Virtual Gourmet

  AUGUST 14,  2016                                                                                             NEWSLETTER


Katherine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi in "Summertime" (1955)


ANNOUNCEMENT: There will be no issue of Mariani's Virtual Gourmet next week, Aug. 21, because Mariani's younger son is getting married on Aug. 20! The next issue will appear Aug. 28.


By John A. Curtas

By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


By John A. Curtas


Schwab's Pharmacy, 8024 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.  Closed 1983   

  I'm still in a bit of shock from my long weekend in Los Angeles last month. Shock from the mediocre meals I had. Shock from how I was sold a bill of goods describing how a "downtown Renaissance" was going on there. Something is going on all right -- every block seems beset by either new construction or a condo conversion -- but the progress has been glacial since last we visited a few years ago, and don't hold your breath if you expect it to look like mid-town Manhattan or even downtown Seattle anytime soon.
    I've been visiting Los Angeles, and by L.A. we mean downtown proper as well as Santa Monica, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the beach towns, on a semi-regular basis since 1982. I've been eating in Wolfgang Puck's restaurants since then, first at Spago, then at Chinois on Main, Granité in Malibu straight through to the opening of CUT in Beverly Hills a decade ago, and also at the Too Hot Tamales'--Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken (right)--restaurants since 1991,  when we first heard of their Cal-Latin-American-fusion breakthrough cuisine at CITY.
    I’m still a huge fan of everything from the Grand Central Market , opened in 1917, to the Original Farmer's Market  that debuted in 1934 (below),and usually don't leave without whipping by Koreatown for some dolsot bimbimbap, or Langer's for a few pounds of pastrami to sustain us on our way home. I remember when Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton set the baking world on fire with Campanile in the late 90s, and I was wolfing down Monterey Park dim sum and packing Pink's Hot Dogs (1939) for the four hour drive back to Las Vegas, decades before anyone heard of Yelp, or thought about photographing their food.
    One thing that did not disappoint on my recent trip was the Ace Hotel on South Broadway, just around the block from the Staples Center. The Ace is hipster central in these parts:  creative hatwear was in full bloom on the weekend we stayed, but the simple, DIY-vibe and  environmentally-friendly rooms were well-appointed,  comfortable, and the perfect expression of the modern, urban hotel.
    Good luck finding a decent place to eat at this end of downtown, however. Aside from the always-open Original Pantry Café (1924), an Umami Burger outlet, and the huge and wildly popular Bottega Louie (nice décor, good French pastries, boring Italian menu), you can look forward to block after long city block of urban nothingness. Connoisseurs of bombed out buildings and thrift shops will be in hog heaven; hungry people will not.
    And hungry you will be, but food you will not find for blocks on end. When you do find it, in the form of two new, celebrated joints at the north end of town, expect to be underwhelmed.  My first meal took place at the recently opened Otium adjacent to the also just opened Broad (pronounced "Brode") Museum. Both the museum and the restaurant are housed in spectacular structures (below). The difference is, things get better when you step inside the Broad and experience its eclectic and interesting collection) but worse once you plunge into Otium's food, which is anything but. Is Otium odious? Not really, but it is derivative and predictable.  The brunch menu lists every cliché in the book, from smoked salmon to duck hash to kale and quinoa, all of it serviceable, none of it inspired enough to merit a return visit.
    The question needs to be asked: Is this what they're teaching in culinary school these days? Or does all of this food get cooked in some industrial kitchen in Brooklyn, ready to be shipped out in Sous-vide bags to every so-called gastropub-y restaurant in the country? As soon as I saw the menu, riven with such Millennial-safe selections as "country ciabatta" and avocado toast, I wanted to hit the exits. But our dining companions had traveled some distance to meet me there, so stuck I was. None of the food at Otium is as good as it should be but seems just fine for the aging culture vultures and Yelpers who want to believe they're having an eating experience to match the art next door.
