The River at Rancho Mirage has become a central meeting place to take in a movie, grab a coffee, stroll through retail shopping and grab a meal at one of the many restaurants located in the outdoor center. If you haven’t been in a while, there are several new reasons to visit and for established fans, the restaurants and shops continually offer new reasons to return.
Fans of Italian cuisine understand that regional traditions define a great Italian restaurant. It bodes well that authentic ingredients, flavors, and cooking preparations of Naples, Italy are front and center at Gioia Italian Bistro, the newest restaurant to open at The River.
VIDEO: Watch Chef Luca of Gioia as he proves that making pasta from scratch is a labor of love worth the effort.
The bright yellow exterior extends inside to lend a warm and welcoming vibe to the space at Gioia.
Chef Luca Ricca and his uncle, Salvatore Evangelista, form the family “duo dinamico” to own and operate Gioia (English translation “Joy”). Chef Luca received his culinary training in Italy, working in restaurants in and around his native Naples.
He also worked for a short time in New York and Los Angeles, before taking the plunge to come to Palm Springs a few months ago. The authentic native accent and flavors permeate the inviting space, which includes table seating and a bar area facing to an open kitchen space. Customers can sit and enjoy a glass of wine as they watch pasta being prepared and pizza dough being tossed in front of them.
Kneading the dough is serious business when it comes to yielding perfectly tender gnocchi balls.
On my first visit, Chef Luca was preparing the dough for a house specialty, Gnocchi Sorrentina. The dough for this iconic potato pasta is made of four simple ingredients; all-purpose flour, small golden potatoes, parmesan cheese, and water. It is kneaded by hand until it becomes soft and pliable and is then formed into “little balls” to be flash-boiled and served up as tender pasta dumplings.
While gnocchi can be served with a variety of sauces, true to Italian regional form, the one served with Gnocchi Sorrentina is made from ingredients famous to the Napoli region, tomatoes, freshly made mozzarella, and basil. Like all of the sauces for pizzas, pastas and entrees, they are made from scratch in the Italian tradition and the mozzarella is made fresh each day.
Sauces are prepared to order, following the Italian culinary tradition of keeping things fresh and simple.
Gioia is open for lunch and dinner, with a break in service mid-day from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Stop in for a Pranzo Panini between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., served with a green salad or Italian potato salad. Priced at $10 and with choices like Angus Beef, Speck, Breaded Chicken Breast, Italian Sausage and two vegetarian options, you can easily add a bit of Italian foodie “Gioia = Joy” to your day.
Pizzas are made in the classically Napoli thin crust style and pasta preparations are traditional to the region. Try the Lasagna Napoletana, homemade pasta layered with meatballs, boiled eggs and Scamorza cheese.
Gioia Italian Bistro, 71800 Highway 111 A122 at The River, Rancho Mirage, 760-422-4330, www.gioiaitalianbistro.com
What Else is Cooking at The River
Yard House – Try the Vampire Tacos, Nashville Hot Chicken, and Duck Wings.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse – Bite into the Short Rib Empanadas or the Sweet Chili Calamari.
bb’s at The River – Order the 17th Street Balsamic Salmon and enjoy the outdoor patio.
Raymond Lawrence – Uniquely curated collection of modern and playful design for home, apparel, gifts and more.
Lori Cohen-Sanford is a private/personal chef, cooking class instructor and owner of Nourishfoods Organic Meal Services — www.nourishfoods.biz. Tastes Around Town will appear weekly. Follow her on Twitter @nourishfoodsps.