Virtual Gourmet

  July 21,  2013                                                                                                NEWSLETTER

HOME    |    BOOKS    |    ABOUT US    |    CONTACT


"Lettuce and Beans" (2010) by Galina Dargery



Part One
by Misha Mariani

by John Mariani

by Geoff Kalish, M.D.


Part One

Misha Mariani

    San Gimignano, Tuscany

If there is a finer place to fall in love than Tuscany, it has so far escaped me. After visits to three exquisite Tuscan hotels and one very special moment in my life, there will never be another week quite like the one I spent there this summer.


    From the very moment that we began to climb the windy road to get to Villa San Michele, it was as if we were ascending to some celestial place, tucked into the hillside town of Fiesole, overlooking all of Florence.
    Villa San Michele was once a Franciscan monastery dating back to the 15th century and is now one of the most highly regarded and luxurious stays near Florence. Its original façade was attributed to sketches by Michelangelo. The monastery was dissolved by 1817 during the reign of Napoleon in Italy, then in 1900 was purchased by a New Yorker named Henry White Cannon, who restored the buildings to their current Victorian style.  In 1982 Orient Express Hotels purchased the property and opened its doors as a detail-focused 46-room hotel.
    Although, there are many sights inside Villa San Michele’s walls that will leave you speechless, such as the “Last Supper” fresco (1682) that adorns what used to be the monastery’s eating quarters, it is the sprawling view of all of Florence that really took our breath away. From nearly every point of the estate, this panorama is an astonishment.  And, of particular note, Ristorante San Michele’s covered terrace (right) faces the Florence side, with the restaurant’s arches acting as frames for the view of the city.
    Like most guests during their stay, we took our breakfast and dinner on the terrace, and in the evenings we gazed out on the twinkling lights of Florence as we delighted in the Tuscan Cuisine of Chef Attilio Di Fabrizio. We started with his antipasto of “Tartare tiepida di Scampi,” Tyrrhenian Sea scampi with a thinly sliced carpaccio of tender artichoke hearts and a hint of tarragon. Another superb dish was his “Dedicato ai 600 Anni” Tagliolini Con Salsa alla Porchetta di maialino di Cinta,” a wonderfully crafted pasta with a ragù of spit-roasted suckling pig and a dish dedicated to the 600 year anniversary of the estate.
    As Chef Di Fabrizio shared his love of Italian food with us, it was evident that local produce and foods were of critical importance to writing his daily menu. The food was never overbearing; instead, it was the way cooking was meant to be enjoyed, methodically prepared and a means of expressing the land and culture surrounding the cook.  Attilio does not only man the brigade of the kitchen at Ville San Michele, he also offers cooking lessons and classes.
        The original building, adorned with historical ornaments and art work, vintage and handcrafted furniture, houses many of the rooms and suites at Villa San Michele. Other accommodations offered are individual villas spread around the estate’s property, one of which we stayed in, all with their own little patio and umbrella-dotted terrazzo furniture. If you’re looking to really spurge, consider their Limonaia Suite & Villa, a multi-level, lavish place that was a former Orangery for the monks.
    Also on Villa San Michele’s property is an impeccably manicured garden, dressed with lemon trees and lounge furniture. The garden is nestled into the curving elbow of the hillside and harbors the most perfect view of Florence the estate has to offer. Before arriving in the city, with the Villa our first stop, I had a grand plan for our trip, but I didn’t know where it would take place. Then, standing in that garden over looking Firenze, with a glass of Franciacorta, just after sunset, I knew it was the right time and place: I asked my beautiful girlfriend Priscilla to marry me and spend the rest of our lives together.
    Between her tears, she said yes.



