The Cuisine Scene
Brenda Hill

Guy's Italian Restaurant
Banning, CA

Last Wednesday I had a delightful experience at a small restaurant in Banning.

I’d known of Guy’s Italian Restaurant ever since I moved to Yucaipa a few years ago and had passed it several times while exploring neighboring cities and restaurants. But when David Schuelke and his wife, Emeline, of Frijoles Mexican Food in Beaumont, told me their daughter and son in law purchased Guy’s, I put it on my list. Because of his high standards at Frijoles, I’d try whatever he recommended.

However, for one reason or another, I continued to pass it by. I think part of the reason is because the building looked so plain. And tiny.

But I was surprised to discover a deceptively spacious restaurant with a warm, inviting atmosphere complete with murals on the wall. The door opens to the bar area, cozy with dark woods, red walls, beamed ceilings, and a colorful mural of what looks like an old ship at anchor in Venice.

The next room holds tables with red-checked tablecloths and the back dining room has red comfy booths and more colorful murals.

I chose a booth in the back room and met Michelle (Shelly) Rodriguez, the owner. She and her husband, Nelson, an officer with the Redlands Police Department, bought Guy’s from the original owner a year and a half ago. The small building was over thirty years old so Shelly and Nelson have done some remodeling, starting with the inside, and they’re slowly working to improve the outside as well.

Since they have loyal customers from as far as away as the coast, they’ve kept the original home-cooked recipes and added some of their own. With Shelly’s experience in owning other restaurants, including a coffee shop, Mexican and hamburger stand at the Cabazon Outlet Mall, she applied her experience to enhance the food and service at Guy’s.

One of the first things she brought for me to try was her special Tuscan Salad of mixed greens, red bell peppers, red onions, black olives, pine nuts, golden raisins and feta cheese. I loved the crunchy mixture of the vegetables and the delicate dressing. Balsamic vinaigrette dressing, she told me, so it wasn’t overly tart or oily. Accompanied by a warm, garlicky Italian bread, I could have made a meal of the salad.

But that was just the beginning. Shelly was so proud of their pasta dishes that she wanted me to try some, such as their baked manicotti with homemade noodles and ricotta cheese, lasagna, and the spaghetti. All their pasta entrees are served with either soup or salad and fresh garlic bread that’s been covered with their own butter and spice mixture then baked.

As much as I love all the Italian dishes, especially a good pizza, my favorite is eggplant parmigiana. When it’s prepared just right to achieve that soft, smooth texture and smothered in gooey cheese and a light, sweet, marinara sauce, the mixture is heavenly. While I enjoyed sampling the other dishes, I ate every bite of the slightly tart eggplant.

Shelly brought one of their meatballs lying in a bed of cheese and marinara sauce. They serve them with spaghetti or in a sandwich with cheese. Their 6” lunch sandwich special during the week is $6.99, including soup or salad and a beverage. They blend their own cheeses, Shelly said, buying them in blocks and shredding them themselves for the fresh taste.

Then Francisco, the head cook, brought the showpiece, the pizza. Not only was the colorful pizza almost too pretty to eat with the reddish pepperoni slices, the green, red and yellow peppers, the mushrooms and brown crust, but it was presented with flair. Resting on its own stand, it sat high on the table like the special dish it was. And it tasted as good as it looked. Shelly said they make their own dough each day, always making sure they have enough on hand so they never disappoint their customers by running out. 

When Shelly and Nelson bought Guy’s, they asked Francisco to stay with them. He’d begun his career with the original owner seventeen years previously when he was a sophomore in high school. His first job was washing dishes, but with his natural instincts and love of cooking, he quickly moved up to cook, then head cook. He elected to stay with Shelly and she couldn't be happier as she relies heavily on his vast knowledge and work ethics. When I talked to him, his pride in his work was evident as he described how he mixes certain ingredients for a special flavor, or how he cooks the marinara sauce for a certain number of hours so the tomatoes in the sauce would lose its acidity and taste more pleasing to their customers.

Then he presented the pièce de résistance, the cannoli desert, a pastry tube stuffed with ricotta. Chopped green pistachios decorated one end and the other was sprinkled with chocolate bits. Oh my goodness, or by then I should say, oh my badness, because as full as I was with wonderful food, I ate every delicious bite.

Guy's Senior Specials are served from 4:00pm, offering ravioli, lasagna, manicotti, mostaccioli, eggplant parmigiana, or spaghetti marinara, served with choice of soup or salad and garlic bread for $7.99. And for those under 12, a special menu of mac & cheese, cheese pizza, ravioli, or spaghetti is available for $5.99 and includes a beverage and dessert.  

With Shelly, Francisco, Sergio, and Carlos preparing the food, and Kelly, Stephanie, and Lisa, serving it with pride and efficiency, Guy’s is well-worth the trip to Banning.

(Francisco, Shelly, & Kelly)

Guy’s Italian Restaurant
5970 W. Ramsey St.
Banning (Just east of Highland Springs Ave)
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 11am-9pm
Saturday, Sunday 4pm-9pm
Closed Tuesday