By Crystal Harrell

Having just celebrated its 19th anniversary in Old Town La Quinta, Stuft Pizza Bar & Grill is a staple of the local restaurant scene. Jack Bertram and his wife, Pat, opened the first Stuft Pizza in Cerritos, California in 1976. Before opening the store, Jack experimented for close to 9 months—developing the recipe for the delicious pizza the restaurants are known for today.  Although the small store did only pizza and was take-out only, its emphasis on the highest quality product led to its success. Jack and Pat opened their second store two years later in Whittier. The original over-the-counter concept kept growing, and in 1986, Stuft Pizza became a franchise.

Compared to the restaurants over the years with the Stuft name, both Stuft Pizza Bar & Grill locations in the desert are unique. The Bertram Family owns and operates both the Old Town La Quinta and The Shops at Palm Desert locations. These locations have been hotspots in the desert since 2004, in La Quinta, and 2014 in Palm Desert.

“I’m in the restaurants helping out—bussing tables, hosting, and doing a little bit of everything. It’s our family’s business and my parents have been doing the pizza element for almost 50 years.  For almost 20 years, we have enjoyed being heavily involved in the community and we’re always around the restaurants. My parents are essentially retired, but they live here full-time and you’ll find my dad at one of the restaurants for lunch most days. I’m in charge of operating the restaurants alongside the teams that we have at each location,” shared John Bertram, the owner of the Palm Desert and La Quinta Stuft Pizza locations.


With an expanded menu, full bar, full service, plenty of televisions for sports fans, and an amazing wine list, the idea was to take the original “pizzeria” and put a fun spin on it. What brought people to Stuft Pizza more than 45 years ago is still what brings people through its doors today.

The Old Town La Quinta location has recently completed a patio project that has been a long process in the making, revamping the entire outdoor space to bring the exterior into a modern revisioning. The project started on the Fourth of July and has recently been completed.

“We didn’t have a say in the design of everything as far as the building and the outside space when we first started in La Quinta. We’ve been trying to dream up, and over all the years and all the experience, we’ve kind of gained an understanding of how to handle the environment here in the desert. We completely ripped apart everything outside. We had to tear into the building, ripped all the existing trellis work, jackhammered out any concrete slab, footings, walls, I mean everything. It was a very involved project,”explained Bertram.

The patio project at the La Quinta location was a chance to start from scratch with the existing space to improve upon every aspect of it—from the flooring to shade structure, to having wind protection for the entire outdoor space and permanent heaters.

The Palm Desert and La Quinta locations have consistently been compared to one another, but Bertram maintains that the goal is the same for each restaurant.

“The La Quinta spot has been around so long, now we have so many loyal fans and it’s kind of funny because people naturally try to compare the two, and they’ve obviously got different atmospheres and ambiances. Our goal is to execute consistently day in and day out with the same menu, same happy hour and a fun place to be,” said Bertram.

With the Shops at Palm Desert recently under new ownership, there have been questions of what would happen to the Stuft Pizza Palm Desert location. Bertram sees the new ownership as a chance for growth and excitement for what was once the hub of the desert. Stuft Pizza is eager to see the future developments for the shopping center that may include more entertainment-based activities, more restaurants, and/or housing on property to name a few possibilities. The restaurant anticipates growing with the new ownership and being a part of the future vision.

“We’re super thankful for all the support that we’ve gotten and I think we do our best to try to retain our employees for a long time and our customers can feel that. They get to know them and they really create some amazing relationships, which is super important for success over the years,” stated Bertram.