Virtual Gourmet

  July 15,  2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Good Humor Ice Cream Truck, circa 1930


By John Mariani


By John Mariani



By John Mariani


By John Mariani

    It came as quite a surprise to me to find that the Belgian city of Bruges is among the most visited tourist destinations in Europe.  All those people can’t possibly have been tickled to visit by the hilarious 2008 crime film In Bruges, in which two hapless Irish hit men (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, left) are sent to cool off after a bungled job to a Belgian city they’d never even heard of.
    I suspect that’s true of many people, but there’s no question that the film made Bruges look like an undiscovered gem, as it was for me till I visited this spring. Of course, it’s a gem that dates back to a prehistoric coastal settlement, followed by the usual Roman domination and incursions by the Franks and Vikings.  Through times of boom and bust, Bruges has always been a strategic port town, and as of the 19th century became a tourist destination for wealthy French and British travelers. But it was not until well after World War II that the largely untouched medieval city again became popular for tourists around the world. Today you’re as likely to bump into Chinese and Japanese as Americans and Europeans, and throughout the year there are well-attended music and arts festivals, including Jazz Brugge and the Cinema Novo film festival that draw international crowds.
    The inner city itself is only 1,000 acres in size, with a population of just 20,000 (Ghent and Antwerp are much larger), so that you can walk around it in a couple of hours. But a 40-minute cruise among the canals that cause Bruges to be called the “Venice of the North” is a wonderfully leisurely way to see so much more of the surrounding neighborhoods.
    The large Gran Markt of Bruges, dominated by the beautiful city hall and bell tower (right), is surrounded by buildings of different periods, including the 19th century Neo-Gothic Provincial Hoff.  There you’ll also find the quirky but delightful Frites Museum, dedicated to the history and culture of Belgian’s fried potatoes, a Chocolate Museum, a Lamp Museum, a Beer Museum and even a Torture Museum with its own gruesome allure.
The  exquisite Stadhuis Town Hall and Law Courts (now the Tourist Office) is set within the equally spacious Burg square nearby the Market.  From these open public spaces, the side streets lead down to the Dijver Canal, where the city’s fine art Groeninge Museum is located, with works by Jan van Eyck and other Flemish masters. There is also a museum specially devoted to the  Hans Memling, as well as a diamond museum and much else, so, rather than take it all in on a weekend, return visits would be requisite to see just how rich a history and the architectural beauty Bruges possesses.
    The 13th century Church of Our Lady, stunningly restored to a bright, glowing luster, has the tallest spire (367 feet) in Belgium and one of the rarest works of art in the world—a sculpture of Virgin and Child by Michelangelo (right), along with a stunning triptych of Christ’s crucifixion by Rubens.   
    At the moment Bruges is alive with a citywide event called the Triennial—a celebration of a city “quite literally surrounded by water, but also liquid in a metaphorical sense, as a city in constant and flowing artistic movement, sometimes storm-tossed, sometimes peaceful and calm”—at which fifteen celebrated global artists and architects have placed  huge installations under the theme “Liquid City” on or about its canals.
   In one location, where there is a longstanding statue of Jan Van Eyck, StudioKCA, from Brooklyn, has placed the huge “Bruges Whale” leaping from the water.  Made of the kind of plastic refuse that now clogs the world’s oceans, all of it collected in just six months, it is a dramatic comment on the global impact of such detritus both on the ecology and the marine population. Two weeks after its installation, a sperm whale that had ingested dozens of just such plastic objects washed up on the beach in Spain, showing just how advanced this scourge is.
    Other installations can be walked through, like the pavilion of a surf wave done in fuchsia and neon yellow. Another is a “Floating School” by a group called NLE out of Nigeria set near the beautiful Minnewater, a Benedictine nunnery (right).  The Triennial runs through Sept. 16. Tours of all the artworks are available.
    The Love Brugge City Card, available for 48 or 72 hours, offers free access to two dozen museums and attractions, a minibus tour of the city or cruise through its canals, and discounts on events, parking and bike rentals.  Also, ask at your hotel for the free “Discoverbruges” discount card to receive a discount at numerous attractions and shops in Bruges and surroundings.


