CVIndependent

Fri06052020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

It was less than a week before the best tennis players in the world were to gather for the start of the 2020 BNP Paribas Open on Monday, March 9. I’d connected with Sheri Pierattoni, owner of Piero’s PizzaVino in Palm Desert, to hear about the challenges she and her team faced as they prepared, for the seventh year, to operate a satellite restaurant at Indian Wells Tennis Garden—alongside world-famous eateries like Spago’s and Nobu.

“People come from all over the world to watch this tennis tournament,” Pierattoni me excitedly. “It’s one of the biggest events in tennis in the world—and it’s a beautiful place with the best dining options anywhere. It’s what sets this event apart from all others. (Tourney owner Larry Ellison) has brought a ton of money into this valley, and everybody is grateful to him for that. A lot of local businesses are sustained by this event.”

Then came the pandemic, and the cancellation of the tournament on the eve of its start.

Pierattoni was stunned.

“At 7 p.m. (on Sunday, March 8), I got a call from Jeff Dunn,” the director of operations for Levy Restaurants at Indian Wells Tennis Garden, “to say they cancelled it. It was devastating—pretty devastating,” Pierattoni told me during a subsequent chat.

How did she handle this terrible turn of events? “Well, you go into shock,” Pierattoni said. “But I had planned a fun night for friends and neighbors to come over, and—because it was kind of a cool night, and I have a fire pit at my house—we drank nice wine and ate s’mores. We sat around talking about (the cancellation), and there was a collective agreement that this (coronavirus threat) is blown way out of proportion. So why everybody is panicking so much is just crazy. But that’s what people do. It’s going to cost the desert economy millions and millions and millions of dollars.”

According to a variety of sources, the cost to the local economy of the tennis-tournament cancellation alone could be more than $300 million. With the cancellation or postponement of Coachella, Stagecoach and all of the other festivals and events, the financial pain in our communities will be devastating. Local governments will lose significant taxes and fees, and small businesses like restaurants, taxi companies, ride-share vendors, local entertainment venues and personal-service providers will feel the devastation, too.

“The desert business owners make the bulk of their money in just four months out of the year,” Pierattoni said. “Then you have the shoulder season where you won’t lose money, and you might make a little money. But now is when you make the big money, and that’s what carries you through the summer. Now, with PizzaVino, I’m very lucky, because we have a great local following, so we don’t lose money in the summer. We don’t make money, but we don’t lose money. We’re going to be OK.”

Since the postponement, the Piero’s PizzaVino team has been focused on recovery and damage control.

“We can’t just turn the key and walk away,” Pierattoni said. “We’re in the process of getting all of our wine vendors out there. They’ve all been extremely gracious in this situation, and they’re taking back our wine and liquor. And the BNP has said that we can use the restaurant to store our frozen and refrigerated goods as long as we need to. We’ll assimilate gradually what (frozen-food items) we can use at our El Paseo restaurant. Also, we’ve been calling some of our friendly restaurateurs to see if they want to purchase some of the perishables from us, just to help out and cut down on the loss we could have.

“It’s been amazing how many people have come out of nowhere to give us support. And that part of it has been beautiful, just beautiful. People ask if I need help, and what they can do. These are restaurateurs and fellow valley people in general doing this.”

As of our post-cancellation chat, Pierattoni had not heard much from BNP Paribas Open staffers regarding any help they may provide to the disenfranchised vendors.

“It’s too early for them,” she said. “Look, they’re still licking their wounds, too. Trust me: They’re still in their decision-making process. When I got the phone call, they said I should send them an email with all my questions, and they’d get back to me as soon as they can.

“Everybody is overwhelmed, and honestly, everybody is still trying to wrap their heads around this and unwind, and hopefully, they’re thinking about how to make it right. Personally, I can’t imagine that we’re all going to take this hit. Maybe we won’t be reimbursed for everything we’ve lost, but hopefully something.

“My biggest heartache in all of this is the money that my employees are going to lose. They count on this money. It helps get them through their summer. We had people who came from outside the state and had taken time away from their regular employment to come here and work the tennis weeks. They do that because they love working for us; they love the tennis tournament, and they know they make good money. So, it’s worth it to them. Now they have to go home, and they won’t have their job until they get back on the schedule, because their position has been filled (temporarily). So I’m really hoping that there’s some compensation for my employees.”

