Italian Delights at Mario's

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By Denise Ortuno                                                                                            rsz imag2972

Casual, comfortable and delicious, Mario’s Italian Cafés have been bringing the best in delightful, traditional Italian dishes to the Coachella Valley for over 40 years!

If you live in the Coachella Valley and love Italian food, chances are that you’ve dined at one of Mario’s Italian Cafes 7 locations. And if you haven’t, there’s really no good excuse as there is probably one down the street from where you are right now. The family owned collection of restaurants first opened in 1972, by patriarch Mario Del Guidice, and over the years has spread across the desert filling up patrons with delightful Italian fare.

My neighborhood Mario’s is just a couple miles away from my home in Bermuda Dunes, and I think the quaintest out of the all of their locations (just my personal opinion). The unconventionally shaped space kind of reminds me of something out of Disneyland, with painted murals depicting Italian style scenery, twinkle lights and swoony Italian themed music swirling around the dining room. It certainly has a romantic feel, but also perfect for family gatherings.

Recently, I discovered my new favorite dish from Mario’s. My boyfriend and I usually get repeat items such as their Bolognese Pasta, or Pizza Slice lunch special ( 2 slices of New York style pizza with one topping, and an individual house salad for only $6.95), and of course a couple of their huge glasses chianti. But then one night a friend of ours came by our house and brought over some pizza from Mario’s. It was so good that we had to make a special trip there just to get one of our own, and while we were there, some salad and you guessed it, a couple of huge glasses of chianti…and let’s not forget, some Tiramisu.

The pizza that wowed us was their Margarita Pizza. The specialty pizza is comprised simple ingredients of tomato, fresh Mozzarella and Romano cheese, garlic and basil. But there is just something about the combination that makes it a classic, and oozes with amazing flavors, and Mario’s does an incredible job of creating it. Our friend who introduced us to Mario’s Margarita Pizza, mentioned that she orders it a special way, which we mimicked in detail on our visit there. We added extra garlic and tomatoes, with the crust crispy, and it came out perfect! Of course, if you’re not into garlic, or on a special date, you might not want to go the extra garlic route. But if you do, I highly recommend it, plus you get the added bonus of repelling those pesky vampires.

We added a couple of refreshing house salads to go with our fabulous Margarita Pizza, and the goblets of wine. For dessert, we had to have Mario’s creamy and decadent Tiramisu, which served as an excellent completion to our dinner. Besides pizza, Mario’s has a myriad of other scrumptious Italian dishes to satisfy, including Antipasto Salad, Chicken Marsala, Veal Picatta, Shrimp Scampi, Linguini & Clams, Spaghetti,  Lasagna, Cannelloni and whole lot more.

Mario’s Italian Cafés have become a Coachella Valley staple, with excellent food, comfortable atmosphere, and warm inviting vibe. One of many Italian favorite's of the Palm Springs Local!

Mario’s Italian Cafés are located across the Coachella Valley, for details visit

Cool Off With Some Cream at Kreem!

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By Denise Ortuno                                                                                     rsz imag2729

There are times when you just crave it, the soft, sweet, creamy coolness melting in your mouth. It's a great way to cool off, and what you will find at Kreem Ice Cream & Coffee in Palm Springs.

It sort of reminded me of a dream sequence that I might have of groovy ice cream parlor, all white with a retro vibe, and amazing ice cream. I almost expected the twilight sounds of elevator music and muffled voices asking what flavor I would prefer. The new shop owned by chef and entrepreneur Bianca Simonians, recently made its debut on East Palm Canyon Dr. in Palm Springs this summer, to the welcomed delight of local and visiting ice cream fans.

The shop makes strides to stand alone in the sweet biz, as Simonian pays special attention to detail in her ice cream creations which are hand made in house, with organic dairy, natural ingredients and without GMO’s, preservatives or additives. An effort that is reflected in the ice creams exceptional texture and taste. Ice cream lovers will find out of the box flavors to choose from such as S’more’s, Lemon Meringue Pie, Hazelnut and many more Kreem’s standards, offered in cups, cones, cookie sandwiches and even a satisfying pint. They also have coconut based vegan alternatives including Vanilla Bean and Almond Joi, as well as refreshing sorbets. Simonian even makes her own Almond Milk, which I can’t wait to try.

