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  November 6,  2011                                                                           NEWSLETTER

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Butterfly McQueen and Joan Crawford in "Mildred Pierce" (1945)


The 5th Annual Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival will take place this year from Dec. 9-13, with a star-studded, epicurean extravaganza hosted on the resort island playground of Palm Beach. Join James Beard Award-winning chefs, Food Network personalities, authors, winemakers, mixologists and a plethora of local talent in an unforgettable series of dinners and parties that will saturate your senses in the most anticipated culinary event of the season. Chefs include Michelle Bernstein, Daniel Boulud, David Burke, Clay Conley, Scott Conant, Dean Max, Michael Schwartz,  and many more.  John Mariani is proud to be Honorary Chairman. For info click here. 


by John Mariani

by John Mariani

by Chris Mariani

by John Mariani


by John Mariani


“Then he was pulling open the door of Harry’s bar
and was inside and he had made it again, and was at home.”

    So begins a chapter in Ernest Hemingway’s 1950 novel, Across the River and Into the Trees. He even went on to put the bar’s proprietor, Giuseppe Cipriani, into the novel as Giuseppe Cipriani—the only time a living person appeared in any of Hemingway’s fiction.  Now this former bartender from Verona is part of literary history and Harry’s is perhaps the most famous bar in the world, as well as one of the best—and most expensive-- restaurants in Venice.

Giuseppe Cipriani and Ernest Hemingway

The first time I went to Harry’s many years ago it was because of the benediction and cachet  Hemingway  had given the place, and it lived up to all starry-eyed expectations.  Set right on the Grand Canal, its frosted glass door opening immediately onto the short mahogany bar and pale yellow downstairs dining room, Harry’s was full of people speaking several different languages, sitting at low tables between which white-coated waiters could barely maneuver, bringing trays of bellinis and plates of carpaccio.
      It was at Harry’s that the bellini was born—a cocktail of prosecco and white peach juice, named after the Venetian artist, just as the sliced raw beef with mayonnaise invented here was named after Carpaccio.  Before the war Harry’s regular patrons included
Somerset Maugham, Noël Coward, Charlie Chaplin, Arturo Toscanini, and Sinclair Lewis. On a single day in 1934 the guests included the crown heads of Spain, Denmark, Norway, and Greece, none knowing the others were in town. Before Harry’s opened, aristocrats never dined at public restaurants, only at their hotels or clubs. But the appeal of Harry’s was irresistibile, even to them.
     On that first afternoon I visited, the jet setters were in full array, with Italian models standing like beautiful animals at the bar, Englishmen in impeccably tailored tweeds and more than a few Americans laughing loudly.  Strangely enough, despite Harry’s reputation for exclusivity, I felt as warmly welcomed as anyone and was served with the same headlong dispatch.  As soon as I sat down, I knew I wanted to come back whenever I would be in Venice.
    Like so many things that happen in saloons, Harry’s Bar was a buy back. During Prohibition in the U.S.,  wealthy Americans went abroad to tour, finding
sanctuary in Europe as a civilized oasis where they could drink freely. Still, Europe was seriously deficient in the kind of casual bars back home where one could drop in, meet friends, and have a little something to eat. The hotel lounges were all posh, even swank, not true “American bars.” It was into such a hotel bar in Venice, the Europa-Brittania Hotel, that a young Bostonion named Harry Pickering came with frequency over a two-month period in 1929. His  original intention was to travel with his aunt and her gigolo and to dry out in Italy, but Pickering insulted them so that they left him behind, lira-less in Venice.
     Turning to the one man he thought might be his only friend in the world—Giuseppe Cipriani, the hotel’s bartender, Pickering asked to borrow just enough money to pay his hotel bill and go home, about 10,000 lire.  For some reason Cipriani took pity on the young American and gave him the money, assuming he would never see it, or Pickering, again.  Two years passed, without a word, not even a postcard of thanks. Yet true to his promise, Pickering eventually did return to Venice and handed Cipriani 10,000 lire plus an additional 40,000, with which the two of them could open a small American-style saloon be called Harry’s Bar.
    It debuted on May 13, 1931, just off the Grand Canal, and years later Cipriani would joke, “If all those who said they were at Harry’s for the opening had really been there, this place would have t be the size of the Piazza San Marco.”
    It was, as Hemingway once wrote of a fictitious café, “a clean well-lighted place,” with a short, cramped bar,  squat tables and low chairs, and no real view of the Grand Canal. Cipriani hated dark bars because he believed that “darkness hides things and people talk in a low voice.”
       The menu grew a little year by year---first some ham and cheese sandwiches, even hamurgers, then some pastas and Venetian dishes like risotto con seppie. Once asked to describe the food at Harry’s Bar, American food writer James Beard, replied, “Well, he doesn’t serve Italian food; he serves Cipriani food.” Nevertheless, Harry’s Bar eventually garnered two Michelin stars, at a time when there were no three star restaurants in Italy.

