Virtual Gourmet

  March 1,  2015                                                                                             NEWSLETTER


Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock and Grace Kelly during the filming of "To Catch a Thief" (1955)


By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani 


By John Mariani

Osso Buco alla Milanese at Al Matarel   

    A few weeks ago I wrote about staying and dining in some of Milan’s finest hotels and restaurants, promising I would report back on the city’s trattorias. So, here goes.

    First of all, since Milan is Italy’s most important business center--this year hosting the 2015 World Expo--it draws to it all the country’s regional culinary styles.  Thus, if you wish to eat Tuscan food, there is Bice and Alla Collina Pistoiesi;  for fusion cuisine, Il Luogo Aimo e Nadia; for Piedmontese, delle Langhe;  for Sicilian, Al Merluzzo Felice; for Abruzzese, Da Giannino.  Specialty foods from all those regions are readily found at the gorgeous--and very expensive--Gastronomia Peck food halls (with a nice snack bar attached).
    Milanese (that is, Lombardian) cooking shares affinities with its neighbors to the north and east--Switzerland and Austria--so there is a good deal of butter used.  Tomatoes are less important than in the south of Italy, and risotto is proudly preferred over pasta.  The cold appetizer vitello tonnato is Lombardian, as are costoletta alla Milanese and osso buco--all featured in profusion in both the city’s high-end ristoranti and most humble trattorie. 

Via L.S. Mantegazza 2

    I will always admire the longstanding bastion of Milanese tradition and modernity, Alfredo Gran San Bernardo, but except for its grandeur, Savini may be ignored and the dreary Bouecc avoided. But among trattorias, I have a new favorite--al Matarel, a place recommended by my esteemed colleague Fred Plotkin, whose Italy for the Gourmet Traveler (5th edition) is invaluable. He said the food is terrific but warned me the owner, Marco, could be grumpy, especially to out-of-town visitors. 
    Well, the food was very, very good indeed. And Marco turned out to be one of the sweetest, most generous restaurateurs I’ve run across in the city.  Once you show a sincere interest in food and wine, you’ve won him over, and you will be ably assisted by the English-speaking waiter who interprets.
        Al Matarel is just a short walk from the center city, and, grazie dio!, one of few places in Milan open on Sunday night.  The interior has the typical look of a northern trattoria, brightly lighted, with red ceiling, pink tablecloths, ferns and flowers, wine shelves, and sturdy chairs, though al Matarel is distinguished by a sprawling, bustling mural of Milan and, for reasons unexplained, cartoon-like seafood images.  The trim patrician Marco, always in sleeveless sweater and ascot, takes pride in being 80 years old with a young wife and chef, Elide, who is 74. They’ve run al Matarel for five decades, which has allowed her to perfect every dish, including several you won’t find anywhere else.
        The dialectically named rustin n’ga (right) is a succulent layering of shards if pink veal and roast potatoes cooked together. She also does a bubbling, sizzling casserole of Gorgonzola, potatoes and polenta with white truffles (right), in season, generously shaved over the top.  There’s Milanese headcheese, tangy and fatty, and her osso buco with saffron risotto is one of the best of this prototypical Milanese dish in the city.  Marco suggested three tortelloni on one plate--with fresh funghi porcini, pumpkin and spinach with braised beef called stracotto—all sheathed inside delicate egg pasta.  There was also a plate of tender ribbons of pasta glossed with just butter and parmigiano.  For dessert, the dense chocolate cake will bring you to tears after a meal so satisfying, so honest, so perfect.
      My friend and I were nearly the last people to leave that Sunday evening, happily regaled by Marco with his opinions on Milanese food and Lombardian wines, like the Franciacorta sparkler we began with and the Oltrepò Pavese we had with dinner.
       I had such a wonderful evening at Al Matarel, that I doubt very much I'll ever visit Milan again without paying homage to Marco and Elide.

Al Matarel is open daily for dinner. A typical meal will cost about 40 euros, without wine, but with tax and service included. 

