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  August 18, 2013                                                                                                NEWSLETTER

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"The Jetsons" (1962)



by Edward Brivio

Bobby Van's
by John Mariani

An Ornellaia Restrospective
by John Mariani


Aegean Idyll
Part One

by Edward Brivio
Photos by Robert Pirillo

    No picture postcard or photographic image of Santorini prepares you for the visceral impact of seeing the real thing for the first time. It's like being made privy to some vast geological secret. The southernmost member of the Cyclades islands, a circular archipelago between Greece and Turkey, Santorini (above and below) sits squarely within the South Aegean Volcanic Arc.
    The distinctive terrain we see now--s
teep, towering cliffs of jagged, solidified lava some 900 feet high rising abruptly out of a giant central lagoon--is the remnant of a huge volcanic caldera created some 3,600 years ago, when one of the largest eruptions in recorded history destroyed the Minoan settlement of Akrotiri, refashioning the caldera while creating two new outlets to the sea. At first sight, Santorini, officially known as Thira, seems about as inhospitable a place to settle as can be imagined. Perched on the crest of the precipice is the principal city of Phira, a sprawl of pristine white buildings--like the sun-bleached carcass of some colossal beast--clearly etched against the rough, barren rock below and the deep-blue Aegean sky above.
    A funicular now shuttles up-and-down between sea level and town, but for the brave of heart, the donkeys still ply their trade. Exploring Phira, or Fira, means a good deal of walking uphill and down, with little or no shelter from the hot sun glaring off the pure white architecture. Filled with T-shirt and trinket shops, the center of town includes as well art galleries and jewelry stores. However what few good pieces of handmade gold jewelry there seemed very over-priced.
    Further up the hill are houses, tavernas, and small, fashionable hotels, with Aegean blue swimming pools. Almost at the summit, near the Catholic Cathedral, we came upon the cool, shaded, Da Costa Cafe & Restaurant, on a terrace elevated a few feet above street level. It was brought to our attention by a pretty, little, dark-haired girl handing out the cafe's business cards to passersby, as her father supervised. We stopped for iced cappuccinos--one of the unsung glories of Greece, by the way, as is the after-dinner liqueur mastika, made only from the resin of the mastic trees grown on the island of Chios. The spot was so cool and breezy that we returned a little bit later for a light lunch of tzatziki, taramosalata and a shared order of pastitsio, capped off with cold bottles of Mythos beer. Then it was down the funicular and back to our ship.
    Sadly, Santorini was the last stopover on our seven-day cruise of the Greek Islands and the Turkish "Riviera," aboard the Azamara Journey, a cruise ship that is part of the Royal Caribbean fleet and was extensively refurbished
 this year. To us, everything onboard, everything about the ship in general, looked brand new. A list of its embellishments, however, doesn't begin to capture the particular ambiance aboard the Azamara Journey.
Relatively small in size, it docks where larger cruise ships cannot, so a tender was necessary at only two of the six ports of call, Mykonos and Santorini; at the others, town was just a short walk away. Arriving around eight in the morning at the various stops and not departing until eleven PM, or later, we were allowed much more time for exploring than on most cruise ships.  In Rhodes, we anchored right in the harbor at noon and didn't leave until five AM the next morning.  Passengers had all of the long summer afternoon to wander through the gorgeous Old Town at leisure, go back to the ship for dinner and catch the sunset from their veranda, and then return ashore for the Friday night festivities. In the Old-Town of Rhodes they certainly know how to have a good time well after midnight.
    The Journey is called "a chic boutique hotel," with 694 passengers served by a crew of 390, so there's always someone quickly at hand or on call. More important, from their warm welcomes to their smiling goodbyes, the ship’s engaging staff members actually seemed to take pleasure in their work and enjoy pampering their guests. Initial embarkation and final disembarkation were quick, and completely hassle-free.
    Our Club Veranda stateroom (below) was always clean and fresh; amenities included Egyptian cotton sheets, thick, ankle-length terry cloth robes and high-end toiletries. With two twin beds (convertible to a queen-size), a small seating area, and balcony large enough for a table and two chairs, the 175-square-foot space never seemed cramped.
