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  August 7, 2011                                                                                               NEWSLETTER

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Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi
on the Piazza San Marco,Venice, in "Summertime" (1955)


Venice Triumphant
by John Mariani

by Mort Hochstein

MAN ABOUT TOWN: Kenmare Gets a New Chef
by Christopher Mariani


To Sell Vodka, Sell the Sizzle
 by John Mariani


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The Miami International Wine Fair
The Miami International Wine Fair (MIWF) celebrates its 10th anniversary as the leading wine trade expo in the country, September 23 - 25, 2011 at Hall A of the Miami Beach Convention Center.  Now an industry only event, organizers anticipate more than 1,500 wines and 500 producers exhibiting across 65,000-sq-ft.  Transforming the hall into virtual wine country, MIWF will debut The Florida Room - a 10,000-sq-ft pavilion of regional producers, creating a one-stop shop for Florida-based buyers. Also uncorking the Fair is the Florida International Wine Challenge (FIWC), which will for the first time take place contemporaneously with the main event. For more information, please call 866.887.WINE or visit .
City Harvest
City Harvest, the world's first food rescue organization which feeds over 300,000 hungry New Yorkers each week, is announcing a brand new event: The Brooklyn Local. On Saturday, September 17th, over 75 artisinal vendors will converge at Brooklyn Park to showcase the best of Brooklyn food and to help City Harvest feed more hungry New Yorkers. For more details visit
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Venice Triumphant
by John Mariani

    For much of its history Venice was the mighty ruler of the Eastern Mediterranean, yet it was lovingly called La Serenissima. It dominated the sealanes' shipping, controlled most  of the spice trade, and never went to war if an alliance could be worked out instead.  Its Renaissance artists--Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese--were the masters of their era, and its  glassware was known around the world.
    But by the 18th century Venice's greatest days were behind it. Invasions and plunderings by the Austrians, then  Napoleon, the end of the Republic, and two World Wars robbed Venice of its grandeur and power, yet the city's spirit, at its height during Carnevale, has never flagged and the city's beauty, despite the ravages of the waters that surround it, has always drawn the world to its bosom, first by the thousands, then by the millions. "Sempre crolla ma non cade" is a Venetian proverb that means, the city is always collapsing but never fallen, for the city survives every assessment of its imminent demise as the waters of the Adriatic flow in and out of its lagoons, lapping over into the streets and up to the windows, regularly flooding the Piazza San Marco.
    To Byron the city was a reverie and revelry--"the greenest island of my imagination"; Henry James thought it a "vast museum"; Shelley called its "Earth's nursling," and Truman Capote said the city was like "eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go."
     Wax and wane as it does, Venice is not what it once was: tourism has appropriated the city entirely, so that the 60 thousand people who are still residents of the city--one -third the number of a century ago--may in fact all be gone in thirty years, leaving its wonders, its hotels, restaurants, and boutiques selling carnival masks all to the tourists, thousands of whom increasingly disgorge from huge oceanliners every day onto San Marco. Peter Ackroyd explains in his splendid new city profile, Venice: Pure City, why the city seems so empty at night: "It is empty. It is hard to imagine a time when it was a city full of local people. Of course, in the day, it is full of tourists.  But paradoxically tourists empty a place by their presence.  They turn it into a spectacle without depth."  He goes on to say that the city of tourist is now the real Venice, its algae-stained stones and art in need of restoration testament to a past that has little native claim on the present.
    Still, it is the most magical city on earth, an operatic city, and a city of high hospitality and fine food.
    It is also very very expensive, especially during a season that lasts from late April through October, when the crush of crowds can literally be dangerous and when restaurants hike their prices for the tourists while secretly charging the locals less. There is, as far as I can see, no defense against this policy except to move to Venice and over years become a Venetian, and learn the local dialect for words like vaporetto (batèo), shoemaker (biavaròl), and fog (caìgo).
    Yet for all that, Venice is wholly irresistible, and its luxuries and cuisine among the finest in Italy.  On our last visit in April, the city was only slightly less crowded than in season--it was the weekend of Valentine's Day!--so we were happy to collapse into the glory of  Il Palazzo,
an  18th century wing appended to the 1940s main building of the Bauer Hotel, a two-minute walk from San Marco.  This truly is a true Venetian palace, with its view of the Grand Canal (the photo above is from our room's balcony), with 44 deluxe rooms and 38 suites, many with walk-in closets and fireplaces, exquisite fabrics and silks and Murano glass throughout.  There is a gym here with sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi on the roof top terrace.
  The hotel is owned and run impeccably by  the lovely Francesca Bortolotto Possati, whose taste is evident in every corner, richly upholstered or lacquered, gilded, with chinoiserie, and tapestries by Bevilacqua and Rubelli. There are two entrances here,
a private jetty on the Grand Canal and a doorway in the Calletta dei XIII Martiri.
    Push through the shining revolving doors and you enter a long, wide lobby set with very comfortable chairs (most hotels discourage lounging in the lobby for fear of non-guests coming in), and the reception at the desk, by a series of  handsome front desk concierges, led by Paolo di Vacri, makes everyone feel that Senora Possati has herself written a personal note on your behalf.  Ask them to arrange for anything in town--reservations, tickets, a banquet on the rooftop,  a speedboat to the airport--which is docked right at the hotel's jetty--and consider it done within moments.  You'll be escorted to your room, and the chances are you will run into general manager Pietro Rusconi throughout your stay, asking you not if everything is all right but what possibly can he do to make your stay even more comfortable.
    The Palazzo’s bar has become a very sophisticated spot for meeting before dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, De Pisis (left), with its fantastic view over the Grand Canal,  and an outdoor patio whose tables are much favored.  Once, while dining there with my family, our meal was suddenly interrupted by a fearsome thunderstorm.  With uncanny grace under pressure, the white jacketed staff collected linens, china, and glassware and had everyone seated and served within minutes, as the storm blew quickly out to sea--all handled with the nonchalance of changing of a skipping record, so that what might have been a disaster became a fond family memory. 