For my introduction to Kreem, and after some friendly guidance, my taste buds landed on Lemon Meringue Pie. It just sounded like it would scoop me out of the pocket of heat that I had just walked in from, and it did. The lemony flavor wasn’t at all tart, but had a velvety citrus delivery with streams of short bread and little marshmallow surprises folded in. It was a bit of ice cream pie in a cup, and swept me away from my hot desert reality, plunging me into a creamy pool of cold goodness, at least until the end of my cup arrived. I was in a state of YUM!

Kreem doesn’t stop at their awesome ice cream, as they offer coffee concoctions as well using Heart Coffee Roasters, with cappuccinos, cafe lattes, espressos, cold brews and more. They even have coffee floats…yes, coffee floats!

Ice cream shops in the Coachella Valley are a must, providing us with some cool reprieve from the summer heat, and sweet bliss all year long. Kreem Ice Cream & Coffee does it right with fresh clean ingredients, fun flavors and an inviting vintage vibe. A new Palm Springs Local cream favorite!

Kreem Ice Cream & Coffee is located at 170 East Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs Ca 92264

Convenient Flavor at Chelo's Burger #3

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By Denise Ortunorsz imag2677 1

At the convenient am/pm off of Golf Center Parkway in Indio, you can get a whole lot more than just gas and a candy bar, right down the hall at Chelo’s Burgers #3.

I saw Chelo’s Burgers #3 on a Facebook posting and I just had to check it out, especially when I looked it up and realized that it was adjacent to an am/pm convenience store. Although am/pm is very convenient, it never really screamed “good food” to me, until now.

Opened two years ago, Chelo’s Burgers #3 in Indio is one of three locations (hence the #3) in the Coachella Valley (Cathedral City and Mecca), all attached to am/pm’s. The owners of the restaurants, brother’s Roger and Arturo Islas, work with the owner of the local am/pm’s, and run the Chelo’s Burgers (short for the original owners name, Marcello).

There are two entrances to Chelo’s Burgers #3, one from the inside of am/pm, or through their own separate entrance. They have a spacious dining space, complete with old school metal diner style chairs, gumball machines, and a T.V. for eating entertainment. On my visit, the counter was being attended by friendly team member Kimberly, and the grill was manned by jovial owner Roger. The menu sits suspended above the counter, and of course I was drawn directly to their burger options as it seems to be the star, part of the name of the restaurant. But there are so many other menu items, as the spot is opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, for now, let’s focus on their bountiful burgers.

As it was my first time there, I asked Kimberly what the most popular burgers were. She suggested the Western Burger as one of the most popular, with bacon, onion rings, BBQ sauce, lettuce and tomato. Their Mushroom Swiss Burger was also calling to me, but after a couple of moments of pondering, I went for a classic ¼ pound Cheeseburger with fries and a drink, a combo nicely priced at $6.99. Kimberly suggested that I have the burger cut in two, as it was rather large. I agreed and had every intention of bringing half of it home for my boyfriend…an intention that was pure, but not brought to completion.

I took a seat and waited for my burger, which was served promptly to me not too long after. The burger and fries were cradled in a red plastic basket that looked tailor made for it. Kimberly was right, the burger was quite large, served with thick cut lightly seasoned fries. I was itching to take a big bit out of it, it looked so neat I just had to mess it up. The burger was expansive in its width, although the patty itself was not on the thick side, it really didn’t seem to matter. The chargrilled patty, was topped cheese, Thousand Island dressing, pickles, fresh tomato and crisp shredded lettuce. The grilled sesame seed bun held everything together in a fit package, it worked perfectly together.

There’s something about Thousand Island on a burger, it brought me back to when I was a little kid, happy memories of going to Bob’s Big Boy….it’s amazing how certain tastes can transport you. The fries were on the thick side, and also very fresh (you can always taste the difference), and as I stuffed some in my burger, it made it even better. Needless to say, the half of the burger that I had every intention of saving for my boyfriend never did make it to him. I guess I was hungrier than I thought, or the burger was just too good to share (sorry Todd).