    Al fresco breakfast on the veranda every morning was one of the highlights of the cruise. And what a breakfast--a version of eggs Benedict with corn beef hash instead of bacon, and even steak and eggs, as well as pancakes, waffles, yogurt, or fruit. There’s even a blank space on the order form to write in special requests, like "extra hollandaise” or "extra sausage."
    With its tasteful décor, the Journey harks back to an earlier, more exclusive era of cruising. Forget grandiose atriums, miniature woodlands or showy shopping malls, the entrance lobby here is an impressive two-story space glittering with chandeliers, its sculptural double staircase adorned with wrought iron railings in a flowering vine motif. Two banks of elevators help passengers move between decks, as do the graceful stairways. The public spaces feel more like the interior of someone's private yacht, with rich, dark wood paneling, fireplaces (non-functioning), comfortable sofas and chairs, and crown moldings below crisp white friezes and dramatic tray ceilings.
    Like much larger ships, the Journey offers all the diversions-- numerous lounges, a grand piano bar, the Martini Bar and the Looking Glass, all open for cocktails, after-dinner drinks or a nightcap. There is a Drawing Room (left), a well-stocked library, the Astral Spa, the Luxe Casino, and a 350-seat Cabaret for live performances nightly. Two upscale boutiques lure the acquisitive, and on Deck 9 is a small swimming pool with its own Grill and Bar, surrounded by chaise lounges for sunbathing.
    The ship's cruises are all-inclusive, meaning just about everything is paid for--meals, drinks, bottled water and soft drinks, trips on the tender, room service, all gratuities, even a choice of whatever perfectly respectable red or white "house" wine is being poured that day. There is a surcharge for dining in two of its restaurants, for top-shelf liquor and for wines from the wine list, but their pricing is gentle. Very rarely did we have recourse to our wallets.
    The ship’s many restaurants and cafés--even the Mosaic Café coffee bar--provide excellent fare and plenty of it throughout the day. The main dining room, Discoveries, and its buffet-style Windows Café are in the cruise price, while the more exclusive restaurants, Aqualina and Prime C, require a $25 per person cover charge for all guests below Suite level. Dinner in either is an event. These restaurants feature attractive dining rooms on either side of the stern at the top of the ship on Deck 10, both with floor-to-ceiling windows, appetizing menus and well-trained service staffs that maneuver nimbly around well-appointed, widely spaced tables.
    Large flower arrangements in elegant tall vases catch your eye when you enter Aqualina (below), as does a small, stylish bar. The uncluttered décor and neutral color palate of glossy white and beige vie with fluted Doric columns, deeply recessed ceiling and Regency-style armchairs to give the polished space a remarkably casual feel. Royal blue drapes and seat cushions--the only pop of real color--echo the deep blue of the sea just outside.
    In this room, sweeping water views take center stage, and seafood is the headliner. Stellar starters included a chilled Seafood Platter piled with half a lobster tail, mussels, scallops and shrimp in a Champagne vinaigrette; a tasty, golden-brown goat cheese soufflé in a pool of tomato coulis; an antipasto misto of prosciutto, bresaola, artichokes and frittata, with a small salad dressed with olive oil and a balsamic glaze. The only miss on the plate were two triangles of uninteresting cheese.
    A mini bouillabaisse (below) was right on the mark, with mussels, scallops, shrimp and calamari in a Marseilles-worthy, saffron-hued seafood broth, flavorful enough to stand on its own, while the grilled artichoke and potato stack made a good vegetable first course, though I thought the artichoke wedges a little undercooked.
    Entrees proved no less interesting. Lobster Thermidor—believed to be named after an 1894 French play by Victorien Sardou--made clear why this Belle Époque culinary relic from the era of demi-mondaines and boulevardiers can still wow diners. Overflowing their half-shell like a cornucopia, the nuggets of lobster went so well with the cognac in the rich sauce. The tagliarini pomodoro served alongside was, however, an odd choice. I should have gone with the steamed vegetables. A more generous version of the seafood platter came off well as a main course, the crustaceans drizzled with garlic-chive oil, each done to its own turn. And what a sweet surprise to see Dover Sole as part of the regular menu, with no supplement! Pan-fried, the whole fish was presented table-side then neatly filleted by our waiter and served with a rice pilaf, spears of asparagus and lemon-caper butter. You don't gussy-up a main ingredient like this, so the slightly astringent butter was all the fillip needed.
