When St. Louis–born brothers Michael and John Castelli moved to the desert three decades ago, they took a chance on a modest eatery on Highway 111 where they planned to share their favorite Old World Italian family recipes with guests.
Over the years, they’ve done much more than that. Castelli’s Ristorante has become an institution, a now 200-seat gathering spot catering to both longtime locals and visitors.
“Guests feel like part of the family when they come here,” says Michael Castelli, adding that evening entertainer Patrick Tuzzolino serenades from the piano with jazz standards or original compositions nightly. “People say it reminds you of a place in New York or Chicago. It just has that old-school feel.”
And then there’s the food. Some dishes — like the famous fettuccine Alfredo and osso bucco — have remained on the menu since the early days, but newer additions have become just as popular. They include the classic cioppino seafood stew, the 22-ounce charbroiled bone-in rib-eye with Gorgonzola, and the sherry-glazed, caramelized apple pork chops that began as a special.
Castelli’s can also customize your meal to perfezione, even accommodating gluten-free and vegan requests. It’s one of the reasons Zagat rated Castelli’s among America’s top 1,000 Italian restaurants, and Palm Springs Life readers voted it Best of the Best in Palm Desert. While the restaurant has gotten its share of celebrity customers over the years, everyone who comes through the door has become part of the Castelli’s story. “This restaurant really has changed lives in terms of memories, proposals, and anniversaries,” Castelli shares. “My brother and I really get a kick out of it.”
Photography by Kaminsky Productions