    I did not have a chance to dine at De Pisis this time, but those interested in the very modern Venetian cuisine should check out the menu by clicking here.
    Senora Possati has also recently opened on the island of Giudecca a new boutique property called Villa F, once a luxurious pensione for
artists, actors and writers,  located in a Renaissance palazzo, now converted for all modern amenities.
    We did pay the obligatory visits--two actually--to Harry's Bar and enjoyed the experience immensely, but I shall be writing about that in an upcoming issue of the Virtual Gourmet

    We also visited an old favorite of mine--a place whose location just to the left of the Rialto Bridge, down a  broad, dark alley, suggests it should be as overwhelmed by tourists as all the ristoranti lining the Canal with their waiters exhorting you to sit and have the menu turisici.  But at Alla Madonna (right), here since 1954, the majority of visitors seem to be Venetians, or at least Italians; I have noticed more than a few Asian tourists seem to get the tables in one of the smaller, unattractive rooms in this large trattoria.
    Alla Madonna is fast paced, but you may linger over a bottle of cold soave as long as you like, if not only to eat at your own pace but simply to watch the interplay of Italian hand gestures throughout the room.  The waiters never seem to change here, and the place is wonderfully bright, decked out with memorabilia and Venetian artwork. It is a very jolly place, and the simple traditional food is first quality, not least the fish, which is bought from the market just meters away.
    There are certain dishes here
you may well find all over town, but at Alla Madonna they take real care, so stay classic Venetian: Start with an antipasto of misto di pesce of local seafood--canoce, gamberetti, polpetti--then have the risotto ai frutti di mare or the vermicelli with squid ink. For a main course, the crab (granseola) is wonderful if in season,  and the fritto misto is a paragon of expertly fried seafood. Go simple with any number of the arrayed fish species (left) perfectly grilled, but if you have a hankering for meat, by all means have the Venetian specialty fegato alla veneziana, tender, calf's liver with a shower of sweet caramelized onions.  You may easily skip dessert.  A meal for two here is a bargain compared to most places in the city. Figure about 30 euros per person.
There are two pre-eminent seafood ristoranti in Venice, both frequented by American tourists because they really are so superior and much reported on by the travel media. One is Corte Sconta, not easy to find in the back streets of Castello; here you just  sit down,  preferably al fresco,  and they will begin bringing you platters of seafood until you holler "basta!" and you pay the bill, which will not be not cheap, but  that depends on if you stop after the fried seafood, the steamed seafood, the grilled seafood, or the dessert.