    Located in the town of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa in the heart of the Chianti wine region, Castello del Nero sits in the ideal spot from which to explore Tuscany, only 25 minutes from the historic cities of Florence and Siena. Guests often adventure out for the morning and return back ‘home’ to the wonderful setting of the hotel, its restaurant and its signature destination spa, to enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
    When planning our trip in Italy, as I suspect many do, we got a little over zealous and ambitious and scheduled stops in eleven cities, with six flights, two rented Fiats and hundreds of miles of driving.  Needless to say, with all the eating, drinking, sightseeing, walking and travel, it didn’t make for a physically relaxing trip--until we made it to Castello del Nero, just north of Sienna and south of Florence, in the heart of the Chianti Region.
    Castello del Nero, operated by the Leading Hotels Group, offers luxury, history and complete relaxation. Originally a castle from the 12th century, this estate was bought by the Del Nero Family and was turned into their country residence. Later sold and bought by the Hotel Group, this castle/residence has been added onto, transformed into one of the most beautiful getaways in the area, with sprawling views of the estate and the Chianti hills, overlooking their very own vineyards and olive groves, where wine and olive oil are produced exclusively for the hotel.
    Castello De Nero has undergone a complete restoration and modernization to make it one of the most state-of-the-art spa locations, but, because of its historical significance, it needed to be seamlessly integrated to preserve its architectural and natural beauty and art collections that date back to its genesis. Walk through the hotel and you will still find original furniture, stone arches, original frescoes and impeccably preserved styles from varying centuries.
    Castello Del Nero has 50 rooms, all different in the aesthetic design and appeal, ranging from modest but still spacious sizes, with ceramic flooring, with a more modern Tuscan feel to their Royal Suite in the main house.  There are multiple quarters, lavish designs, pillared structures and its very own second-floor private terrace with lounge chairs and dining amenities. The accommodations we fell in love with were in one of their deluxe suites, which to us had the most historical atmosphere. Ceramic floors, painted rafted ceilings, the family crest that hovered above the king size bed, an artfully designed bed frame with four hand-crafted bed posts adorned with gold accents, and luxurious furniture highlighted with deep red/orange upholstered pillows.
    Once you step out of your room, which you won’t be in a rush to do, make your way to the Spa (left), which was designed by ESPA and is easily one of the finest in Europe right now, focusing on a holistic approach. The amenities include the usual treatments of massages, facials, stone therapy, and hydrotherapy, along with signature treatments designed by ESPA that are exclusive to Castello Del Nero. There is also a gym and full-sized vitality pool (left) overlooking the estate.
    Castello Del Nero’s dining program is as remarkable as the rest of the accommodations and amenities. La Torre Restaurant (right), which resides in the old estates’ stables, is spearheaded by Executive Chef Giovanni Luca di Pirro, whose culinary style is definitely Tuscan, but with the refinement of proper three-star Michelin training and experience.
    After enjoying some cold Prosecco, we made our way across the grounds where we were cordially acknowledged by the staff.  The menu is diverse, offering à la carte as well as a menu degustazione, and follows the organic/holistic approach that the spa is built around. We started off our meal with Chef’s signature dish, Uovo Biologico, a slow-poached hen’s egg with a mousse of sheep’s milk cheese and black truffle, wonderfully fresh and exciting, with just the right amount of richness. Just as gratifying was the piccione (pigeon), which is found throughout Tuscany and not nearly enough in the States. The chef’s rendition was a fantastically prepared game bird, elevated with a terrine of chicken liver and luscious Chianti wine sauce to cut it the richness and balance the dish. And to complete it all, a bottle of the estate produced Vino Rosso, a Tuscan blend available only at the hotel.
    We had to tear ourselves away from Del Nero, but we had a rendezvous to come in Florence.


