Il Corso Creates Authentic Italian Experience in Taste, Look

Executive Chef Mario Marfia imports many products from Italy

Il Corso Executive Chef Mario Marfia shows several cuts of premium gragnano pasta spread on drying racks.

Photo by Pamela Bieri


There is nothing to hide at Il Corso.

Even the restaurant’s name in Italian means the same as El Paseo in Spanish – or the Main Street.

This beautifully wrought, intricately imagined restaurant belongs on El Paseo - one of the most populated streets in the Coachella Valley.

Walk in and you’re initially struck by the high open loft ceilings, woven basket lights, and natural elements of recycled imported Italian stone, 100-year-old wood flooring - sourced from an old Italian farmhouse - plus tile, slate and marble.

In the kitchen, Executive Chef Mario Marfia brings an incredibly layered, authentic experience to Palm Desert’s newest restaurant. Marfia is also co-owner with Desert developer John Wessman.

Open seven months, Il Corso has drawn exceptional reviews for cuisine that offers wood-fired thin crust Roman-style pizzas, lunch time favorites of panini and innovative salads, appetizers such as Pomodoro y Burrata, and Mediterranean-inspired dinner entrees of seafood, shrimp, homemade meatballs, lamb, filets, chicken, imported pastas from Italy, and more.

“About 75 percent of our products are imported from Italy,” says Marfia. “Italian shrimp from the Mediterranean, Branzino fish, truffles, imported gragnano pasta, and pure extra virgin Italian olive oil.”

Marfia also owns Tiramisu, a small neighborhood restaurant in Palm Desert’s Palms to Pines center, and he has spent the past nine years going back and forth between California and Italy. His sojourns continually connect the two with innovation and authenticity.

At a recent visit, Marfia proudly showed several cuts of the premium gragnano pasta spread on drying racks, readying for the day’s lunch and dinner dishes.

He demonstrated two of his best sellers, sautéed Spanish langostino with tomatoes over tagliolini, and a grilled whole Branzino (pictured below) with fingerling potatoes, tomatoes and Kalamata olives in olive oil. He also created a focaccia pizza bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, garlic and shaved Parmesan cheese, and Di Stefano Burrata with heirloom tomatoes.

“Some of the dishes, like Branzino and sole, are fileted tableside,” says Beverage Manager Mimmo Di Biasi. “And what’s not on the menu, the chef can make.”

Marfia also bakes his own focaccia and ciabatta breads in different shapes, Italian cookies such as chocolate hazelnut and lemon vanilla, and almond biscotti for both restaurants, come from Il Corso’s brick oven.

A corner glassed floor-to-ceiling wine cellar holds more than 300 bottles of wines, says Di Biasi. “Wines are from California, Italy, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand – all over the world.”

One side of the restaurant is devoted to the bar and lounge area where happy hour starts from noon to close. The other side is the large main dining room and small private room closed off by a reclaimed wood sliding “barn door.” The bar’s colorful and illuminated glass wall of bottles separates the lounge and dining room.

At the rear of the restaurant is “Il forno,” the kitchen and pizza oven where a long marble counter serves customers wanting to sit and watch the chefs and pizziolas at work. A sidewalk patio overlooking El Paseo is accessed through large glass doors from the main dining room.

Il Corso, 73520 El Paseo, Palm Desert, (760) 341-6700

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VIDEO: Watch as Executive Chef Mario Marfia prepares some authetic dishes.

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