By Rick Riozza

Sì! Simply sitting outdoors last evening with friends at the new SO•PA restaurant while the lit moon kept its slow rise above the dreamy sea of clouds, casually swayed us into an inviting mood of love. We’re talking about the love of fine dining while comfortably ensconsed in a brilliant design setting that reeks of Palm Springs elegance.

You readers often wish this column to alert eager diners, foodies, and wine lovers to the latest dining experience about town to speak of. Well—in this case, a culinary phenomenon is materializing right before our palates. It’s an eventful treat that we desert dwellers can enjoy early on—that is to say, before the whole world takes notice and packs up the place. Hyperbole?

Actually—not to worry just yet. The restaurant is entirely outdoors with very spacious seating; owns a design scheme that energizes the artist in us, and, did I mention how romantic is the ambiance?


It’s located at the luxurious L’Horizon Hotel & Spa, which was recently purchased by L.A.–based designer and admitted luxury-hotel devotee Steve Hermann. Built in 1952 by legendary Desert Modern architect William F. Cody as a retreat and later becoming a hotel which had hosted the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, the Nixons and the Reagans during its heyday. Check out the mid-century architectural contours at

As with all great restaurants, its personnel has to match the inspired decor. Avanti!—enter Italian-born chef Giacomo Pettinari, who has worked and trained at famed restaurants all around the world, including Chef Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli, and Piero Salvaggio’s Valentino, where Pettinari earned a Michelin star!

Along with Pettinari’s given talent of preparing Mediterranean cuisine, the chef also showcases an immense range of culinary artistry gleaned from his international accomplishments. Now opened for breakfast, we can view his fresh selection seasonal dishes for a fabulous lunch and exquisite dinners at

I so look forward to interviewing Giacomo for my “Mind of a Chef” series. His stint at El Bulli has to be an eye-opener: an extraordinary life and work experience on the Costa Brava, some two hours north of Barcelona. Chef Pettanari will no doubt continue to unleash the art of deconstructing and reconstituting all types of food and libations in such a specialized craft.

Back on earth, we’ll expect a delicious array of entrées that includes, Braised Veal Cheeks, Roasted Spanish Octopus, Seared Wild Caught Ling Cod, and Poached Hudson Valley Foie Gras Au Torcion among other delectable items.

Our group enjoyed the chef’s Tasting Menu. We enjoyed the Black Quinoa Salad, prepared with hazelnuts, cranberries, celery, scallions along with an IPA Beer vinegar. Wonderful and recommended. Next we were treated to an amazing Arancino, the coated fried rice balls prepared with Val D’Aosta Fontina Cheese along with a bright and tasty Red Pepper Sauce.

When served the Durham Ranch Poussin in Confit, we all simply sat back to dwell on the arresting aroma of the young bird that was prepared with Apple Purée, Red Wine Gastrique, and Baby Artichokes. Another dish not to be missed.

Our dessert, 5 Spices Medjool Date Cake amidst Butterscotch Sauce, Honey Powder, Chai Tea Sherbet and Filbert Tuille was as scrumptious as it sounds.

We met Michael Worth, the restaurant manager, who is also—as I so deem—one of the new wine wise guys in town. As one would expect with an evolving menu and accompanying wine list, the wine section will increase with both focus and variety. Michael describes his ensuing collection to include both vintage and sought-after bottles to match and pair with Chef’s enticing dishes.

For our meal, on the current wine list, we were graced with the Sonoma County, Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc. This wine originated in the famed Loire River Valley and is often referred to Vouvray. Here in our own Sonoma surrounds, this grape is produced dry with a very fresh melon and tropical fruit profile.

The red wine provided was an Italian Merlot from the Trentino area in northern Italy. Barone Fini produced the medium-bodied Merlot that remained fresh in the glass and paired perfectly with the Arancino and Poussin.

So heartfelt felicitations to the staff at SO•PA, and, to our dining public who now get to experience the aim and objective of such talented and artistic minds. As this venue continues to enlighten our valley, let’s look forward to some additional coverage right here in the Vino Voice. Cheers! and Bon Appétit!

SO•PA 1050 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs.

Open daily 7:30am–11am, 12pm—2pm, 5pm—9/10pm.

Sat & Sun Brunch 7:30am—2pm, 5pm—10pm 760.323.1858

Rick’s beat is to eat and drink at various food and wine venues in Palm Springs and its surrounds. He is the valley’s somm-about-town, entertaining and conducting at wine events and tastings. Contact