Open for Business, Again

The new Shareables menu features more than 20 items for diners looking for small-plate offerings.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY ACQUA CALIFORNIA BISTRO

Acqua California Bistro couldn’t have timed its reopening any better at The River in Rancho Mirage. Just a little over a week since its doors opened July 7 after being closed for 15 months due to the pandemic, the restaurant is receiving an additional boost by the Taste of Rancho Mirage, which began July 15 and runs for a month.

With the purchase of a Taste of Rancho Mirage wristband, restaurant guests who bring the wristband with them can enjoy a featured cocktail at Acqua California Bistro for $5 (regularly $7.99) when purchasing any item on the new Pazza Shareables menu, which is available to order from after 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and after 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. There are more Taste of Rancho Mirage specials available at 20 participating restaurants.

Developed while the restaurant was closed by owner Jerry Keller, the Shareables menu offers more than 25 small-dish items for diners who may not want the full-plate offerings from the regular menu, “like chicken tacos, carne asada tacos, gourmet onion rings, along with chicken or carne asada nachos. There are also some new St. Louis Ribs on the menu that are really good and delicious,” says Chris Bluhm, beverage manager for Acqua California Bistro and its sister restaurant, Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs.

New seating areas and furnishings are part of Pazza Terrace.

The menu will be a focal point of the new Pazza Terrace located outside the restaurant’s main entrance. The patio vibe lends itself to customers stopping by for quick bites as they catch a movie at the nearby theater or a stop while shopping to “have an appetizer that you can share like family style,” Bluhm says.

The terrace has been spruced up with “comfortable lounge style seating and some highboys,” Bluhm says. “When the weather gets cooler we are going to add a fire pit out there as well. We also added some exterior lighting, some trees, and beautiful patio furniture. Our guests can really enjoy the beautiful view at The River that we have of the mountains.

Bluhm notes guests can still enjoy many of the menu mainstays that they have come to know, including “meatloaf, chicken piccata, osso bucco and some of the other favorite appetizers like our Lulu big chips. Also that wonderful and delicious Cotton Candy that we serve as dessert.”

One of the last restaurants to open in the desert, Bluhm says a key to surviving months of closure was the Rancho Mirage’s Great Plates program, which delivered three hot meals daily to shut-in senior citizens and other residents at risk of catching the coronavirus. The program ended July 9.

Diners will find man of their favorite dishes are back at Acqua California Bistro.

“Luckily, we were able to work with the city of Rancho Mirage on their wonderful program,” Bluhm says. “We contributed to that program that definitely helped to keep some of our staff employed during the shutdown.”

“It is amazing to be back open, finally,” adds Bluhm, “and serve the residents in the city of Rancho Mirage and the rest of the surrounding Coachella Valley.”

•  •  •

Palm Springs Life spoke with Katie Stice, CEO of the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce, about how the Taste of Rancho Mirage works.

How many years has this event taken place?

This is the 6th annual Taste of Summer Rancho Mirage. Last year, because of the pandemic, we pushed ahead with a “take-out” version of the month long food-fest. Fortunately, this year we are getting back to normal with the event and the participation shows it.

What prompted it to start and what have been the keys to its success?

Taste of Summer Rancho Mirage began as many great chamber events do – a group of local business owners coming together to create something fun that benefits our community. The concept is unique, never before have nonprofits been able to fundraise through a chamber event like this. The other reason why it works so well is that we send people directly into the restaurants. This event takes place over one month and gets guests into seats at a time when restaurants might be slower.

The pandemic was a trying time for restaurants. Rancho Mirage was no exception. What does holding this event mean for the restaurants that are participating?

Small businesses are the heartbeat of America. Anything that chambers can do to help businesses with giving them support, in marketing and shop/dine local messaging is going to aid in recovery for our businesses and nonprofit organizations. The comeback of our very own special community is reliant on everyone working together.

What can people expect who buy a wristband and participate in the event?

Residents, visitors and anyone who wants to support local businesses and our non profits can purchase the $10 wristbands at the event website – charities are also listed here, which are selling the wristbands and they can be contacted directly for the transaction. So far, there is $10,000 in wristbands with our charities.

• READ NEXT: Where to Enjoy Late-Nite Bites on El Paseo in Palm Desert.

Open for Business, Again at Palm Springs Life –

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