Virtual Gourmet

  July 21, 2014                                                                                             NEWSLETTER

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Menu cover of Cocoanut Grove Nightclub, Los Angeles, circa 1940



By John Mariani and Mort Hochstein



By John Mariani

Madeleine Carroll and Tyrone Power in "Lloyd's of London" (1936)

    If you wish to hear the King’s English spoken, quite possibly the last place you can now do so is in London, where, owing to the vast number of tourists and immigrants, it is more likely the person you pass on the street is speaking Russian, Gujarati, Hindi, Turkish, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese or Hebrew.
    The same is pretty much the case in New York (which draws more than 50 million tourists annually), but in London one still hopes to hear the kind of accents that Prof. Henry Higgins could “place within two streets”--Hoxton, Lisson Grove, Hawkestone, Anwell, Selsey.
    London is--far more than Paris, Rome or Berlin--the epitome of the international city, as much a melting pot of cultures now as the United States.  Perhaps, though, it is better to call London a stew pot, for you find there that multinationalism has created a vast array of ethnic restaurants and eateries, starting with the old curry houses of the last century now including places with names like Pizarro, Wahaca, Bopshiu’s, Umu, and Gymkhana, an Indian restaurant that just won top spot on Restaurant magazine’s National Restaurant Awards.
    Thus, on a recent trip to London, I ran the gamut between British and ethnic restaurants, beginning by checking into the magnificently restored (after a two-year closure) Savoy Hotel, set right on the banks of the Thames and in a cul de sac off the Strand.  The last time I stayed at the Savoy, now 125 years old, the old dowager was showing more than a patina of age, so I was delighted to return, driving into the broad corridor that flanks the gleaming new façade with the hotel’s backlighted name pronouncing that you truly have arrived.
    The foyer and concierge desk  (below) have been refitted to the highest gloss of mahogany and marble, leading down to the hotel’s two dining rooms, Kaspar’s Seafood Grill and Wine Bar and Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill.  Attached to the hotel is the famous Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, of which more in a moment. If you want a good look at the Edwardian and art déco appointments, see the (not very good) re-make of “Gambit” with Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz. The movie camera loves the Savoy.
    There are a dozen levels of rooms, 193 of them, with 73 suites, from a Superior Queen to the Royal Suite, all done with state-of-the-art tech along with Murano glass, silk wall coverings, leather desks and Mascioni bed linens. A Business Center is open round the clock.  By the way, from now until Sept. 28, guests can enjoy a complimentary Luxury Thames Cruise on a river yacht.
    During my stay, I only had time for breakfast downstairs, and it was a  splendid array of options that include everything from a continental breakfast (£26) and Savoy Breakfast  (£32) to grilled kippers (£17.50), a toasted bagel with smoked  salmon (£17.50), a Chinese breakfast with congee and dim sum (£36), and a “stack of American banana pancakes” (£17.50).
    But I did have time to return--after decades--to Simpson’s-in-the-Strand   (never closed during the Savoy’s restoration), which has been here since 1828, originally as a chess club and coffee house, then, in 1848, under caterer John Simpson, as a full-fledged restaurant whose specialty was fine British beef brought out on a silver trolley and carved at the table to guests’ liking.  Noted clients of the restaurant have included Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Disraeli, the fictitious Sherlock Holmes and, surprisingly, Vincent Van Gogh.
    Even under rationing during World War I, Simpson’s carried on, impressing P.G. Wodehouse as “unique,” writing in 1915, “Here, if he wishes, the Briton may, for the small sum of half a dollar, stupefy himself with food. The God of Fatted Plenty has the place under his protection. Its keynote is solid comfort. It is a pleasant, soothing, hearty place--a restful temple of food. No strident orchestra forces the diner to bolt beef in ragtime. No long central aisle distracts his attention with its stream of new arrivals. There he sits, alone with his food, while white-robed priests, wheeling their smoking trucks, move to and fro, ever ready with fresh supplies.”
    By the 1970s, Simpson’s had even earned a rare Michelin star, one of only nine awarded in London.  It was not until 1984 that “ladies” were allowed in the main, downstairs dining room. Though not the original 19th century décor, Simpson’s architecture hearkens back to a British posh and formality that makes it a requisite tourist attraction, so that today it is flocked with foreigners who love the swallow-tail frocked captains and waiters and the rolling of the trolley to each table, its silver cloche pulled back to reveal the steaming beef and lamb joints. (You may even take a carvery class at Simpson’s.)  By the way, jackets, I’m sad to say, are no longer required at the restaurant.
    Regulars may go for the steak and kidney pie or the beef Wellington, but most, including myself, stay the course towards the roasts.  I enjoyed the signature potted shrimp (£15.50), a ruddy, flavorful lobster bisque, (£10.50), and wood pigeon breast with green beans, new potatoes and bacon (€10.50). We also shared a plate of roast lamb rump (£24), with roasted tomato and zucchini in an olive-rosemary sauce.
    Then came the Scottish beef, aged 28 days (£31), traditionally sliced quite thin, so ask for your preference in slab size; sauced with the pan juices,  the beef is served with roasted potatoes, Savoy cabbage and Yorkshire pudding. I was thoroughly enjoying myself until the famous Yorkshire pudding arrived, more resembling a large American popover.  Surprisingly, the puffy muffin fin lacked the crisp but pliant exterior and lovely yellow soft interior I expected; instead, the crust was as unyielding as an eggshell and just as dry.  I asked for another and it was just as disappointing. A dessert sampler for two, including Devon burnt cream, runs £14.50.   
    Before 7 p.m., there is a two-course (£27.75) or three-course (£31) fixed-price dinner that includes the beef.  But the prices at Simpson’s are not as high as so many high-end restaurants in London, and, surrounded by an ambiance and service that hasn’t changed for ages, you get to partake of something truly unique.   