Photo: Dave Yoder

       Pickering himself lost all interest in the venture and returned home. (He died in 1948, leaving it all in Cipriani’s hand in 1948.)  When the war came to Venice, Cipriani’s clientele were prevented from going to their favorite watering hole.  Then, one day in 1943 a group of Fascists  entered the bar and told Cipriani he had to put up a sign reading, “We do not want  Jews in this establishment.”  When the thugs returned a few days later and demanded to see the sign, Cipriani led him to the kitchen, where it was displayed onthe kitchen door,  causing the infuriated Fascists  to tear the place up with their bayonets. A few days later the German consul insisted that Cipriani’s establishment was a hangout for “unacceptable non-Aryans. ” 
    Rather than accede to coercion, Cipriani closed the doors, sailed the Grand Canal and went hunting on the isle of Torcello until the war ended. Harry’s Bar was turned into a German soldiers’ mess hall. Then, a
 few weeks after the liberation of Venice in April 1945, Cipriani was summoned by the U.S. commander of the Allied forces. "You are not a good Italian," he told Cipriani sternly. "Why?" he asked. "Because you have not re-opened Harry's Bar." As Cipriani tells it, “For probably the first time in my life, I did not feel inclined to quibble with the authorities.”

    After the war—Hemingway started coming in 1949—the little tables at Harry’s were day and night filled with international jet setters and show business stars, not least Orson Welles, whose bellowing voice could be heard coming all the way down the Calle Vallarosso to the famous etched glass doors of the restaurant.  Georges Braque, Henry Fonda, Aristotle Onassis, Truman Capote, Rita Hayworth, Peggy Guggenheim, Woody Allen—all were patrons. Although unlike any other bar-restaurant in Italy but never a true club, it still seems that everybody knows everybody else at Harry’s.
    Given the bar’s popularity, prices rose and rose, so that today the carpaccio (right) costs 47 euros, risotto alla primavera 36, and filet of sole alla Casanova 53. And those  bellinis that everyone drinks down in three sips are 15.
    Now in its ninth decade, run for many years by Cipriani’s son Arrigo (Giuseppe died in 1980), Harry’s Bar was declared  a National Landmark in 2001, so, even if the Ciprianis wanted to move, they are prohibited from doing so. They are not even allowed to change the furniture or décor.

    Arrigo, 79, (above), who upon graduating from law school immediately began work at the ristorante, still spends most of his time there, while his son Giuseppe runs thirteen restaurants around the world, none of which are called Harry’s Bar, instead using the name Cipriani, so as to keep Harry’s Bar unique—despite scores of other restaurateurs appropriating the name, even copying the décor.                                 Photo: Dave Yoder