    For robust yet elegant fare, order the osso bucco for its intense, dark-brown veal jus, and flavorful fondant potatoes. It's obvious that someone in the galley is tending the stockpot; the meat gravies and that sublime fish broth all clearly built around real homemade stock.
    I'm a sucker for a soufflé, and the kitchen here does well by them, whether the wonderful Grand Marnier, whose perfume literally filled the room, or the deep, dark chocolate. The pastry chef's deft hand was evident in a marble crème brûlée, with a cube of delicious pistachio cake, and a swirl-shaped raspberry tuile, pudding, cake and cookie all in one dessert.
You dine as well here and on board in general as you would in a first-rate restaurant ashore in the Mediterranean. For the $25 per person surcharge, tip included, it seemed nominal for such gourmet delights; on land, that Dover sole alone would easily top $50.
    Prime C (right) has the wood paneling and warm, clubby atmosphere of a classic steakhouse, only here with a bird's eye view of the sea. Once again, a small, convivial bar, with comfortable leather upholstered stools, hits your eye, then a long communal table before an extensive glassed-windowed wine vault that serves as front wall.
    How delectable to have access to really good beef on board! The 12-ounce NY strip, an eight-ounce filet mignon and a rib-eye weighing in at 16 ounces were all high quality cuts of beef, as good as you'd find in a Manhattan chophouse, expertly grilled medium-rare, juicy, and bursting with flavor.  Here again, none of these costly beauties incurred a surcharge.
    Is there a better sauce for steak than classic béarnaise? Here it was lush and sleek, with the tang of tarragon and the bracing bite of vinegar. The usual steakhouse sides, creamed spinach, onion rings, and cremini mushrooms and leeks were all well turned-out, as was the unexpected, superb blue cheese bread soufflé. Think of bread pudding gone savory and raised to the sublime.
    Sautéed giant shrimp, perfectly done and redolent of thyme, with asparagus and lemon zest, lived up their billing. They're listed on the menu with a Sauternes-vanilla sauce, but I've never been a fan of vanilla outside of dessert, so, at my request, the shrimp were served without it. Starters included a wonderful hot Seafood Sampler made up of a miniature crab cake with lobster rémoulade, coconut shrimp, hot and crisp, and a wonderful honey-glazed, bacon wrapped scallop.
    Another trio was Three Ways Mozzarella, consisting of a small caprese salad, crisp, yummy, prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella in carrozza, and a cold, tomato velouté topped with the cheese that seemed a pale afterthought. The beef carpaccio, with arugula and shaved Manchego in lieu of the usual Parmigiano, was as gratifying and refreshing as ever; so, too, the lobster salad appetizer with grapefruit sections and a small green salad. Lobster bisque was gracefully poured over chunks of lobster meat and very prettily decorated by the waiter, tableside, with an artistic drizzle of lemon cream.
    Our favorite dessert was the plate of still warm, sugar-sprinkled, mini-cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, with chocolate, vanilla, and caramel dipping sauces. A raspberry almond clafoutis with Galliano-spiked custard came in a close second.
    The only occasional flaw, in the otherwise impeccable performance of the accomplished service staff, was a waiter interrupting guests' conversations in his eagerness to get their orders. Very high standards were maintained by everyone on the ship, from our room attendant to the waiters who brought breakfast to our stateroom.
     Discoveries, at least twice as large but just as lovely as the premium dining rooms, once again with floor-to-ceiling windows, is free for all passengers. No reservations are accepted, which occasionally means a wait on line. The food here was likewise every bit as good. Classic shrimp cocktail served us well, while the asparagus velouté was inspired, a deep jade-green soup, creamy, smooth as silk and asparagus flavored to the end. Hot-and-sour soup is a Chinese-takeout mainstay, but I've never had one before that even comes close to what was served here, a clear bouillon chock-a-block with mussels, rings of calamari, and shrimp. The chef managed to pack a lot of flavor and visual appeal into a small package.
    Then came pancetta-wrapped roasted quail stuffed with mashed potatoes, simply the best quail I've ever eaten, beautifully browned, still juicy and flavorful, as well as a New York strip steak, medium rare, glistening in a deep brown beef jus and accompanied by steamed vegetables and fluted rounds of potato.
    Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, aromatic and creamy under a hard, burnt-sugar crust, and a New York cheesecake more than worthy of the Big Apple, rounded out the meal.