Via Bagutta, 14
02 7600 2767

    After a long absence, I returned to Bagutta, a famous restaurant opened in 1924 by Tuscan Alberto Pepori (his family still runs it), who early on cultivated a clientele of journalists and artists, the latter exchanging paintings and murals for a meal.  After the war it drew the international movie crowd and by the mid-1980s, it was, along with Bice, the favored trattoria among the fashionistas who worked and shopped on Via Montenapoleone and Via Bagutta, especially during Milan’s twice-yearly Fashion Week.  Many a buyer from Bloomingdale’s and Saks was courted by a fashion designer here, over plates of tripe alla fiorentina or beans and black cabbage, still on the menu today.
    Bagutta is still popular, though I was told the frenetic business people and fashionistas now rarely have time for a big midday meal. You will see American and other foreign women toting huge bags of newly acquired clothes, shoes and accessories from nearby Armani, Missoni, and Ferragamo.  You need not dress up to go to Bagutta, but you might wish to preen a bit.
    The murals remain in profusion--there was once a di Chirico painting here but no one seems to know where it is--and journalists from Corriere della Serra and Il Giorno still prefer the smaller rooms near the front hall, while the big open rear room (right) is for seeing and being seen, not least for watching the rolling carts of food go by your table, catching the aromas of white truffles and wishing you ordered more.  Here the risotto alla Milanese, scented and colored with saffron, is wonderfully creamy, and the costoletta alla Milanese is as crisp and juicy as any in the city. 
    The menu changes seasonally, even daily, but the array of dishes stays well within tradition, and the wine list has some very good buys on very good wines, including old stocks of Tuscan bottlings.
    Bagutta has not only very good food but a strong history to savor as well.  Don't miss being a part of it.

Open Mon.-Sat. A typical meal will run about 45 euros, without wine, but with tax and service included.

Via Bagutta, 1

    Pio Galignani and his wife, Enrica Del Rosso, were the first to bring really good pizza to Milan, back in 1977, when they opened Paper Moon,  named after a favorite American movie of 1973.   Pizza in those days was far from the ubiquitous dish it now is in Italy--and everywhere else for that matter--and Paper Moon’s was particularly thin and crisp crusted, perfect for the models and fashionistas to snack on after a runway show.  The restaurant’s two-level décor was also quite a bit more modern than most trattorias in Milan at the time, decked out in cool white, black and beige, with reed table mats and wicker chairs, roses everywhere, and an array of movie star photos you’ll recognize.  It’s a style that has traveled well to branches in Istanbul and Qatar.  (There was a NYC branch once, since closed.)
    It’s a well dressed crowd that jams Paper Moon day and night, though casual chic is the call. Once you sit down you’ll be treated to hot strips of olive oil-coated pizza bread called schiacchiata, which goes well with the beef carpaccio or the bresaola.  There are 30 different pizzas available, from one with Gorgonzola, taleggio and parmigiano to tomato, mozzarella and artichokes. Lesser pizzaioli have mimicked Paper Moon’s pizzas by making them thin as crackers, but the original has just the right heft and chew.
    Pastas are also excellent--one of the best potato gnocchi lavished with Gorgonzola (right)  I’ve ever tasted, as is the risotto, simply cooked with butter and parmigiano. They do a fine baby octopus with polenta, and there’s a slew of grilled daily specials, from black cod to calf’s liver. For dessert have the light semifreddo with espresso.
    It’s a great deal of fun to bask in the radiance of Paper Moon.  At the next table is a new Russian model with her agent, at another a businessman spoiling his son with a plate of tagliatelle with white truffles.  Over there, some obvious regulars, but then everyone is greeted effusively by the Galignani family. Paper Moon is as much fun as it is a trattoria for terrific food.

Open Mon.-Sat. A typical meal will run about 45 euros, without wine, but with tax and service included.