    I met Arrigo that first time I ate at Harry’s and found him the consummate Venetian gentleman, hospitable to all, friendly but never intmate with some, always aware that he embodies the true spirit of the place, always seeming to be the same while quietly refining his ministry to a world uncomfortable with change.
    Arrigo has aged with remarkable grace, now with less hair and a slight paunch, but his double-breasted suits are well tailored and always buttoned and his bright, artfully knotted ties always deliberately askew, because, he says, “Perfection is boring.”  He never sits down with clients or accepts invitations to dine at their homes and he always seems enormously grateful that each has chosen to dine at his little bar.  “I’m still here five days a week, and my daughter Carmela is here on weekends,” Cipriani told me on my latest visit. “That’s why my new book is called Prigioniero di Una Stanza a Venezia (prisoner of a room in Venice). I have my meals there and pretend to be working hard. I think that after 60 years I begin to understand something about restaurants. A restaurant is not only food, not only service; it is a combination of thousand of details that drives to the final target of freedom. The secret is: `No imposition.’ A customer should feel free to order as he wishes and to be himself, not obey the restaurateur’s rules.”

Photo: Dave Yoder

   One of those thousand details explains his psychology: When I asked him why he continues to use such small, trattoria-size wine glasses instead of big bowl Riedel, Cipriani shrugged: “Imposition number one! If I pour the wine into one of those big glasses, you are practically forced to take it in your hand and smell the wine. You don’t want to feel stupid in front of an important sommelier! Imposition number two! Drinking from a big glass requires an uncomfortable movement of your arm. A century ago glasses were small and the wine was the same as now. If the wine is bad, it will be so even in a big glass. Breathing? Come on! You can open the bottle ten minutes before serving the wine. Big glasses are a busines, a joint venture between restaurant guide books and the glass factories.” So, too, while there are a hundred wines on Harry’s list, the expensive bottles are never promoted, and clients who could afford anything drink the carafe house wines that cost only 12 to 20 euros.
    Arrigo’s views on Harry’s food is much the same. “The menu is larger now,” he says, “but the food is as usual, traditional Italian, from the housewives, not from the great French chefs. In all our restaurants we make our own bread, breadsticks, pasta, meringue cakes (below) and ice-cream. We have more than 100 cooks around the world. No one is a protagonist, you will not know the name of anyone, but they are wonderful, and more than anything they cook the way we want. They can all reproduce our taste, which by now belongs to the DNA of our customers.”
    It is certainly true that Harry’s food reads like simple—if very expensive!--home cooking, most of it drawn from Adriatic waters for dishes like the scampi and octopus salad, the cuttlefish with white polenta, and the grilled fish of the day.  But there are also wonderful meat dishes, many refined—but not too much—over decades, like the tripe alla veneziana with rice pilaf, the calf’s liver with onions, veal piccata with lemon sauce, and chicken curry, not to mention the irresistible cheese-and-ham grilled cheese sandwiches with a touch of dry mustard and Worchestershire sauce that have been on the menu almost since the beginning.
    And then there are the pastas—very rich pastas, like risotto with sausage and radicchio, pappardelle with saffron and bacon, and the extraordinary, luscious tagliolini gratinata (above), baked with cream and cheese beneath a golden brown crust. These dishes have always tasted exactly the same to me, served on the same plates, the wine poured into the same glasses from the same carafes.  Which makes it difficult for me to try something new at Harry’s just as it is for Harry’s to attmept any changes in the menu.
    Most of the dishes date back decades; neither has there been much change in Harry’s staff, from the bartenders who can make a cocktail in half the time it would take an American colleague, to the captains and waiters, who have come to know a vast majority of the regular clientele, which has become part and parcel of Harry’s ambiance and spirit.                             Photo: Dave Yoder
    Still, the 21st century has seeped into the two dining rooms at Harry’s, where I now find  suits and ties are now rarely seen and rock musicians stand at the bar in leather jackets and ripped jeans. Cipriani seems guardedly philosophical about this, having seen a parade of fads and fashions come through those famous doors over his 60 year tenure. “The changes mainly concern  the casual style of the fashion more than the people themselves, and it has been going on for a long time,” he says. “The Prince of Wales said that the decline of Savile Row started from Bermuda. But there really is no gap between the old generation and the new one. Luxury is still the engine of everybody’s life. The question is, what exactly is luxury today? Is it based on décor or on people? On the form or on the substance?”
    As someone who drives “the fastest car in Europe”—the 530 hp AMG 6.3 Mercedes—Cipriani can readily speak about engines of luxury, but even he has had to adapt. Sighing, he says, “Sometimes, in order to keep my driving license, I have to slow down in front of the police. Sometimes.”
    After 80 years in business, Harry’s Bar hardly seems a business—though it makes plenty of money for the Ciprianis. Instead, it works as a beacon along the Grand Canal, whose blue awnings you see from the vaporetto, whose glass-and-wood door is a refuge and, for many like Hemingway, has become a true home away from home.