    Our small plate array of cured hamachi, barely smoked salmon, Hangtown Fry, jerk chicken, crispy potatoes, and the aforementioned avocado toast, did their job in sating our appetites, but weren't anything we haven't been eating in Las Vegas for years now and in SoCal for decades. Then we saw the dinner menu--Big Eye Tuna (below)! Agnolotti! Whipped Lardo! Smoked Tofu! Smoked Everything!--and realized Otium was as much a something-for-everyone operation as a Cheesecake Factory.
    On the plus side, Wine Director Elizabeth Heuttinger's list is everything the food is not: personal, thoughtful, and pleasantly off-beat. Reading it alongside the menu felt like listening to a be-bop jazz riff while digesting bubble gum pablum.
    But you can't judge a food scene based upon one brunch, which is why we walked about a half mile down the hill to Redbird (below) for dinner,  located in a culinary No Man's Land, which might explain all the praise the local press has lavished upon them. But if any food writers looked up from their wishful thinking and star gazing (“Was that Vince Vaughn? “ “I heard J-Lo loves this place!”), they might notice that chicken pot pie, day boat scallops and cavatelli are about as original as a Charlie Sheen sitcom.
    Pan-fried soft shell crab paired with asparagus mint, Thai basil and red curry sounded somewhat original,  but those advertised accents were notable mainly by their dullness. Hopes were raised again by some house-made porchetta di testa, that was every bit as toothsome as it was attractive. Sadly, it turned out, that headcheese was the highlight of the meal. We opted for the $76 suckling pig over the $96 veal chop, and what appeared was a dried-out hip joint, finished in a deep fryer, pocked with scorch marks, each bite after bland bite a blackened bit of circumstantial evidence indicting  the kitchen for biting off more than it could chew. The advertised "molé amarillo sauce" was distinguished mainly by its ability to appear on the plate but not register on the palate. Some vertical dessert-in-a-jar thing they threw at us was a disaster and could've come straight from a Hof's Hut.
    The whole point of Redbird appears to be elevating classics like rack of lamb, scallops and "Aged Liberty Farms" duck by surrounding them with seasonal produce and cross-cultural accents. In other words, what Spago was doing in 1992.
    After these disappointments at a two "modern" restaurants, we decided to go old school for our last dinner in town, and traipsed over to Santa Monica for a visit with old friend Piero Selvaggio (below) at Valentino. Selvaggio may be one of the last of the great ones,  a proud and sophisticated owner of a host-driven restaurant,  but he and Chef Tommaso Tarantino have kept pace with the times. Valentino's cuisine is no less fork-droppingly delicious than it's always been, but I detected a lighter touch with the pastas and a little more Sicilian flair in items like his shrimp-stuffed calamari in an oregano brodetto, and Sicilian stuffed rabbit with a hint of chocolate in a rich, wine-friendly sauce. And if there's a better red wine risotto in America,  this one made with radicchio and buffalo blue cheese, I have yet to try it. Selvaggio excels because he does one thing well -- hew to the flavors of authentic Italian cooking. He has been around so long (44 years) that Los Angelenos probably take him and his ristorante for granted. They may but we don't. A meal at Valentino is a must for lovers of the real deal in Italian food and wine, and one of the tastiest experiences -- Italian or otherwise -- you can have on the West Coast.
    Doing one thing well was a thought that kept running through my mind as we were headed out of town. It's what separates a Valentino from all the also-rans, and why delis like the venerable Langer's or the much newer but excellent Wexler's thrive. It's why we love hitting the dim sum at Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant in Rosemead, or grabbing an iconic French dip at Philippe The Original French Dipped Sandwiches.
    This is what I come to L.A. for, not a rehash of fusion food or something-for-everyone menus. I especially don't travel four hours by car to get food that's done just as well, if not better, in Las Vegas and dozens of other cities in America. In this way are these new chefs -- Neal Fraser at Redbird and Tim Hollingsworth at Otium--missing the point? They may be opening shiny new places to great fanfare, but they're not doing anything personal and they're not doing anything new. What they're doing is food to please their investors, and it's all a little sad.
    Am I being overly harsh? I don't think so, especially when you consider this work-in-progress that is downtown Los Angeles has barely changed in half a decade, while other cities like Washington D.C., Chicago, and Portland have been in full bloom.   I was full of hope and appetite as I  saw the skyline looming ahead of us a few weeks ago, but after three days in L.A., we think our next visit will be straight to Olvera Street for some tacos, or straight to Philippe's or Wexler's for a  sandwich.