Part Two of this article will appear soon.




BOBBY VAN'S Steakhouse
by John Mariani


  Most of the current ballyhooed new restaurants in NYC are either small or really small--some less than 20 seats--and much is made of their popularity because they can fill those 20 seats every single night. To which I say, meh.
    How difficult is it, especially when a place is so hyped at the beginning, to fill 20 or 15 or 12 seats each night?  Now try to fill 100 or 150 seats every single night and turn the tables two or three times from 5 o'clock on. That is impressive, and that is what so many of NYC's best steakhouses do, with enormous efficiency.  The Bobby Van's Steakhouse chain, which began in 1969 in Bridgehampton, is now five units and, although walk-in guests are happily accommodated, you won't find an empty seat at any of the units, two of which--Times Square and West 50th Street--are open seven days a week for dinner.
    It was this last Bobby Van's, opened in 2006, that I entered last week at 7 PM to find the place 90 percent packed with people very, very obviously enjoying themselves.  For this is the beauty of the NY steakhouse: everyone goes hungry, ravenously so, and everyone leaves feeling terrific, if a bit stuffed.
    It should be mentioned that there is still a certain macho swagger at the front desk of a few NY steakhouses--Luger and Spark's leap to mind--that can make for a long wait, even with a reservation, and they are not known for their cuddly reception.  But others, including Porter House, Michael Jordan’s, Strip House, Morton’s and Bobby Van's, are places where they'll open the door for you, the pretty hostess will note your name, and you'll be seated promptly for your reservation and told to have a good evening.
    The BV menu toes a pretty traditional line of steakhouse requisites and the wine list is appropriately heavy with big reds. Prices for the steaks are pretty close to what you’d find at competitors’ restaurants, though a few sides, like the $12 French fries, are pretty steep.
     The crabcake is all fat lump crab and deliciously crusted on the outside while maintaining a perfectly soft inside.  Sesame-crusted ahi tuna, which at some point became a staple of steakhouses, was of excellent quality and texture, the sesame just enough to add texture but not to overpower the tuna.  
     I hardly expected to find pizza on the menu here and ordered it out of curiosity. There are eight variants, none cheap at $22-$24, but one is enough for a table of four, and the Old World pizza was amazingly good: fine crust, zesty spicing, nicely melted ingredients. Also, there are several pastas as very generous main courses, and the cavatelli was first rate, creamy and al dente.
     There are eight meat entries, along with other dishes, from a petit filet mignon to a porterhouse for two or more people.  A double cut veal chop was as good as any in NYC, full of flavor, perfectly cooked, juicy to the bone.  Of course, a steakhouse is only as good as its beef, and more than occasionally have I bemoaned the mediocre beef at steakhouses parading itself as USDA Prime.  But at Bobby Van’s it’s the real deal; more important, it is aged to the point where the meat has a good chew, while still tender, and the all-important mineral flavor here is the best indicator of Prime DNA.  It’s a great steak.
     That night they also offered a Dover sole, and it was nice and fat, of good size, impeccably cooked.
     Creamed spinach was all spinach, with lotsa cream and butter, and those pricey French fries were admittedly very good.  Of the desserts, it’s enough to say they are good standard issue.
     The room itself is pretty loud but not raucous, dark wood throughout, private dining rooms available, and you just know that the management here is going to do anything to make you happy.  They do it every day, with great aplomb.
     I assume the rest of the BV steakhouses are just as good as this Theater District unit. If so, it goes to prove the rule that when it comes to steakhouses in NYC—though rarely outside of it—practice makes perfect and competition is so fierce that slip-ups are costly. 

