Virtual Gourmet

  June 20,   2021                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Elinor Donahue, Lauren Chapin, Robert Young, Jane Wyatt and Billy Gray in "Father Knows Best"





By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani



On this week's episode of my WVOX Radio Show "Almost Golden," on Wed. June 23 at 11AM EST,I will be interviewing Regina Miglucci of Mario's restaurant on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Go to: The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.



By John Mariani


      Nothing could make me happier than to have been right last year about how vibrantly the American restaurant industry, from fast food to fine dining, would rebound as the pandemic allows them to reopen at 100% capacity. These restaurateurs have struggled mightily to stay afloat and their staff to handle everything from child care to meeting the rent.
       There’s no question that the federal assistance programs, which allowed businesses to apply for up to $10 million through the American Rescue Plan’s $2.8 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, was critical in keeping the industry from imploding, and the dire predictions by some analysts about 70% of America’s restaurants closing permanently proved to be nonsense. Many have, but in any year a good percentage of restaurants close for myriad reasons that had nothing to do with Covid.
      People are desperate to eat out and are flocking to every kind of restaurant, from taquerias to trattorias, from bistros to fine dining, and scores of new restaurants are opening every day across the country.  New York magazine just published a guide to 66 of the best new restaurants in the city, and the Washington Post had a similar article on the city’s current bounty of restaurants.
      That said, there are still some varying health rules in place, and we are not yet back to the old normal, if we ever do get there. So, anyone who criticizes a restaurant for not being quite what it used to be—yet—should cut it a good deal of slack. Not long ago, I went to a favorite steakhouse in New York to find its luxurious dining room empty because they were only using an upstairs outdoor section without anything close to the downstairs ambiance. They also had an abbreviated menu, took off items they could not afford to waste and made do with a smaller, not-so-skilled staff. Here, then, are some reasons to expect the best they can provide right now even it’s not yet quite up to snuff:

                 Getting staff is extremely difficult for restaurants. The reasons are many, not least that many waiters, busboys and dishwashers are making as much or more from unemployment benefits than the minimum wage they might have been paid. They have the upper hand now in hiring. At one noted New York restaurant, the owner paid to have a former dishwasher fly from the Dominican Republic to work at his place again and at a higher salary. Everyone else on the staff was new. Therefore, do not expect that your favorite server is still there or that any of the new ones have much training just yet.


                 Expect abbreviated menus. With so many restaurants still at less than 100% capacity (many because they cannot get sufficient staff), they have to maximize their buying of food they know will sell well. Special purchases can be an iffy proposition if only three people order the sweetbreads that the chef bought ten portions of. Your old favorites will probably still be on the menu, though.


                 Wine lists may offer bargains. During the pandemic restaurateurs ordered next to no new wine, and many sommeliers and beverage directors were laid off and not re-hired as essential to running the business. So, restaurants have to move the wines that have been lying in their storage quickly, especially white wines that do not age as do most reds. This means there will be bargains galore. If there is no longer a wine advisor, don’t blame the new waiter for not knowing the distinction between two Puligny-Montrachet Burgundies put on the list five years ago.


                 Amenities may be fewer. Those abundant bread baskets with big slabs of butter may be gone, largely because so much of it has, by law, to be thrown away because of possible contamination by someone at a table. Items like fresh flowers, salt and pepper shakers (which, sadly, get frequently stolen) and cloth napkins and tablecloths (which is a big laundry expense) may all be gone. The wine glasses may not be of the quality they once were.


                 Expect prices to rise. Aside from the loss of income restaurateurs endured for the past year, food prices have gone inexorably up, not least beef, which, believe it or not, is not a high-profit item in a steakhouse charging $50 for a ribeye. So, menu prices have to reflect those increases; they’re not trying to gouge you.


                Tip at least what you did before. If 15% is still the reasonable average for a tip at a good restaurant and 20% for very good service, you might now consider 20% (before taxes) as a generous but reasonable tip for people who have been so long out of work. In most major cities in America 20% has become pretty much the average anyway.


                 Don’t fuss about wearing a mask. I hate the masks. Everyone hates the masks. And many of us who have the full vaccinations  need not worry much about infections at a dinner table. Still, because of conflicting municipal requirements, guests still need to have their temperature taken and to wear a mask, even if only to traverse the ten feet from the host desk to your table. And I’ve found that if you’ve neglected to bring a mask, they have an ample supply.





