Il Corso Brings the Best Italian Traditions to Palm Desert
Homemade pasta, a mix of local and imported ingredients, and family traditions in the Coachella Valley. Discover Il Corso Palm Desert and its young Italian chef, Claudio Marfia
Step into Il Corso, Palm Desert, and you might think that you’re still in LA. With its high, open- loft ceilings, woven basket lights, and glassed wine cellar, Il Corso has an urban vibe to it. Something you may not expect from a little town in the middle of the desert, right?
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Chef Claudio Marfia confirms this impression. “People want to step out of Palm Desert and feel like they are in Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago,” he says. Having worked in various upscale restaurants between Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and London, he knows a thing or two about the world of fine dining.
And yet, despite this cosmopolitan background, Il Corso remains achored to its roots. Italian roots.
Il Corso Palm Desert is the creature of Mario Marfia, Claudio’s father and owner of Tiramisu Ristorante Italiano, also in Palm Desert, and developer John Wessman. As the name suggests—corso is Italian for Main Street—the restaurant is located on El Paseo, Palm Desert’s most important street. As in any small town in Italy, this is where all the action happens: the trendiest stores, the most lively bars, and of course the busiest restaurants.
Il Corso Palm Desert: The story of an Italian family
To learn more about Il Corso Palm Desert, we sat down with Claudio Marfia, the young Italian chef who’s now in charge of the kitchen. With classic Ramazzotti songs playing in the background, and an espresso in front of us, he explained the history of his family and the restaurant (watch video here).
Raffaele: How come you moved back to Palm Desert?
Claudio: I was working at Cipriani in London, when I got a phone call from my father and a business partner. They wanted to open a restaurant here in Palm Desert and they asked me to move back. Eventually, I did. As you can imagine, it was quite a change of scene for me! But I am very happy and proud of what we did. We built Il Corso together from the scratch.
R: When did you decide you wanted to be a chef?
C: Because my father was a chef, I grew up in the kitchen. At the age of 18, I moved to Beverly Hills and I worked in many fine Italian restaurants: Ago, Il Fornaio, Pastaio…
For me, cooking was never a job. It was more like family time, something I would do with my dad after coming back home as a kid. Only later did it develope into my career and my life.
R: Do you feel attached to any specific regional cuisine?
C: Well, I was born in Montevarchi, a town near Arezzo, Tuscany, but I actually grew up in Palermo, Sicily. My father is from Palermo. So in term of cuisine I am more influenced by Sicilian cuisine.
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R: Where do you think you learned the most?
C: Probably my dad. I get ideas from other chefs, I always refer to my dad, and then I do what I think it’s best.
R: How do you source the ingredients at Il Corso Palm Desert?
We have a lot of local farms around here. Very good tomatoes. Obviously, we use a lot of those! Many products are imported from Italy, like truffles from Alba and porcini mushrooms. As many Italian products as we can. As for pasta, we make it in-house.
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R: What is the dish that you are the most proud of?
C: Actually I have a lot. Our Pollo Vesuvio is well marinated with rosemary, sage, thyme, Dijon mustarde, Worchestire Sauce. We cook it under the brick and finish it in the wood-burning oven. One of my favorite dishes – to eat and to make. Then all the pastas. We make tagliatelle, pappardelle, ravioli. Soon we’ll start making pici. I’ve enjoyed making pasta since I was a little kid. I would make it with my grandma.
R: How’s been your experience here in Palm Desert?
C: We have a pretty high-end clientele. Everything has to be perfect. Everything has to be spot on, or else… it simply wouldn’t work. They love anything traditional Italian. We don’t try to make things too complicated. We keep things simple and authentic.
Next time you’re in the Palm Springs area, make sure to visit Palm Desert and take a stroll on El Paseo. I am not saying it will feel like you’re in Italy, but it’s close enough considering that you’re in the middle of the Coachella Valley. And if you get hungry, Il Corso is there for you!
Il Corso Palm Desert
73520 El Paseo
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 341 6700
Photos by Raffaele Asquer and Didem Sairoglu. All rights reserved
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