By John Mariani 

    If ever there was a prototypical French chef in America it was Michel Richard.  Large as a wine barrel, with his wide-open blue eyes and Santa Claus beard, Richard emanated the very spirit of joie de vivre from a raspy tenor voice that always seemed to have both laughter and mischief in it.  Every inch the chef, he was beloved by his colleagues and by so many young chefs who worked with and learned from him.  He died yesterday at the age of 68 from complications of a stroke.
    Born in Brittany in 1948 and raised in the Champagne region, Richard was committed to being a cook at an early age and was directed to learn pastry first, a discipline for which he showed real talent.  After two years in the French army, he worked with the greatest of all patîssiers, Gaston Lenôtre in Paris, expanding the master’s reach to NYC before Richard moved to Santa Fe, then, in 1977, to Los Angeles, where he was immediately recognized as a treasure in a town that had never before seen anything like his pastry work.
    After a grand tour of France’s finest restaurants, Richard returned to L.A. itching to open his own restaurant, which was to be Citrus, in 1986, whose success begat offers to bankroll several branches one after another; they all failed.  Leaving L.A.  in 1994, he opened Citronelle in Georgetown to great acclaim and later a big boisterous bistro named Central in Washington, DC.  In 2013 he told the Washington Post, “The French are doing well in New York. The rest of the country, Los Angeles and San Francisco in particular, they don’t like us anymore.”  Nevertheless, his attempt at bringing his particular French style to NYC’s Palace Hotel received a poor reception and  the restaurant closed in 2014.
    I first met Michel Richard when he was at Citrus in L.A. and I, like everyone, was enchanted with the man and his food, both of which were irresistible and wholly free of Gallic hauteur.  His cooking was lighter in some respects than traditional French cuisine and plugged into the breezy SoCal lifestyle of the day, though he complained to me that so many people who came to his restaurant just ordered a salad or steak.             His cooking became richer when he shifted to Georgetown—he once told me he cooked his French fries in butter—and I have fond memories of his halibut in a ginger emulsion, his foie gras in a black bean mole sauce,  and his
“lemon egg-ceptional” dessert crafted from white chocolate, lemon, and meringue.
    His food was stunning to look at and seemed like sleight of hand, although he was adamant that anything more than three or four flavors in a dish were “too complicated for me to understand,” a sentiment famed colleague Jean-Georges Vongerichten echoed by saying that Richard’s food “
is very layered, but it is simple and precise. He's very technical because he was a pastry chef.''
    What I will remember most of all was Michel’s sense of fun, a kind of winking wizardry in the dining room that made an evening much more than a great meal. His charisma was palpable, not least in the way he rolled his Humpty-Dumpty frame into view, impeccable in his chef’s whites, his eyes suggesting he was up to something.
    Yet what he was up to when he was at his best was to provide his guests with a culinary experience, not a rollercoaster ride of heights and lows but a carousel of sheer delight.
    In his training and commitment to the rigors of French classic cuisine combined with his enjoyment of American style and open-mindedness, Michel Richard was a chef’s chef and entirely his own man.  He will be very much missed by everyone who ever had the pleasure of his company.