This article is expanded from one published in Cucina Italiana (November).


by John Mariani

La Mangeoire
1008 Second Avenue (near 53rd Street)

    Now in its fourth decade, La Mangeoire still sits comfortably on the upper east side, serving the classic bistro food that its very faithful regulars never tire of; indeed, they crave it week after week and, if anything like me, dream of the roast chicken, the onion soup, and the gratin of macaroni. I have an old restaurant guide from the 1970s that show its mustachioed chef-owner, Francois Ysambart, pouring cognac into a sauté pan, at a time when the price range for a three-course dinner was $11-$16.
    Well, some things have obviously changed, yet the prices at the 2011 version of La Mangeoire are extremely moderate, with a fixed price dinner at $29.50 and main courses à la carte may be had in "smaller portions" or "larger portions," so that the Normandy mussels and crème fraîche dish mouclade will cost either $14.50 $19.50, the coq au vin "24.50 or $33, and the roast salmon in a horseradish broth $22.50 or $30, an affable kind of "Mama Bear/Papa Bear" menu.

    In the 1990s Gerard Donato bought the bistro and about eighteen months ago brought in master chef Christian Delouvrier to make everything that was old and good now new and wonderful without in any way compromising the style of cooking.  It would take me paragraphs to list all of
Gascony-born Delouvrier's achievments at great restaurants like Alain Senderens' L'Archestrate in Paris and Maurice in NYC,  Les Célebrités  and Lespinasse in NYC, and with Alain Ducasse at the Essex House as Executive Chef.  Of his coming to La Mangeoire, Delouvrier says, "Here I found a home. This unpretentious but charming French bistro with its loyal clientele has been the perfect place for me. Gerard has been the perfect partner. They have welcomed my reconversion and enabled me to express myself in both traditional dishes and new creations that stress flavor over style."
    As usual with reconversions, Delouvrier's commitment was total and he looked at every dish on the bistro menu, refined them all and added his own.  Each month he celebrates a different region of France, which currently is a lusty Norman
la potée au chou, a hearty soup that features pork shank, slab bacon, Morteau sausage, Savoy cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and leeks.
    The décor has been completely re-done yet retains all the charms that have made La Mangeoire (the "manger") such a cozy delight by sprucing up the
antique tile floors and the wood-beamed ceilings.  There are two rooms, both glowing with warmth, the walls hung with Provençal paintings, along with  a collection of copper pots and pans. Donato's use of tablecloths here show the sham of other restaurateurs who claim that their cheap-o naked tables set a casual tone.
    I would guarantee that you could close your eyes and put your finger on any dish on the menu and feel rewarded. Everything I tasted had the honest taste of bourgeois cooking as done by a master chef, the little details that add flavor and texture, like the crispiest of skin on his roast chicken stuffed with herbs and served in a big platter with equally crisp pommes frites. That old favorite soupe à l'oignon appears bubbling and fragrant with the sweet smell of caramelized onions, and it is so thick and rich, you can literally spoon it from the bowl onto a flat plate and eat it like a stew.
    Delouvrier is rightly proud of his calamari cooked on the griddle, with tomato, basil and pine nut puree, this last a lovely touch of texture and nuttiness.  His foie gras is excellent, the toasted bread that comes with it as well, and crispiness is carried over to the roast Atlantic salmon in that horseradish broth that gives it a little kick, with a sweet Jerusalem artickoke puree and braised leeks. 
    One of his signature items at La Mangeoire is a duo de plat de côte façon bourguignonne et de bavette de boeuf, gratin de macaroni--a big French way of saying braised short ribs and skirt steak with glazed carrots and macaroni gratin-- a triumph of hearty French cuisine.
    Desserts stay very simple-- crème caramel or chocolate mousse. 
    The winelist is solid for a bistro of this size, but let Mr. Donato guide you to some bottles he's just discovered he thinks will be perfect for your meal. They won't cost you very much.
    La Mangeoire is certainly not alone among first-rate French bistros in NYC, and a few have even been around as long as La Mangeoire, like Chez Napoleon, Demarchelier, and Le Veau d'Or; other newer ones hold strongly to the traditions of the genre, like Benoit, Felix, Odéon, and Quatorze Bis.  But none does it with all the panache and bonhomie of La Mangeoire, which is perhaps best explained by Delouvrier himself when speaking of the true glory of French cooking: "
One of the most lasting lessons I learned as a young cook, was from the brilliant chef, Alan Senderens. He held a tomato in his hands and said, `Look at this beautiful tomato and think about what it took to make it grow. There was the earth, the sun, plenty of water and the gardener who tended it. This is a gift that comes to you. You do not have the right to mistreat it.' I believe it is this very basic respect for the land and its bounty that the conscience of the chef is born. It is imperative that we improve upon what nature has provided. If I can't make it better that it was when harvested, then I leave it alone! This rule is at the very foundation of how I cook."