202 Eighth Avenue



      The provocative story of how spaghetti alla puttanesca—a classic of Roman cookery made with tomato, onions, capers and anchovies—got its name as a quick dish made by Roman harlots (puttante) between turning tricks, seems wholly fanciful, not least because it isn’t all that quick to make. But if you seek one of the most authentic and intense versions of it in New York, head for the charming new trattoria in Chelsea that shares its name.
    Owners Bob and Enrico Malta and chef David DiSalvo had a restaurant of the same name in Hell’s Kitchen, now closed, and re-opened this spring in a sunny yellow room with white wainscoting and high ceilings (which can cause a high noise level) and an array of seductive photos of beautiful Italian women consuming pasta. Bentwood chairs, white tablecloths and pretty votive candles make for a refreshingly colorful, buoyant ambiance.
       The ebullient DiSalvo is very proud of his menu and bounds in and out of the kitchen to make recommendations and serve dishes and, with a small kitchen crew, does so with a welcome cadence you find in trattorias in Italy. (He must have a highly organized mise-en-place.) He’s got Sicilian roots via his family and cooks with enormous gusto. Also, having attended the Culinary Institute of America, then working at Blaue Gans, Wällse and as executive chef at STK Downtown, he knows how to handle crowds.
      To begin, do not fail to order the puffy, olive-oil and rosemary-rich focaccia ($6), whose aroma, yeastiness and a touch of molasses makes it what I’ve found to be the best in the city right now.  There is a selection of house-marinated olives ($6) and a trio of cheeses with fig jam ($21) with which you also get that wonderful focaccia to share. There is also a raw bar including yellowtail crudo ($19) and a seafood tower ($79).
      Each of the antipasti I tried had authority, not least an abundant fritto misto ($22) of peppery calamari, langoustine and zucchini, cooked so that they are hot, crisp and retain their individual flavors, to be dipped into a spicy marinara and citrus aïoli.  The ricotta-stuffed eggplant involtini ($15) is sloppy in the most delightful way, the ricotta creamy and the eggplant lusciously cuddled by it.  Tender Spanish octopus (left) is dressed with a lovely salsa verde and cauliflower ($20)
       Turning to the generous and well-priced pastas, DiSalvo hit a bull’s eye with a puttanesca as lusty as its legendary name ($15), and, as with the involtini, his Sicilian pasta alla Norma (so called because it was made to commemorate the opening of Bellini’s opera Norma in Palermo) was a fine tangle of rigatoni, eggplant, tomato and ricotta salata ($15). Linguine alle vongole ($25), served cooked in the shells, was a fine rendering of this classic, and potato gnocchi in a cream sauce with summer truffles that, for once, had some real flavor ($32), was a richly satisfying dish (right).
     Under the main courses, DiSalvo is rightly proud of his bistecca di manzo, a 45-day dry-aged Angus bone-in ribeye of daunting proportions. Intended for two at $99, it can serve three easily, and not only is it perfectly cooked and of the same thickness you will find in Florence restaurants, but the minerality of the beef and the ideal searing make this one of the best steaks I’ve had in New York, better than those at a lot of steakhouses.
As noted, portions are large, and the branzino has got to be a two-pounder, juicy, adorned with olive oil and lemon slices, and scented with rosemary ($38), again readily a dish for two people.
     Everything is made in that kitchen including fine cannoli ($5) and ice cream affogato, with hot coffee poured over it and served with biscotti ($9).
      I’m hoping the wine list will get larger and more interesting than it now is, and the prices are high. A Santi Pinot Grigio 2019 that sells for about $9 in the store shouldn’t be selling for $54, nor should a $17 bottle of Dorigo Sauvignon Blanc cost $60. Special cocktails are more reasonable at $14-$16.

Eighth Avenue is chockablock with restaurants of every stripe, not least run-of-the-mill Italian, but for its focus, its authenticity and attention to timing, Puttanesca is distinguishing itself and should soon be a destination for those who know true trattoria cooking.





