Virtual Gourmet

  MAY 24,  2015                                                                                             NEWSLETTER

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By John Mariani


By John Mariani



By John Mariani


There will be no issue of the Mariani's Virtual Gourmet next week because Mariani will be on a cruise ship crossing the Atlantic. 
Next Issue: June 7


By John Mariani

Barboursville Vineyards and Farm

    In addition to its illustrious historical record--once home to Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe--and one of America’s great and most beautiful schools, the University of Virginia (below), the city of Charlottesville has a new reason to boast: Prince William and Princess Kate’s new baby girl has been named Charlotte. The colonial Virginia city was named after Queen Charlotte, bride of George III (who, ironically, was the King of England during the Revolutionary War).
    For its Georgian architecture (Jefferson founded and designed several buildings on the University campus) and its proximity to Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Charlottesville draws more than half a million tourists each year, swelled by 20,000 students. All of them can be found strolling the long Downtown Mall lined with restaurants, coffee shops, the Live Arts community theater and the Virginia Discovery Museum.  Next month the Festival of the Photograph will be held, followed by the Film Festival in October.
    On Saturdays, the City Market with its street food eateries is very popular, but downtown is largely undistinguished for upscale dining, catering instead to the student and professor population at places with names like Himalayan Fusion, Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint, and Jak-N-Jil.  The best restaurants are mostly outside of town, including the Old Mill Room at Boar’s Head and Fossettt’s at Keswick Hall.
    I had the happy occasion to dine at a new place with the curious name Parallel 38, which refers to the latitude of Mediterranean countries whose food is featured there.  Residing within an upscale shopping center, it is a vast dining hall (left) with a
soapstone bar, reclaimed factory cart seating, a beautiful chalkboard mural and a 12-foot walnut table.  The intrusive Techno-music has nothing to do with the Mediterranean theme.
      Owner Justin Ross, who’d worked at Zaytinya and Jaleo in DC,  is as affable as they come and truly enjoys suggesting an array of small plates (below), engagingly prepared and plated.  I was happy to let them choose my meal, which began with fine artisanal cheeses and cured meats from Virginia and Maryland ($6-$9), along with some delectable spreads like Greek htipiti  with roasted peppers, feta and thyme ($7) and Lebanese labneh yogurt with zatar spice mixture ($7).   
    Under the menu's Vegetable section there is a delicious, tender gnocchi with a sweet onion soubise, hot peperonata and herbs ($8). Among the meats, I most enjoyed a grilled lamb strip loin cooked in bacon fat with fingerling potatoes and butter blended with a ras el hanout spice mixture ($13) and a roasted pork belly with baby onions, roasted garlic and sumac ($11).  Spicy tuna tartare with chili sauce and sesame soy ($11) made for a good seafood selection.  For dessert the simple, nicely grainy olive oil lemon cake came with vanilla ice cream. 
    At these prices you can choose a slew of dishes, even share them with another person, and be very satisfied, particularly because this kind of food and design are rare indeed in this area.  Also, every wine on the list, even the “Trophy” bottles, are available by the glass at very reasonable prices.
    Far more traditional in décor is The Ivy Inn restaurant (below), dating to the 1700s, which is, in fact, just a mile from the University. The red clapboard house with white porch evokes a less hectic era, and the interior, with its draped tables, candlelight, ceiling beams, wood floors and fireplace, has the genteel ambiance of a splendid country home Jefferson would certainly have found congenial. 
    The Inn has been owned by the Vangelopoulos family since 1995 and
Fairfax County native Angelo Vangelopoulos sources all he can from local farmers for his kitchen larder.   Thus, while you can find down-home favorites refined by focused technique like the shrimp and grits with a country ham butter sauce and crispy onion rings ($11) and a lustrous tomato pie ($8), there are also global dishes like his sheep’s milk ricotta gnocchi enriched by red wine-braised duck, wild mushrooms and roasted garlic jus ($10/$18), as well as ravioli stuffed with roasted eggplant and ricotta ($8/$15), a  dish over-elaborated with Portobello Bolognese sauce, spinach, mascarpone cream and Parmigiana.
    A bison hanger steak ($28) was perfectly cooked medium rare and came with assertive horseradish-flecked scalloped potatoes, sauce chasseur, more wild mushrooms and sautéed greens. The cooking has unusual finesse, evident in the chef’s sautéed duck breast with leek-potato cake, a tangy-sweet cherry sauce and sautéed spinach ($28).
        If you don’t opt for the cheese plate ($14) with selections like Goat Lady “Lindale” Gouda from Climax, NC, and the Caramount Red Row from Esmont, VA, you’ll thoroughly enjoy pastry chef Kristyne Bouley’s sticky toffee pudding with pecan praline and vanilla ice cream ($8) and the well balanced Key lime pie ($8).
     The Ivy Inn boasts one of the area’s very finest wine lists, with a few (there should be more) of the ever-improving Virginia wines from estates like Naked Mountain, Akida, Blenheim, and Barboursville.  This last estate is the finest of Virginia’s more than 250 wineries. Set on 900 acres of rolling hills of the same name, it is owned by Gianni Zonin, from Italy’s Veneto region, and since 1990 has been overseen by winemaker  Luca Paschina, from Piemonte.  Together they aim to create wines that shy away from the boldness of California bottlings in favor of a finesse more akin to European examples, which include Italian varietals like Nebbiolo and Vermentino along with Viognier, Cabernet Franc and others.  Their finest wine is Octagon ($55), whose name commemorates the octagon drawing room designed for Governor James Barbour’s mansion, now part of the estate, by wine-loving Thomas Jefferson, who planted, unsuccessfully, vineyards at his Monticello estate.
      Octagon is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in the style of France’s Pomerol and is made only in optimum years.  As Paschina says, “I
t is harder for a grape to get into Octagon than any other wine in our region."
      The estate also has an inn dating to 1804, with a number of enchanting rooms that evoke 19th century rural architecture, and vineyard-set cottage suites named after grape varietals.  Of course, with accommodations there comes a restaurant, not surprisingly, Italian in its cuisine, offering housemade charcuterie; risotto with fava beans and crispy tripe; roasted game hen with sautéed asparagus, new potatoes and spring onions; and an apricot turnover with crème fraȋche ice cream and pistachios. Two courses cost $41, three $47, and four $55, with paired wines extra, if desired.
      After such a meal at twilight this summer, you walk slowly back to your cottage (left), crawl under a quilt, listen to the sounds of the farm, and drop into a long, deep sleep dreaming of the breakfast biscuits to come.