By John Mariani

125 West 44th Street (near Avenue of the Americas)

    The hoary axiom about the three most important things for success in business--location, location, location--does not seem to apply to NYC steakhouses, for from the number of packed  dining rooms it’s clear you can stick one anywhere--uptown, downtown, Lower East Side, West Village, Tribeca--and it just doesn’t matter. A new steakhouse in NYC is like the Statue of Liberty, exhorting fans to “Give me your tired . . . huddled masses yearning to breathe free!”
    For every night at 6 p.m., steakhouses everywhere in the city open their doors and a torrent of tired, huddled masses yearning to be free of their office cubicles blasts through, desperate for stress release, a dirty Martini or two, and an infusion of red meat.     
    But, if every location seems low-risk for a steakhouse, midtown   Manhattan is Steakhouse Central, with the old timers like Palm and Spark’s competing with an unending barrage of newcomers like Davio’s, Charlie Palmer’s, NYY Steak, and the brand new Hunt & Fish Club on West 44th Street. (Strip House is up the block, Bobby Van’s and Robert’s one block north, Shula’s one block south.)
    Like many of the newcomers, Hunt & Fish Club, which sounds like it should be set within a logwood lodge hung with moose heads and fish nets, has gone for a snazzier look than the traditional yellow walls and dark  wainscoting.  HFC, shall we call it, is a steakhouse that aims to attract as many women as the men who want to buy them a round of drinks.
        HFC sprawls over 9,200 square feet on two levels, decked out with 55,000 pounds of marble, 180 seats and dramatic, manly artwork by Roy Nachum and Studio Iyor.  The rumored tab was $5 million, which seems low when you look around the place. “
Our goal is to bring back the character and depth of old school New York in a contemporary setting,” says co-founder Eytan Sugarman, “a space that Sinatra would have been spotted at.”  Ironically, the  flashiness of HFC’s décor was never Old Blue Eyes’ style, for he preferred quiet, intimate Old World Italian haunts like Patsy’s on West 54th Street.
        The lounge area at HFC is called  the “Black Room,” its backlighted whiskies in crystal decanters; the main dining area is the “White Room” (above, right) with an 40’-by-20’ reflective chrome light installation; the oasis-themed “Green Room” has an arched skylight, a self-watering “living green wall,” and sculptures inspired by—I kid you not—“the scriptural golden calf,” which, you may recall, Moses smashed to pieces.  Then there’s the downstairs Blue Room (left) with a glass-enclosed infinity wine cellar done up with Roman Reliefs beneath a mirrored ceiling. 
That’s a lot of décor, most of it more fit for Vegas than Gotham, but it’s working well, with a raucous bar crowd split between two-day-bearded guys in those skinny suits and their female prey; by six o'clock the dining room is packed with loud, guffawing men just out the door of investment banks and bond agencies, their neckties stuffed into the pockets of jackets draped over the backs of very comfortable chairs.  Not surprisingly, after nine o’clock a gaggle of recently coiffed, very high-heeled, long-nailed women begin to occupy the most visible “A” dining room tables, where they sip a flute of mid-range Champagne and try to guess which men are most likely senior VPs.  As investment entrepreneur Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci (Mr. Sugarman’s partner) told the NY Post, “
This is not for the people who are taking their kids for a $10 hamburger. It’s not where the Griswolds would stop.”
        Sugarman and Scaramucci might easily have hired a brigade of robotic grill cooks to do justice to the basic steaks and chops menu, but instead they hired away Executive Chef Jeff Kreisel from the illustrious Porter House in Time-Warner Center, as well as one of the city’s finest pastry chefs, Richard Leach, formerly of
Park Avenue Café.  The result is that not only are the steaks and chops and lobsters impeccably cooked but other, novel dishes show off the kitchen’s strength, most saliently one of the best soups I’ve tasted in NYC--French onion (right) with morsels of oxtail and bone marrow ($17) that I could make a meal of. If you go, do not miss this masterpiece.
    But first come hot popovers the size of a softball, laced with Gruyère cheese and accompanied by good butter at the right temperature.  The tuna tartare  ($19) gains interest from caramelized pineapple, avocado mousse and crisp potato.  A jumbo crabmeat cake ($22) lives up to its billing, and the oysters ($4 each), only two species listed on the menu, are excellent.
    There are 2 ½ pound whole lobsters ($50), steamed or broiled, and they are meaty and overflow the plate.  If you don’t go with steak, the grilled Berkshire pork chop ($29) is a great choice, truly massive in size at 14 ounces to feed two. There’s no wagyu on the menu--kind of a relief these days, when everyone claims to have it--but you’ll be very happy with the dry-aged porterhouse for two ($55 per person), which I asked for well charred on the outside and medium-rare, and it came out perfect.
    Of the sides I enjoyed, the creamy mashed potatoes ($10) took the prize, and the Brussels sprouts ($12) gained flavor from a bacon vinaigrette;  macaroni and cheese ($11) had more richness than deep flavor. Skip the too-cute truffle tater tots ($12), which aren’t much of an improvement on what you had in elementary school.
    If HFC is neck and neck with its steakhouse competition, it soars ahead in the dessert department, which, with Mr. Leach back there, is to be expected. Right now he’s doing a decadent chocolate torte of devil’s food cake, chocolate ganache and frozen espresso mousse; a lovely winter spice cake with apple puree and cinnamon mascarpone; a first-rate crème brûlée with pecan praline biscotti (right); and the “everyday sundae,” which can be had mountain-size at $22; all the other desserts are $14.
    HFC’s wine list is solidly knit, with a lot of high-end bottles among a discrete selection under $50. The wineglasses are not the most elegant you’ll find in NYC.
    Clearly the owners of HFC are seeking a glam crowd and one with lavish expense accounts, and, after only two months in operation, they seem to have found the clientele they wanted, both male and female. So, if you can’t feel Sinatra’s ghost, you may spot some New York sports figures and minor celebs like Mario Lopez pressing the flesh.  The place is cooking on all burners.


