I just had a feeling about this restaurant, like I was being summoned by the pasta and pizza Gods to give it a whirl. I didn’t give up on my intuitive prowess, I called a few times and sent emails, but when I finally got one of the owners Ira on the phone, it was love at first sight. We just clicked and he gave me a much-welcomed phone conversation, so I knew what a great experience this would be from my phone call. Go Figure!
There is always one of my tastings that stand out for many reasons, this one is it!!
Ira Mosley and his partner Papa Dan, in crime, business and everything else that life has to offer is truly an amazing story in itself. Both Dan and Ira deal with the daily operations. They own a few other businesses nearby, beauty salon and beauty supplies. Even though Dan takes care of their salon and beauty supply, he is at the restaurant literally daily doing most of the back office things, like bills and payroll etc. Papa Dan’s Pizza & Pasta has been thriving since 1984. Ira hails from the Bronx, where he talked to me about his Jewish upbringing and some of his grandmother “Lena’s” recipes. She was an excellent baker and would make flanken, kugel, babka bread, as part of their daily diet, she also spoke fluent Russian. He loved her food and used that inspiration for many of Papa Dan’s recipes. Everyone knows that Jewish and Italian food and people are pretty similar.
They have been together for 38 years and they both came from different lives but managed to merge their lives and create many successful businesses here in Palm Desert. When Ira met Dan, he already had 3 children and began tallying up the grandchildren and then the great-grand children, so Ira gave Dan the privilege of being a stepfather and a step-grandfather, and even step-great-grandfather from his already existing family. But their family does not stop there. Their staff is family to them as well as anyone that walks into Papa Dan’s Pizza and Pasta. And really from the moment you walk in you feel like family, it’s just that kind of vibe. Fabian my server had been working at Papa Dan’s for the last 20 years, as well as the other server Giovanni had been there for the last 7 years. Ira told me that there are many regulars; I met one who was dining across from me when I was there, this gentleman comes in 4 times a week. Plus it is super cool to dine there on your own; they really pull out all of the stops to make any size party feel super comfortable.
Ira doesn’t ever want to change a good thing; he has been getting the same, cheeses, pasta, tomatoes, and other things from the same purveyors since they opened. But they do change the menu twice a year and add on seasonal items as well.
Here’s What I Tried:
Papa Dan’s Sampler – A wonderful combination of Calamari, Fried Shrimp, Mozzarella Sticks and Fried Ravioli, with a side of cocktail sauce and tomato sauce. Everything on this sampler is delicious, but I especially enjoyed the fried ravioli, crispy stuffed with oozing cheese.
Papa Dan’s Chopped with mixed greens, Salami, pepperoni, diced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, scallions, Parmesan cheese, tossed in their own house-made Italian vinaigrette dressing. A lovely rendition of this Italian staple, and the presentation is gorgeous as well.
Caesar Salad, with Fresh Romaine, Fresh Parmesan Cheese, Pepper, Croutons and Caesar Dressing. This salad is super fresh and crisp and the pepper croutons are like nothing else I have ever tried, just that good.
Pasta and Specialties:
Italian Pot Roast, a generous portion of Pot Roast, seasoned with Italian Spices and Marinara Sauce, topped with Mozzarella Cheese then baked. The roast melts in your mouth, this is what you would want to make every inch of you feel comforted.
Eggplant Parmigiani, layered with Tomato Sauce and Cheese, served with a side of Pasta. The eggplant is cut lengthwise which makes them meatier, and they are sliced super thin. I adore a good parmesan and this one did not disappoint.
Veal Marsala, with sautéed in Garlic, Mushrooms and Marsala Wine Sauce. This dish for me is all about the marriage of the Marsala wine sauce and the mushrooms, just got to have it.
Papa Dan’s, Pepperoni, Sausage, Mushrooms, Onions, Olives, Green Peppers and Extra Cheese.
BBQ Chicken Pizza, with Bullseye BBQ Sauce, Chicken, Cilantro, Mozzarella Cheese, & Crispy Fried Onions (New York Thin Crust).
They did their large pizza for me, half and half. The crust itself is worth a trip here, perhaps a destination dinner. Coming from anywhere it would be totally worth it!
Pesto Sauce, with Fresh Basil blended with Olive Oil, Cream, Garlic, and Pine Nuts & Parmesan Cheese. The cream adds such a delicious rich nuance, truly wonderful.
Alfredo Sauce Traditional, with Light Creamy Sauce with special blends of Parmesan and Romano Cheeses. I just love a good Alfredo, and this one is just fantastic, with these lovely fettuccine noodles it is soothing and comfort food at its best.
Seafood Scampi, with Orange Roughy, Calamari Steak, Scallops & Jumbo Prawns, sliced & sautéed in Garlic Butter, with fettuccini noodles. If you’re a seafood lover like I am then this dish is for you.
Orange Roughy, a Tender fillet, pan-seared until light and flaky, topped with Picatta, and Garlic Butter. The fish is super moist and flaky and the sauce was just simple and did not take away from the freshness of the fish.
Daily Specials – Wednesday – All enhanced by their specialty sauces. Chicken Picatta – sautéed in a Garlic, White Wine and Butter Sauce, topped with Capers. Served with Linguine. The combination of the egg breading, the butter and the garlic is just off the charts for me, I would order this every time.
Hombre Cake, I never tasted anything like this, a layer cake with each layer having different berry flavors, wow, amazing.
Lemoncello, with Lemon Infused Sponge Cake topped with Imported Mascarpone and White Chocolate Shavings. If you love anything sweet with lemons then this is the desert for you, personally my favorites sweets are with lemon, so I just loved this cake.
Chardonnay, Black Ridge, for sure pair this wine with the fried shrimps, and the salads.
Chardonnay Chateau Souverain, CA. A buttery, creamy Chardonnay, I loved this wine with The Seafood Scampi.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Canyon Road, this wine was bold and paired great with the Veal Marsala.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Black Ridge, a bit peppery, nice pairing with either pizza.
When you are consistently voted “Best Pizza in the Valley” that’s really saying something! When you walk through the door and catch the aroma of their simmering pasta sauce and mouth-watering pizza baking in the oven, you’ll understand why we are truly the best. Papa Dan’s sauces and pizza dough are made fresh daily so everything you order is a delicious masterpiece. You’ll feel relaxed and cozy within the old world, New York-style atmosphere, or outside on the misted patio that makes dining a pleasure even on the hottest days.
Ira sat down with me and my party to tell us about all of the dishes and had many super fun stories about his past and his life, he has had many personal obstacles but managed to be a huge optimist and create a mini-empire for him and Dan in Palm Desert. Ira knows most folks by name and he talks to all of his customers, he really wants people to feel comfortable. He also wants people to know that Papa Dan’s has a lot more to offer besides pizza. Ira says, “ Its is an all encompassing restaurant, we are sticking to all of the Covid guidelines to cleanliness and sanitizing.”
They have an outdoor patio with heat lamps that are partially covered, in the summer misters keep you cool, and is pet friendly, but is also just part of this wonderful experience, being outside under the stars, with gorgeous fall weather, just a perfect night.
There have been many celebrity sittings, Jerry Vale, Matt LeBlanc, ZZ Top, Phil Mickelson and a slew of others, but they are not bothered and left to enjoy their delicious meals.
From now on you will find me here when I am in town, it for sure will become my go-to restaurant in the desert.
Papa Dan’s Pizza and Pasta
73131 Country Club Dr.
Palm Desert, CA. 92260
Open 7 Days a week from 10am to 9pm. Lunch specials are available from 10 to 3pm daily. They deliver daily until closing.
* Note some content was taken off of their website.