La Mangeoire is open Monday – Friday for lunch and dinner, 12:00pm – 11:00pm, for dinner only on Saturday from 5:30pm – 11:00pm, and for brunch and dinner on Sunday from 11:00am – 10:00pm.




by Christopher Mariani

504 Broadway, San Francisco

While visiting San Francisco last month I kept hearing all this hype about some restaurant everyone was raving about yet nobody knew how to pronounce. The restaurant with the uncertain identity and pronunciation is called Txoko (sounds like “choco”).
         Txoko opened in May and is located in North Beach, on the corner of Broadway and Kearny, a section of the city explained to me by my cab driver as “a good time.” Lots of bars, lots of nightlife, and one or two gentlemen’s clubs. An area of SF known to be a bit racy.
         Txoko’s owner Ryan Maxey, who flaunts a brownish, red-beard can be found roaming the dining room. He is enthusiastic about his craft and has an impressive knowledge of wine, although his wine list is unusually small. Chef/co-owner Ian Begg and Maxey have worked together for years now, setting the bar high at Café Majestic, bringing home a Best New Restaurant of The Year award from Esquire magazine, opening their first casual lunch spot, Naked Lunch, and their most recent endeavor, Txoko, a Basque-style restaurant serving items found at pintxos (tapas) bars throughout San Sebastian.
         The restaurant is a good size, seating upwards of a 160 guests. The entrance opens directly into the dining room. To the right, a hip bar serving terrific Iberian wines and well-made cocktails, and to the left, a modestly decorated dining room. The walls are colored adobe and cream, the ceiling is dark brown and there is a mural of eight elegantly dressed animals, some wearing top hats, sitting down for a meal of swine and wine. Of course, one of the two pigs attending the party is holding a fried chicken leg. The tables are wooden, some bordered with banquettes, others by dark wood chairs. Over all, the room could use a bit of bolstering, maybe a brighter color or one or two more murals.  
The food and wine selection are where Txoko excels far above its casual atmosphere and trendy persona. Begg has not only captured the true flavor of the Basque Country but he has taken commonly known pintxos dishes and made them his own. Pintxos as a whole are really good finger food, and throughout most of northern Spain you will find restaurant after restaurant with similar pintxos menus. Most preparations are without a hint of garlic or heat, two ingredients I know would make a world of difference to Spanish cuisine.
    Begg’s dishes are far more creative in flavor and design than those found at native Spanish pintxos bars. The food is attractive, with flavors that are dynamic, and may have easily been the best food I tasted during my recent visit to the Bay Area.
         Do not miss the braised pork belly served with chickpeas, gypsy peppers, sishitos and a sweet onion puree. The empanadas are irresistible, filled with wild mushrooms, Vidalia onions and touch of rosemary. There is a rich foie gras a la plancha sided by sweet, glazed peaches. Gorgeous boquerones (anchovies) come finished with olive oil, a dish I could have ordered three more of and still not have had enough, absolutely delicious. If you are up to it, try the bone-in rib eye steak for two, a steal at only $65. The meat is well-fatted, full of flavor and is probably enough for three, post-pintxos.  
There is a nice selection of cheeses if desired. If you’d rather have something sweet, try the goat’s cheese flan or the gâteau basque, with house made strawberry jam and a yogurt sorbet. There is also a foie gras ice cream served with roasted figs and a sherry jelly. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about ice cream, but after trying it, I must say it was not all that bad. Still not my first choice for dessert.
         It is clear that Ryan Maxey and Ian Begg work well together, actually they work great together. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is not the last concept these two come up with for the city of San Francisco.