Pierattoni emphasized that it’s her employees—her team, as she calls them—who have made this annual opportunity a reality for the local favorite.

“I’d like to emphasize that it’s a huge team effort,” she said. “I couldn’t do it without my staff, and I have an incredible staff. Here’s an example: Last year, we lost one of our main cooks who comes in (from out of town) just to work this event. He couldn’t make it because his daughter became seriously ill. But it was amazing that, within 24 hours, we had a solution, because the rest of the staff just pulled together and said, ‘We’re going to make it happen.’

“I don’t want to be cocky, but we’re in a class of our own,” Pierattoni added. “You know that we were the only all-girl team out there. We’re a mother-daughter team, and I did take a lot of satisfaction and pride from that.”

Pierattoni’s daughter, Lea Tubberville, is an integral part of the family business operations. Her husband, Piero, passed away less than two years ago.

“I run my restaurant with heart,” she said. “Even though I think we run a great business, the people I hire have heart, and everybody who works (with us) loves it.”

Before the tournament’s cancellation, Pierattoni expressed joy about her restaurant’s participation in the BNP Paribas Open.

“We serve like 10,000 people in the two weeks. It’s nuts!” Pierattoni said. “There’s a vibe out there that’s contagious. It’s exciting. It’s like being in a circus tent. I’ve never put on a circus, but I bet it’s kind of like the same thing, where everybody’s working together to make the show happen. I feel very honored and proud that we can be a part of it. We make good money out there, and not all places do. I think (the tournament) is happy to partner with us, and we’re happy to make it happen.”

Here’s hoping Pierattoni and her team are allowed to make it happen again next year.

Published in Local Issues

What’s that, you say? You love rosé? Well, if you live in the sunny Coachella Valley, you’re in luck!

While people in a large portion of the country are preparing for a frigid future—planning to spend part of their Labor Day weekend digging out the plastic bins that house their parkas and fleece underwear—here in the valley of eternal summer, we have another two months of scorching heat. While that thought is enough to bring grown men to tears, I choose to celebrate this fact with more rosé—yes, the little pink wine that was once the recipient of scornful glances, side-eye stares and snickers from fellow restaurant patrons is now having its proverbial day in the sun.

Considering all of this newfound fame, I started wondering whether people actually know what rosé is. This question was answered, in part, when I watched the recently released Vogue video interview with Drew Barrymore, self-proclaimed winemaker. If a “wine-expert” like Drew thinks that rosé is made by peeling the skins off the grapes early, then the answer is a resounding “no.” (Seriously, watch the video. It’s both horrifying and hilarious.) Given that it takes an average of 600 grapes to make one bottle of wine, the price of a bottle of Drew’s rosé with its peeled grapes would probably cost around $5,000. Instead, this delicious summertime wine is usually cheap and cheerful.

So why are some rosés more expensive than others? Why do they vary in color? What makes a pink wine sweet? Now that our desert markets and restaurants are offering so many different options, things can get a little confusing. Let me break it down for you.

Rosé can be made from any red grape, and while the process can differ slightly depending on the producer, the idea is the same: It is red wine that is taken away from its skins after mere hours of fermentation. Skin is what gives a wine its color; therefore, less skin equals less color. (OK, Drew, your comment was half right.) If these rosés were left in the tank, they would soon become red wines—big, bold, slap-you-silly, macho reds. In fact, in an attempt to give you a bigger, punch-you-in-the-face red wine, some winemakers will “bleed” off some juice from the fermentation tank in the first few hours to increase the ratio of skin to juice for a more concentrated final outcome for the reds—with rosé the wonderful byproduct. Waste not, want not … am I right?!

Because it can be made using any red grape you’d like, you’ll see rosés spanning the color wheel: from pale salmon-colored options, probably made from grenache or pinot noir, to cranberry and pomegranate colors, stemming from malbec or syrah. However, don’t be too quick to judge a bottle by its color: The wine’s hue isn’t going to have any bearing on the sweetness, acidity or alcohol content. Nowadays, most any bottle of rosé you pick up will be a dry, delicious, delight. That said, if you’re worried about buying the “wrong” rosé, my only advice is to steer clear of the word “blush” or any pink wine that comes in a box or 5-gallon jug. (Although that stereotype is changing now, too.)

