I've lived in three places considered by many to be among the top food locations in the world: New York, Italy, and San Francisco, my current home. I spend a good deal of time in the Southern California desert city of 29 Palms; have done for almost 29 years, in fact!
Whenever I pack to get away from the typically foggy, gray summers in San Francisco, I sigh, and resign myself to what I know will be a very limited choice of menus, unless I want to drive the 51 miles to Palm Springs or even further to Palm Desert. (Although, I have frequented the restaurant at the 29 Palms Inn for years, which is erratic, but mainly very good, though one does appreciate a change of scenery and entrees. Until now, it;s pretty much been the only game in town.)
But now there's GINO'S CAFE. Wow. What a refreshing and delicious surprise. The name "cafe" doesn't prepare you for what lies ahead. The dining room is not exactly formal in a stuffy way, but in a way that lets you know this is the real deal. It was quiet and intimate but really cozy. An adult experience, but its clear that kids are totally welcome. The staff was friendly, and accommodating.
I am an Italian chef myself after many years of practice, and I often try something I like to prepare and see how it measures up. Bruschetta for starters was the first clue that we were on to something great. Fresh tomatoes, dripping off the fresh bread, with just the right hints of basil and garlic. I had the penne arrabiata. Perfection. Al dente. Picante. Buonissima! My dining companion had the chicken piccata, lemony and beautifully presented. Chianti all around.
We stepped outside and chatted with the chef and owner, Fuedo, from Genoa, and tried to figure out how he landed in this dusty beige landscape. Really though, does it matter? I'm so glad he did. There's fresh fish, brought in from San Pedro regularly, which is also nice. We asked a lot of questions. For our next visit, of course. Don't miss it. Buon apetito.