As I mentioned, Chelo’s Burgers #3 has many other menu selections besides burgers. For breakfast you can start your day off with some pancakes or French toast, a variety of omelets, breakfast sandwiches, burrito’s, Huevas Ranchero, chorizo and much more. Lunch and dinner provide a bevy of sandwiches such as their Club or their popular Philly Cheese Steak (which Roger says is a crowd fave), salads, fried chicken, fish and chips other selections. And don’t miss out on their Mexican specialties such as fajitas, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, tortas, tacos, tostadas and even Menudo. There are also many seafood dishes including an impressive looking Cocktail de Camaron and Caldo de Pescado (fish soup).

Chelo’s prides themselves in making scratch made food, made in house with attention to flavor and freshness. It’s like the freshness of something as simple as the shredded lettuce on the burger, it just makes all of the difference. The restaurant is opened daily from 6am to 9pm, and offers food to go.

Sometimes the best food will come out of the most unexpected places, like at an am/pm convenience store. Chelo’s Burgers #3 is such a place, ready to give great quality food to passersby, or those with exact intention. Either way, they are a tasty convenience.

Chelo’s Burgers #3 is located at Golf Center Pkwy, Indio 92201


Cool Sweetness at Lappert's!

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By Denise Ortuno                                                                                rsz date shake

A chilled out way to get some cool tasty relief from the desert summertime heat, is with a refreshingly cold sweet treat from Lappert’s Ice Cream & Dole Whip.

The last thing that I need to do is to tell you that it’s hot outside. Anyone who lives in, or has visited the Coachella Valley in the summer months should know well enough of what to expect here from June through September….a whole lot of sunshine and toasty high temps. But there are so many ways to combat, and even make summertime fun in the desert, that it almost makes this time of year something to look forward to.

To cool down, you could take a chill dip in a pool, shop at the air-conditioned indoor mall, ice skate, or do something that will make your taste buds want to throw on a coat, and have some icy cold deliciousness from Lappert’s Ice Cream & Dole Whip. The Hawaiian themed ice cream shop has been delighting their customers for many summers, in Palm Desert and Palm Springs.

Owner Joe Genua, who has just recently taken over the Palm Desert store and also has Jus Chillin in Palm Springs, enjoys giving a little Hawaiian cool sweetness to the desert. Lappert’s Ice Cream started back in 1983, by founder Walter Lappert, who wanted to expand on his little ice cream shop in Northern California, and make/sell ice cream in Kauai. Lappert did exactly that, and visitors can still visit his original factory on the island.

His concept was brought back the mainland, with his son Michael Lappert, who opened up a factory in Richmond California, broadening the reach of their scrumptious hand crafted ice cream. One aspect of their ice cream that enhances the creaminess is the high fat content, which elevates the ice cream to a different level. The stores rotate over 100 flavors, such as Banana Cream Pie (fresh banana’s, buttery pie crust pieces), Rum Raisin (dark rum soaked raisins, light rum sweet cream), and Mexican Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl, plus many, many more, bringing the most innovative tastes to their customers.  

Besides their ultra-creamy ice cream, Lappert’s also features the Dole Plantations creation, Dole Whip, made famous by Disneyland’s Tiki Hut. The Dole Whip comes in a soft serve form, and is vegan, as well as dairy, fat and gluten free. One spoon full of the Pineapple Whip, and you are quickly whisked away to a Hawaiian island, the tropical breeze swirling around you with a burst of sweet pineapple dancing on your tongue. It’s freakishly refreshing. The Whips come in other flavors such as Raspberry, Orange and Mango, but it is clear that the Pineapple option is the headliner. A parade of toppings are available to dress up the Whips. However, for true octane, go for the Dole Whip Float, where the whip is immersed in fresh pineapple juice topped with whipped cream and a wafer. Sweet fruit overload!

Lappert’s also offer’s other chilly treats including Shaved Ice in fun flavors including Watermelon, Lime, Root beer, Grape, Cherry , plus Shakes (try their phenomenal Date Shake with Coachella Valley Dates), Smoothies and Sundaes. You can give those high summer temps the big freeze in a variety of ways at Lappert’s.

Genua looks forward to making some upgrades to the Palm Desert shop. In the coming months customers will enjoy extended full-service, more non-dairy options, an amped up Hawaiian vibe and a special Acai and Pitaya scoop-able, super-fruit sweet. 

