By Denise Ortuno

With the quaint area of Old Town La Quinta as its backdrop, Stuft Pizza Bar & Grill offers up outstanding food, drinks, atmosphere and service.

Part of a family franchise that started over forty years ago, Stuft Pizza Bar & Grill has two desert locations, one at the Westfield Mall in Palm Desert (perfect for a bite while shopping), and the other in Old Town La Quinta. Unlike the other locations throughout California and Oregon, their restaurants in the Coachella Valley have a broader menu that expands past pizza, and also offers a full bar and full service, elevating the Stuft experience.

Between the two locations here in the desert, my fave is the one in Old Town La Quinta. It’s partly because I love the cozy, small village feel of Old Town, and partly because I love the neighborhood vibe of that particular Stuft itself. On any given day, you most likely will find a carbon copy of the people you have seen the day before. To me, that is a huge compliment to the establishment, and encompasses an endearing quality.

My boyfriend and I try to go to Stuft in Old Town as much as we can, as our cravings for their pizza seem to creep up on us more often than not. We tend to go for their Happy Hour which they generously have daily from 3pm-6pm. It is certainly one of the best Happy Hours in the Coachella Valley, for quality, pricing and all around value. We have our little preferred table, a two top in the corner of the bar area with a view of the TV for sports for my boyfriend, and a comfy view for me to people watch. Usually when we go, there is the same group of men in their mature years, sitting together and chatting, just a table down from ours, which is part of the endearing aspect of the place.

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As I mentioned, their Happy Hour is a huge draw. The well drinks and house wines are only $4 (crazy 8oz wine pour), with 6oz draft beers for $3 and 25oz mugs for $5, it’s a heck of deal! For food, an array of menu selections come at discounted prices such as their Thai Noodles ( angel hair pasta, garlic, red pepper flakes, rice vinegar, sesame oil, cilantro, soy sauce and cashews-$4.49), Southwestern Eggrolls (chicken, Monterey Jack, black beans, corn, onion, bell peppers and jalapeno in a crisp flour tortilla with a chipotle ranch dipping sauce-$7.49), Rib Bites ($7.49), Volcano Wings ( mild, hot or hot as hell with blue or ranch dressing $8.99) and Ahi Tuna Stack (stacked diced Ahi Tuna, avocado, seaweed salad, green onions and soy reduction with a side of wasabi and ginger-$11.49) plus many more. Of course the main attraction, their pizza, is also a deal, offered at a discount of $2.50 off any of their small size pizzas (served with their thin crust). There are a myriad of signature pizzas selections, as well as building your own.

As little creatures of habit that my boyfriend and I are, we pretty much always get the same things. We will start out with either the Rib Bites, Volcano Wings or Southwestern Eggrolls, and then order our own small pizzas. My craving there is directed towards their White Pizza (deliciously rich Alfredo sauce, mozzarella cheese, spinach mushrooms and caramelized onions). I mean, it is one my all-time favorite pizzas! The ingredients all work together, providing a melting of fabulous flavors, and the crust, the crust is the vessel delivering all of the yumminess into my mouth, one luscious bite after another. Tasty! Somehow, most likely because there are vegetables involved, it seems suspiciously healthy to me. But I’m sure that is just my internal negotiation that allows me to eat the whole thing alone.

My boyfriend always gets the small Pepperoni. Now that may seem like a simplistic choice, but these are no ordinary pepperonis. They are smaller than the ones that are used on the larger pizza, and pack a wowza of zest. I end up stealing many of the little guys off of his pizza every time, they’re addicting.

There are so many other menu options at Stuft besides pizza and Happy Hour glory. Their menu stretches to salads, sandwiches, pastas, steaks, chicken, and seafood as well as gluten free options. Of course leaving room for one their desserts is always a treat, such as diving into their Stuff This (vanilla, coffee and mocha almond fudge ice cream layered on an Oreo cookie crust) creation.

Stuft Pizza Bar & Grill in Old Town La Quinta is a cozy nook, incorporating all of the components of one of the most delightful places to relax and enjoy fantastic food, drinks and inviting friendly service here in the Coachella Valley. I think I hear my White Pizza calling!

Stuft Pizza Bar & Grill is located at 78-015 Main St. #100, La Quinta, 760-777-9989

www.stuftpizzabarandgrill.com