Virtual Gourmet

  January 19,  2020                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


La Savoie Travel Poster 1930 by Roger Broders


By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani



By John Mariani

Paper Moon

        Owing to Milan’s international character, finding all kinds of first-rate food from sushi to Indian dosas is certainly easier than in Rome or Florence, and in its number of Italian regional trattorias and ristoranti you’ll find Milan dotted with entries from Sicily, Tuscany, Liguria, Abruzzo and, of course, its own region of Lombardy. 
    Many have been in the city a long time, and the local favorites are certainly more interesting than the tourist-favored places like those within the Galleria. Since Milan is such a fashionable city, the concierges tend to steer foreign visitors to the most stylish and most expensive spots—some good, some merely expensive—like Pacifico, Niko Romito, Torre in the new Prada building, the Armani Ristorante and Dolce & Gabbana’s Bar Martini.
Good or not, those are decidedly not where the Milanesi eat regularly. Smaller trattorias are more their style, and cheaper.
Via Tivoli 2
    Rovello 18 is a perfect spot to eat before or after visiting the nearby Pinacoteca di Brera, and, accordingly, has drawn a clientele from the arts community since 1950, when an earlier version was opened by Pierino de Liguoro.  Two generations later, in 2002, Cinzia de Liguoro and her son, chef Michele de Liguoro, opened Rovello 18.   
     Since her recent retirement, Michele has kept this darling place bustling. Its success is based on a short, changing, hand-written menu and a cache of more than 800 wines. English is readily spoken, and prices include tax and service.

    Downstairs is a cozy, small room with gauzy draperies and upstairs a slightly larger one overlooking the street, with beamed ceilings, modern Italian art, a wine cabinet, white tablecloths, Murano glassware and very good lighting throughout. Service is attentive and very amiable.
I     began my lunch with artichokes with a creamy fonduta that had been browned on the top with hazelnuts (€15).  There is a turmeric soup (€12) and a risotto laced with assertive taleggio cheese (€15). I loved the agnolotti del plin with butter and sage (€15), a Piemontese pasta of tiny stuffed packets. Spaghetti alla chitarra (€15) is a classic Abruzzese tomato-based dish teeming with hot chili peppers, puntarelle greens and guanciale ham.
    Italian regionalism appears throughout the main courses, too, from amberjack cooked with eggplant Sicilian-style (€25) to the Piemontese vitello tonnato with its creamy tuna mayonnaise on filet of veal (€20). There is, of course, a crisp vitello alla milanese (€30).
    The signature dessert is the Cinzia chocolate-hazelnut torta (€9) as well as cold egg nog and biscuits (€9).
While there are plenty of wines under €50, this is a list with extensive holdings in rarities from every region and is well worth perusing before ordering your meal.

Rovello 18 is open for lunch and dinner daily.

Via Bagutta, 1

    Having warned of being wary of stylish places to dine, I must say that I love Paper Moon, which is located on one of the most stylish streets in the city, Via Bagutta. (Incidentally, a competitive restaurant called Bagutta, once popular with journalists, has closed.) But before Milan became a fashion capital Paper Moon was around, since 1977, run by Pio Galignani and his wife, Enrica Del Rosso, who were the first to bring really good pizza to Milan. They named their trattoria after a favorite American movie of 1973 starring Ryan O’Neal and his daughter Tatum.
    When pizza was far from the ubiquitous dish it now is in Italy, Paper Moon’s version was not in the floppy Neapolitan style but was instead thin and crisp crusted. Lesser pizzaioli have mimicked Paper Moon’s pizzas by making them thin and dull as crackers, but the original has just the right yeast-rich heft and chew. 
    For that reason it became the rage in the 1980s with the skinny fashionista crowd, and the owners wisely opened a place in New York (now closed), followed by Istanbul, Manila, Hong Kong, Doha and Goa.  Of these I cannot speak, and chains are of little interest to me, but the Milan original still retains the same la dolce vita spirit and good food it has always had. Snootiness is not part of the place’s character.
    The restaurant’s two-level décor is, after many years, still quite stylish in black, beige and white, with wicker chairs, roses everywhere, its walls hung with fine movie star photos.
    Once you sit down you’ll be treated to complimentary hot strips of olive oil-coated pizza bread called schiacchiata, which goes well with the beef carpaccio and the bresaola  (€18). There is also a generous assorted antipasto buffet (€11).   
There are 13 different pizzas available (€12-€17), from one with Gorgonzola, taleggio and parmigiano to another of tomato, mozzarella and artichokes. Pizza tartufata is a lavish version, with fresh mozzarella, fontina, funghi porcini and white truffle cream.
        Pastas are also excellent—one of the best potato gnocchi lavished with Gorgonzola (€14) I’ve ever tasted, as is the risotto, simply cooked with butter and parmigiano or with peas and asparagus (€15). Pappardelle alla Paper Moon with smoked pancetta bacon, tomato sauce and cream (€16) is richly satisfying and exactly what I wanted to eat on a peltingly rainy autumn day in Milan.
    For a place so well known for its pizzas, Paper Moon has a number of secondi and griglia items, including a tartare of beef (€23) and veal chop alla milanese with arugula and cherry tomatoes (€28).
    For dessert have the light semifreddo with espresso. 
    The wine list is fairly extensive, with bottles from all over Italy.
    So, while it’s true that Paper Moon gets a stylish Milanese crowd, what better place to brandish the shopping bags you just acquired next door at Cesare Attolini?
Open Mon.-Sat. Tax and service included in the prices