    The other Castello restaurant I love is Al Covo, again down a few alleys, ten minutes' walk from San Marco, on the way to the Arsenale.  It was opened in 1987 by Cesare Benelli, whose mother was Tuscan, and his wife Diane, who was born in Texas (which makes this quite appealing to Americans not up on their Venetian dialect). It's a nice touch that their website notes ithe place is "semi formal," though certainly not in the sense of effusive elegance; it's just a very pleasant and comfortable two-room restaurant, quiet and well run. Still, at dinner gentlemen are "sconsigliamo pantaloncini corti, cannottiere e sandali"--"discouraged from wearing shorts, t-shirts and sandals" and while  "I bambini sono ben accetti  ma devono adeguarsi  al nostro menu che non prevede piatti specialmente disegnati per loro"--"children are welcome, but Al Covo's menu is not really designed for them."
    The menu at Al Covo is clearly based on which species was brought in from the market that day. The carts in the dining room display what those would be, or Cesare will bring out a box of an unusual catch that might be available for only a week that season, like the tiny shrimp the Venetians call schile.  There might be cocciole (cockles) or San Pietro, or any number of crabs. You might begin with culatello ham slices with with sweet figs, or fresh, marinated anchovies with eggplant. For 18-24 euros you may have a selection of antipasti, and by all means choose the Venetian specialties "in saor," a sweet and sour marinade with fish and vegetables, so simple, so pure, so delicious.

    For a pasta, consider the risi e bisi--rice and peas--or rigatoni with a pistachio pesto and bottarga roe.
    The main courses include several meat dishes, beef, veal chop, rack of lamb, but it is always difficult to resist the wonderful seafood here, like the monkfish with a fonduta of potatoes and artichokes, or the swordfish from Taranto  with eggplant, tomato, basil and an olive paste.
    Al Covo has a first-rate wine list, not to badly priced, with plenty of wines from Veneto on it.
    I've never heard anyone do anything but praise the warm welcome from the Benellis, both of them demonstrating a genuinely palpable love of pleasing people with their cooking and their willingness to educate.  I'm sure Diane has told the story a thousand time of how she met Cesare and moved to Venice, so when you go, she'll be happy to tell you too.

