Photo courtesy of Yes Please

In the mornings, the aroma of fresh roasted coffee hangs over Old Town La Quinta—thanks to the Yes Please café and dessert shop, which is a labor of love for its owner, Gina Mallano.

She opened the café in Old Town La Quinta in the summer of 2022. Outside, there are tables, heaters and umbrellas, with views of the Santa Rosa Mountains; inside, there are small tables, neatly placed.

Her career in food started when she was 26, while working at a corporate job in San Francisco, with benefits and a nice office. When a co-worker asked Mallano what she wanted to do with her life, she began to think: “This can’t be my life, sitting in an office for the next 30 years.” She quit her job and enrolled at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco while working other jobs to pay for the tuition and support herself.

Her work history now includes hotels, restaurants and production kitchens; she’s also done food research and recipe development.

“I’ve worked in the hospitality industry since I was a teenager, so it was a natural change of career,” Mallano said. “I’ve worked in every aspect of the restaurant business—front of the house and back of the house—including waitstaff, cocktail waitress, bookkeeping and hostess.”

When her husband was appointed a Riverside County deputy district attorney in Indio, they moved to La Quinta—and she decided to realize her dream of opening a café.

The Old Town La Quinta spot is now a popular destination for local residents and snowbirds. Mallano quickly collected a number of regulars, who praise the coffees and house-made baked goods, including buttermilk biscuits and huckleberry scones.

Mallano said she has always enjoyed cooking for friends and family, and hosting dinner parties.

“It was always me who cooked during holidays. My friends even nicknamed me Monica, after the character in Friends,” Mallano said.

Yes Please has forced Mallano to confront her shyness. She has always felt shy, she said, and meeting and greeting customers has been a challenge. She blamed her shyness on her family’s frequent moves as a child.

“I attended 14 different schools because of my father’s Air Force career,” she said.

Running a café poses various other challenges, too. Staffing can be a problem; Mallano said one of her employees once walked out in the middle of a Friday shift, meaning she had to roll up her sleeves and fill the vacant slot in the kitchen. Online reviews can make or break a food enterprise as well; a one-star gain in Yelp ratings can boost revenue between 5% and 9%, according to a Harvard Business School study. Fortunately, the reviews so far have almost universally been raves.

“They have farm-to-table fresh ingredients and scrumptious in-store baked goods,” said local Maryann Ridini Spencer, a screenwriter and TV producer. Her favorites: The berry scones with an almond milk cappuccino.

Be aware that Yes Please usually fills up around 9 or 10 in the morning. The café has become so popular that starting in February, it will now remain open until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Yes Please is located at 78065 Main St., Suite 100, in La Quinta. For more information, call 760-296-1425, or visit

Cat Makino

Catherine Makino is a multimedia journalist who was based in Tokyo for 22 years. She wrote for media sources including Thomson Reuters, the San Francisco Chronicle, Inter Press Service, the Los Angeles...