     At the other end of the gastronomic spectrum is Coya in Mayfair, a thoroughly 21st century restaurant, with all the attendant music--much of it live--and high decibel levels and a much younger crowd than Simpson’s. Opened by Arjun Waney,  who also runs the successful Zuma, La Petite Maison and The Arts Club, Coya is loosely Peruvian, done up in a décor they call “luxurious dilapidated,” meaning a juxtaposition of Incan colors and rough metallic finishes, with antique, colonial-style Peruvian furniture.

        After two years in business, it is clearly still one of the red hot spits in London, and it was packed on a Sunday evening.
      You push your way through the large door off Piccadilly, and pass through--or stick around for a cocktail in--the small, well-stocked Pisco Bar and Lounge.  Then you descend to the main dining area (right), whose colors--black ceiling, bare light bulbs, bare tables--give it a dark moody cast.  Downstairs is a  ceviche bar (£8-12), offering some of the best items on Head Chef Sanjay Dwivedi’s long menu, which also includes an array of anticuchos (£9-13) of grilled skewered meats like ox heart with parsley and ají rocoto, and parrillada dishes (£17-27) like pechuga de pato--duck breast with lúcuma, soya sauce and coriander shoots.  Another section features meats and fish cooked in the traditional Josper oven-grill.
    My friends and I trusted the manager to guide our choice of  items from every category. Given the menu’s length, it promised highs and lows. But I must say that among plenty of highs the lows were minimal.  Most dishes retained the right textures and seasonings for the ingredients and the style of cooking involved.  So, atún chifa, yellowfin tuna with soy and sesame seeds and a crispy shrimp cracker made for a fine opening ceviche; of the tiraditos, I loved the pez limón, more yellowtail, this time spicier, with green chili and crunchy radish.
    Peru is the motherland of potatoes, and Coya’s gold spud with fresh crab and Josper-grilled peppers lived up to reputation. Tiger prawns received a tempura treatment, though the aji rocoto sauce was bland. Even at a time when cooks everywhere seem to have mastered octopus prep, the pulpo al olivo at Coya was amazingly tender, with a creamy interior texture. An iron pot dish of Chilean sea bass with rice, lime and chili was simple but good, while the costillas de cerdo of pork back ribs with tamarind juice and cashews went fast at our table, despite being quite sweet.
    I really didn’t expect desserts (£8) to be as wonderful as they were within the Peruvian theme: a chocolate fundido with white chocolate ice cream; salted caramel with chocolate and Pisco; and best of all, an extraordinary sundae of sweet corn ice cream and popcorn that was a perfect way to end a meal of such diversity.
    Coya’s wine list is extensive, but very pricey, as is the spirits screed and the requisite New World cocktails.
    Make no mistake: Coya is not a place for a quiet and romantic meal, although the strolling mariachi musicians have a quaint charm about them.  This is a  place you go with your friends in their casually chic clothes and just hope you're not the oldest person in the room.  You can’t help but have fun, and the bar is open till 1:30.
    (Coya also has a private club with its own dining area. They’ve also just launched Sunday brunch; for £55 guests can enjoy a menu of Coya’s signature dishes along with unlimited champagne. Kids under 10 eat brunch for free.)



