acqua california bistro

Acqua California Bistro Arrives at The River

Barbara and Jerry Keller have returned to Rancho Mirage with an expanded restaurant featuring a tried-and-true menu crafted at Lulu’s.

Erin Peters Restaurants

acqua california bistro
Tony and Karen Barone’s “Forks on their Way to Nirvana” grace the façade of Acqua California Bistro along Highway 111.

This is the only place in the Coachella Valley you’ll be able to dine on the water with colorful, flying forks.

The feel is “very Luluesque,” says John Shay, vice president of operations at Lulu and Acqua California Bistros. “The menu that migrated to Lulu’s was the original Acqua Pazza menu. And now, the menu here is identical to the Lulu menu, so it’s a little bit of a homecoming for most people.”

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Creators Jerry and Barbara Keller are making their second foray at The River with Acqua California Bistro after opening Acqua Pazza more than 10 years ago. Acqua Pazza closed in 2015.

As you walk toward the new Acqua California Bistro, you’ll notice the Barone sculptures. Tony and Karen Barone’s “Forks on their Way to Nirvana” grace the façade of Acqua along Highway 111. Playful artwork with splashy colors continues once you head inside as “Love & Peace M” by Curry Mendes greets guests in the foyer.



Papa’s Wall refers to Marvin Cohn, the father of Barbara Keller. At 105, Cohn still paints and creates two new ones a week.

A plethora of paintings follow on many of the walls courtesy of 105-year-old Marvin Cohn. Cohn, a Rancho Mirage resident, is the father of Acqua and Lulu co-founder Barbara Keller and has been painting since the 1950s.

His style reflects modernism and Cubist periods with nods to Matisse and Picasso mixed in with contemporary personalities from the upcoming Comic Con Palm Springs. And he’s not slowing down anytime soon. Cohn is currently creating two paintings every week.

Acqua Bistro includes a new addition called the “River Room.” This additional dining area also serves as a great space for parties and events. They’ve expanded the patio and took out the trellises. The result is more seats for restaurant-goers and a better view of the The River and Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains.



The “River Room” expands the dining capabilities, especially during the season when the glass doors can be rolled back to reveal perfect mountain views.

Beyond aesthetics, the restaurant has added to its arsenal with the renewal of a second kitchen where culinary technology saves time and conjures up delicious meals. This includes several pages in the menu for vegetarian and gluten-free options.

“We’re able to yield two or three more slices per rib,” said Shay, “because there’s less shrinkage, and it’s a higher quality.”



A new second kitchen (in the background) offers greater serving opportunities in a timely manner.

“We’re thrilled to be returning to Rancho Mirage,” said Jerry Keller, creator of Acqua and Lulu California Bistro. “Time and again over the past three years, our loyal guests have been asking Barbara and me to return to Rancho Mirage, and the Keller family is so happy to be back with this new restaurant and an amazing menu.”

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Shay said they hope to serve an additional 200 people compared to the old Acqua Pazza, putting them close to over 500 seats total.

“I think people were waiting for us to come back. I think people are happy that we’re back, and I think this is just an updated version of what people used to love about this place,” Shay said.

Acqua California Bistro, 71700 Highway 111, The River, Rancho Mirage; 760-862-9800;