    My sentiments have always been, if you’re going to do something, do it right, and Hotel Lungarno definitely follows the same motto. Hotel Lungarno is a glorious 73-room (including 14 luxury suites) hotel of historical significance protected by the Italian Historical Committee. The property sits right on the edge of the Arno River, no more than 200 feet from the Ponte Vecchio. Hotel Lungarno also boasts a precious art collection, with works dating back to the 900's while including 20th century pieces by Picasso and Cocteau.
     After weaving our way through the maze-like streets of Florence in our Fiat 500, and probably breaking a few laws--yes we did go down the wrong way on a few roads--we pulled up to Hotel Lungarno, where we were greeted by one of the staff who courageously stopped traffic for us so that we could pull up on the curb, unload our luggage and park the car in a garage next door. As we made our way into the Hotel, we entered the first floor, actually an elegantly designed, multi-leveled lobby (for a lack of a better term), with relaxing chairs and sofas and windows spanning the length of the room (above), all overlooking the majestic and magical river. Here you could have cocktails and bar snacks.
     We were escorted to our room, one of the Deluxe Arno Rooms, and were immediately taken aback by our accommodations. The room itself wasn’t grand in size, but was perfectly situated on the third floor of the hotel, with a marble bathroom, it’s own balcony on the Arno with terrace furniture and cocktail tables and filled with all the amenities you could ask for. A true balance of fashion, luxury and Old World charm wrapped up in one package.
     After settling in, we decided to take a walk through the streets of Florence to build up our appetite for our dinner at Restaurant Borgo San Jacopo (right) back at the hotel. The restaurant is decorated in soft whites and grays, with warm, yellow water glasses; the walls are adorned with illustrations and designs by famous illustrator Gruau, creating an homage to ‘50’s and ‘60’s fashion while balancing out a fresh and modern feeling, all quite fitting since the hotel is owned by the Ferragamo family. And yes, I did wear my Ferragamo shoes that evening out of respect.    
    Manning--or "womanning"-- the kitchen here is Chef Beatrice Segoni (left), an extremely talented chef who takes a very modern approach to some classic and traditional dishes. We sat down and were immediately greeted with a glass of Italian sparkling wine to be enjoyed as we perused the menu. After a moment’s thought, we decided it would better if we left ourselves in the hands of the chef to do two different tasting menus along with wine pairings, which were facilitated by Sommelier Salvatore Biscotti, who did a remarkable job complementing Chef Segoni’s cuisine.
    The first course was a Caprese salad, a classic I’ve seen a thousand times before, but after my first bite, I was already sold on the talents of Chef Beatrice. She had taken a dish that was simple and plain and had turned it into something unique in its own right without compromising anything, only enhancing the ingredients and flavor. She had recreated the caprese salad into a timbale of tomato gelee, mozzarella mousse and basil foam, all perfectly balance and proportionate. Other standout dishes were a gnocchi d’astice (lobster) with cherry tomatoes and basil; luscious agnolotti; and picture perfect fritto misto. Superb desserts fell right in line with the rest of meal.  To complement Chef Beatrice’s stellar cuisine was a wine pairing that included great Italian Examples like Conterno’s Barbera D’Alba “Cascina Francia”, Capanelle Chardonnay Toscana, and Marina Cvetic Trebbiano.
        Hotel Lungarno was the last hotel and meal that we had on our eleven-day excursion (I’ll be reporting on more of the trip in upcoming weeks), but I think that after all the great meals we had, Borgo San Jacopo still landed itself on the top of the list.

Part Two of this article will appear soon.




