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Culinary Tour of Italy

Il Corso in Palm Springs offers sophisticated dining with no pretense.

Kay Kudukis Current Digital, Restaurants

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The Cioppino Seafood is a mixed seafood soup with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, salmon, and lobster.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY IL CORSO PALM SPRINGS

“We wanted our look to be like a Tuscan, upscale farmhouse but with a Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York vibe,” says chef and owner Claudio Marfia.

#Nailedit.

In the dining room, imported Italian, natural stone walls; reclaimed farmhouse wood on the floors and entryway ceiling; made-to-order comfy red chairs, and red and white linens on wood tables. Overhead: shiny, oversized air ducts give the restaurant an industrial feel below the piano-wire taut, pattern of steel cables crisscrossing the high ceilings. It’s a remarkable effect.

The same design continues into the bar’s dining area, to your left, but the wood flooring has been replaced with tiles that catch and reflect the warmth of the crackling fireplace. The ambiance is enhanced by lighting that is not dark, and not bright. Like in the fairy tale, it is just right.


Il Corso Palm Springs

Upscale Italian in the heart of downtown Palm Springs. Il Corso takes you on a tour of Italy with dishes from Sicily to Venice. Full menu in the dining room; smaller portions in the bar, the restaurant features a pizza bar outside of the open kitchen.

Location

111 N. Palm Canyon Drive. Palm Springs, 760-656-3770; ilcorsocv.com

Prices

Ranging between $20 and $45 for large plates; small plates range from $5 for focaccia with olive oil to the higher priced pizzas at $19.

Recommended Dishes

Lasagna Emiliana; Picci Alla Carbonara; Spigola All’Isolana, and Scottadito D’Agnello.

The bar, tucked behind the host’s desk, seats approximately 15 and beyond that, more seating. In the back is an open kitchen with counter-seating in front of the pizza oven. The counter is an immersive experience and an opportunity for chef Marfia and his diners to get to know each other. If you’re good with letting go, Marfia would be thrilled to plan your entire meal for you. He lives for this stuff.

Marfia makes all of the bread, pasta, and pizza dough at another family restaurant, Trattoria Tiramisu.The kitchen has been expanded to include what they call “the lab” where all of the big gadgets and equipment live, including a gelato maker, which is his current favorite new toy. Both father (executive chef Mario Marfia) and son began their careers as pastry chefs, so be sure to leave room for dessert.

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The bar area has its own menu, smaller plates, and some mini versions of the main courses served in the dining room.

Sauces are made separately at each restaurant, and that’s because the Palm Desert Il Corso is all about Tuscany, while Chef Claudio’s Palm Springs version takes you on a culinary tour of Italy, each dish representative of a specific city or region (the menu tells you where), with regional wine pairings to complete the experience.

The dining room has a nice selection of fish, beef/veal, chicken and lamb that come with seasonal vegetables, and often roasted potatoes (no a la carte here) and general prices ranging between $20 and $45. The highest priced ticket item a whopping $90, however, it’s a 34-ounce Beef Fiorentina, serves two, and comes with seasonal veggies.

The daily specials always feature at least one pasta, one fish, and one meat dish with a few that quickly became fan favorites. Chef keeps them on a “secret menu” just for them. All of the dishes look and smell incredible, but – come on, man, they make their own pasta.

See related story: Check out our list of the desert’s oldest restaurants and why they remain popular.

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Pizza Gorgonzola e pere Pizza Romana Salmon tiradito Carpaccio di Manzo.

The bar side of the restaurant has its own menu, smaller plates, and some mini versions of the main courses served in the dining room, like osso bucco. Options are varied and plentiful with pizza being the priciest at about $18. If you want to add black truffles, that’s going to cost you.

Il Corso is a tasteful addition to the plaza outside the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel, and is located between H&M and Juniper Table on Tahquitz and Palm Canyon. The entire area is a vibrant scene with shopping, a Starbucks Reserve, and a courtyard where, if you’re lucky, you a classical guitar player will make the experience even more special.

Chef Claudio has plans for a happy hour. If you go, he’ll likely stop by your table to say hello, so you can give him your two cents, and in exchange, he’ll serve up a culinary experience you’re not likely to forget.

See related story: Claudio Marfia in the 40 Under Forty Class of 2018.

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