Il Punto

By John Mariani

507 Ninth Avenue (on the corner of 38th Street)

         I am not at all unhappy about the number of Italian restaurants that continue to open in New York, these days largely by non-Italian owners or chefs, and I am even happier to find a place that’s been around a while that’s brand new to me.
         Il Punto, under one chef or another, has been in Hell’s Kitchen for a dozen years or so, but its newest chef, Antonio Mermolia, has revamped the menu to show how endlessly creative a man of his talents can be while always respecting the regional distinctions of Italian cuisine.
         Mermolia’s menu is largely Mediterranean, which means it’s a bit lighter than Italian food from Rome northward.  He was born 30 years ago in Gioia Tauro in Calabria to a family of good cooks (they own the renowned Hotel Villa Calliope) and, at the age of 16, began apprenticing in various  top European hotels before opening his own restaurant in Sicily.
        Two years ago the managers of Il Punto ate there, loved the food, and asked him to consult at their trattoria.  That consultancy led to an infatuation with New York, so Mermolia has stayed on, bringing his style of seemingly simple cuisine to the city with dishes not to be found on any other local menus.
         One of these is made with an unusual Calabrian pasta called struncatura, once a poor people’s dish made from the remains of wheat and bran after the milling process.  At Il Punto, Mermolia uses buckwheat (below), which retains the original’s rough, nutty texture, to which he adds the southern flavors of dehydrated olives, mint, tomato, spicy ‘nduja chili condiment, and breadcrumbs.  It is an absolutely delicious dish and wholly his. So, too, are the ways in which he puts his spin on more traditional dishes, like crudi of red shrimp with white beans perfumed with lemon and capers from the island of Pantelleria.
        As an appetizer he takes a large, fat calamaro and bakes it till very tender, again with olives and bread crumbs along with truffled potatoes and a sweet-sour balsamic reduction.
         Unusual indeed in the early part of the meal was a gelato made from sweet onions, served with shrimps, fennel, summer black berries, Parmigiano and caramelized onions.  It’s a brilliant stroke on a hot summer’s day and prepares the way for the pastas (which run $19-$22 for full portions).
         I love how he makes a crispy tortellone--one big one—stuffed with smoked cauliflower and buffalo mozzarella, splashed with a reduction of peppery mint.  His light potato gnocchi are some of the best in the city, lavished with a veal liver ragù and the very southern flavor of figs.  So many chefs make pasta with bottled squid ink, but you can taste that Mermolia does it the old-fashioned way, impressing tagliolini with fresh squid ink then propping them up with scallops, shrimps and tomatoes.
         For main courses, I was surprised that the meats were more impressive than the seafood that precede them. Veal tenderloin ($35) is breaded in crushed dried mushrooms and served in a Marsala wine sauce, and hefty sweetbreads ($26) come with tender broccoli di rabe and a sweet garlic sauce with orange zest. Curious, then, that he carries Chilean sea bass, done with tomato confit, arugula pesto, stuffed zucchini and lemon--a very good dish, but why use Chilean sea bass ($27), which doesn’t swim anywhere near the Mediterranean?  So, too, why serve salmon, which certainly doesn’t leap the waters off the Calabrian coast. (Answer: every chef in American must serve salmon because it is the most asked-for fish.) Mermolia’s comes all the way from New Zealand and gains nothing from a treatment of asparagus reduction, beets, and lemon-laced mashed potatoes.
         Mermolia returns to fine form with desserts ($9) like his tiramisù with strawberry; a warm, runny center chocolate cake with strawberry sorbet; a superb chocolate panna cotta; a not-too-sweet cannoli; and a wonderful carrot cake with a carrot sorbet and warm carrot juice.
         He also does a lavish 11-course tasting menu at $80, paired with wines $130.
         The trim room is colorful and just small enough to be intimate.  The waitstaff, mostly Eastern European women, are extremely good at their jobs, balancing cordiality with knowledge of what Mermolia is trying to do.
         So, if you’ve never been to Il Punto, I think you’ll find it largely innovative in the best sense; if you have in the past, time for a savory update.