by John Mariani


236 West 56th Street (off Eighth Avenue)


     In the movie "Ocean's 13," casino owner Willy Bank (Al Pacino) boasts that "I shook Sinatra's hand."  If you go to Patsy's, you'll meet owners Joe and Sal Scognamillo and Frank DiCola, all of whom have not only shaken Sinatra's hand, but hugged the guy and cooked for him countless times.  In fact, when Sinatra was across town one night dining at the French restaurant La Côte Basque, he called Joe and put him on the phone with the chef, saying, "Tell this guy how to make a veal cutlet the way I like it!"
  Sinatra is hardly the only famous personage the owners of Patsy have shaken hands with.  Just look at the wall as you enter  the restaurant and you'll find signed photos of everyone from Tony Bennett (above, with Joe and Sal), Dean Martin and James Gandolfini to Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner and Rosemary Clooney--along with her nephew George Clooney.  Patsy's, opened by Pasquale and Conchetta Scognamillo, has been here in the Theater District since 1944, so the wall of fame has grown large. (Patsy’s website has 222 celeb photos.) At a time when enormous hype has been heaped upon the new, ultra-pricey downtown restaurant Carbone for its Italian-American food, including $50 veal parmigiana, Patsy's, after eight decades, is still, for many people, including myself, the finest Italian-American restaurant in NYC.
    Sal (Pasquale's son), Joe (Sal's son) and Frank are still the constant presences that keep Patsy's from changing. This goes, for the most part, with the menu, with many recipes included in Patsy’s Cookbook-Classic Italian Recipes From A New York City Landmark Restaurant (2002), which itself is full of good celebrity anecdotes, like the time Sinatra went into the kitchen to kibbutz and make his own pasta and the Thanksgiving Day the restaurant opened just for Sinatra, who dined alone there the night before. They even invited some other customers to fill out the room.
    There were years when such food was out of fashion, in favor of so-called Northern Italian food, Tuscan grills, and nuova cucina places, where the décor radically diverged from the look of places like Patsy's, which remains unremittingly itself, with the long, roomy banquettes, the starched tablecloths, the chandeliers with their little lampshades, and the tile floors.  Up front, you're likely to run into Joe's wife, who often checks coats.  Sal is back in the kitchen, unless he's not, so Joe takes off his jacket and tie after service and goes back there and cuts veal.  Everything Patsy's does is housemade and it shows in the consistency of the food, not least a marinara sauce that is a template for that classic Italian requisite. The bread is good, the butter is generous, the wine list solid, with sufficient bottlings in every price category.  The captains are in tuxedos, the waiters in white jackets. Bartender
Rocky Guerrero knows every cocktail invented in the last century.
    Resilient to fads, the menu doesn't change much,  though you'll find the whole history of Italian food here, from tripe with onions, prosciutto and peas to spaghetti and meatballs (they're terrific), from manicotti to penne alla vodka
You miss veal francese? You get three flavorful fillets lightly battered and sautéed in fine olive oil and white wine and graced with lemon slices.  Haven't ordered veal parmigiana in a while? Patsy's is nonpareil, as is the potato gnocchi, the mozzarella in carozza, and pork chops with vinegar peppers.  "Newer" dishes include pumpkin tortelloni in a sage, cream and butter sauce, which is about as luscious as these fat-bellied pasta nuggets get. You like spice? The chicken contadina is packed with hot peppers, sausage, and potatoes (below). You love cannolis? Patsy’s makes theirs with homemade ricotta, sugar, orange peel, citron fruit, and chocolate chips.
       Patsy's has tried very hard to keep its prices reasonable in this high-rent district, so the most expensive thing on the menu, at $42, is a big sirloin steak pizzaiola with peppers and mushrooms in a marinara sauce. There's a marvelous three-course $35 lunch with several options, and a $50 pre-theater dinner.
     It's a bright room, all the better to see who's coming through the door--Liza Minnelli, Tom Selleck, Neil Diamond, Rush Limbaugh or Selena Gomez, all of them eager to pose for a picture. They want to be on that wall!  But rest assured, you will be treated just the same as the big names, and you'll get the same wonderful food and service, and you'll leave knowing you had an experience few restaurants anywhere can reproduce. Patsy's and New York are inseparable.  Imagine Old Blue Eyes belting out, "
These vagabond shoes/They're longing to stray/Right through the very heart of it/New York, New York!" He could have been singing about Patsy's.

Patsy's is open for lunch and dinner daily.  Dinner appetizers run $10-$19, pastas (full portions) $21-$28, and main courses $28-$42.


By Geoff Kalish, M.D.


     In terms of drawing an international audience, it seems that the South African wine industry got off on the wrong track. For a number of years it has promoted as its flagships wines two generally flawed varietals that poorly match with food-- the pinotage, usually a rather earthy, dark red product, often showing a whiff of unpleasant acetone,  and a generally unbalanced, flabby, pale white chenin blanc. So, with very little well-organized group marketing or educational effort in the US, it’s not surprising that many shops provide so little shelf space for South African wines. A  a growing group of vintners are, however, following a new path, with emphasis on chardonnay, syrah, pinot noir and Bordeaux-like blends. Based on extensive tastings during a 3-week visit to the country, I found that many bottles now produced in South Africa are well-priced gems. Discussed below are seven noteworthy producers who are following, or at least veering,  towards this new path.  Their wines can be found in the US, although some local hunting and special ordering may be necessary for particular bottles. Prices listed are typical US retail cost.