HFC is open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays and nightly for dinner. Dinner is a la carte or there is a Three Course Prix Fixe dinner at $75, Three Course Steak Prix Fixe at $85, and Four Course Steak Prix Fixe at $95



By John Mariani

David Ridgway, sommelier at La Tour d'Argent in Paris

    A recent article in the New York Times titled “2,300 Wine Choices and Five Minutes to Select One” poses the question to several of the city’s top sommeliers as to how a guest can possibly navigate his way through such a list with any real discretion.  The sommeliers, of course, explain that that is why they are employed, to help guests choose a wine appropriate to their tastes and budget.
    The usual examples are given: the guest should not fear ordering one of the cheaper wines on the list because the sommelier vouches for every selection; guests who know nothing about wine like to show off by pretending they do; when a restaurant will and will not remove a bottle from the table, and bill, if it’s not to the guest’s liking.
    What they do not talk about is why their wine lists are so huge in the first place. The Regency Bar & Grill lists 650 selections, Per Se, 2,300, and at the defunct Cru, 4,500. Wine Spectator gives its Grand Award to 68 restaurants with at least 1,500 labels on their list. 
       There are far larger cellars outside of New York—Bern’s Steak House (below) in Tampa stores 6,800 and La Tour d’Dargent (left) in Paris, stocking its cellar since 400 years ago, has more than 15,000.  The questions is, why?
    Vegas being Vegas, Aureole has cat-suited  "wine angels" swing on wires to fetch bottles from a four-story, glass-enclosed wine tower (below, left) that includes every First Growth Bordeaux of the year 1900.
Quite obviously, no wine lover, no matter how wealthy, is going to peruse a 15,000-bottle wine list just to find something that goes with his dinner.  The time taken just to page through a list the size of what phone books used to be is time away from the enjoyment of one’s friends and of the meal itself.  Sommeliers will contend that their lists reflect a desire to show strength in every category and to please every taste.  But a list with a mere 200 selections should pretty much demonstrate those virtues for 99% of the people who order wine.
    Such trophy lists may have 24 Pouilly-Fuissés in various vintages, so unless the sommelier regularly tastes them (there’s rarely more than one or two bottles of each in the cellar), he has no way of knowing if they are still in drinkable condition. I’ve seen lists with vintages I know to be clearly past their prime on a list, yet there they appear, the older the more expensive.  And, since the boom years for expense account splurging ended around 2009, those cellars remain stocked with scores of oversized bottles of California chardonnays and Italian cabernets.
    Of course, short of asking for the 18th Pouilly-Fuissé down the list--which few if any ever do--you’ll never know if those wines are  even still in the cellar.  “We sold the last bottle just last night,” is the mantra of sommeliers who probably haven’t seen a bottle of that label in months.  I should add that most sommeliers are proud of their lists and try very hard to winnow out the overaged and outdated bottlings in their cellars, but by the same token, few any longer have the budget to buy anything they like, unless they are positive they can sell it quickly. The capital investment in storing a wine like Romanée-Conti, whose recent vintages may sell in excess of $5,000 a bottle, for ten years until it matures doesn’t make much sense anymore.
