal with an Italian Barolo which was the perfect pairing. The wine list offers a broad range of quality varietals and vintages from the very affordable to the extremely rare. Along with a wide selection of Italian and American wines, there are a variety of wines from Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and other countries. “We like to provide our customers with the opportunity to try something new and different,” adds Connie.
We topped off the evening with mouth watering profiteroles (pastry balls filled with cream and covered with melted chocolate) and espresso.
La Spiga is a special treat and I look forward to taking my (Italian) father when he comes to visit. It is the perfect place for a family gathering, romantic meal, or outing with friends. The Cultraros and their professional staff will always make you feel at home.
La Spiga is located behind the Palm Desert Visitors Center off El Paseo and Painter’s Path. They are open Monday – Saturday from 5:30 p.m and closed on Sundays. Lunch is available upon request for parties of 40 of more. There is a small, quaint bar with a fireplace where you can enjoy cocktails, appetizers, or order from the full menu. They offer complimentary valet parking and there is plenty of self-parking.
La Spiga Ristorante Italiano 72-557 Highway 111 Palm Desert. 760.340.9318. www.LaSpigaPalmDesert.com