By John Mariani

To read all chapters of Capone's Gold beginning April 4, 2021 go to the archive



         As soon as she got to the airport in Chicago, Katie called David, but got a recording, so she boarded her flight and was back at LaGuardia in two hours.  There she took a taxi to her apartment on Campbell Drive, tossed her things on the bed and called David again.  This time he answered.
         “David, it’s me.”
         “Hey, how’d it go with the Capone house?  The letter from Cunningham work?”
         “Like a charm. The owner, a Mrs. Farrell, let me right in.”
         David pretty much knew the answer to his next question but asked, “So, what’d you find?”
         “Frankly, nothing.  The place has been re-done over the years but I couldn’t find anything like a secret room inside or in the garage. But you know what surprised me?”
         “How it wasn’t much of a house. I mean, he was one of the richest men in the world and he lived with his wife and mother in a three-story brick building.  A mansion it is not.”
         “That sounds about right,” said David. “Those guys, even today, liked to live well but not ostentatiously, because it would draw attention from the cops and the feds.  Also, the smaller the house, the easier to secure and the more difficult for their enemies to sneak in.  Security is much better when it doesn’t have to cover huge areas.”
         “Well, that makes sense,” said Katie. 
“Anything else?”
         “Yeah, kind of a coup! Your friend Cunningham located Capone’s psychic I told you about, Alice Britt.  She’s still alive, in a nursing home outside of Chicago, and I actually visited her and interviewed her.”
         “She’s still got all her marbles?  She’s gotta be pretty old.”
         “Almost ninety,” said Katie. “She’s frail but her mind’s as sharp as a tack. She told me Capone was very scared of dying.”
         “Who isn’t?”
         “Okay, but she was hired because Al was seeing ghosts and raving.  Listen, I’ll fill you all in when I see you.  How about you coming down here?  I don’t want to use up more expense account money on motels. And I’ll take you for the best pizza in New York.”
         “How can I turn that down?”
         “Good, it’s Mario’s (left), on Arthur Avenue,” said Katie, then, “Oh, one kind of odd thing happened when I visited the Capone house.”
         “Well, I was only in there for about fifteen, twenty minutes, but when I came out I saw a car with a man in it that had been parked there when I went inside.  He had a camera with him, perched on the car door. I didn’t think anything about it until my taxi was driving away and the driver waves at the guy in the car and tells me he knows the guy and that he’s a cop. What do you make of that?  Anything?”
         “Hmm,” murmured David. “I don’t know. Probably nothing, maybe the guy lives in the neighborhood.  Anyway, it’ll take me about an hour to get down there.  Meet you at the restaurant?”
         “Fine.  Bring an appetite.” 

