Founded in 1996
By Jack Rivolta, 1933
IN THIS ISSUE
THE FOOD, WINE AND RESTAURANTS OF TURIN
By John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
LOVE AND PIZZA
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
SOUTH AFRICAN WINES REVISITED
By Geoff Kalish
On this week's episode of my WVOX Radio Show "Almost Golden," on Wed. January 6 at 11AM EST,I will be interviewing Susan Goldman Rubin, author of dozens of young adult books and biographies. Go to: WVOX.com. The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.
On the next video episode of Celebrating Act 2 on January 6, I will be speaking with hosts John Coleman and Art Kirsch about the differences between Cajun and Creole Cooking. Go to: CA2.
THE FOOD, WINE AND
RESTAURANTS OF TURIN
By John Mariani
Last week I wrote about the
undiscovered attractions of the royal city of
Turin, whose gastronomy is also unique and not
well known to travelers.
NEW YORK CORNERBy John Mariani
By John Mariani
LOVE AND PIZZA
Since, for the time being, I am unable to write about or review New York City restaurants, I have decided instead to print a serialized version of my (unpublished) novel Love and Pizza, which takes place in New York and Italy and involves a young, beautiful Bronx woman named Nicola Santini from an Italian family impassioned about food. As the story goes on, Nicola, who is a student at Columbia University, struggles to maintain her roots while seeing a future that could lead her far from them—a future that involves a career and a love affair that would change her life forever. So, while New York’s restaurants remain closed, I will run a chapter of the Love and Pizza each week until the crisis is over. Afterwards I shall be offering the entire book digitally. I hope you like the idea and even more that you will love Nicola, her family and her friends. I’d love to know what you think. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To read previous chapters go to archive (beginning with March 29, 2020, issue.
LOVE AND PIZZA
Cover Art and paintings By Galina Dargery
Sunday, the private art galleries were not open,
so Marco could not show Nicola his work at any
of them, though through the window of one
shuttered gallery he pointed to one painting
hung on the wall, depicting a woman on a bed
with a half-eaten cake. The
woman was licking icing off her fingers.
"Most of my work these days is about women and food,” said Marco. “I could show you what I have and what I’m working on in my apartment, if you like.”
Nicola, a little tired from the red wine, tried to bring her thoughts together. Was Marco making a play for her, especially after she kissed him in the pizzeria? Or was he just really interested to show off his work to her. She said the first thing to pop into her mind: “Sta luntano? Is it far?”
"No, sta ‘cca avvicino. Cinque blocche addo stamme nuje. No, it’s nearby. Five blocks from here.” So, Nicola assented and Marco took her hand, not her arm, as they walked at their leisure to his apartment.
Marco opened the door to the apartment, which looked about the way Nicola hoped it would. Not much furniture, a small kitchen with an espresso pot on the two-burner stove, an artist’s table with cans of brushes, tubes of paint in various states of usage and stacks of canvases, many unused, leaning against the walls.
“Excuse the mess,” said Marco, “but I haven’t been here much during the season.” He said he would make some coffee and told Nicola to make herself as comfortable as possible. “I really haven't touched a paint brush in weeks,” he said, “the cooking takes all my energy, and I have almost no time off.”
Nicola was flipping through canvases, and, as Marco had told her, most were paintings of women—many were of the same woman—with food. In one, a woman in a low-cut red dress lay on her back with a box chocolates; in another a tall layer cake floated above her head; in another just the lower part of her face could be seen eating a brioche. All of them were done in a realistic style, but the brushwork and composition went far beyond those of hyper-realism, where what one sees is all there is to see.
“Marco, these are marvelous!” said Nicola. “I really think they are excellent.”
Marco came back into the room with the coffees. “Some are, some are not, some are not yet done. I’m not yet finished with this series on women and food. There are many more angles I wish to pursue. You see, for me women and food are, obviously, very elemental life forces, but I see so many women today for whom food is some kind of enemy, something to be feared rather than something to be loved and embraced.
“In my paintings the women feel no guilt in indulgence. They are not voluptuous like many of the women in Renaissance paintings, but they are not thin like the women in the magazines.”
Nicola wondered if he meant women like her, but he redeemed himself by saying, “Now, Nicola, look at you. You have a beautiful body, a woman’s body, and I could see by the way you ate last night—I was watching you from the kitchen—and from the way you ate the pizza today that you are not one of those, what do they call them?”
“Yes, women—beautiful women—who literally starve themselves to death for some irrational idea of what a woman should look like. For me a woman without an appetite for good food and wine is not even a woman at all.”
Nicola was not sure if Marco was telling her all this as the prelude to a seduction, although he was not, yet, heaping flattery upon her.
"It’s also part of why I love to cook,” he continued. “When I cook, when I conceive of a dish, it also has to be elemental. I am trying to get at the sensual essence of the foods, not blow them up into some fantastical, like so many chefs do. If you do not taste the soul of the tomato, or the fresh cheese, or the newly pressed olive oil, then I have failed as a chef.”
“So where did you learn to cook?” asked Nicola.
“Both my mother and grandmother were excellent cooks, and often they made something very good out of nothing, because during the war they had so little. So when they were able to buy more food after the war, they made sure nothing was wasted and everything—even the water they boiled the vegetables in—would be used to enhance the flavor of something else. What about you, Nicola, do you cook?”
“I do,” she replied, “and it was my grandmother, who was from Bologna, who taught me.”
“Ah, the Bolognesi are excellent cooks. A little heavy in their sauces, but excellent.”
“So, how did you start cooking professionally?”
“Little by little, rather than spend money at restaurants, I learned as much as I could, always staying simple, simple. I would buy the best ingredients, sometimes a single pear or two langostini, and I would treat them with respect. As time went on I cooked for my friends—artists really are always starving—and then one day a few years ago, when I needed the money—which was always—I was recommended for a job as a cook in a good trattoria. After that, I was never hungry and I was doing the two things I loved doing the most in my life.”