By John Mariani

323 West Broadway (near Canal Street)

    Entering Mamo’s second floor dining room and knowing that its antecedent is in Antibes on the French Riviera, I saw immediately that the owners had gotten everything just right for a summer’s evening in Soho.  Twilight still stole through the windows and cast a lovely glow on the white brick walls hung with brightly colored Italian movie posters.  The leather chairs are among the most comfortable in New York, and the waitstaff had both speed and youthful charm on their side.  And when the food began to arrive, I felt that, yes, I could easily be on the French Riviera or Liguria tonight dining like this.
    The original Mamo (appended with the name Michelangelo) has for more than twenty years been set in an ancient wine cave of Domaine Ott, but with tables right up to the shoreline outside, and it’s always been one of the chic restaurants on the Riviera, with a gallery of celebrity photos posted on its website.  The NYC Mamo looks nothing like the French place, but the menus are very similar, as are the wine lists of French and Italian labels, though, surprisingly, NYC’s list is more expensive than Antibes’s.  There are precious few wines under $50 in NYC; in Antibes a bottle of Ornellaia runs $335, in NYC $480, and Col d’Orcia Brunello $97 versus $115. (In a wine store these would cost, respectively, about $170 and $40.)
    Milan-born Chef Massimo Sola (right) has managed to do so many dishes so right despite a crushing number of guests who may or may not know much about authentic Italian food, like the correct texture, called all’onda, risotto should have. Since risotto needs 20 minutes to prepare from scratch, Sola par-cooks the rice and cuts the preparation time in half. The tender, saffron-scented risotto with shreds of osso buco ($20) that I ate was easily one of the very best I’ve had outside of Italy.
    Right off the bat, the bread and grissini were very good, as was the olive oil on the table.  Mamo offers four fairly traditional pizzas, and the “Milano,” with Cantal cheese, burrata, tomato, cherry tomatoes and basil (left), was a winning combination; at $22 it’s not cheap but it makes a good appetizer for four people.  The menu also has a pizza, as well as a number of other items, with truffles, but at this time of the year—before the black and white varieties arrive in the fall—they’d be only inferior summer truffles not worth ordering.
    The full portions of pasta ($19-$27) are very hearty and may be split, not least a hefty cut of lasagne alla Bolognese, which, though it had more tomato than a classic Bolognese should, was rich, creamy and immensely satisfying. Spaghettoni all’amatriciana was everything that sumptuous Roman dish should be, with crispy bacon, sweet tomato and assertive pecorino.
    As is often the case in Italian restaurants, main courses are kept at a simpler level than what precedes them, so the baby lamb chops ($42) called “scottadito” (“burn your finger”) were just marinated then grilled.  You don’t often see rabbit on NYC menus, so Mamo’s stuffed rabbit rolls with spinach and foie gras ($44) were very welcome at our table and as good as similar dishes I’ve had at French restaurants around town.  Also unexpected was a rendering of Dover sole crusted with Parmigiano cheese  and a caponata of olives and peppers ($40).  Usually I’d protest anything but brown butter on delicate Dover sole, but I must say that the addition of the golden crust of cheese worked remarkably well.
    There are some standard desserts ($9-$12)—chocolate mousse, cheesecake (with lavender), and  tiramisù—but try the apple sponge cake with chocolate crème anglaise for something different.
    Sorry to say, the enjoyment of my evening at Mamo was curdled by how things developed after eight o’clock. Having arrived at seven, we felt quite blissful until the room filled up an hour later and the noise level started to rise, heightened by the booming of unidentifiable music that forced everyone to speak—no, shout—louder and louder just to be heard above the din.  Simply turning off the music—which no one goes to Mamo to hear—would make for a far more congenial ambiance, as would calling an acoustical engineer to buffer the noise.
    Otherwise, Mamo is serving wonderfully authentic Italian food and doing so with a conviviality not very different than you might find back in Antibes. 

Mamo is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly and brunch Sat. & Sun.