    The real problem with trophy lists is that they are, even to an indefatigable connoisseur, intimidating: by offering too many choices, the guest wades into a quandary that may appear to be a grown-up’s idea of being a kid in a candy store but ends the same way--disappointment that one can’t have everything.  It is not unlike asking a guest at one’s house to quickly choose which of the 750 recordings of Bob Dylan songs he’d like downloaded from Spotify for the next two hours. Or like telling a woman she has ten minutes to decide which shoes to buy in a store that stocks 5,000 pairs.
    Trophy lists really exist for two reasons: first, merely as  an expression of the restaurateur’s ego in the coarse belief that more must be better; second, trophy lists lead to the most vulgar displays of rank money flashing next to buying a mega-yacht.  Every sommelier will tell you of how the most flamboyant of guests confirm what Oscar Wilde said of a cynic: “a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
    I recall the great chef-restaurateur of NYC’s Lutèce, André Soltner, telling of an ostentatious guest with a flashy date who ordered “whatever’s the most expensive thing on your list.” When Soltner tried to dissuade the man from having the only bottle of 1899 Mouton-Rothschild in the cellar, because Soltner could not vouch for its soundness (and didn’t want to sell it to such a vulgarian), he suggested a younger Bordeaux at a lesser but still extravagant price;  the man said, “Okay, bring that one too.”  Both wines were brought to the table, opened, decanted, and poured, and, since his date didn’t drink wine at all, the man guzzled down a glass of each. He afterwards paid for his dinner in cash, leaving half the wine in both bottles unconsumed.
    Trophy wine lists are useful only as a promotional aid, like a man who says he owns five Ferraris he rarely drives and, when he does, never goes over 75 mph.  Wine Spectator, which gives out thousands of awards to restaurants with good wine lists, does not comment on the quality of the food or décor in such restaurants.  On the other hand, most restaurant critics, including the Michelin guides, rarely mention wine lists in their write-ups and rankings.  In fact, Michelin insists that the only thing they pay any attention to is “what’s on the plate.” Which, of course, most people, especially restaurateurs, recognize as complete nonsense, assuming that any restaurant hoping to get three stars from Bibendum needs to build a trophy wine list. Michelin insists such things are of no consequence to their inspectors, which is like saying that a theater critic pays no attention to the set decoration or lighting.

    There is a lot of smoke and mirrors in the compilation of most wine lists.  The best are very focused on pairing the wines to the chef’s food, so that a seafood restaurant with scores of bottles of red wines is just showing off, even if a few reds might go well with certain seafood dishes.  Why--as I have experienced in Las Vegas--would a sushi restaurant stock a dozen vintages of an obscure Lebanese red wine like Château Musar? Or a steakhouse have 20 different vintages of German rieslings?  It’s like offering 60 shades of fuchsia to a man in charge of painting a high school gymnasium.
    The worst thing a trophy list can do is to make a guest feel uncomfortable, and no matter what a sommelier says, the guest is always going to feel uneasy ordering the cheapest bottle on a list whose average prices are $100 and up. 
    That is why I applaud those restaurants where a basic wine list of, say, 100 wines is proffered on a one- or two-page card, with the option of a larger trophy list, if the guest should wish to see it.  And those 100 wines on the basic list should be those the sommelier is excited about at their price point and which he knows most guests will be happy with.
And if a guest wishes to enthrall himself with a 100-page trophy list, at the expense of boring his guests hungry for food and a little wine, let him do so at his peril.  