by Mort Hochstein

321 East 73rd Street (near First Avenue)

    When my wife and I were much younger, we ate often at Sokol Hall, far over east on 71st  street between First Avenue  and York. It was then a part of the ethnic Czech New York community that flourished in Yorkville, a neighborhood that in the 19th century drew German, Czech, Hungarian, and Polish immigrants by the thousands, some of whom opened restaurants.  Sokol Hall specialized in duck, and I’ve never found another restaurant   in NYC that made it as well--with the possible exception of Lüchow’s on 14th Street, now also only a memory.
   The restaurant disappeared sometime in the seventies, along with many of its Czech congregants, who seem to have relocated across the East River in Queens. Today the center of Czech cultural and social history in New York is the restored Bohemian National Hall, two blocks north, almost parallel, on East 73rd street. While attending an event at the hall two years ago, I learned that a new Czech restaurant, based on one in Prague, was soon to open in the building. Memories of the old Sokol Hall were stirred up and I waited in great anticipation until this spring, when the long-awaited restaurant and beer pub, Hospoda, finally opened in that landmark building, now owned by the Czech Republic.
    Hospoda (Czech for beer hall) is part of a   group that owns 14 restaurants in Prague.  The NYC shop is beer oriented, and its simple, bare walnut tables and extremely modern décor are hardly related to the  dark woods and heavy furnishings that had characterized the old Sokol Hall.  It is, I suppose, what we now call a gastropub, but the décor reminds me of a Mitteleuropean coffee shop where patrons might linger all day reading journals and discoursing on world affairs.  It is sparsely decorated, once you get past the engraved abstract scenes carved on the wall by the Czech street artist known only as Masker.
   Indeed, patrons do linger, but here they linger over beer served in drafts from a unique bar, made almost entirely of glass (right), allowing guests to see its operating mechanisms and beer reserves. The transparency theme continues underfoot where a long stretch of glass flooring allows you to look down at  beer kegs in the basement below. Standing over that large pane and peering down  into the cellar  gave me the uncomfortable feeling of riding on a glass-bottomed tour boat. I quickly sought security on the wooden floor.
  Lukas Svoboda, who triumphed over several thousand rivals last year to win the title of 2010 International Pilsner Urquell Master Bartender, readily explains to patrons the four distinct, technical pours he offers.  They  are Crem Urquell,  the classic style, balanced with creamy head; Slice, with   a  more substantial head, slightly bitter;  Sweet, a slightly softer variation that appears to be entirely head ; and Neat, with no head and unique sharp and bitter flavor. The beer arrives by boat  across the ocean from the historic Pilsner Urquell brewery in Pilzen (CQ), Bohemia.     
     But what about the duck, which was one of my main reasons for visiting Hospoda? No complaints, and though Chef Oldrich Sahajak and Marek Sada, who come from Prague's highly regarded La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, take a more modern approach, I was happily reminded of the good old days at Sokol Hall. He served three slices of medium-rare duck breast, accompanied by an imported plum jelly, a dollop of sour cream and thyme shortbread.  The duck came from the chef’s portion of the menu, which also listed several Czech dishes.  My partner elected Prague-style ham, dressed with horseradish foam—a modern touch the folks in the old country might find challenging--- and pickled vegetable.
There were all sorts of other enticing dishes on the list,  including slow baked lamb leg with eggplant puree,  roasted pork belly with red cabbage essence, dumpling and Savoy cabbage, and the one that is going to bring me back, smoked beef tongue with a  yellow pea puree and pickled spring onion.
    The wine list has global reach, including many bottlings from Germany and Austria, but there are no Czech or Slovakian wines available.
    What Hospoda serves up is not exactly what I might have encountered those many years ago in Yorkville, but the restaurant is certainly a worthwhile addition to the casual dining scene in Manhattan, and it revives an ethnic flavor  long  missing on the scene.

 Dinner, Mon.-Sat. Lunch will begin in the fall; Fixed price dinners two plates for $32, $45 for three.


