It’s rather obvious at this point that Mexican cuisine is a staple of my diet. I basically have to have it or die. <grin>
But that doesn’t mean that if you drop me off in the desert, I won’t also crave other basic food groups, such as pasta. After a week of living out of strange drawers in the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa property, I wanted a dinner that involved Italian overtones and some bread dipped in herb oil. I didn’t need to use the Internet to find my destination: Bella Vita was across the street, so I could even skip the part where I drag the car out of self-parking and then try to remember which new spot I parked it in again the next morning.
I was expecting a hole-in-the-wall place to get spaghetti, mainly based on its strip mall location. Instead, I stumbled into an upscale establishment where I felt a bit out of place in shorts and a t-shirt. Still, my money is as green as the guy’s in the suit, so I requested a table.
Being a bowling alley kind of gal, I walked in craving spaghetti and meatballs, with a possible nod to cheese ravioli dish as a substitute. It took less than 30 seconds to change my mind. Bella Vita serves gnocchi al piacere, although what “al piacere” means is still lost on me today. All I needed to read was gnocchi to veer off into hyperventilating euphoria. To make matters better, they gave me a choice of sauces: pesto, marinara, or alfredo.
It was a waste of copy space to list anything after pesto for me.
My friend ordered Chicken Parmigiana, described as Bella Vita’s star of the menu. I’m not buying it — not when they also have gnocchi on the menu. However, I suppose it did look more … well, normal, when our waiter set it down in front of her. Mine was green as grass, which I anticipated but shocked her nearly speechless.
“What is that, again?” she asked. Gnocchi. You know, dumplings made from potatoes. Or flour. I’m not picky on that detail. As long as they are doughy and covered in pesto sauce, I’m a happy camper. My dining companion never did get on board with that opinion, even after I offered her one of my precious bites.
But I guess turnabout is fair play, because I can’t say I was excited by her Chicken Parmigiana, with or without capital letters.
This makes Bella Vita a success in my book: close, welcoming, and appealing to a variety of tastes. Even those of us who live and die by burritos.
74970 Country Club Dr.
Palm Desert, California 92260
Photography: Julie Sturgeon