Il Punto is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner nightly.

Casa Nonna
 310 W 38th Street


By Mort Hochstein
Photos by Melissa Hom

    The words  "Casa Nonna: Official Pizza of Madison Square Garden" were splashed across  the  van in midtown Manhattan.
    That is a good recommendation, but there are many other good reasons to dine at this understated restaurant.   Nestled away on a quiet street  close to  Madison Square Garden,  Casa  Nonna  blushes almost unseen for much of the time. It is busy during normal working hours,    bustling when there's  an event at the big arena, but rather quiet otherwise in relation to the quality of the experience it offers. 
   In choosing where I dine, I look for a venue where I can  enjoy a meal in peaceful surroundings.  I  avoid restaurants where  normal conversation is close to impossible and you have to shout to make yourself heard.  Coupled with the quality of its food,  the pleasant ambiance at Casa Nonna puts it up front as  my go-to restaurant, particularly when I want good Italian food.   Confession: I have never sampled the Official Madison Square Garden pizza. It is just one of many  pizzas on  the Casa Nonna menu, including  one masterpiece I  order too frequently. Chef Julio Genao has a way with truffles and his Pizza al Tartuffo,  with a brittle thin crust   hidden under fresh buffalo mozzarella, a smattering of truffle oil and  a  generous helping  of shaved black truffles is worth a detour from the bright lights of Broadway.

   Genao cooks what he describes as  elegant rustic. Raised in the Dominican Republic, he has blended the cooking techniques he learned from the meals served by his grandmother and mother with the  best of Roman and Tuscan cuisine.   And as he did years ago in his mother's kitchen, his Italian cooking starts with the humble meatball.  Meatballs can be a test of an Italian  restaurant kitchen and his  melding of beef and veal and his own blend of spices  elevates routine fare to star billing.  Using freshly ground veal and beef, no stuffing, he assembles fresh meatballs each morning. Like that truffle pizza ($44), his meatballs are not to be overlooked.
   We started off a recent meal with an amuse bouche, giant langouste dressed with truffle oil in salsa verde The crustacean's blending a  scent of the sea  with the silkiness of the truffle oil could easily have been a main dish, particularly if  I had dunked my bread in the green sauce. But I resisted temptation, knowing more good plates would follow.
     I've  had two types of bruschetta ($9) in my visits to Casa Nonna. On the first occasion, Tuscan chicken liver drizzled with golden raisins rode atop crisp, crunchy Italian  bread, accompanied by eggplant caponata,  and a generous serving   of roasted cauliflower and herbed ricotta.  Typical of the restaurant,  it was almost enough for a main course. On a second visit,  the bruschetta featured  baccala whipped with  creamy mashed potatoes and tinged with olive oil.    The antipasto was  a generous portion of  fresh off-the-plane imported polpo, octopus  not rigid as so often happens, flanked by thin onion strips, semi-dried tomato, bits of roasted red pepper dressed by a sherry vinaigrette.
   We followed with a zuppa di cozze, giant mussels, a huge crostada, and  couscous with a smattering of fennel.  Simple, yet  elegant. The final appetizer was equally simple, basically  spaghettini con vongole ($16), Manila  clams (right), home made bigoli spaghetti,  fresh cherry tomatoes, quite enough garlic and white wine in the dressing.   We shared perfectly seared scallops ($29), caramelized  but still extruding  the sweet briny flavor I look for in scallops, flanked by crisp sweet  swiss chard.  We also shared  salmon , sort of sweet and sour treatment, fresh sweet fish,   dotted sour  by  capers.  Too often salmon comes out soft and squishy, This was perfectly moist,   as tasty as good salmon can be.
    Dessert was cannoli, flavored by pimento and basil, putting an edge on what  is often  simply too sweet.
    The wine list is small,  about 40 wines, limited to good basic regional Italian wines, lowest being a Serradenari Prosecco at $40, topping out with an
Tenuta dell' Ornellaia Le Volte   at  $76. Many by the glass  $10 to $14.
    Although there is a rustic theme throughout, the space  is sleek with dark wood, copper veneer, tables separated by plenty of space, and terra cotta floors.  For takeaway, there are shelves  carrying Italian foodstuffs and a a variety of pastas. And, oh yes, those who want that pizza can sit at Casa Nonna's  pizza bar , a marble counter looking into the open kitchen and the wood-fired oven.  Casa Nonna is part of a group of upscale restaurants that includes BLT Steak, LBT Market, BLT Fish, Juni, and Horchata de Nueva York.