If you’re looking to drop a pretty penny on a fancy-pants bottle, there are several regions, like Bandol and Tavel in the south of France, where rosé is taken very seriously and produced with the same amount of care and passion as some top-dollar reds and whites. They’re definitely worth a splurge every now and then.

So what about white zin—that sweet beverage reserved for prom-night motel rooms and the wine-confused can’t possibly be the same thing as my delicious bottle of Domaine Tempier, right? Well, yes and no. Just to be clear: white zinfandel isn’t a grape. It, too, is a pink wine made from red zinfandel grapes, but stylistically and historically meant to be sweet. It was really just an “oops” moment at Sutter Home in the ’70s that turned into one of the most profitable accidents the winemaking industry has ever seen.

Still not sure this pink drink is your thing? Do yourself a favor, and grab a seat at one of the valley’s wine bars, and give one a swirl. A few hot spots like Dead or Alive in Palm Springs, Cork and Fork in La Quinta, and Piero’s PizzaVino in Palm Desert offer a handful of different options by the glass from regions like Washington, Austria, Provence, Tuscana and Santa Barbara, just to name a few.  

And if you need one more reason to keep drinking this sunshine in a bottle just remember: It’s socially acceptable to drink rosé for breakfast.

Katie Finn is a certified sommelier and certified specialist of wine with more than 15 years in the wine industry. She is a member of the Society of Wine Educators and is currently studying with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. When she's not hitting the books, you can find her hosting private wine tastings and exploring the desert with her husband and two children. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Wine

Best Tearjerker

Dezart Performs’ Production of The Outgoing Tide

I went to see the final performance of The Outgoing Tide—Dezart Performs’ 2015-2016 season-closing play—back in May with my friend Robert. Both Robert and I are … well, curmudgeonly, to put it kindly. While we had high expectations due to the production’s rave reviews—about an older couple and their adult son coming to terms with the father’s advancing Alzheimer’s disease—we most certainly did not expect to be blubbering our eyes out at the end … and there we were, along with much of the rest of the audience at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, sniffling and weeping. Judith Chapman, Scott Smith and most especially Michael Fairman (who played Gunner, the father) knocked it out of the figurative park, thanks in no small part due to the amazing direction by Michael Shaw. If you ever hear of this play being performed elsewhere, I highly recommend going to see it—but I’d be shocked if that show is as good as the one put onstage last spring by Dezart Performs. Jeez, I am tearing up just thinking about it.

—Jimmy Boegle


Best Tailor

Pero Dzekov at Pero’s Tailor Shop

For more than 45 years, Pero Dzekov has worked in a trade that does not forgive a mistake: He’s a tailor, a master craftsman whose clients include celebrities of a highest caliber, including Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow. Both singers have penned accolades to him on their photographs that hang in his Smoke Tree Village shop. Dzekov, an immigrant from Macedonia, is fond of saying that his favorite clients were publisher Walter Annenberg and Agua Caliente Tribal Chairman Richard Milanovich. On any given day, you’ll see familiar faces in his shop—former Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden, perhaps, or Palm Springs City Manager David Ready—but Dzekov is most proud of the fact that many of his clients have been repeatedly coming back since the 1970s.

—Brane Jevric


Best Local Album

Bridger, Forces Against Us

Many great bands in the Coachella Valley released fantastic albums over the last year, including Dali’s Llama and The Hellions. However, to my ear, there is one new album that stands out: Bridger’s Forces Against Us. Numerous local musicians took to social media to express their love for the album; however, making a great album wasn’t enough for the band: Bridger even made a hilarious music video for the Forces Against Us song “Death to Snowbirds,” There’s no doubt that Bridger is an awesome live band—and Forces Among Us proved that Bridger can turn in fantastic music in the studio, too.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Ukulele Master

John Robbins

John Robbins is a well-known local musician—who plays a not-so-well-known instrument: He plays a mean ukulele. Robbins has opened many shows for local bands, and he recently took part in an acoustic showcase. Robbins, who is visually impaired, also has many other talents, including being visual artist; in fact, he recently signed with an independent Web-based comic publisher. When you mention John’s name to local musicians or music fans, the first thing they say often say is, “The guy who plays an awesome ukulele?” He deserves all the recognition he can get.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Guilty Pleasure Food