John Mariani will be attending the 10th annual BB&T Charleston Wine + Food from March 4 – 8, a celebration of the culinary treasures of Charleston and beyond with over 200 chefs (local and guest) coming in from around the country to cook, eat, drink. , With 107 events showcasing the very best that Charleston has to offer, highlights incl.  Signature Dinners, demos and tastings at the Culinary Village;  Lowcountry excursions, one-on-one chef and winemaker interactions, and hands-on experiences.   Call:  843.727.9998 x11.






Anglo singer Morrissey refused to perform in Reykjavik because the show's promoters would not to cater to his vegetarianism by banning the sale of meat  on the night of his show. "I love Iceland and I have waited a long time to return," he said,  "but I shall leave the Harpa Concert Hall to their cannibalistic flesh-eating bloodlust."



“During the five minutes or so it took to smear this [chilled tartare] on toasted milk bread and eat it, no force on earth could have stopped me short of hot lava flowing under the front door, and even then I would have made a guess at its speed before deciding to get up from the counter.”—Pete Welles, “Shuko,” NY Times (2/15/15)


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

   I'm proud and happy to announce that my new book, The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books), has just been published through Amazon and Kindle. 
     It is a  novella, and for anyone who loves dogs, Christmas, romance, inspiration, even the supernatural, I hope you'll find this to be a treasured  favorite. The  story concerns how, after a New England teacher, his wife and their two daughters adopt a stray puppy found in their barn in northern Maine, their lives seem full of promise. But when tragedy strikes, their wonderful dog Lazarus and the spirit of Christmas are the only things that may bring back his master back from the edge of despair. 


“What a huge surprise turn this story took! I was completely stunned! I truly enjoyed this book and its message.” – Actress Ali MacGraw

“He had me at Page One. The amount of heart, human insight, soul searching, and deft literary strength that John Mariani pours into this airtight novella is vertigo-inducing. Perhaps ‘wow’ would be the best comment.” – James Dalessandro, author of Bohemian Heart and 1906.

“John Mariani’s Hound in Heaven starts with a well-painted portrayal of an American family, along with the requisite dog. A surprise event flips the action of the novel and captures us for a voyage leading to a hopeful and heart-warming message. A page turning, one sitting read, it’s the perfect antidote for the winter and promotion of holiday celebration.” – Ann Pearlman, author of The Christmas Cookie Club and A Gift for my Sister.

“John Mariani’s concise, achingly beautiful novella pulls a literary rabbit out of a hat – a mash-up of the cosmic and the intimate, the tragic and the heart-warming – a Christmas tale for all ages, and all faiths. Read it to your children, read it to yourself… but read it. Early and often. Highly recommended.” – Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of Pinkerton’s War, The Sinking of The Eastland, and The Walking Dead: The Road To Woodbury.

“Amazing things happen when you open your heart to an animal. The Hound in Heaven delivers a powerful story of healing that is forged in the spiritual relationship between a man and his best friend. The book brings a message of hope that can enrich our images of family, love, and loss.” – Dr. Barbara Royal, author of The Royal Treatment.


The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink by John F. Mariani (Bloomsbury USA, $35)

Modesty forbids me to praise my own new book, but let me proudly say that it is an extensive revision of the 4th edition that appeared more than a decade ago, before locavores, molecular cuisine, modernist cuisine, the Food Network and so much more, now included. Word origins have been completely updated, as have per capita consumption and production stats. Most important, for the first time since publication in the 1980s, the book includes more than 100 biographies of Americans who have changed the way we cook, eat and drink -- from Fannie Farmer and Julia Child to Robert Mondavi and Thomas Keller.

"This book is amazing! It has entries for everything from `abalone' to `zwieback,' plus more than 500 recipes for classic American dishes and drinks."--Devra First, The Boston Globe.

"Much needed in any kitchen library."--Bon Appetit.

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,  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: ROME'S HOTEL DE LA VILLE; BICYCLING THRU LAKE GENEVA.

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. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Andrew Chalk,  Dotty Griffith and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

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© copyright John Mariani 2015