By Jackie Devereaux
LA QUINTA, CA – Dining out offers numerous choices for residents and visitors to the Coachella Valley. Which restaurant to choose? What cuisine? There are so many choices for hungry diners in every cuisine imaginable. One of the Valley’s newest five-star chefs, Ivan Flowers, exclusively shared with us where he goes to eat when he has a chance to break away from his kitchen at the Arnold Palmer’s Restaurant in La Quinta.
“A couple of weeks ago I had such a craving for Chicken Parmesan, I was desperate for it! I was on a quest to find some and I stumbled upon a really great place called Chapelli’s in La Quinta.
Chef Flowers tells a funny story about how he stumbled upon this particular restaurant. “It is close to the (Arnold Palmer’s) restaurant and right next to the Ralph’s where my wife, Trixie, shops. From the outside, it is very non-descript – just a small patio and a sign. I mean, really, it is situated between a hair salon and a supermarket in a strip mall. One day, my wife decided to poke her head in and she came home and said, ‘We have to eat at that little place. It is really different inside and when you walk in, you smell garlic!” She had me at garlic.”
“My wife was right, but then she usually is. It is very different inside. Chapelli’s is a good case for ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ When you first walk in, there is a wall and yes, the wonderful aroma of garlic hits you immediately. Then you come around that wall and it is as if you have stepped into a gorgeous Italian Trattoria.
We were greeted right away and picked a table in a quiet corner. Chapelli’s reminds me of the little tuck away joints I used to frequent in New York – small, intimate places that everybody in the neighborhood frequented.
“Before I tell you what we ate, I must comment on their bread service. It is fabulous. As soon as we sat down, hot bread, butter and a small plate of charcuterie was presented. The bread had a nice chewy crust and the butter was soft and easy to spread. A pet peeve of mine is when a restaurant serves ice cold butter with bread. Room temperature butter tells me that there is attention to detail. The charcuterie plate had salami, prosciutto and shaved Parmesan. Trixie is all about the bread and was in heaven.
“My wife and I started with the Caprese Flatbread. It had ripe fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil and shaved Parmesan. The crust was a little thicker than most flatbreads I have eaten, but it had a nice chew and flavor. The shaved Parmesan was a nice touch because it lent a little saltiness to the creamy fresh mozzarella. The basil was vibrant and fresh. A really nice touch is that they bring out cruets of really good olive oil and balsamic vinegar to drizzle on the flatbread. We both did and I must say, if you do order this, to try it. The fruity olive oil and the acidic balsamic work on the flatbread to create a very nice flavor profile. My wife was giddy when they brought it and also used it on her bread.
“For our entrees, I had, I am sure you can guess, the Chicken Parmigiana and Trixie had the Angel Hair Pomodoro (one of her favorites). Both of our entrees came with our choice of soup or house salad and bread pudding. We both wanted the salad and ordered it with creamy Italian dressing. It was a very nice little salad. Crisp, chilled lettuce, nice amount of vegetables and just the right amount of dressing. We both ate every bit of it. Then, the moment I had been waiting for, the Chicken Parmigiana. The dish had two nice sized pieces of perfectly cooked chicken. Breaded, fried and topped with marinara sauce and cheese. It is served with a side of linguini with the same red sauce. This dish is prepared in the way I remember eating it growing up in New York: Simply great chicken, sauce and cheese. Every bite reminded me of home. The linguine was perfectly al dente and went nicely with the chicken. I must note here, that they have little bowls of freshly grated Parmesan on every table. For cheese lovers like my wife and I, this goes a long way. I think between the flatbread, our salads and our entrees, we just about used the entire bowl. Trixie loved her Angel Hair Pomodoro. With angel hair pasta, there is always the chance that it can become overcooked or served stuck together in one big lump. Not here, al dente, with the skinny strands of pasta beautifully separate in the dish. Pomodoro sauce, as a rule, is very light and simple, just tomatoes, olive oil, basil and garlic. My wife took one bite of her dish and said, “You have to try this!” That always means it is very good. And it was, I sometimes find Pomodoro sauces unseasoned, but this had a nice salty finish.
“They have a full bar as well as a nice wine list. Both my wife and I had a glass of the Edmeades Zinfandel with nice forward fruit and a balanced finish. It was a perfect complement to our meal. It had enough fruit and body to stand up to the tomato based sauces without overwhelming them.
“The bread pudding was a nice sweet finish to the meal. I must say a word about the service. It was