by Christopher Mariani

Kenmare Gets a New Chef

    My plan was to ride the train into Manhattan, stop by Eataly for some shopping and then meet my brother and his gorgeous girlfriend for dinner at Kenmare (98 Kenmare Street; 212-274-9898). Upon exiting Grand Central I was greeted with a blast of  summer rain that almost soaked my entire outfit. With a bit of luck I caught a cab immediately and headed straight for Kenmare, north of  Little Italy—the section dubbed NoLita—so my visit to Eataly was out of the question. There was no way I would be lucky twice on such a rainy day.
         I arrived at Kenmare around 6:20 pm, early by NYC standards for dining, and was not surprised that I was the only guest in the restaurant. My reservation was not until seven pm, so I took a seat at the bar and ordered a tall negroni. It was obvious the bartender had a good amount of set-up to take care of prior to service yet he found time to chat with me and keep me company for almost 40 minutes, a very nice touch and a much appreciated gesture.  Oh, and the negroni was excellent.
         When my party arrived, I said farewell to the bartender and was led to my table by a beautiful, tall blonde hostess who wished us a wonderful evening after seating us at a very comfortable banquette. The room seats around 100 people, with white marble table tops, candles on every table, an amber hue throughout the entire restaurant, and a very lively bar after nine pm. The music goes on throughout the night, but at that early hour  it was a bit loud, considering we were the only table in the dining room and the speaker hung directly above our heads.
         After ordering a bottle of Soffacone di Vincigliato (the original label is very controversial)  from Kenmare’s limited yet modestly priced wine list, we started with a selection of appetizers by the new executive chef, Gilbert Delgato. The top two starters included a heirloom tomato salad layered with shreds of fresh
burrata cheese, drizzled with a fine olive oil and balsamic vinegar, along with gravy meatball sliders made with beef, pork, veal and pecorino, a staple on Kenmare’s menu since opening just a little over one year ago. The grilled octopus was a little chewy and although one-dimensional, still tasty. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the crab cakes, but they were not of the style found at some of the great NYC steakhouses, that is, they were not filled with big hunks of lump crabmeat.
         For our main course, crispy, pounded veal Milanese came stuffed with provolone and topped with a lightly dressed arugula salad. Having just returned from Piedmont, I can declare that Kenmare’s veal Milanese is a great example, slightly heavier than what is typically found in Northern Italy but still wonderful. Kenmare’s other standard dish is “The Chicken,”  succulent, seasoned lightly and sided by a summer potato salad mixed with green string beans and onion. Delgato’s burger, made with ground ribeye, would please any NYC burger aficionado and comes with a side of addictive cheddar French fries. Sides included the best onion rings I’ve ever tasted, cooked in a tempura style, and a bowl of overly salted sautéed spinach.
         Desserts could use some improvement, as the flan was soupy and the
bombolini too doughy.
         Chef Gilbert Delgato is doing a good job for a restaurant that opened as one of Manhattan’s hottest restaurants just last year, serving simple dishes he knows how to cook well. There is always room for refinement,  but overall you will not be disappointed with a meal at Kenmare.