By John Mariani

6 Wilton Road
Westport, CT


    We live at a time when media-craving chefs reject simplicity for sheer elaboration, so it is good to remind them that sushi is the easiest thing in the world to screw up and the most difficult to make one’s own.  As a moderate purist, I like sushi largely untainted and require first that the fish be of both unstinting freshness and identifiable as a species, so that everything on the plate doesn’t taste the same.  Tuna should not taste like halibut and mackerel should not taste like salmon.  After that, the rice is of equally great importance, its kind, its texture and its temperature.  Within those parameters I am most happy at a sushi bar.
    Thus, the arrival in Westport, Connecticut, of a Japanese restaurant so special— where the rest of the menu is at least as enticing as the sushi, which is itself outstanding—makes OKO the best new restaurant I have dined in so far in 2018.  The fact that it is run by a non-Japanese chef—born and raised in the New York suburbs—whose nearby restaurant The Cottage is exemplary for its modern American food may seem all the more surprising, except that Brian Lewis (left) has proven his ability to combine the finest culinary traditions with his own restrained sense of innovation.  At OKO he has so obviously thought through every dish to be a personal expression that I could imagine him opening up a taco stand with his own sense of style and creativity.
    I first enjoyed Lewis’s cooking at the Bedford Post Inn, then at his own place, Elm, in nearby New Canaan, where he was already showing a talent for Asian flavors and techniques he furthered at The Cottage.
    OKO is located within a historic brick building in Westport known as the Vigilant Hose Company, and with its scrubbed red brick walls, big windows, fluorescent lighting, bare wooden tables and big open bar, it’s almost as loud as if a fire truck was revving up to leave. (Lewis told me sound-proofing is on the way.)
    The nigiri sushi section is extensive (the chef’s selection, five for $25, ten for $45, is the way to go; otherwise, $4-$10  piece), and most is not what you might expect if you’re used to seeing only a slab of fish atop a finger of rice. For one thing, as at the best sushi bars in Japan and New York, Lewis assesses the correct temperature for an item and, accordingly, may give it a quick blast with a hand-held blowtorch. Thus, h
amachi is flavored with a scallion aïoli and gomashio, slowly roasted garlic and sesame.   Akami tuna, from the leaner part of the fish, is classically blanched and then marinated for up to two days, served with a nikiri shoyu of caramelized maple syrup, puffed quinoa and avocado-yuzu puree.
    Wild King salmon is paired with yuzu and finger lime, while morels are braised in sake butter and served over a Japanese omelet flavored with dashi, mirin and soy. And Atlantic squid  is thinly scored to absorb red kimchi juices and a touch of sichimi togarashi spices.

    There were many more wonderful sushi options, but let me not miss telling you of a starter of chilled King crab salad, tomato dashi, avocado, wasabi and white soy  ($17), and a razor clam and cauliflower with smoked trout roe and dashi ponzu  ($4).
    Among the cold and sashimi dishes I marveled at the complex flavors of golden snapper with smoky roasted salt and red yuzu koshu ($9) and marvelous kabiyaki-glazed sea eel, with aromatic sancho pepper ($6) that Lewis brought back from Kyoto.  Mackerel shime saba had a little pickled jalapeño ($6). Sweet shrimp in a rich garlic-brown butter soy took a hit from that blowtorch to meld the flavors ($8). Foie gras with cherry yuzu took on a sweet side from kosho maple soy ($10) and was spiced with five-spice powder and junmai daiginjo sake made from pure rice and water only. I’m not sure I believe in umami, but if it is a fifth flavor, Lewis’s food has it.
     Foie gras also provided the filling for succulent gyoza  dumplings, glazed with umeboshi pickled fruits and duck jus ($14). Buttered King crab legs ($19) were grilled over coals, basted in sudachi citrus fruit and chili butter, then finished with a mayonnaise given the torch treatment.
    Perhaps the finest of all three dishes I had that night was a perfect seared sea scallop roasted on the teppanyaki grill, served with hot red kimchi juices emulsified with sake butter, squid caramel and a salad of scallion, daikon and carrots ($6), followed by sticky ribs (right) with smoked maple, gochujang chili paste and sesame crunch ($17).
    The least interesting of the dishes were the tempura items ($5 to $18) of beans, mushrooms, eggplant and other vegetables that all tasted pretty much the same within a too-thin, unseasoned gluten-free batter.
    On the assumption that no one really expects great desserts in a Japanese restaurant, Lewis simply serves up delightful soft serve ice cream to finish ($5), but all are done with flair, like
ginger blueberry jam, brown butter almonds, butterscotch, matcha twist, sesame popcorn and sweet adzuki bean.
    I had expected Lewis would put a lot of thought into the beverages, so I was happy to see such an array of cocktails, sakes, wines, beer and teas—not a huge list, but a well chosen one.
    OKO is a restaurant of substance and personality, something wholly new in the suburbs of New York and competitive with the best in Manhattan, where you’ve got to be very good to create a reputation.  That Lewis can do as he does and still charge very reasonable prices is all the more amazing.  If there was ever a reason to drive up to Connecticut to eat, OKO—about 75 minutes from Manhattan—is it. 