By John Mariani

 29 E 20th Street (near Fifth Avenue)



    Sushi restaurants in New York seem to be gaining on Italian in sheer numbers, though most are run-of-the-mill with mediocre seafood product. Then there are the ultra-exorbitant sushi bars in imitation of those small counters in Japan where one person can easily blow $500 in a tasting menu decided by the chef, despite décor that more or less begins and ends with a polished counter and a view of the seafood and sobersided itamae carving it.

    Mizu, in the Flatiron District, is, with the exception of the high prices, more like the latter and far and away better than the former. Indeed, it is a bargain for first-rate seafood and imaginative dishes.

    There’s not much to the décor—basically a low-lighted 70-seat room with bare tables and a brightly lighted sushi bar and counter to the rear. The reception by owner David Sunarto will be warm, the service cordial; the food will be exceptional, from dumplings and sushi to special dishes created by partner-chef Nakao Hirakata and his staff.

    Now seven years old, Mizu has a very regular clientele, and at lunch reservations are always necessary; on weekday nights, the crowd piles in before six, but empties out by nine.

    When I first perused the menu, which took some time, I wondered whether a selection of so many dishes could possibly be handled with equal aplomb, but after an extensive tasting from most categories, I saw no lapses in preparation and was delighted by the chef’s special dishes, like the lustrous “white tuna truffle,” quickly seared tuna dressed with truffle oil and yuzu, and a carpaccio of yellowtail with yuzu and jalapeño chili pepper, reflecting a Peruvian-Japanese connection. The fact that these dishes cost only $15 each is nothing short of amazing. 

    We began our meal with crisp, pan-fried gyoza tuna dumplings over guacamole ($7.50), rock shrimp tempura with a spicy creamy sauce and crispy golden onions on top ($12), and fried calamari with a sweet chili sauce ($11). We also were delighted by a couple of chef Hirakata’s generously proportioned signature rolls: the “Gramercy” ($17) was done with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, avocado, cucumber, dashi nori and wasabi mayo, and the “Crazy Toro” ($22) of spicy tuna, avocado inside Cajun-seasoned toro tuna with eel sauce, crunchy tobiko eggs, scallion, jalapeño and Sriracha. Additionally, among all these seafood dishes, there is also a first-rate honey wasabi tuna steak ($30).

    We’d already eaten a good deal by the time the “sushi & sashimi for two” ($75) arrived. This dish, with 10 pieces of sushi, 14 of sashimi, a spicy tuna roll and Alaska roll, is intended for two but fed four of us, and we still took some home. It was a beautiful array of various species dependent on availability—fluke, striped bass, salmon, toro, madai, sweet shrimp and more—and, served at the right temperature, every one of them had its own distinct flavor.

    We skipped dessert out of satiety, and left Mizu extremely happy, knowing we’d had some superb Japanese food at remarkably reasonable prices.  Our bill for all these dishes, plus beer and sake, came to far less than it would have been at Sushi Ginza Onodera or Takashi, and less than the price for one person at Masa. 


Open Mon.-Fri. for lunch; dinner nightly.



By John Mariani


    The wine industry goes into a frenzy mode after Labor Day in order to stock up and promote new offerings for the holiday season, but you’ll have to wait until spring for further new releases to come on the market, when matured vintages are ready to ship and the industry gears up for summer sales.

    Add to this the uncertainty about wine prices if Trump dumps new tariffs on French wines and how Brexit will affect wine sales. January is a lull period when, fortunately, there is still a very good supply of myriad wines from all over at post-holiday prices.  Here are several I intend to enjoy for the next few months.