By John Mariani

  Menu cover for Mario's Restaurant

    If you’ve been to Little Italy in Manhattan and were disappointed by the tourist-trap atmosphere and the forgettable food, it’s because you went to the wrong place.
    The real Little Italy is a vibrant neighborhood in the Bronx called  Belmont, half a mile from the Bronx Zoo and Botanical Gardens.  Others call it Arthur Avenue, the neighborhood’s main street, bisected by East 187th Street, lined with restaurants, pizzerias,  meat and fish markets, bakeries and pastry stores.
    This is the Bronx the way it was in the 1950s, when Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra,  Rocky Marciano,  Jake LaMotta, and Julius LaRosa ate in the local restaurants, and, later, Muhammud Ali, Liz Taylor, Paul Newman, and James Gandolfini. Most important, it was home to Dion Dimucci, who named his do-wop group the Belmonts.
    Years ago the restaurants of the neighborhood were so insular that menus varied little, the ingredients were cheap,  and the wine lists boring. But in the past two decades all that has changed, so that now even the real old-timers have upped their game and you can eat extremely well within a primarily Italian-American style, influenced by Neapolitan and Sicilian cookery.
     I shop on Arthur Avenue weekly, so I have my definite favorite restaurants I recommend to New Yorkers from other boroughs and visitors from anywhere. This is the way this food should be made.
    One of the oldest restaurants on Arthur Avenue is Mario’s, which started as a pizza window shop in 1919, and is still run by the Miglucci family, whose fourth and fifth generation members are always there to maintain an unwavering consistency--not just with the nonpareil pizzas but with superb linguine with clams, tender, light potato gnocchi in a bright tomato sauce, and tiny pink lamb chops you pick up by the bone to eat, called scottaditti, which means “finger burners.”  Freshness rules this kitchen and you taste it in the veal alla parmigiana, the mozzarella loaf called  spiedini alla romana, and the hearty seafood stew zuppa di pesce. 
    Pizza is always served but after 6 PM you have to order something more, so treat a pizza as an appetizer, and don't miss the wonderful food afterwards. But to miss this great pizza is to miss a dish perfected over nearly a century in business.
     And you will never be treated better in a restaurant than you will be at Mario’s, whether you’re a regular or on your first time through the door.  The dining room (right) always looks festive, its murals evoke Naples, and the photos on the wall show that Mario’s has long been a destination for every sports figure and movie star who have been guided to it.  It's always an ebullient atmosphere, lighted so you see everyone in the room, which on weekends is packed, so I recommend going during the week to get a better sense of the charm of the place.
    Across the street is a bright, very cheerful small trattoria named San Gennaro, where chef-owner Gennaro Martinelli is working outside the traditional menu with dishes based on what’s freshest and seasonal in the markets from which they cull their seafood, meats and vegetables right there on Arthur Avenue.  If there are crayfish (left) available for a day or two, you’ll find them glistening on your plate with crushed tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar.  Soft shell crabs will be lightly battered and sautéed crisp and golden, succulent within.  Housemade ravioli, full of moist ricotta and graced with a ragù, are radiant and delicious, the linguine with tiny, sweet vongole clams is rich with garlic and served in the shell, and his spaghetti alla carbonara, with egg heated by the pasta itself, is textbook perfect.   The wine list needs serious bolstering.   