Bobby Van’s is open for lunch Mon.-Fri. and for dinner nightly. Appetizers run $13-$22, main courses $24-$50 at dinner.




by John Mariani

Ornellaia Estate in Bolgheri, Italy

    Say the name Ornellaia and most connoisseurs will start salivating.  So, the opportunity to taste a 25th anniversary retrospective of vintages dating back to 1990, and to do so with winemaker Axel Heinz in London prior to a charity auction of Ornellaia at the Royal Opera House (left and below) that broke records (some bottles sold for 80,000 pounds each), was irresistible.

    Most of these wines I had tasted before, including several at a Sotheby’s New York tasting some years ago and others at Lincoln Ristorante in NYC two years back, so I have had the opportunity to see how they have aged and developed over the past decade. 

    Beginning in 1981, in the Tuscan Maremma District of Bolgheri, Ornellaia was the masterwork of Ludovico Antinori (his brother Piero makes both Solaia and Tignanello and his cousin Nicolò Incisa makes Sassicaia), who planted cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot on 70 hectares there. From the first vintage, in 1985, Ornellaia was recognized both as a departure from the sangiovese-based Tuscan reds like Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino, and as an outstanding red wine all on its own. In different years the blend percentages may change, but Ornellaia is always more Bordeaux-like in its components than Tuscan.  

     Antinori eventually sold a minority interest to California’s Robert Mondavi, who afterwards took full ownership, then sold shares to Tuscany’s Frescobaldi wine family. When Constellation Brands bought Mondavi, Frescobaldi assumed full ownership of Ornellaia in 2005.  Today the winery also makes Le Serre Nuove, another red blend, and Masseto, a merlot.

    As noted in my column here a few weeks ago, Ornellaia shies away from the overused, now fatuous, term  “Super Tuscan,” which was never officially recognized by Italian wine laws and used with abandon by just about any Tuscan winemaker who blended Cabernet Sauvignon with Sangiovese. Heinz, who took over winemaking in 2005, says he prefers his wines stand on the estate's name, not to be called "Super Tuscans." “We do not promote the name 'Super Tuscan' any more,” says Heinz, “even though Bolgheri now has its own appellation.”

    Ornellaia has always been a big, bold, luscious wine that shows enormous finesse and an Italian refinement that can be amiably pleasing even when young.  Age is requisite, however, to show the wine’s true character and potential, and since Heinz (left) came aboard, the style of Ornellaia has changed somewhat. My real concern is that some recent vintages have had alcohol levels well above 14 percent. “The higher the alcohol level, the harder it is to make a great wine,” he told me. “If you are actively trying to make a blockbuster, you will not have a good wine. But now everybody in the industry is monitoring global warming, because just in the last decade alcohol levels have accelerated 1 to 1.5 percent because of the heat. A winemaker has to be very careful in monitoring how the grapes grow through each season and figuring out the best time to pick them.”

    Here are my notes from the three separate tastings I’ve done of Ornellaia over the last decade, youngest first.