By John Mariani



    In the world of wine, tradition has it that less is more, that the smaller the estate and more concentrated the effort in the vineyards of Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Tuscany, the better the wines will be.  Of course, that doesn’t wash in the greater wine industry, especially at a time when there is an enormous glut of wine out there to market and unload.
    For both these reasons, large wineries, and the companies that run them, may make a variety of small estate bottlings, which might total 10,000 bottles per vintage,  in addition to their more commercial wines that may total 100,000 cases or more.
    How to balance those two approaches and still make well-regarded wines is far from easy, but Craig Leuthold (left), owner of Washington State’s award-winning Maryhill Winery, seems to have been able to pull it off with a conviction that has made him a leading proponent of his state industry, with 890 wineries, 14 unique growing regions and more than 40 grape varietals grown.  Maryhill, founded in 1999,  alone makes up to 80,000 cases of 50 different wines from 30 varietals, sourced from eight of the AVA regions.  Each year Maryhill’s tasting room in Goldendale gets 75,000 visitors, and the winery has become beloved for its immensely successful summer concert series in its 4,000-seat amphitheater (below).  Its wines have won more than 3,000 awards in competition, including 2015 Pacific Northwest winery of the year.
    But enough statistics.  The winery’s name derives from 19th century California pioneer Sam Hill and his wife, Mary, who built the Maryhill Museum.  Craig  Leuthold  hailed from Mercer Island and worked in Spokane; he as a very successful seller of
plastic raw materials, she in her family’s coffee business. They dabbled in the wine business with shares in a small estate named Cascade Cliffs.
    “Once I smelled the first harvest I was hooked,” Craig said over dinner in New York. “Back then, there were only 130 wineries in the state, now, fifteen years later, there are more than 900.  We knew that we’d have to do volume—we started out literally in a garage and our first vintage was only 4,300 cases—and building a really appealing visitors center was key to success.”       Now, with an 80,000-case production, about a third is sold through the tasting room, the winery’s club, and on the internet, with the rest distributed for retail in 25 states.  (By comparison, the gorilla in the state is Chateau Ste. Michelle, which produces two million cases per year.)
    So avid were the Leutholds in believing in the future of Washington State as a viticultural region, they have experimented with dozens of varietals—all of them composed entirely of the grape on the label—and prices are kept as low as possible. 
    “Our Viognier, which we make 7,000 cases of, is the darling of retailers, selling for only $13,” Leuthold says proudly. “I  myself don’t like oaky Chardonnay and we never use oak chips or powder, but people like the oak-rich style, so we sell it.” 
    Most of Maryhill’s Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot cost less than $26; whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Semillon top out at about $16, with Proprietors Reserve bottlings slightly higher.
    Today Maryhill is producing 60 different wines, including an excellent and quite refined 2012 Syrah ($26) at 14.4% alcohol, a varietal that usually needs others blended in to give it balance and complexity, but I found this to be a fine example of what the Washington State terroir can produce on its own.  The Albariño ($20), made from 60-year-old vines, has a bolder flavor than most you’ll find imported from Spain, and the warm 2015 vintage was exceptional for the grape.  Winemaker Richard Batchelor used a slower, gentler press cycle, as in Champagne, to preserve the fruit character.
    Owing to the scarcity of rain in the Columbia Valley, all the 20 vineyards sourced by Maryhill (which owns none of its own) are irrigated, providing a dependable volume crop every year.  “If we think the wine has a buyer, we’ll make it,” says Leuthold, “and all our efforts have proven just how diverse and adaptable the state’s terroirs can be.  Our winemaker works closely with all the growers, listening to what they have and telling them what we want.”
    It might be assumed that Leuthold is more of an entrepreneur than a viniculturist and that would largely be true, even though most West Coast wineries buy grapes from surrounding vineyards.  Given Maryhill’s current size, a lot of tonnage is needed but a lot of finesse and caution go into the production at their winery.   “If we make it, they will come,” says Leuthold, “or so far it’s been that way.”  He’ll even help design a special label for his customers, with a two-case minimum.
    Given the kinds of awards Maryhill has won both nationally and internationally, including Winery of the Year in the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition, Top 10 Winery of the World from the World Association of Wine Writers and Journalists in 2014 and Seattle magazine’s pick as Best Destination Winery, Leuthold has proven that if bigger is not always better, bigger can compete at quality levels usually reserved for smaller, more prestigious estates.  And that comes from an abiding belief in the territory Leuthold so dearly loves. 




Two dumb outlaws tried robbing a French McDonald's, firing a shotgun into the air, and demanding staff hand over the eatery's money, all the while being observed 11 off-duty members of the French special forces team Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, who waited for the men to exit, to "avoid any collateral bloodshed," then gave short chase. The first robber tripped as he ran and the second  pointed his gun at the trained men and was shot in the stomach.



Do Not Spend 230 Words Getting Around to Your Subject.

    “In another life, I was Italian, by marriage and stomach. All week, I would look forward to Sunday dinners, which were an all-day affair full of conversation, wine, and more food than I could and should eat. Sometimes dinner would be braciole, other days it would be hand-rolled gnocchi (sometimes both). But the best days were when I’d come over and be greeted by the smell of red sauce that had been simmering all day on the stove. I’d wait impatiently to dig into that savory red sauce teeming with pork ribs and meatballs.    These days I’m no longer Italian by marriage, but I kept the stomach for from-scratch Italian food.
    "It seems that there are two extremes of Italian cuisine in metro Detroit. There’s the familiar Italian-American fare (e.g. chicken parmigiana drowning in cheese or spaghetti with unlimited breadsticks and salad). On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the high-end Italian restaurant, the kind of place you go to only when it’s your birthday or your significant other messed up and they’re apologizing through dinner.But sometimes you just want a glass of wine and a bowl of meatballs with homemade bread. The long-awaited restaurant from Supino Pizzeria owner Dave Mancini, La Rondinella is the place for just that. A cool, casual neighborhood joint, it’s perfect for grabbing drinks at happy hour or celebrating a special occasion (apology dinners still applicable).”—Dorothy Hernandez, “
Sunday Dinner, Five Days a Week,” Hour Detroit (7/5/16)



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

   The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books) 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 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: NIKKI BEACH, ST. BART'S; 5 MYTHS ABOUT JETLAG.

Eating Las Vegas JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas food and restaurant scene since 1995. He is the co-author of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants (the fourth edition of which will be published in early 2016), as well as the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas. He can also be seen every Friday morning as the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3  in Las Vegas.


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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