                   To contact Christopher Mariani send an email to


Trappist Monks, Barleyed Blondes, and Buffalo Bill
Add Spice to Belgian Beers
 by John Mariani

     Having once moaned about France, “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheeses?”, Charles DeGaulle might have had a nervous breakdown governing Belgium, which is smaller than Maine but has well over 1,000 different beers. A book on the subject, All Belgian Beers by Hilde Deweer is 1,568 pages long and weighs 3.4 pounds.
         Try as I would to make a dent in Belgian beers while on a trip to Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels last month, I came away only flabbergasted at the variety and styles of the brews there, each with its own signature glass, which includes amber, blonde, brown, champagne, sour, and strong ales, lambic and fruit beers, pale lagers, stout, white wheat beer, and winter beers, among others.
    For a crash course, I headed to Antwerp’s De Groote Witte Arend (the great white eagle), set in a raftered, brick building dating to 1488, once a convent, since 1976 a beer hall/restaurant with a menu of 280 brews. With hearty dishes like beef stew, mussels in a curry sauce, and eel baked in cream, I sampled beers that ranged from a mere 4.6 percent alcohol up to a whopping 9.2.
         What I found overall in Belgian beers was the enormous difference between them and most American beers, which are overwhelmingly bland lagers. At De Groot Witte Arend, I drank a Buffalo Bitter ale on draft, named after Buffalo Bill, whose circus once played in town and distracted a young beer maker enough to have him neglect stirring the beer, resulting in a very bitter brew, which this definitely is, with 9 percent alcohol.
         I tasted a couple of monastery-made beers, that included Trappist Rochefort (9.2˚), wonderfully wheaty and delicious with Belgian food. Hopus, made by Brasserie Lefebvre (which makes 24 other beers), was sudsy and luscious, bittersweet, dark and syrupy. But the most impressive beer of the evening—which in 2008 won “World’s Best Ale” at the World Beer Awards--was Tripel Karmeliet, an earthy, very rich, piney-sweet. Its maker, Bosteels, has been in the business for seven generations, since 1791.  Orval (left) is another Trappist monastery beer, dating back to the middle of the 17th century.
         In the beautiful and serene city of Ghent, I visited Gruut Gentse Stadsbrouwerji on the river (open to the public, with a café inside), owned by an attractive young brewer named Annick De Splenter (below), who uniquely uses spices (gruit) rather than hops to make her five unfiltered, unpasteurized, slightly cloudy beers.  You can taste the faint flavors of spices like coriander and orange peel in her wheat beer, while her semi-sweet amber Old English Pale Ale is a gorgeous caramel color, with lots of rich complexity, a beer with 6.6˚ alcohol to be enjoyed all on its own, not slugged back at a pub.  Her brown ale has a lovely, spicy aroma and citrusy flavor with a long, nutty finish, while her Blonde (5.5˚) is gently barleyed. It is similar to a good U.S. lager but has considerably more body.
         Just as an experiment, De Splenter made a beer with hops, called Inferno, which shows how hops add the bitterness characteristic of most beers, but it lacked any other interesting flavors.
         Brussels teems with pubs and beer brasseries, including one called Delirium Café—on the appropriately named Impasse de la Fidelite--that lists more than 2,000 beers from all over the globe, every one described in text, including the Belgian Pink Killer, made from grapefruit.
         No beer aficionado visiting Belgium can afford to miss the city’s Museum of the Geuze, run by the Van Roy-Cantillon family since 1900, where the living microorganisms in the air cause the spontaneous fermentation of the traditional so-called Geuze lambic process, which begins with raw wheat, malted barley, and dried, three-year-old hops (below).  The beer is pumped into chestnut barrels, where the fermentation begins, during which carbon dioxide seeps out through the wood; thus, the beer is not oversaturated with the gas. The company claims its Greuze can age and improve for more than 20 years.