    Over the past two years I’ve found myself returning again and again to Tra di Noi on East 187th Street, whose sunny dining room with the requisite red-checkered tablecloths is the setting for Chef-owner Marco Coletta’s generous, highly personalized cooking, where regulars ignore the printed menu in favor of the blackboard of daily specials, which might include unusual pastas like fusilli with fava beans ($16.95) and rigatoni (below) in a spicy amatriciana sauce ($16.95). There is perfectly fried calamari ($12.95)  and robust chicken alla scarpariello ($18.95) rich with garlic.  The osso buco may be the best in the area. Marco hails from the Abruzzo province of Italy, so ask him if he’s serving any of his regional favorites. 
        One of the culinary pioneers of the neighborhood is Roberto Paciullo, who 12 years ago opened a namesake trattoria that strayed far from the formulaic menus in order to focus on unusual dishes that may only be available that day.  Roberto's (below) is where you go for dishes like tender rabbit braised with tomato and onions;  spaghetti steamed with leeks and porcini mushrooms in a foil pouch; a massive sirloin slathered with melting Gorgonzola cheese; for an antipasto there might be short ribs with sun-dried peppers, bright arugula and a spicy olive oil; the special pasta one day may be tender risotto with cuttlefish and its purple-gray ink and shrimp.  Softshell crabs in season are crisp and full of fat. One of the simplest dishes is the best: fettuccine with parmigiano and shaved black truffles.  In autumn those will be white truffles. And to finish, a lemony torta cake, all accompanied by the area’s best wine list.  Downstairs is a room bordering the glassed-in wine cellar, which is easily the best in the neighborhood.
    And don’t be surprised if you sit next to celebs like former Yankees manager
Joe Torre, actress Marisa Tomei or TV chef Mario Batali.
    Roberto also owns Zero Otto Nove, which means 089, the area code for Salerno, Italy, from which he emigrated. Having proven himself as a fine restaurateur, Roberto swore he would open a great, modern pizzeria--this in a neighborhood full of good ones--and he has succeeded (now with branches in Manhattan and Westchester County). Roberto became a local hero when he demolished a much-despised McDonald’s to open in this two-story building, whose shadowy décor and corridors mimic the narrow streets of his hometown.
      There is a big, open wood-burning pizza oven, and the pies themselves--13 varieties--are Salerno-style, with a crispy outer crust that mellows into a softer crust in the middle, with wonderfully fresh toppings like butternut squash puree, smoked mozzarella, pancetta ham, béchamel sauce, and porcini mushrooms.  But the pizzas are only the beginning at Zero Otto Nove, whose menu offers fabulous baby octopus cooked in tomato sauce, lusty pastas like pasta e fagioli azzeccata baked with cannellini beans and prosciutto, and linguine in a silky black sauce teeming with calamari and cuttlefish. For dessert go with the Nutella pizza or the torta della nonna (“grandma’s tart”) with almond cream and pine nuts.
  The best Italian charcuterie and hero sandwiches, along with an eggplant parmigiana that beat TV chef Bobby Flay’s in a smackdown, is found at Mike’s Deli, where the indefatigable David Greco (below) and his irascible father, Mike, stock a daunting array of salami, cheeses--including handmade mozzarella produced several times a day on premises--hams, marinated vegetables, and baked pastas that can be eaten at the tables adjacent to the deli. It's as close as you'll come in America to a true salumeria-trattoria of a kind you'll find all over Naples and Palermo, from which come many of the products David imports.  He also supplies the cheery Bronx Beer Hall on the same premises, often thronged with Fordham University students, which proudly serves brews made at nearby breweries.

