An American Bistro - Let Cello’s Surprise You
By Ellen Paris
Everything about Cello's is a surprise. Step into the main dining room and the adjoining intimate bistro and prepare to be delightfully surprised. Cello’s owners, Tom Steferak and Bonnie Barkley, have created a special dining experience in a surprising location: a small shopping center at Gerald Ford and Date Palm Drive in Cathedral City.
This husband-and-wife team serves fresh specialties like crab Napoleon, braised short ribs, and liver and onions. All dishes have a distinctive twist including Cello’s signature entrée: chicken caprese. Cello’s is a lively, warm, urban eatery where diners chat table to table. The dining vibe at Cello’s is like going to a friend’s dinner party.
Cello’s was “accidentally” launched when Bonnie hosted a dinner party for 85 friends at home. The next day, friends started asking her to cater their parties. In 2009, the couple rented a former pizzeria, where the bar and bistro now are, for the kitchen for Bonnie’s catering business. Six months later, Cello’s opened. Bonnie still does a brisk catering business and is booked months ahead for holiday parties. “I always loved to cook and entertain,” says Bonnie, a former insurance industry executive. “I am the only person who is surprised that owning a restaurant is what I’d be doing in my retirement.”
Cello’s name comes from Tom’s interest and expertise in making his homemade limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in Southern Italy. Tom holds limoncello classes and a variety of menu and drink items feature limoncello.
Cello’s is the only valley restaurant featuring a chef’s table, serving a seven-course chef’s choice-themed dining adventure. The chef’s table seats eight in the main dining room. Bonnie and Executive Chef Herb Parrott create the chef’s table innovative menus. Past dinner themes ranged from chocolate to citrus for all courses. The chef’s table is often reserved for eight though reservations are accepted for one or two guests. When Bonnie has eight reservations, she arranges a dinner.
Cello’s is open seven nights a week from 5 p.m. Cello’s reopens for the season September 20.
Price Range: $$$
Cello’s creative owners, Bonnie Barkley and husband Tom Steferak (standing) are joined by their culinary team: Executive Chef Herb Parrott and Sous Chef Jeff rey Silberberg.
Among Cello’s lemony delights are (clockwise, from bottom) the signature dish, chicken caprese, lightly breaded chicken breast topped with fresh mozzarella, tear drop tomatoes, fresh basil, and lemon oil; the house-made limoncello tiramisú, a luscious dessert of mascarpone cheese, lady fingers, and Limoncello; Cello Drop The House signature martini made with limoncello and premium signature citrus vodka; and antipasto for two, shown here with Manchego and Humboldt Fog cheeses, roasted red tomato chutney, herbes de provence dry salami, and marinated artichokes.
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