2010—With 39 percent merlot, this blend had a very elegant bouquet, a rich, viscous wine already coming into balance, with the acids buoying up the still stiff tannins.  As with most of Heinz’s vintages, it was aged in barriques for 12 months, assembled from various barrels and aged for another six months and bottled a year ago. This should be really wonderful in two years.

2009—Heinz said this was a “very difficult vintage to make,” with an almost rainless summer. “The grapes were picked early and the tannins were soft and the wine will only be of medium weight.”  Still, I found it a fairly powerful wine, though only 52 percent cabernet sauvignon, with a berry component up front and hot alcohol finish. The 5 percent petit verdot pokes through to give it structure, but I think this vintage will take a while to come around.

2008—With a label entitled “L’Energia” by artist Rebecca Horn, this wine lives up to its moniker: it’s got a big nose with a woody, but not oaky, bouquet, now smelling of flowers and pronounced fruit and a remarkable herbaceous content of violets and mint. The tannins have been tamed but there is still a fine backbone. I’m itching to enjoy this wine right now, but I know it will get better and better over the next decade.

2007—Called “Harmonia,” with a label by Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, this wine was very tight when tasted two years ago, but in London it just exploded on the palate and in the nose.  It is lush, not overly ripe, and the 27 percent merlot gives it a velvety softness. This is what great Italian wine tastes like. 

2006—This vintage was not shown at the London tastings, but my notes from two years ago quote Heinz as saying, “The 2006 L’Esuberenza [with a label by artist Luigi Ontani] made itself,” from a harvest that was near perfect, with uniform ripeness. I thought it was a truly magnificent expression of the Ornellaia style, with several levels of complexity and tight but wondrous fruit qualities.

2005—Neither was this tasted in London. The wine was made the year Heinz took over, one of highly promising weather that resulted in a wine of big, stern tannins that loosened up with the food served—a tart of mushroom risotto. The blend was dominated by cabernet, a varietal Heinz has since reduced, indicating the direction he wants to take toward a more forward, fruit-rich style. 

2004—I had never tasted this vintage before, and I found it overripe, with plenty of bright fruit but yielding too much of it, fleshy but not complex, voluptuous but not very refined, somewhat explained by the 60 percent cabernet component.

2001—Another powerhouse, this time with 65 percent cabernet. It begins with a burst of fruit, with tannins softened by 30 percent merlot. It should be at its peak right now but it is beginning to show a little brown around the edge.  A wine I’d drink with game this autumn and winter. 

1999—Very complex in odd ways, for its nose, even after 13 years, is still vegetal and mineral, and the tannins have still not softened up entirely. There is an abundance of acid here and a woody edge that gives it plenty of flavor. It tastes very much like a fine Bordeaux but one with an Italian personality, which is what Ornellaia should be. 

1990—I’m afraid this wine is showing its age, its bouquet faded to dried-out flowers. It is still not yielding up its fruit, though the tannins seem to have faded, making this a fairly two-dimensional wine of a style that Heinz, since taking charge in 2005, has veered away from.

     I also tasted several vintages of Ornellaia’s lighter, less expensive wine, Le Serre Nuove, which has pretty much  the same characteristics of the bigger, expensive brother, but in a lighter, more approachable style.



According to the UK's Daily Mail, some guests at Scott's restaurant in London ask to be seated at the now notorious table where ex-husband Charles Saatchi wrung her neck during an argument, which led to divorce proceedings.


"Animal [restaurant in Los Angeles] was so cool I almost plotzed: sparse, Spartan, monochromatic, sharp lines, seriously tattooed staff (full double "sleeves" all round), and tear-jerkingly attractive punters reminding me why properly cool restaurants can never exist in Britain: because we just do not have the clientele to fill them. There are only maybe nine beautiful people in our whole country."—Giles Coren, London Times. 8/5


 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:

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.

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© copyright John Mariani 2013