Whether the weather outside is super-hot, cold or just right, having a cool treat from Lappert’s Ice Cream & Dole Whip is a tasty pleasure all year round. A fave of The Palm Springs Local!

Lappert’s Ice Cream & Dole Whip is located at 78-206 Ste. G Varner Road, Palm Desert and at 130 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs-

More Than Drinks at Dringk!

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By Denise Ortuno                                                                                     rsz imag2515                                               

More than just reasonably priced drinks, the whimsical playful spot also has a  tasty menu that won’t stretch your funds, making Dringk Eatery + Bar in Rancho Mirage the place to be.

You might do a double take when entering Dringk Eatery + Bar at The River in Rancho Mirage, “Wasn’t this Fox & Fiddle a minute a go?” could be a question that would run through your mind. The answer would yes, it was the former pub style restaurant not so long ago. Owner Kurt Gardner opened the former restaurant in February of 2017, and after seeing that the pub concept hadn’t grabbed the attention as he had hoped for, he decided to switch gears.

Gardner’s new concept Dringk, is all his own and doesn’t have the restrictions that the franchise of Fox & Fiddle had, allowing him to run free with his creativity. Dringk (the phonetic pronunciation of Drink) has a laid back, adult playground feel, complete with hanging chairs, longer than long couches, a pool table, shuffleboard, dart board, Pac Man, Jenga blocks and more, highlighted with spiraled white Twizzler looking ceiling décor.

Besides the aesthetic change to the restaurant and bar, is the seemingly perpetual happy hour type price point that they have adopted, with a variety of well drinks and house wines priced at only $5, domestic beers at $4, and imports at $5. Martinis can cost a couple of dollars more, as well as if you want to upgrade to a call brand, but even they are reasonably priced. Their food prices mirror their drinks, with small plates starting at $5, and other menu items topping out at $15 (only a couple of dinner items are $20). This new concept has been working for Gardner, “It has been very well received” he said. The hangout has become a place for late night enjoyment, where D.J music is played on Friday and Saturday nights (soon to be added for Wednesday’s Industry Night), as well as Karaoke on Tuesday nights. This kind of late night entertainment is a welcome addition to the somewhat sparse selections that this part of the desert offers.

I was interested in trying out some of the menu items at Dringk, and went for some that I had pre-selected from their website. I brought my dear friend Jennifer Gary along to assist me. We started with the Brussel Sprouts (crispy fried with balsamic, grilled lemon, chili flakes and chipotle aioli). The sprouts were extra crispy, just the way that I like them, and the balsamic added just enough sweetness to balance off the natural bitterness of the sprouts, with the chipotle aioli giving the dish a spicy creamy component. Delish!

Next I selected the Truffle Mac & Cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, truffle oil, optional bacon, and bread crumbs) for me, and she went for the battered Fried Zucchini & Dill Ranch and the Grilled Onion Hummus & Pita. As a mac & cheese freak, I had to try it, and was not disappointed by its overt gooey cheesiness. It was thick and smooth, as the cheese clung to my fork leaving long ribbons of it bridging from the bowl, with generous meaty pieces of bacon, it’s this cheese lover’s new bestie! Jen enjoyed the lightly battered Fried Zucchini, and the Grilled Onion Hummus dish had dense flavors, leaving a delightful memory on the palette. As it was in the middle of the day, we did not indulge in any “adult” beverages, but if we had, I probably would have gone for a Lavender Vodka Lemonade or Jalapeno Margarita, both only $5 each.

Dringk food menu extends from appetizers to sandwiches and burgers, flatbreads, to salads, soups and full dinner entrees, all reasonably priced. The spot is opened from 3pm to 1am Monday through Wednesday, and 11am to 1am or later the rest of the week (until midnight on Sundays).

We all need a place to unwind, without high prices and restricted ambience. Dringk Eatery + Bar provides some not so serious adult fun, where you can just chill out with friends and have some laughs, great food and drinks and still have some money in your pocket at the end of the night. The Palm Springs Local will cheer to that!

Dringk Eatery + Bar is located at 71-800 Ste 101, Hwy 111 Rancho Mirage, 92270, 760-888-0111

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