To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to


To Sell the Vodka, Sell the Sizzle

by John Mariani

     How is it that a spirit defined by the U.S. Standards of Identity as “without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color” became one of the world’s largest sellers? In fact, after a Russian émigré bought the rights to make Smirnoff vodka in the U.S. in the 1930s, it was advertised as a “White Whisky — No taste. No smell." Which meant no telltale booze breath.
         Back in 1987, when Poland was still a Soviet state, I visited the Wyborowa distillery outside Warsaw, where I was challenged to taste the differences between vodka made from potatoes or rye, the latter the basis of Wyborowa’s distillate and its big selling point. After sniffing and sipping and finding virtually no difference, I simply guessed which was which. One of the Wyborowa executives laughed and said I’d guessed wrong, saying this one was Wyborowa and that one a Russian potato vodka.  At which point the plant’s master distiller sheepishly said, “Actually, sir, that one is the Wyborowa and this one the potato.”
odka may be distilled from any starch/sugar-rich plant matter, including sorghum, sugar beets, corn, rye or wheat, even grapes, though this last is controversial among the EU nations for being too far from the original idea. The result of distillation is almost pure alcohol, which is then cut with water to achieve a standard 40 percent alcohol level in the bottle—although some devastating rarities can hit 95 percent. Rarely is vodka aged.
         The fact is, vodka has traditionally been sold by ad campaigns, not flavor, the most famous of which have been Sweden’s Absolut ads in which they always cunningly place their distinctive bottle shape into themes, like Absolut Psycho, with a shower curtain torn into the shape of their bottle. Stolichnaya has always made much of its true Russian heritage, while Holland’s Ketel One’s recent TV ad refers to a time “when men were men” and “didn’t drink their vodka from delicately painted perfume bottles.”
         Other brands insist their vodkas are all the more pure for being made with million-year-old water poured through diamonds and quintuple distilled. Still, it’s hard to increase sales of a neutral, tasteless, odorless spirit on ads alone, which is why the industry has come up with so many flavored vodkas, like Kubanskaya with dried lemon and orange peels; Ciroc, with coconut and red berry; Pertsovka, with black pepper and chilies; and Okhotnichya, with ginger, cloves, lemon peel, coffee, anise, sugar and white port.
         Flavored vodkas are nothing really new. I have enjoyed many a Russian Easter meal after midnight mass, accompanied by vodka flavored by my host with lemon, pepper, or buffalo grass.
Vodka is also the basis for the Bloody Mary, created at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris during Prohibition, and James Bond’s enormously influential 1950s vodka martini he called the Vesper (right), along with the screwdriver, the cosmopolitan made famous by the women of “Sex & the City,” and, thanks to the 1998 movie “The Big Lebowksi,” the white Russian.
         Thus, given how unflavored vodkas add little or no flavor of their own to cocktails made with orange juice or Kahlúa, it’s baffling to me when vodka aficionados order an expensive for such concoctions.
         So I decided to do a blind tasting of a dozen unflavored vodkas, most fairly new in the market, some oldtimers, to see what differences I could detect. They were not, shall we say, pronounced. I doubt many people who swear by their favorite brand could ever pick it out in such an array.  All vodkas were 40 percent alcohol and tasted neat.
         One that no one will ever mistake is the new Vampyre from England ($22), which is “naturally colored” a true, viscous blood red and whose ad say it was specially created to attract those creatures of the night. Whatever. It’s pretty bland with little aroma but velvety on the tongue.  And fun to drink.
         The potato-based Luksusowa ($14-$18) has a strong nose with real citrus in it and a light burn on the tongue. A nice entry level example from Poland.
     The popular but expensive Chopin ($26-$30), also a potato-based Polish vodka, smells like little more than alcohol and has a faintly sweet flavor with a mild burn. Not at all distinctive.
         Medea, which runs $40 and up, is from Holland, with a fairly bland nose and a sharp burn to the sinuses. Not worth the money.
         Sweden’s Svedka ($14-$17) has built a following among young drinkers, maybe because its very smooth, but it’s almost flabby too, with an unpleasant aroma. 
    I think my overall favorite was the grain-based I Spirit ($35), from Italy, with a lovely aromatic nose, distinctly flavorful with no intrusions from other ingredients, and a nice, refined bite on the end of it. It's a collaboration between Arrigo Cipriani. owner of Harry's Bar in Venice, Lapo Elkann of Fiat Automobiles and Friulian distillers Marco Fantinel and Francesco Cosulich, well known for their grappas.
         Turning to U.S.-made vodkas—and there’s a slew of them out there—I wasn’t surprised that good old Smirnoff ($14) pleased me so much with its bountiful flavor, though the aroma was slightly diesel-like. It’s a solid, good example with light burn.
         Smooth Ambler Whitewater ($30) is an “artisanal” grain vodka made in West Virginia, that I could have sworn was apple-based calvados, from aroma to finish. It has some real taste to it and would probably stand out in a crowd of vodkas.
         Star ($30), made in “Oregon’s scenic Cascade Mountains,” is a small batch vodka made from “handpicked” corn though I’d never mistake it for aged bourbon.
It’s filtered five times (most premium vodkas go through thrice), which seems to smooth it out but may rob it of its nose.
         Bottles of Noon Mountain ($20) from Indiana are numbered and signed by master distiller Gerry Webb, who gives the product a lush, fruity aroma and spice, all solidly knit together.      
Tito’s ($22) from Texas has a very light nose, shows tangy on the palate, but then finishes hot as hell on the back of the throat.  You’ll know it’s from Texas.
         Crystal Head takes its name from the admirably eerie skull-shaped bottle it comes in, together with two little skull jiggers. It’s based on the legend of the magical 13 crystal skulls (the title for the last Indiana Jones movie), and the founder of the company is actor Dan Ackroyd. It has a pleasantly grassy bouquet, is very smooth, aromatic and not at all hot. And it comes from Newfoundland. The oddity has developed something of a cult following that will pay up to $50 a bottle.
         And last, there’s Ciroc ($29-$32), made from French grapes, like brandy; in fact, one of the grapes used, ugni blanc, is also used to make cognac. It has a very citrusy nose and pretty tropical notes and a tangy, mild burn. I could swear there is a light flavoring in it, but it’s probably just the natural grape flavors. Sales have been very good, especially since Sean “Diddy” Combs (left) became a spokesman in 2007.
    As I said, the key to selling a tasteless, odorless, colorless spirit is a food ad campaign.