 There have been some culinary intruders into the overwhelmingly Italian dining scene in Belmont, several from Eastern Europe, including the beautiful Blue Mediterranean restaurant (below), whose menu, while listing more and more Italian dishes, shows its real eminence in carefully, simply cooked Mediterranean seafood of very high quality, glossed with olive oil and a squirt of lemon.  There’s a friendly raw bar that serves an abundant seafood plateau for two ($55), rigatoni with mussels ($18), and, when available, wild shrimp and grilled langoustines (market price).  Frankly, I haven’t tried the Italian dishes here because I could never be weaned from the Mediterranean-style seafood that Blue does better than anyone else in the neighborhood.

    I happily live just fifteen minutes from Belmont, which I've adopted as my second home.  But if you go--and it's worth a trip from Manhattan by subway or, more easily, my Metronorth to the Fordham station--the experience may become one that you will tell friends about wherever you live.  Already on the weekends, tour buses arrive on Arthur Avenue from Westchester, Connecticut, and New Jersey, and there are Italians who long ago moved to Long Island who come back for what they can't find where they live.  Nostalgia is always a draw--once or twice--but it is the quality and atmosphere of Arthur Avenue that makes it very, very special.




By John Mariani

        More than once while I was at Krug in Reims last month was I told that the illustrious Champagne house, despite the quality and price of its wines, did not want to be a “connoisseur’s wine.”  It simply wants to be the finest--a status it largely enjoys among lovers of bubbly and one I’d certainly agree with.

    As explained by sixth-generation family member Olivier Krug, Chef de Caves Eric Lebel and the formidable CEO Margareth Henriquez (below), to be labeled a “connoisseur’s Champagne” is to be put into a lofty category that may put off those who simply want to enjoy their Champagne, and Krug’s aim is to make Champagne more accessible and less the cause for a special event. “We don’t want to scare people,” said the Venezuelan-born Henriquez, who prefers to be called Maggie.

    Of course, with prices that can exceed $2,000 for Krug's top cuvées, most people are unlikely to pop the cork for a Wednesday night dinner. But, Maggie told me, Krug doesn’t want to share the image of haute couture as an extravagant novelty; instead, she said, “We are simply committed to doing what Krug intended from the beginning--to make a Champagne that was refined, elegant and consistent every year.”

        That commitment began with the founding of the Champagne house by Joseph Krug, who was born in 1800 in the German town of Mainz, then part of France’s Napoleonic empire.  After growing up in the Moselle River winemaking region, he migrated to Paris as a trader in 1834 and was soon employed by Jacquesson, the leading Champagne House of its time, where he became a prosperous but ill-contented partner. Krug believed that the variables of weather and soils of Champagne worked against the wines’ consistency, so in 1840 he left Jacquesson and, with Reims wine merchant Hippolyte de Vivès, founded the House of Krug & Champagne in 1843.

        It was Krug’s mission to create a Champagne that would be of the same consistent excellence year after year by using only the best wines from the best vineyards, tasted separately plot by plot.  In addition, he began to build a reserve of wines from different plots’ grapes, whose various vintages he would use as a palette with which to blend his Champagne, thereby lessening greatly the effects of weather and wars that might plague northern France in the years to come.  Most of the region’s houses blend to an extent, though great vintage years are made from grapes only from that year’s crop.

        Contending in his notebooks that "A good House should create only two Champagnes of the same quality” every single year, Joseph Krug (left) called Champagne No. 1 Krug Grande Cuvée (today selling for about $150 a bottle).  Champagne No. 2 (today known as Krug Vintage; the current 2003 sells for about $250) would be the expression of the circumstances of a particular year captured by Krug, and created only in the years where there was “an interesting story to tell.”

      In the 1970s, Henri and Rémi Krug, fifth-generation brothers, experimented with making a rosé based on Pinot Noir made in the Krug style. When their father, who had no idea his sons had been developing a rosé, tasted it, he exclaimed that “somebody in Champagne is copying Krug!”

Krug also has a label known as Clos du Mesnil (about $650), produced from a single 1.84-hectare clos (lot) of Chardonnay in the village of Mesnil-sur-Oger.  Made from a single year’s harvest, Clos du Mesnil is cellared for more than ten years before release, as is Krug Vintage. Krug Grande Cuvée stays in the cellars for at least seven years, Krug Rosé for at least six. A third label, Clos d’Ambonnay (about $2,000), is from an even smaller, 0.68-hectare vineyard in the village of Ambonnay.  Purchased in 1994, the vineyard produces a minuscule amount of wine, which must wait more than ten years for release.  So the first bottle of Clos d’Ambonnay appeared in the market in 2007. 