This range of beer styles impressed me not only in their numbers but in the many ways they can be enjoyed, as a thirst quencher, as an accompaniment to individual food—not least cheeses, with which slightly sweet beers go very well—or as an after-dinner drink.
Great Britain, Germany, and America’s craft breweries all make fine, interesting beers, but given the number of them made in Belgium, I’ve been converted to ferreting them out whenever I can find them. As one Belgian friend told me, “For Belgians beer is neither a religion nor an indulgence. It’s just good food.”

John Mariani's 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 basis.


“Close to midnight one Saturday night in Sebastopol, in Sonoma County, California, fog rolled in from the nearby Pacific Ocean, encompassing the town in thick, cool mist.  Inside an old apple cannery, though, revelers were in a different sort of haze—one produced by the cacophonous sounds of a funk band.”—Emily Brady, “Food and Art in Sonoma’s Other Town,” NY Times (10/23/11).



The Detroit News reported that Mallie's Sports Grill & Bar made
a 338-pound "Absolutely Ridiculous Burger" containing
15 pounds
of lettuce, 30 pounds of bacon, 30 pounds of tomatoes and
36 pounds of cheese (540,000 calories), and took 22 hours
to cook. With fries and a drink the price is $2,000.


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

My latest book, written with Jim Heimann and Steven Heller,  Menu Design in America,  1850-1985 (Taschen Books), has just appeared, with nearly 1,000 beautiful, historic, hilarious, sometimes shocking menus dating back to before the Civil War and going through the Gilded Age, the Jazz Age, the Depression, the nightclub era of the 1930s and 1940s, the Space Age era, and the age when menus were a form of advertising in innovative explosions of color and modern design.  The book is a chronicle of changing tastes and mores and says as much about America as about its food and drink.


“Luxuriating vicariously in the pleasures of this book. . . you can’t help but become hungry. . .for the food of course, but also for something more: the bygone days of our country’s splendidly rich and complex past.  Epicureans of both good food and artful design will do well to make it their cofee table’s main course.”—Chip Kidd, Wall Street Journal.


“[The menus] reflect the amazing craftsmanship that many restaurants applied to their bills of fare, and suggest that today’s restaurateurs could learn a lot from their predecessors.”—Rebecca Marx, The Village Voice.


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

"Eating Italian will never be the same after reading John Mariani's entertaining and savory gastronomical history of the cuisine of Italy and how it won over appetites worldwide. . . . This book is such a tasteful narrative that it will literally make you hungry for Italian food and arouse your appetite for gastronomical history."--Don Oldenburg, USA Today. 

"Italian restaurants--some good, some glitzy--far outnumber their French rivals.  Many of these establishments are zestfully described in How Italian Food Conquered the World, an entertaining and fact-filled chronicle by food-and-wine correspondent John F. Mariani."--Aram Bakshian Jr., Wall Street Journal.

"Mariani admirably dishes out the story of Italy’s remarkable global ascent to virtual culinary hegemony....Like a chef gladly divulging a cherished family recipe, Mariani’s book reveals the secret sauce about how Italy’s cuisine put gusto in gusto!"--David Lincoln Ross,

"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: St Ermin's Hotel, London; San Cristobal.

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, Suzanne Wright,  and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

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© copyright John Mariani 2011