The Atomic Tots at The Hood Bar and Pizza

When I need comfort food and don’t give a rat’s behind about diet or calories … chances are you’ll find me devouring the atomic tots at The Hood Bar and Pizza. They’re definitely not good for you (I hope my primary care physician isn’t reading this), but that gooey cheese and the bits of bacon melted all over those little potato barrels create a piece of fat-intensive heaven. I’m not the only one with these feelings for the atomic tots; many locals frequent The Hood Bar and Pizza just for these tasty treats.

—Brian Blueskye


Best Place to Pig Out on Sugar-Free Desserts

The Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

Gym workouts have minimal effects on me, and no diet seems to last … but at least I get some small bit of dietary help at the Fresh Grill Buffet at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino: It features an ample selection of delicious sugar-free desserts every day at lunch and dinner. At the giant dessert table (two levels tall, with a chocolate fountain and soft-serve ice cream to boot), an entire section is devoted to lower-calorie goodies. Gorgeous layer cakes, crumbly cookies, pies and even cheesecake are available—and since it’s a buffet, have as much as you like! However, consider yourself warned: The white sauce beside the cheesecake is loaded with sugar, and sometimes cobblers that are not sugar-free will elbow their way into this space. Whenever I meet the chefs, I thank them on behalf of my endangered waistline. For those born with a sweet tooth, here is our salvation. Just don’t look at the sugary competition on the rest of the table.

—Valerie-Jean (V.J.) Hume


Best Happy Hour Meal

The Capricciosa Pizza at Piero’s PizzaVino

There are many, many dining options in Palm Desert on or near El Paseo—but when I find myself hungry while running around the area, more often than not, I wind up in the bar area of Piero’s PizzaVino. Why? Well, every day from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Piero’s offers one of the area’s most amazing happy hour menus—including the unbelievably delicious capricciosa pizza. This amazing pie comes with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and olives—and it’s always cooked to perfection in Piero’s brick oven. Not only does this personal-size pizza taste amazing and fill you up; it only costs $8.90. Add in a tasty glass of the house chianti for $5, and you can still get out of there with tax and a nice tip for less than $20. What a deal.

—Jimmy Boegle

Published in Staff Picks

What: The capricciosa pizza

Where: Piero’s PizzaVino, 73722 El Paseo No. 1, Palm Desert

How much: $15.90 lunch; $18.50 dinner; $8.90 happy hour

Contact: 760-568-2525; www.ppizzavino.com

Why: Amazing quality and a low price.

It’s often said that pizza is like sex: Even when it’s bad, it’s good.

Well, I strongly disagree. I’ve had some baaaad pizza before that was in no way good. (As for bad sex … well, that’s a discussion for a different column.) After enjoying the capricciosa pizza at Piero’s PizzaVino, I disagree even more: This pizza is so excellent that it makes almost all other pizza worse by comparison.

The folks at Piero’s PizzaVino take their pizza seriously: The menu and placemats emphasize that all the pizzas here are baked at 800-900 degrees for 60-90 seconds or so in the imported “Marra” Neapolitan wood-burning oven. Furthermore, the pizza-makers use only San Marzano tomatoes grown near Naples, Italy; they use only Doppio Zero flour, which has a higher protein content than most flours; and they use only house-made Fior di Latte mozzarella cheese.

Combine all of this with excellent toppings on the capricciosa pizza—ham, mushrooms, artichokes and kalamata olives (the menu incorrectly says black olives), in addition to tomato sauce and mozzarella—and … wow. I would have stood and applauded the pizza right there in Piero’s bar area if that would not have caused a scene.

Why was I dining in the bar area, you ask? Well, Piero’s offers “happy hour” there all day, every day—from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.—and the deals are pretty amazing: The pizza pictured here cost just $8.90. Yeah, it’s a little smaller than the regular-menu pizzas, but it’s certainly large enough to satisfy any hungry diner. Add a glass of nice house wine ($5) to that pizza, and you really have something: one of the best meals per dollar you’ll find anywhere in the valley—on ritzy El Paso, no less. Who’da thunk it?

Published in The Indy Endorsement