By John Mariani

      If reports about wine fraud in major auction houses are making you queasy about what you really have in your cellar, there are a few ways to minimize your risk in the future.
      First of all, despite reports in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere that New York auctioneers have allegedly sold counterfeit wines and inauthentic vintages, a reputable auction house or fine wine store is still the most sensible way to buy rare wines, because those institutions have so much to lose if wrong. In 2017 auction totals in
the U.S., U.K. and Hong Kong markets, plus online sales, rose 12.7 percent to $381.7 million, up from $338.7 million in 2016, although the peak was in 2011, with global wine auction sales at $478 million.
      “Auction houses vet their wines very carefully,” Peter Meltzer, author of Keys to the Cellar: Strategies and Secrets of Wine Collecting, said in a phone interview. “I would not be overly worried. Also, the night before or the day of the auction there is usually a pre-sale tasting where for $50 to $100 you can sample many of the wines that will be up for bid. They are also a good way to meet and connect with other collectors who might have more experience.”
      The younger the wines, the less probability there is for fraud, even if a single bottle, like a Romanée-Conti from a recent vintage, may cost well over $1,000. Fraud occurs mostly with older, rare vintages and, especially, with large format bottles called magnums (two ordinary bottles), jereboams (six), methuselahs (eight) and nebuchadnezzars (twenty), of which very few are made.
So-called "trophy wines" are ripe for forging, for it is the very rare wines that collectors crave, like 1945 Mouton-Rothschild, 1947 and 1961 Pétrus, and 1921 and 1967 Chȃteau d’Yquem, so they are the ones most likely to be faked, because they bring so much money. Nobody fakes a wine from, say, 2010. And most of the time the buyer never drinks the wine he buys, saving it either as a trophy or for future sale.
      The best advice for a neophyte wine collector is to spend years building a relationship with a fine wine store in order to gain experience. A store like London’s famous Justerini & Brooks Wine Merchants, which opened in 1749 and now has more than 2,000 active accounts, including the royal family, stocks its wines in impeccably maintained cellars, and the company never buys at auction, because they cannot be sure of the provenance.
      The London-based MARC Fine Wines stocks more than 120,000 wines for sale to the trade and private collectors and will buy from auction houses and private cellars. Provenance, which is listed in the auction catalogs, counts:  If  the sale of a ’61 or ’59 Bordeaux is from the chȃteau itself, you can be sure it’s the real thing. Auction experts may call the chȃteau to ask about a particular bottle, if it seems in some way suspicious.
       There may be telltale clues, like the weight of the bottle, the color of the wine (the older the wine is, the lighter the color may be), the condition of the capsule, and the identifying marks on the label.
      The most targeted wine for fraud is Chȃteau Pétrus, whose bottles used before 1982 did not have identifying marks.
    Obviously, not everyone can be on a first-name basis with a château, but many châteaus in both Bordeaux and Burgundy, as well as in California, are open to the public and may offer “Library Selections” of older vintages that have never left the estate’s cellars. It is also a good idea to buy  en primeur” futures, with certified proof-of-purchase from the winery itself.
     If you are interested in buying at auction, certain telltale signs can be gleaned from looking at the label.  Obviously, an older wine’s label should show some age, but the gap between the wine in the neck and the lip of the bottle—called ullage—which indicates a degree of oxygen entering the neck, can be telling.  A very old bottle will have more ullage than a recent vintage (left). Still, some collectors will pay the chateau itself to open their wines and top them off with a little of the same vintage and then recork the bottle.  Indeed, a few chateau technicians even make the rounds in London and New York to perform such a safeguard.
      The corks themselves will also have the date of the vintage on them and show considerable age, though laser printers these days can fake that too. At auction a lot’s provenance will be described, commenting on prior storage conditions and whether the wine has come from a winery or a single seller. One might also look to see if a wine is packed “OWC”—in its “original wooden case”—which may actually increase the bidding price for such wine.   
    As in everything in life, timing is important. When the 2008 recession hit I decided to auction off some of my rare wines I knew I'd probably never drink. But the market was then so depressed that I made far less than I'd imagined, even though my lot contained Lafite-Rothschild, Pétrus and the California cult wine of the day, Screaming Eagle.
In the end, however, wine collectors should be wine drinkers. “The best way to find a fake is to open a bottle of the wine you’ve bought,” says Meltzer. “If you’re suspicious of it, you can bring it back to the seller and have it tasted or tested.” But be aware that auction houses sell their wines “as is,” which protects them more against spoiled wine than fakes.