     Founded in 1975 by the father of present-day owner, this winery is located in the Hemel-en Arde (Heaven and Earth) Valley on the southern coast of the Western Cape.  Here, cool breezes from the Atlantic Ocean allow for ideal ripening conditions for the chardonnay and pinot noir grapes grown on the 128-acre clay-rich soil estate. Also, with production limited to 15,000 cases annually (half chardonnay and half pinot noir), great attention can be paid to harvesting and vinification, with innovative techniques put into practice, such as maintaining delicacy and freshness in the relatively low alcohol chardonnays (around 12 percent) by aging a portion of the fermented juice in specially made, large clay amphorae rather than in oak barrels. Based on a tasting of pinot noirs from 2009 through 2012 and chardonnays 2010 through 2012, I found the the results are well worth the effort, with first class Burgundian-like wines. For example the 2009 Pinot Noir was reminiscent of a Clos du Tart, with a bouquet and taste of cherries and spice;  the  2011 Pinot Noir ($30) was similar in style to a Volnay, with a memorable taste of raspberries and herbs. And the chardonnays, particularly the 2011 ($21), could easily be mistaken for Puligny-Montrachets, with a dry, crisp taste and smooth, elegant minerality in the finish – great to mate with the likes of lobster, shrimp and scallops.


    While much of the South African cabernet sauvignons I’ve tasted show a distinctively annoying metallic aftertaste, not so with wines made from this varietal produced at Jordan (left). For example, the 2009 Cobler’s Hill, 58% cabernet sauvignon, 42% merlot ($40), has a dry, well-balanced flavor of cassis and cherries with chocolate in the finish, and the 100 percent cabernet 2010  Jardin Range ($18) has a deep ruby color, with a bouquet and taste of ripe blackberries and a hint of vanilla.
    Clearly the great bouquet and flavor achieved in the cabs and cab blends produced here are a combination geography and enological skills. Like many of the best California Cabs, all grapes are grown on cool hillside vineyards, and proprietors Gary and Kathy Jordan are graduates of the UC Davis Wine School Program. Their chardonnays are no less grand cru-like, with the 2011 Nine Yards Chardonnay, 100% chard,  aged primarily in new French oak barrels ($30), showing a rich taste of citrus and pineapple with vanilla on the finish;  older vintages reveal complex flavors of herbs and butterscotch. Also, the soft, fruity 2009 Prospector Syrah is a great choice to drink with barbecue fare like ribs and grilled salmon.

NB: So as not to confuse the consumer between the Jordan winery in California and that in South Africa (and by mutual agreement by the producers), the Jordan South Africa wines are sold under the Jardin label in the US.



    While a number of South African producers only make wine from estate-grown varietals, this vintner’s philosophy is to make a wide range of sensibly-priced, fruit-driven wines by primarily using purchased grapes, And based on the spectrum of top-notch wines tasted here, this approach is working quite well. An excellent 2012 Sincerely Sauvignon Blanc (a bargain at $12) had a classic bouquet of newly mown hay and a taste of citrus, gooseberries and herbs with a touch of sweetness in the finish – a perfect wine to go with boiled or broiled shrimp or raw oysters and mussels. A 2011 Neil Ellis Chardonnay showed a bouquet of apples and pineapple and a rich, lemony flavor with hints of butterscotch ($18), ideal to mate with grilled swordfish or tuna. The easy drinking 2010 Grenache ($28) had a complex bouquet and taste of ripe cherries, raspberries and chocolate, and the 2010 Syrah ($13) showed a bouquet and taste of blackberries and ripe plums with a long slightly tannic finish – an excellent wine to accompany beef, lamb and mild cheeses.



    While this property produces some excellent wine, much of what seems to be available in the US is the lower end “Petit” brand (chenin blanc, pinotage and merlot), which, even at $11 a bottle, leaves a lot to be desired in bouquet and taste.  And while the Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc ($13),  aged in oak barrels for nine months, is a bit more aesthetically pleasing,  with a bouquet and taste or ripe peaches and melons, I found the finish somewhat bitter. However, if you can find them, go for one of the two excellent blends of grenache and syrah--the 2007 Renegade ($18) that shows a bouquet and taste of ripe plums and herbs or the 2009 Gypsy ($55) that has a complex bouquet and taste of ripe fruit and spice with hints of anise in the finish, ideal to match with lamb and beef. 