    Krug intentionally diverges from standard practices in the Champagne region by using small, custom-made 205-liter oak casks (from 200-year-old trees)--“to respect the individuality and character of each single plot”-- which are cured to tamp down their woodiness and humidified with water during the summer to prep them to receive the autumn harvest of grapes.   After a natural clarification, the wines are placed in small stainless steel vats, tasted, then, if not used for that year’s blending of Champagne, they are stored in stainless steel for future use. Riddling, the process of bringing sediment in the wine to its neck to be disgorged, takes four or five days at most Champagne houses; at Krug it take four months.

Krug is also unusual in that it owns  a higher percentage of its vineyards than most houses, with the rest of the grapes coming from growers under long-term contract.

        One of Henriquez’s very modern innovations, as of 2011, was to have all Krug bottles include an ID number on the back label, indicating the quarter and year in which the bottle left Krug’s cellars, so that buyers can quite easily find out, on Krug’s website, whatever they’d like about their specific bottle. (It should be added that Henriquez was brought onboard in 2008 to rescue Krug from a rocky period a decade earlier, when there was even thought that the house might not survive on its own. LVMH, the French luxury goods conglomerate, bought a majority share of the company in 1999.)

      Perhaps the most remarkable of all the diligence Krug expends to produce its wines is the assemblage, or cuvée, of the wines.  While blending wines from various vats and years is common practice in the Champagne regions of Reims and Épernay, Krug’s tasting panel uses up to 150 different wines to make its final blend--a process I and other wine writers partook in as a mock exercise while we were at the house.  

    Over an hour of swirling, looking at bubbles, sipping, adding milliliters of number 4 and number 15, and evaluating the various virtues and deficiencies of a mere 18 samples of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (left), our four groups of journalists from several countries weighed the relative value of high acid in one, sweetness in another, and, since Krug wines are made for the long haul, a potential for aging.  We then offered our blends and explanations for their components to Chef de Caves Lebel.  Tasting and nodding at our efforts, he played the discreet host by declaring all our blends interesting and commendable, before providing us with the details and percentages of Krug’s final assemblage from 150 wines.

    On another night, while dining with the Krug crew in the Clos d’Ambonnay vineyard, Maggie expounded further on why Krug should not be considered just a connoisseur’s wine.  “Krug’s founder insisted that people should drink Champagne purely for pleasure, not to show off their knowledge or affluence. It’s the reason we serve our wine in regular white wine glasses, because they preserve the bubbles and aromas much better than flutes or coupes.  And we love to serve Champagne throughout the meal, as you would a still wine. The differences between a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir or Rosé offer enormous latitude with both seafood and meat and certainly with dessert.”

        Dining at twilight in the little walled clos of Ambonnay, we enjoyed a meal by the young Belgian chef Julien Burlat of beef carpaccio (with Clos d’Ambonnay 2000); king crab with thyme, wild mushrooms, purslane and potato mousse (1995); the lake fish called ombre de chevalier with  morels, sea aster and maple butter (Krug 2000);  aged Comté cheese (1982),  and rice pudding with candied rhubarb (Grande Année). It was easy enough to appreciate Maggie’s point about an evening of pure pleasure while sitting under a canopy of twinkling stars floating above us like Champagne bubbles in the heavens.



A new study by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development says that  people with higher levels of education as well as socioeconomic status — mainly white men — tend to drink the most. The research further indicates that poor men and rich women are more likely to engage in "risky drinking" — such as binge drinking alone — than other subsets of the population.


In Allentown, PA, Barry Larson, 49 (left), an employee of a Purina pet food plant, was arrested for stealing more than more than 150,000 Milkbone dog biscuits at a cost of  $30,000 over the last 18 months.  According to a Purina spokesman, “We noticed a few months ago that something was wrong with our dog biscuit production. We began installing more security cameras at various strategic locations throughout the factory, and we were finally able to identify the problem. Mr. Larson, who worked in the quality check sector, was eating almost half of the biscuits that went by him.”  Larson’s ex-girlfriend, Patricia Nelson told a reporter,  “Every night, he came back from work with a really horrible breath. It was not just a normal bad breath, it was really a foul stench that never left, even if he brushed his teeth or used mouthwash. One day, I came back from work earlier than usual, and surprised him with his mouth full of dog biscuits! I nearly threw up!"


 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: NASHVILLE; LE DISTRICT, NYC.

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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