"Snappy acidity and a salinity structure for this aromatic white, light body, which offers a nice mix of peach skin, Meyer lemon peel and pink grapefruit sorbet flavors. Drink now until 2020. "--Wine Spectator (July, 2018).




Data scientists at asked 1,000 Americans how they feel about fried chicken, finding that:  95% of Americans say they like fried chicken, 6% say they eat fried chicken every day and 16% going as far to say they would marry one.



Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners


   Wine is a joy year-round but in cooler weather one grape varietal has really taken center stage in my daily activities – that most Italian of grapes, Sangiovese, and its ultimate expression – Brunello di Montalcino.
    From mid-September through mid-October, the Sangiovese grown for our various styles of red wines are be harvested, culminating with the top selection for Brunello di Montalcino.
    Second, cooler weather here means it is time to start enjoying more red wines and especially Sangiovese based wines.  That includes Banfi’s cru of Brunello, Poggio alle Mura, literally the cream of the crop of our Sangiovese vineyards. Alongside our Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino, this year we introduced two more wines from the cru Poggio alle Mura – a Rosso di Montalcino and a Riserva of Brunello.  Rosso is sort of like the younger brother of Brunello, also made from 100% Sangiovese grapes but usually a selection from younger vines and the wine is aged only two years compared to the four required for Brunello.  The Riserva, on the other hand, is an even more selective harvest of Sangiovese, and ages for an additional year before release.
    What is so special about this cru Poggio alle Mura?  Well, it is the result our over 30 years of ongoing research at my family’s vineyard estate, Castello Banfi.  When we first began planting our vines there in the late 1970s studies from the University of Bordeaux indicated which strains of many varietals we should plant, based on the soil type and microclimate of each vineyard.  But when it came to the region’s native Sangiovese, there was only local lore, no scientific research.  So we took it upon ourselves to figure out this vine, and set off on three decades of incredibly detailed research.
    We started with 600 apparent variations on Sangiovese, because it is so susceptible to variations in weather and soil, and narrowed that down to 160 truly genetically different clones.  We planted a vineyard with two rows of each type, made wine from each of them, and charted the differences – remember, you only get one chance a year to make wine, so this took time.
    It took about ten years to get some concrete results, though we continue to experiment today and always will – you never stop learning in science and nature!  Once we determined which were the best, complementary clones that could be planted together to make the best Brunello, we chose to plant them in what we determined to be the optimal vineyard sites.  Coincidentally, the best soils and climate conditions are in the slopes surrounding the medieval fortress today known as Castello Banfi, known since Etruscan times as Poggio alle Mura – the walled hilltop.  Hence the name of our most special “cru” of Brunello, representing a synthesis between tradition and innovation.
    Though the focus of this study was our Brunello, all of our Sangiovese-based wines, including the super Tuscans SummuS, Cum Laude, and Centine, benefitted from this work.  And that’s the third reason for celebrating Sangiovese this month, for the range of wonderful reds that usher us into autumn!  One wine in particular was inspired by our research – the BelnerO, a Sangiovese dominant blend with what I like to call a kiss of Cabernet and a whisper of Merlot.  We grow the grapes a little differently for BelnerO than for Brunello, make the wine with less oak aging and released it earlier from the winery, providing a counterpoint to Brunello and a lovely terroir-driven wine in its own right.
     If you know Italians, you know that by nature we are multi-faceted, varying in mood, and always passionate.  As a nation, we span from the hot sunny beaches of Sicily near the African coast to the rugged mountains and Alpine ski slopes of Trentino-Alto Adige in the north.  Sangiovese is grown in almost all of Italy’s regions and reflects the unique nature of each; it is most famous (rightfully so) in Tuscany, yet even there it reflects the nuances of each hilltop, valley and subzone.  It has something a little different to say in Brunello than Chianti, Morellino than Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso di Montalcino than Super Tuscan blends.
    Here is a smattering of Sangiovese-based wines that you may wish to get to know better, reflecting a spectrum that appeals to every occasion, every taste, and every budget.  We can assure you that the conversation will never become boring.