John Mariani's wine and spirits column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily.



Researchers at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology have discovered a method for creating large quantities of human-derived gelatin, which in theory, could become a substitute for the thousands of tons of animal-based gelatin used in desserts, marshmallows, candies, and other products.


"Even as recently as six or seven years ago, restaurants were still places where you made a reservation, sat down, ate an appetizer and then an entrée, had coffee with your dessert, and left. But now we're dining in a new era of restaurant. You know the kinds of places I'm talking about: No sign out front; the bartender maybe has a carnation in his lapel; food is served on carving boards and granite slates; something vintage in the decor (taxidermy, rotary phone, estate sale cutlery); definitely no tablecloth in sight. Most of us have happily dispensed with the blazers and sauce spoons of the fine-dining era and are relieved to do away with archaic formalities like standing when a lady leaves the table."—Phoebe Damrosch, "Scruffy Chic," Grub Street, July 20.

 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from

My new book, How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan) is a rollicking history of the food culture of Italy and its ravenous embrace in the 21st century by the entire world. From ancient Rome to la dolce vita of post-war Italy, from Italian immigrant cooks to celebrity chefs, from pizzerias to high-class ristoranti, this chronicle of a culinary diaspora is as much about the world's changing tastes, prejudices,  and dietary fads as about our obsessions with culinary fashion and style.--John Mariani

" A fact-filled, entertaining history [that] substantiates its title with hundreds of facts in this meaty history of the rise of Italian food culture around the globe. From Charles Dickens's journey through Italy in 1844 to 20th-century immigrants to America selling ice cream on the streets of New Orleans, Mariani constantly surprises the reader with little-known culinary anecdotes about Italy and its people, who have made pasta and pizza household dishes in the U.S. and beyond."--Publishers Weekly

"Equal parts history, sociology, gastronomy, and just plain fun, How Italian Food Conquered the World tells the captivating and delicious story of the (let's face it) everybody's favorite cuisine with clarity, verve and more than one surprise."--Colman Andrews, editorial director of The Daily

"A fantastic and fascinating read, covering everything from the influence of Venice's spice trade to the impact of Italian immigrants in America and the evolution of alta cucina. This book will serve as a terrific resource to anyone interested in the real story of Italian food."--Mary Ann Esposito, host of PBS-TV's Ciao Italia.

"John Mariani has written the definitive history of how Italians won their way into our hearts, minds, and stomachs.  It's a story of pleasure over pomp and taste over technique."--Danny Meyer, owner of NYC restaurants Union Square Cafe, Gotham Bar & Grill, The Modern, and Maialino.



FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linked to four excellent travel sites:

Everett Potter's Travel  Report

I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the  web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury  Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and  a frequent contributor to National  Geographic Traveler,  and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their  travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special  places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of  staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star  places as five-star experiences."  THIS WEEK: Cape May, NJ; Cape Cod, MA.

Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio.  He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.


Tennis Resorts OnlineA Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored  two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to  Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).

The Family Travel Forum
 - A community for those who "Have Kids, Still Travel" and want to make family vacations more fun, less work and better value. FTF's travel and parenting features, including reviews of tropical and ski resorts, reunion destinations, attractions, holiday weekends, family festivals, cruises, and all kinds of vacation ideas should be the first port of call for family vacation planners.

Family Travel Forum

                                                                    ALL YOU NEED BEFORE YOU GO

nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist,;;

MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,   John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein,  and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

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© copyright John Mariani 2011