La Bella Cucina Trattoria Builds Menu From Scratch

Chef Tony Riccio and wife Elena bring recipes alive from the Old Country



Chef Tony Riccio was born in the Bronix, but grew up in Palm Springs. He opened La Bella Cucina in 1995.

courtesy of La Bella Cucina Trattoria

You couldn’t ask for a more straightforward and simple cooking philosophy: “Nothing is previously frozen. Nothing comes from a can. Nothing comes from a jar.”

At La Bella Cucina Trattoria in Palm Desert, they really do take homemade to new heights.

“I make fresh bread and pizza dough every day and do everything in house,” says chef and owner, Tony Riccio.

“Everything I make is from scratch — all of my dressings and all of my sauces,” he adds. “When it comes to Italian food, sauces are key and that’s what we focus on. And we cure our own olives and do cured olive oils for the tables.”

The bolognese and vodka sauces are two of the restaurant’s most popular, and every pasta dish comes with your choice of penne, rigatoni, spaghettini, linguini, or angel hair.

“All of our recipes come from family,” says Riccio.

And those recipes have a rich heritage. Riccio’s family is from Benevento outside of Naples — his father was born in Italy and later moved to New York City — and his wife Elena’s family is from Taranto in the southern part of the country.

Although Riccio was born in the Bronx, his family moved to Palm Springs in 1976. He started his culinary apprenticeship under his uncle Tony Riccio and worked at Riccio’s in North Palm Springs. He opened La Bella Cucina in 1995.

In addition to the restaurant’s extensive menu, there’s a deli case up front where you can purchase antipastos, meats, and cheeses, and Riccio also does catering.

On the radar for many diners is La Bella Cucina’s salads. There’s the ever-popular Caesar, but Riccio says a lot of people also order the Mediterranean Insalata — baby greens with chopped red onions, olives, cucumbers, tomato, and feta cheese — and his traditional antipasto platter brimming with meats and cheeses from the deli case.

And if you’re in the mood for seafood, you’ve come to the right place. Riccio says one of their most requested dishes is the Pescatori, which has fresh baby clams, black mussels, shrimp, calamari and a piece of fish, all sautéed in their natural juices and marinara sauce.

“It’s more of a brothy sauce, more bouillabaisse style than a chunky tomato one,” says Riccio.

The restaurant also has a number of gluten-free pastas, including organic rigatoni and penne from Italy.

“Basically,” says Riccio, “we have something for everybody.”

That way they can keep everyone happy while also keeping things straightforward and simple.

La Bella Cucina Trattoria, 72355 Highway 111, # C, Palm Desert, (760) 836-3280

Add your comment:
Desert Guide

Related Articles

Hyatt Palm Springs Changes Name, Reaffirms Community Roots

A downtown Palm Springs fixture since 1990, Hyatt has reaffirmed its community roots and changed its name from Hyatt Regency Suites to Hyatt Palm Springs.

10 Things To Do in Palm Springs Area This Weekend

Palm Springs Life helps plan out your weekend in Palm Springs and the desert resort cities with concerts, events, restaurants, nightlife, clubs and the world of entertainment only found in the desert.

Tachevah 2014: Yip Yops, CIVX, One11, CLASSIXX

In a celebration of a growing local music scene, the second annual Tachevah: A Palm Springs Block Party debuted three Coachella Valley bands April 16.

Explore Palm Springs: 1969 Pop Festival

The Palm Springs Pop Festival held in April 1969 resulted in crowd issues, a death of a 16-year-old boy and a stop to outdoor concert permits being issued.

Tinto Palm Springs Chef Dazzles with 'Dinner in the Garden'

Chef Jose Garces, who owns Tinto at the Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs, returned to dazzle with his second annual Dinner in the Garden.

Promotions + Contests