Recommendations for Celebrating Sangiovese 

BelnerO Proprietor’s Reserve Sangiovese – A refined cuvée of noble red grapes perfected by our pioneering clonal research. This dark beauty, BelnerO, is produced at our innovative winery, chosen 11 consecutive years as Italy’s Premier Vineyard Estate. Fermented in our patented temperature controlled French oak and aged approximately 2 additional years. Unfiltered, and Nitrogen bottled to minimize sulfites. 


Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – Rich, round, velvety and intensely aromatic, with flavor hints of licorice, cherry, and spices. Brunello di Montalcino possesses an intense ruby-red color, and a depth, complexity and opulence that is softened by an elegant, lingering aftertaste. Unfiltered after 1998 vintage. 

Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino – Brunello's "younger brother," produced from select Sangiovese grapes and aged in barrique for 10 to 12 months. Deep ruby-red, elegant, vibrant, well-balanced and stylish with a dry velvety finish. 

Poggio all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – A single vineyard selection of our most historically outstanding Sangiovese, aged five years before release, the additional year more than that required of Brunello including 6 months in barrel and 6 months more in bottle to grant its “Riserva” designation.  Incredible elegance and harmony. Intense with lots of fruit and subtle wood influence. Round, complete, well balanced with hints of chocolate and berries. Unfiltered after 1998.

Poggio alle Mura – The first tangible result of years of intensive clonal research on Montalcino’s native Sangiovese grape.  Estate bottled from the splendidly sun drenched vineyards surrounding the medieval Castello from which it takes its name.  The Brunello di Montalcino is seductive, silky and smoky.  Deep ruby in color with an expressive bouquet of violets, fruits and berries as well as cigar box, cedar and exotic spices. The Rosso di Montalcino is also intense ruby red.  The bouquet is fresh and fruity with typical varietal notes of cherry and blackberry, enriched by more complex hints of licorice, tobacco and hazelnut.  It is full bodied, yet with a soft structure, and a surprisingly long finish. The Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is deep ruby red with garnet reflections and a rich, ample bouquet that hints of prune jam, coffee, cacao and a light balsamic note.  It is full and powerful, with ripe and gentle tannins that make it velvety and harmonious; this wine is supported by a pleasing minerality that to me speaks soundly of that special hillside in southern Montalcino.

SummuS – A wine of towering elegance, SummuS is an extraordinary blend of Sangiovese which contributes body; Cabernet Sauvignon for fruit and structure; and Syrah for elegance, character and a fruity bouquet.  An elegant, complex and harmonious red wine. 

Cum Laude – A complex and elegant red which graduated “With Honors,” characterized by aromas of juicy berries and fresh spices.

Centine – A Cuvee that is more than half Sangiovese, the balanced consisting of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Vinified in a firm, round style that easily accompanies a wide range of dishes, this is a smooth and fragrantly satisfying wine with international character, and a perennial favorite at my own dinner table. 

Banfi Chianti Superiore – The “Superiore” designation signifies stricter government regulations regarding production and aging requirements, as compared to regular Chianti.  An intense ruby red wine with fruit forward aromas and floral notes.  This is a round wine with well-balanced acidity and fruit.

Banfi Chianti Classico – An enduring classic: alluring bouquet of black fruit and violets; rich flavors of cherry and leather; supple tannins and good acidity for dining. 

Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – Produced from select grapes grown in the "Classico" region of Chianti, this dry, fruity and well-balanced red has a full bouquet reminiscent of violets.

Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico – This is our newest entry into the Chianti arena, coming from a 99 acre estate in Castellina, the heart of the Chianti Classico region.  The wine is a captivating mauve red that smells of cherry, plum and blackberry with hints of spice.  It is round, full and balanced with very good acidity.  

Col di Sasso – Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Luscious, complex and soft with persistent notes of fruit and great Italian style structure.



 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:

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 (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.


MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Gerry Dawes, Geoff Kalish, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.


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