Casa Nonna is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner nightly.



By Brian Freedman

    Every once in a while, I get an invitation that brings the day’s work to a screeching halt and necessitates my spending the afternoon poking around the Internet, researching every last morsel of information I can find about the producer  to be featured at an event to which I’ve been invited.  This happened a few months ago when invited to a Guigal (left) wine dinner at one of Philadelphia’s top fine-dining destinations, the Fountain Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel (below, left), now under the watch of highly talented executive chef William DiStefano and whose beverage program is overseen by the hotel manager Philip Clough.
    And if that wasn’t enough, the dinner was to be hosted by Philippe Guigal, g-m and
winemaker of his family’s legendary company, and would feature a lineup of wines that would put even the most jaded wine-lover into a state of heart-racing excitement. I was not disappointed. Over the course of the three-plus-hour event, I was reminded yet again why E. Guigal ranks among not just the greatest producers in the Rhône Valley but in the world of wine.
    The family history goes back to 1946, in Ampuis, and continues to this day with the third generation of the Guigal family, helmed by the charming, passionate Philippe, who continues the estate’s tradition of producing wines of deep character and an inextricable connection to the land.
This makes sense. The family itself, though its holdings have expanded over the years  in addition to purchasing some of the top fruit in the region, remains the main determining factor in the finished wines,  aside from their terroirs, of course.
    “We are extremely selfish,” Guigal said at the dinner, explaining that all blending is done to appeal to his and his father’s palates. This is a very good thing: Their refusal to cater to the supposed tastes of certain critics and to allow the stunning land of their vines to shine through, has resulted in wine s that among the most consistent and consistently lauded on the planet.

    Selfishness, it turns out, at least in the hands of Philippe, his father Marcel, and the Guigal team, including their wives Eve and Bernadette, respectively, is spectacularly delicious, especially when paired with a menu as perfectly conceived and expertly executed as this one was.
E. Guigal Condrieu 2012 was poured alongside a delicate yet decadent warm jumbo Cape May sea scallop lavished with royal osetra caviar and an accompanying lovage, tomato, and lobster salad, a citrus nage and a hit of scallion oil. The deep florality of the textbook Viognier, its peach and apricot aromas and feminine, concentrated flavors of pear, kumquat, honey, and flowers, set the evening off to a very auspicious start, indeed.
    From there we headed south with the E. Guigal St.-Joseph “Vignes de l’Hospice” 2010, a vineyard that faces the famous Hermitage hillside and is composed of the same granitic rock. (The Vignes de l’Hospice is a 3.5-hectare Guigal monopole.) It was a stunner, especially alongside the spring rabbit stew with house-made tortellini, summer truffles, white rabbit jus, tarragon foam, and white asparagus tips (below). Four years old, the wine is evolving gorgeously: aromas of iron filings, black and red raspberries, mineral and smoke lead to flavors of spiced black cherry, mashed plums, and a hint of violets. It’s all both concentrated and expansive, with vivid acidity and a muscular yet fine-grained tannic structure. It’s drinking beautifully now, and should continue to improve easily through 2028 and beyond.

