Misters gently kept everyone dining in the patio area cool as they glistened a slight rainbow in the 100degree afternoon sun. We’re at Alicante in Palm Springs at a bustling section of Canyon Boulevard, about to sit down to an assortment of tapas and some main entrees. With the Palm Springs follies right down the street, with so much foot traffic here, there is never a shortage of customers.
The interior has a warm bright décor with local artists prints on the walls. The room is open and expansive with a nice big bar on one end.
Mindy is the owner and opened this restaurant four years ago because she said there was no good Italian food in town. She is originally from Michigan and looks very young. She attributes that to Oil of Olay and no sun. Alicante has a sister restaurant, Zin, which Mindy opened nine years ago. At that time she was dating one of the chefs Nicholas, who she calls her husband, when the space that Alicante sits on now became available. So when Nicholas and Mindy needed to raise the money to open, her 21-year-old son was able to pony up 12 thousand dollars to be part owner. Nice right! That was four years ago. In fact, they recently celebrated Alicante’s four-year anniversary. The menu they decided on was a compromise of Italian and Mediterranean. Tradgedy struck however when Nicholas was diagnosed with cancer, that was on a Monday, he died that Friday. Alicante is a fine tribute to Nicholas, with it’s great food and atmosphere, he’s got to be smiling down on all the customers. After this, Mindy threw herself into her work at Alicante guided by Nicholas sage advise “Buy the best products and don’t fuck it up”. She buys local produce sticking to the farm to table philosophy and it shows in the food. Fresh and wonderful, nothing overdone, the flavors perfectly matched.
Here’s what I tried:
Grilled Baby Octopus Salad, with cherry tomato, cucumber, red onion, mustard pesto vinaigrette. Part of the tapas menu. Nicely appointed, very fresh and the octopus are cooked tender.
Lentejas con Naranjas • Lentil Salad with oranges, walnuts, and goat cheese, cilantro with vinaigrette. Part of the tapas menu this is a very different version of how lentils are usually prepared.
Serrano Ham Wrapped Zucchini and Roasted Garlic, part of the tapas menu a little too salty for my tastes, but maybe someone else would not feel the same way.
Chickpeas and Mediterranean Chicken Sausage also part of the tapas menu. This is a very filling dish, lots of good mixed flavors.
Sautéed Spicy Lime Drizzled Shrimp, part of the tapas menu, I really liked this one, but I always love shrimp.
Fettuccine Bolognese, Veal, beef tomatoes, roasted garlic, oregano, basil, Grana Padano. The very large carrots cubes make this an interesting sauce.
One Veal and Ricotta Meatball, spaghetti, tomato, Reggiano. The meatball has very concentrated flavors; you really don’t need to have another one. The sauce and pasta is also very satisfying.
Spicy Italian Pizza, Spicy Italian Sausahfge, Roasted peppers, red onions,mozerella,garlic, chiles. This is a very thin crust pizza, really nicely cooked, and lot of rich Italian pizza flavor.
Zarzuela de Marico’s (Spanish Seafood Stew). Chef’s choice of fresh fish, mussels and clams in a tomato, fennel, saffron broth. Spicy but savory, so fresh and light, by far one of their special menu items.
Prime Hangar Steak, garlic butter, haricots vert, and fingerlings. I really liked this dish, the steak is medium rare and it is packed with lots of enormous flavors.
Mindy’s Mascarpone Cheese Cake with 25-year-old Balsamic vinegar infused with berries. This desert really hits a home run with me, so smooth, so rich; the Balsamic is the extra good bonus.
Here are the wines that I tried:
Chardonnay, Alias. This wine worked perfectly with the Grilled Baby Octopus Salad, just enough fruit to balance out the light mustard pesto vinaigrette.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Sean Minor, Paso Robles, this is a very earthy wine, you can taste the terroir, it went great with the Hanger steak, adding to the nice meaty flavors.
Chardonnay, Clos Pegase, Mitsuko’s Vineyard Estate, Carneros. This was my favorite Chardonnay of the evening; it paired well with the Seafood stew. Just the right amount of buttery, vanilla essence to match all the lovely shellfish flavors.
Chardonnay, Melville, Estate, Vernas, Santa Barbara, with Sautéed Spicy Lime Drizzled Shrimp, it was the best way to taste the true lime and garlic in the shrimp.
Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo, Valle Real, Abruzzo DOC, this wine complemented the pizza in a big way; it picked up on the Italian sausage, really terrific.
Pinot Noir, Millworks, Sonoma Coast, worked very well with Veal Meatball, the Bolognese sauce as well.
With so many restaurants right down the street from each other, Alicante has plenty of completion. What Alicante offers is very reasonable priced fare with lots of full-bodied Mediterranean influences. Tapas are usually small plates but here at Alicante they are larger then most and very satisfying.
Palm Springs is not in my immediate backyard, but next time I am planning a trip to bask in the sun in the wonderful desert, I will include Alicante in my dining choices. It is absolutely worth the trip!
140 South Palm Canyon Drive
(Next to the Historic Plaza Theatre)
Note: Written by guest communist Steve Fasanella