“Well,” said Nicola, “I haven’t told you, but my brother runs a trattoria in the Bronx, and he could certainly use a cook like you, Marco.”
Marco shrugged and said, “That’s a nice idea, but I tell you something. A little secret: I have actually been offered a job cooking in New York for a family that once ate at Benedetto. They are apparently very rich and they want me to be their personal chef, cook for them at night and when they have dinner parties.”
Nicola was surprised both by the revelation and by the thought that Marco would actually move to New York. “So you may take the job?” she asked.
“I already have. The season ends here in another two weeks and then, after Christmas, I will go to New York and work for the family. I already know that there will be plenty of time when they don’t need me. They have a house here in Tuscany and another in Colorado, I think. And in the summer they go away to someplace called a `Vineyard’?”
“Martha’s Vineyard. It’s very beautiful.”
“So, I will have plenty of time to myself to paint, make very good money, and get out of Napoli for a while. I need the change.”
“Well, that really sounds like a great plan. I hope it all works out for you.”
Marco finished his coffee in one slug, set down his cup and smiled at Nicola, saying, “And perhaps, when I come to America, you can show me New York and this Belmont place you live.”
Nicola laughed and said, “Well, don’t be surprised if you find it’s a little like Napoli.”
“That would not be bad at all!” He then became quiet and lifted a painting from behind a few others. It was a woman sitting in the palm of a man’s hand and she was holding Eve’s apple. Nicola joined him in front of it, remarking how much she liked it, as Marco slipped his arm around her waist. “You know, Nicola, I think we are two of a kind. Art, food, Naples, New York. We are simpatico, eh?”
Nicola saw where this was leading and she was not unhappy about it. He was in front of her now, his hands on her hips, then he put one hand through her lustrous hair. A moment later he leaned in to kiss her. Nicola received the overture without opening her lips. Marco kissed her more forcefully and brought her very close to him, saying her name.
Nicola turned her head and gently tried to disengage from his arms, saying, “Marco, I find you very, very attractive. I love your work and I love what you do, but . . . “
“But what?” he asked.
“But we both have to go back on the ferry in the next hour and then I am gone tomorrow, so this is not a good idea right now.”
Like all men, Marco sank into childish despair, apologizing but still pushing his intentions on her until Nicola put her hand in front of his face and said, “No! No, Marco. Not here, not now. Maybe when you come to New York we will see each other and get to know each other better, but I don't want this to happen here and now.”
In Neapolitan Marco said, “A jatta, pe’ ghì ‘e pressa, facette ‘e figlie cecate.”
Nicola wrinkled her brow and translated the cryptic saying as, “A cat in a hurry gives birth to blind kittens?’ What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means, you're right,” said Marco. “It means that going too fast may bring bad results.” Then all of a sudden he became remarkably good natured about the short episode.
"Nicola, okay, we go back on the ferry now, we say goodbye, and tomorrow we part, but only for a little while. Then when I come to New York I will call you and then, we’ll see, okay?”
“I think that’s a very good idea, Marco.”
With nothing more to gain, Marco looked at his watch and said, “Ah, we should get going if we want to catch the next ferry.”
Nicola smiled and said to herself, “Well, that went well.”
On the way back to Capri, Marco was quiet but didn’t seem at all glum. Occasionally he would point out something in the sea or landscape but otherwise said little. And when they arrived at the Quisisana, Marco thought for a moment that perhaps this wonderful American girl would invite him to her room but realized from the look in her eyes that it was not going to happen.
“So, Nicola, buon viaggio. I will see you in the new year. M’barete ‘o Napulitane! Practice your Neapolitan!” Then he kissed her three times on the cheeks, gave her a tight embrace, and waved goodbye.
Nicola went back to her room feeling oddly elated. But she also thought a swim in the pool would do her a lot of good.
© John Mariani, 2020
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
By Geoff Kalish
On the other hand, I’ve found many of the reds made from Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Syrah and the whites fashioned from Chardonnay worthy of seeking out. In fact, when visiting the country a few years ago we found many “world class” Cabernets Sauvignons, Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah Blends and Chardonnays, all drinking well in their youth with the potential to age. In particular, we found the reds of Rust en Vrede exceptional. And we recently had the opportunity to taste the current vintages of these wines, with the results reported below.
But first a bit
about the winery itself. Established in 1694,
but even now little known in the U.S., Rust en
Vrede (meaning “rest and peace”) is situated on
the slopes of Helderberg Mountain, a few miles
outside the center of Stellenbosch, in an area
that’s noted for its Mediterranean climate and
well-draining sandstone soil. Since 1977 the
winery has been owned by the Engelbrecht family,
with the goal of producing full-bodied, complex
reds, with an annual production of 10,000 to
15,000 cases of wine from estate-grown grapes.
In addition, the winery houses a restaurant (below)
that perennially places among the top
restaurants in the world. Seating is at tables
surrounding an open kitchen where current chef
Fabio Daniel cooks cuisine that’s contemporary
French with touches of Italian and Brazilian
flavors and importantly uses only items from
The University of Michigan's IT department suggests terms like ‘picnic’ and ‘brown bag’ are offensive. Alternatives include 'lunch and learn' for 'brown bag' and 'gathering' for 'picnic.' Although no explanation was given as to why they might be offensive.
THAT STANLEY KUBRICK IS STILL ALIVE
Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from amazon.com.
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.
WATCH THE VIDEO!
“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.
❖❖❖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, ForbesTraveler.com 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:
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
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
If you wish to subscribe to this newsletter, please click here: http://www.johnmariani.com/subscribe/index.html
© copyright John Mariani 2021