    Traveling further south, the E. Guigal Gigondas 2010 displayed dense black licorice and meat on the nose and flavors of plum, spice, dark cherry and, again, a sense of minerality. You could easily drink it though 2020, but now, especially with a dish like the roasted prime beef tenderloin with a sunchoke puree, morel and Grenache reduction (a smart nod to the Southern Rhône’s most important grape variety), and foie gras torchon, it’s seriously hard to resist.

    And then we came to the blockbuster trio of the evening, a triumvirate of wines (with accompanying cheeses) from Côte-Rotie that demonstrated exactly why we all should be drinking more wines from the appellation—even if stunners like the “La La” reds we finished with are out of the price range of many consumers.
The Côte-Rotie “Château d’Ampuis” 2009—aromatically high-toned, bursting with red berries, mineral, bright acid, and the perfumed aroma of warm clay (drink 2017 - 2028 and beyond)—more than held its own alongside its more pricey partners in the trio. This makes sense, as this bottling is sought-after and coveted in its own right.
    But the so-called "La La wines"--
La Landonne, La Mouline, La Turque--demonstrated exactly what makes them so exalted: they were, in a word, spectacular. I could have just smelled the E. Guigal Côte-Rotie “La Turque” 2009 all night, and from the time it was poured until it I’d finished the last drop, its profile included sweet fig paste, hoisin sauce, white truffles, toasted fennel seeds, peppercorns, morels, sappy cherry, lavender, beef carpaccio, and vanilla. Its purity, concentration, and balance were nothing short of astounding. Amazing now, it promises to continue evolving for another three decades. Its counterpart, the E. Guigal Côte-Rotie “La Landonne” 2009, was deep, dark and grippy, with sage, porcini, spice cake, plum, mineral, and espresso grounds. If I’m lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle in 2050, I imagine it will still be going strong.
    Over the course of the evening, Philippe Guigal kept on using the word “joy” to describe his work and wines, and I cannot argue with him, because, indeed, the sense of joy behind these wines and of familial pride and respect for the stunning terroirs of their origins, cannot be denied. “The first thing,” Guigal said, “is the joy and the passion we place in these soils.”

    Tasting these wines, and savoring them at a great restaurant with others who derived as much joy from them as Philippe and his team clearly had in producing them, is, it seems to me, what wine is all about. The excitement I felt at receiving the invitation to this genuinely spectacular evening, it turns out, was well-founded. I just wish I ate and drank this well every night.




Line cook Jermarcus Brady of Gino's restaurant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, sliced into an eggplant and says he found Line c
he word "GOD" spelled out in seeds inside, calling it "miraculous image" in an interview with WAFB.  He told local ABC affiliate WBRZ that he's "scared to slice another eggplant." Gino Marino, one of the restaurant's owners, said, "I went back there and he was overwhelmed. I looked at it, we were just drawn back." 


"America's Fourth of July celebrations always provide fodder for uncomfortable conversations. Sure, there's that sophomore back from college running a Baby's First Howard Zinn rap to remind you that America owes its entire existence to the French military, a gay Prussian inspector general of the Continental Army, two giant oceans and a genocide. But those aren't big-picture issues. I'm talking about whether a hot dog is a sandwich."—Jeb Lun, The Guardian (July 3, 2014)


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

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: SANTA FE, NE ENGLAND ITINERARY

Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio.  He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.


Tennis Resorts OnlineA Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored  two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to  Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).

nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist,;;

MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,   John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Andrew Chalk,  and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

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