A welcome new addition has joined the Palm Springs restaurant roster, with Appetito Cal-Italian Deli having quietly opened last week in South Palm Springs. With the Hollywood Reporter already naming it one of Palm Springs’ ‘Best New Restaurants,’ and having garnered visits in its first week open by guests including TV personality and model Audrina Patridge, rockers Phantogram and the who’s who of Palm Springs, Appetito is easily the most exciting news right now in the desert cuisine scene.
Situated in a prime locale next to the Ace Hotel, in the same building as beloved local coffee house Koffi, Appetito is positioned for major success, particularly since the food lives up to the hype. Despite the buzz and early accolades, Managing Partner Patrick Service and Chef Chad Shaner are humble and gracious hosts who are excited to bring something new to the table, in the form of an Italian “gastro-deli” offering high-end, yet casual Italian food that focuses on innovative offerings highlighting the house-made cheeses, pastas and sauces. The food is as good as any you’d find in a more formal restaurant, but with a great juxtaposition in the form of a casual dining atmosphere (food is ordered at the counter and delivered to your self-selected indoor or outdoor table), set amid a well-designed and inviting space thanks to the vision of celebrated local interior designer Christopher Kennedy. The large outdoor patio boasts a killer view of the San Jacinto mountains and is also a perfect place to spend a desert evening after the sun goes down and temperatures drop a bit.
Service and Shaner both drew from their experiences and inspirations to bring Appetito to life. Shaner, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America-Hyde Park, lived in Italy while serving in the Navy, and was inspired by the local cuisine. Service is a Palm Springs native who grew up in the restaurant business (his grandparents founded local Mexican restaurant Las Casuelas over 55 years ago, and Service’s mother is the owner of the popular Las Casuelas Terraza). The duo met while working together in New York at acclaimed restauranteur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, and Shaner relocated from New York to collaborate with Service in the development and launch of Appetito.
In a word: delicious. The house-made pastas and cheeses are superb; the foccacia is airy and delectable, topped with options like oven-dried tomatoes, clams and pancetta; and starters like the Marinated Octopus and Lima Bean Salad are surprising and addictive. The Ricotta Gnocchi with Kale Pesto, Walnuts and Lemon is a don’t-miss dish, and Chef Shaner cites the Eggplant Parmigiano Italian Sliders as his current personal favorite pick. In a twist on traditional Italian dessert offerings, house-made profiteroles are offered in flavors like tiramisu and Ferrero Rocher. Gelato will join the menu shortly, with flavors like blood orange and Nutella, providing a refreshing sweet treat for the upcoming warmer temperatures in Palm Springs.
The ‘deli’ component of Appetito Cal-Italian Deli at the moment is simple: grab-and-go sandwiches, cold salads and drinks. However, come summer, Appetito will have a more robust selection of deli offerings, including plans to package their house-made pastas to take home, offering meats and cheeses by the pound (including their outstanding fresh mozzarella), as well as containers of pickled vegetables and olives.
In keeping with Appetito’s “fast-casual” concept, the wine, beer and frozen craft cocktails are all served on tap. Coachella Valley Brewing Co. worked directly with Appetito to develop the “Appetito Ale,” served exclusively at the restaurant. Just in time for the hot weather, Appetito’s frozen drink dispenser (coined the ‘S-lushy machine’) will be serving up frozen drinks like Appetito’s “Cal-Italian-ized” version of a Dark and Stormy called the “Clear and Sunny,” featuring Banks 5 Island Rum, Luxardo Abano, lime and 5-spice ginger syrup, as well as the “Limon-chiller,” which combines vodka, grappa, Gran Gala, lemon juice, and rosemary-demarara syrup, all blended into a tasty frozen concoction. Also unique is the “Negroni Bar,” offering the classic Italian vermouth/Campari cocktail in four ways: with gin (‘Negroni’), with seltzer (‘Americano’), with Prosecco (‘Negroni Sbagliato’) or with whiskey (‘Boulevardier’). The bar offerings at Appetito will also be seasonal, with Chef Shaner and staff creating specialty syrups with available fresh ingredients to inspire seasonal cocktails that will be posted on a chalkboard behind the bar.
Appetito Cal-Italian Deli
1700 S. Camino Real, Suite 2
Palm Springs, CA 92264
Open daily from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. (subject to change)
Images © Palm Springs Style