  ($61)—One of the best things about intense competition in the wine world is the spread of prices for a good bottle; in this case there are many shops selling this outstanding Tuscan red in the mid-$40 range. As an “I.G.T.” wine without a formal appellation, its components actually hearken back to what Chianti used to be, using nine historical varieties: Mammolo, Ciliegiolo, Pugnitello, Colorino, Sanforte, Malvasia Nera, Canaiolo, FogliaTonda, and Sangiovese, each vinified with indigenous yeasts and aged separately in small barrels. This complexity is, in fact, more interesting than some of the hyped “Super Tuscans” based on 100% Sangiovese. I happily drink it with everything from pasta with funghi porcini to roast lamb.


ARNALDO-CAPRAI 25 ANNI MONTEFALCO SAGRANTINO 2015 ($65-$95)—The “25 Anni” refers to the 25th anniversary, back in 1993, for this consistently admired producer of 100%  Montefalco Sagrantino in Umbria. The wine spent two years in oak barriques and eight in the bottle, so it is at a maturity now that shows off the virtues of the grape’s highly tannic body, which needs time to soften. Be aware, though, that this one clocks in at 15% alcohol, so you need a hearty food liked seared steaks or stew to match up. Its price is all over the map: I see it being sold for $65, which is a very good price, and as high as $100, which is too much.


VIETTI BARBERA D’ASTI TRE VIGNE 2017 ($18)—Once you get into the cru appellations for Piedmont’s Barbera, the wines become very good, very easy to drink and usually sell at a very reasonable price, like this from Luca Currado Vietti, a fifth-generation winemaker. It spends a judicious 14 months in oak, and it’s wholly ready to be enjoyed right now and goes with just about anything that does not swim in the sea. With truffled sauces, it’s terrific.


ARTESA LOS CARNEROS CHARDONNAY 2016 ($23)—From the cool Carneros region of Napa Valley comes this very likeable, well priced Chardonnay very much in the California style but without the overly oaky aftertaste of so many. It ages on its lees for nine months, allowing the fruit to come to the front, and, now three years old, its age has given it complexity, and its alcohol of 14.2% just skirts being over the top. A good wine with poultry.


LAURENT PERRIER BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT NATURE ($90-$100)—This is Laurent-Perrier’s new 100% Chardonnay cuvée in a zero dosage style, aged for six years. In fact, Laurent-Perrier was a pioneer of zero dosage Champagnes going back to the 19th century and introduced as what was called “Ultra Brut” in 1981. I’m not always a fan of zero dosage (also called pas dosage) Champagnes because their lack of sweetness detracts from the fruit, but this example is very much a fruit-rich sparkler and for that reason makes for a great first course wine or with shellfish of any kind.  I’ve seen it in stores for as low as $70.


CHÂTEAU LE GRAND MOULIN COLLECTION GRANDE RÉSERVE 2015 ($13)—I know little about this winery from Bordeaux’s Côtes de Blaye appellation, but for thirteen bucks (I’ve seen it listed at $30, too), you get a delightful taste of what these local Bordeaux wines can be, this one a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Four years of age give it a more formidable body than you might expect, especially for a region known better for its abundant white wines, much of which blended into Cognac. For everyday drinking and much satisfaction, this is the kind of French wine that may well survive tariffs.


GRUET MÉTHODE CHAMPENOISE CUVÉE DANIELLE 2014 ($15)—An American sparkler made in the méthode champenoise for $15? Anything’s possible and its origin in Albuquerque, New Mexico, doesn’t sound encouraging.  But the winery has French roots, via the Gruet family of Bethon, France, with its first releases in 1989—it is now a partner with Precept Wine—and has managed only to improve its reputation among American sparkling wines since then. The vineyards are at 5,000 feet and get nice and cool at night, keeping this a very refreshing rosé.



LOUIS ROEDERER CRISTAL CHAMPAGNE 2007 ($270)—Given its price, I don’t get much Cristal in my diet, so I enjoy it only with family or close friends when I have it. Its history remains romantic: As of 1876 it was Czar Alexander II’s favorite, and it is only made in the best vintage years, usually a blend of 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir, aged six years and left for another eight months after disgorgement. (Each bottle has a number.) It is an elegant wine, full bodied, with a lovely light gold color. With caviar you have a historic match, but it’s equally as good with a terrine of foie gras, or just before a  sweet dessert.




At 318 Hooters restaurants across the U.S., diners can now order Unreal Wings made with the meat alternative Quorn, a dough called mycoprotein made from fermented fungus.




"So, like any great marvel of the kitchen and nature, I thought it deserved the ABT treatment. Accordingly, I fried 42 eggs in nine different cooking fats and five pan types, to try to arrive at the truth: What is the absolute best way to fry an egg?"—Ella Quittner, "The Absolute Best Way to Fry an Egg, " FOOD 52



 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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