    Little known in the US, this winery (its name meaning “rest and peace”), annually produces 10,000 to 15,000 cases of top-notch wine from estate-grown grapes. The 2009 Estate ($36), a blend of 60% rich, ripe cabernet sauvignon, toned down by 20% syrah and 10% merlot shows a cassis nose, very fruity flavors of blackberries and cherries and a long lasting finish.  It pairs particularly well with lamb and game. And based on tasting the 1996 Estate, expect this wine to become richer and smoother with a few years of bottle age. Also needing a few years of bottle age is the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25), with a bouquet and taste of cedar, chocolate and ripe blackberries and  a bit of tannin in the finish.  Not for the faint-of-wallet, the 1694 Classification ($110) is blend of syrah (57%) and cabernet sauvignon (43%) grown in deep red, granite-laden soil and aged in French and American oak barrels for 18 months. The result is an elegant wine with a memorable bouquet of raspberries, crushed violets and anise and multiple layers of fruit and spice flavor and a long smooth finish that would harmonize well with fare ranging from pasta  to poached salmon to blue-veined cheeses.



    Try to get over pronouncing the name (boo-ken-hotes-kloof) and the rather contrived  meaning of its name (the cliff where the Cape beech trees once grew),  because they make a number of sensibly-priced,  spectacular wines here. For example, there’s the 2011 Chocolate Block ($30), mainly a blend of syrah, grenache and cabernet sauvignon with smaller amounts of cinsault and  viognier, that has a bouquet of ripe raspberries, with a long lasting taste of plums, blackberries and earthy spice that enhances the flavor of fare ranging from hamburgers and pizza to steak and lamb. Another winner is the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($50), reminiscent of top-rated boutique California cabs, like those from the Grace Family and Screaming Eagle – with a bouquet and mouth-filling taste of black currants and undertones of butterscotch and exotic spice that go perfectly with  rich beef dishes, like braised short ribs. Even the whites, like the  light, fruity Wolftrap, a blend of viognier,  chenin blanc and grenache blanc ($10) and the elegant, refreshing 2011 Semillon ($30) are heads and heels above the seemingly endless array of homogenous, characterless semillons, especially those from South Africa,  on many shop shelves.




    Winemaking started in the 17th century in the Constantia region as part of the commercial effort to re-supply the ships stopping at the Cape of Good Hope on their journey between Europe and the Far East. And Klein Constantia (meaning “small Constantia”) was part of the original wine estate developed in the area. While this locale has become somewhat overshadowed by Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, some excellent wine is made here especially the legendary sweet, honeyed Vin di Constantia.. A favorite of Napoleon, known to have had this wine sent to him while he was in exile in St. Helena and who is said to have requested a glass on his deathbed, Constantia is still produced from vine-dried Muscat de Frontignan grapes (right). The 2007 version ($40) has a deep amber color, with a bouquet and sweet memorable taste of honeyed oranges and apricots with a touch of acidity in its finish that makes it a fine match-up with goat's cheeses or  desserts like chocolate mousse and apple pie. 




Two design/branding agencies in Amsterdam have opened a pop-up restaurant called Eenmaal intended  to "break the taboo that surrounds eating alone in public" by only having tables for one person. "Where you might usually go out to eat with company, at Eenmaal you are your own company," said creator Marina van Goo. "It is the perfect place to dine in pleasant solitude; an exciting experiment for those who never go out for dinner alone." The menu is a four-course prix fixe vegetarian prix fixe menu.


Alisa Toninato is trying to raise $45,000 to produce a line
called The American Skillet Company
 of 50 cast-iron pans shaped like a different
American state, into production.



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

My latest book, which just won the prize for best book from International Gourmand, 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 coffee 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--Now in Paperback, too--How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan)  has won top prize  from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.  It 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: SPA WATCH-AMSTERDAM

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).

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.

To un-subscribe from this newsletter,click here.

© copyright John Mariani 2013