*                         *                         *                         *

         David was already sitting on a banquette at Mario’s when Katie walked through the door, where she was immediately greeted by the owner, Joe Miglucci, who said he hadn’t seen her for a while.  Katie then introduced him to David, who said, “Katie tells me you make the best pizza in New York.  And I was born in the Bronx.”
         “Katie knows her pizza,” said Joe proudly. “What can I start you off with?”
         Katie ordered a Campari and soda, David an Absolut on the rocks.
         “I never understand people who drink straight vodka on the rocks,” said Katie. “It doesn’t have any taste at all.”
         David shrugged and said, “We’ll have a nice bottle of wine afterwards. So, Katie, before we get into your hair-raising adventures—I’m kidding—how about telling me more about Katie Cavuto?”
         “You know most of it. Where I grew up, who my parents are, what I do, what I want to do.”
         “Yeah, but where’d you go to school, what’d you major in, how’s your love life, that sort of thing.”
         Katie feigned being shocked, saying, “First things first. I went to Villa Maria Academy (right) near where I live now, for grammar school.”
         “Yes, Sisters of Notre Dame of Montreal.  Stern, but they had French roots, so they were also snooty.  They taught us French in first grade.  Or tried to.”
        “I had nuns in parochial school,” said David.  “Saint Helena’s near Castle Hill.  They were tough women.  I wasn’t their best pupil.  I’ll bet you were.”
         “I was a pretty good student. With my parents and sister I had a lot to compete with. So then I went to Ursuline Academy in New Rochelle.” (Left)
         “All these academies,” said David. “I never knew what the difference was.”
         “They were just names for private Catholic schools. The girls went to academies, the boys went to prep schools; the schools attached to parish churches were called parochial.”
         “But New Rochelle’s in Westchester County.  You didn’t move up there?”
         “No. My father would drive me up in the morning—it was only ten minutes away from where we lived in the Bronx.  Just hop on the Hutchinson River Parkway and you’re there.  Then a schoolmate’s mother would drive us home in the afternoon.  It worked out fine.”
         “Well, now that you mention it,” said David, “I did go to a private boy’s high school, Cardinal Hayes. But they sure didn’t call it a prep school.”
         “On the Grand Concourse. Sure. I know Hayes. South Bronx. You look like you played football.”
         “I did.  I wasn’t the biggest kid on the team but I was fast and had good hands. Played tight end.”
         “Was that a rough neighborhood then?” asked Katie, pretty much knowing the answer.
         “It was getting pretty tough in those days. Which is why I guess your parents sent you out of the borough.”
         Katie sipped her drink. “Where we lived was fine, but my parents didn’t like any of the Catholic high schools in the Bronx, so I ended up at Ursuline.”
         “Yes, Academy.”
         “Then what college?”
         “Fordham ( below), majored in History,” she said.
         “That’s obvious from your research,” said David, who finished his drink and asked the waiter for the wine list.
         “Then I found out I liked writing and I got a job with the Bronx News.”
         “So now we’re up to your love life.”
         “Not so fast,” Katie laughed.  “Let’s order dinner.  But first we have to have one of the pizzas.  You’ll be impressed.”
      David admitted he was.  “There’s some contenders in Brooklyn,” he said, as the waiter poured a bottle of Barbera, “but this is damn good pizza.  Great crust.  Not to change the subject yet again, but, seriously, Katie, you been married?”
         Katie took a sip of wine and said, “That’s delicious wine.”
         “No, never been married, much to my family’s disappointment.  Not that I’m against it.  I got close once, engaged to a lawyer, but looking back I’m pretty sure that was to make my father happy.  Nothing all that serious since then.”
         “Okay,” said David. “Fair enough.”
         “And what about you? You look like the marrying kind.”
         “I was,” he said. “To a wonderful woman I loved very much. But, I’m sorry to say, she passed away before we had a chance to have children.”
         “Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Katie, wanting to know but not wanting to ask how it happened, sensing that David had learned to cook after he lost his wife.
         “She was a flight attendant,” said David, staring at his wine, then at the wall. “And in one of those freak accidents, her plane crashed coming into LaGuardia, and, well, she didn’t make it out.  Everybody else got out because she was there to help them.  But she got engulfed by the smoke.  It was her last flight before she was to have three weeks off and I had three weeks off. It was going to be our first real vacation since we got married. ”
         “She sounds like a remarkable woman,” said Katie.
         “That she was,” said David, smiling and now looking at Katie again.
         “Then let’s drink to her,” she said.
         “Yeah, let’s do that.” David and Katie held up their glasses. “Here’s to Sharon.  Best wife any man ever had.”
         With that it was clear to both of them that they’d better start eating while talking about the Capone project.  The waiter brought David an order of pasta with eggplant and tomato and Katie veal francese.
         “I’ve been thinking about what you told me about the cop in the car,” said David. “It does sound a little odd.  Driving down here I thought, well, yeah, he lives in the neighborhood or he could be on a stake-out, not at Capone’s house but for something else.  Which is why he’d have a camera with him.  Or maybe he just thought you’re a good-looking woman, which you are.”
         “Thank you.”
        “But it kept bothering me that it’s a little too coincidental that a Chicago cop was there just as you got there,” said David. “Then I thought maybe my friend Cunningham sent him out there to make sure you got into the house.  Was the guy in uniform?”
         “No, from what I could see he just had on a short sleeve shirt.”
         “Did you get his name?”
         “Yeah, I asked the cabbie and I wrote it down.  Here it is: Frascella.  He didn’t know his first name.”
         “Okay,” said David, “tomorrow I’m going to check him out with Cunningham. Like I said, it’s probably nothing but it’s worth a phone call. How’s your veal?”
         “Perfect! Your pasta?”
         “Fantastic. So, let’s put our heads together here and see what we’ve got—if anything more than some Chicago social history.  Did you bring your research?”
         “Yes,” she said, “but let’s finish this delicious meal before I start taking out folders.”  She looked piqued by the crack about “Chicago social history.”
         “Okay,” said David, after their plates were cleared from the table. “So, so far we know that Capone held up the armored truck with a dozen or so men, blindfolded the guards, loaded the bullion in more or less equal amounts into three trucks.
         “And they each headed off in a different direction. So they didn’t meet up somewhere else.”
         “According to my source, no,” Katie said. “Because he headed west and stopped to switch to a car while other guys he didn’t know took the truck.”
         “How’d he know those other guys were Capone’s men?” David asked Katie.
         “I guess he didn’t, but that was the plan from the start.”
         “So, isn’t it possible that those new drivers all later met at a central location in which the gold would be unloaded and hidden?” David wondered.
         “My source said probably not, because at one location they would be at greater risk of getting picked up by the feds.  Remember, the feds didn’t know it was three trucks they were after.  It could have been one or six. The more roadway three trucks put between them and the feds by going in different directions, the more they cut down on the chances of them all being caught.  And, even if the feds got lucky and nabbed one truck, they only would have gotten one-third of the gold while the other two-thirds was already far away.”
         “But what if they did get one of the trucks and got the driver to talk?” David asked.
         “Highly unlikely the drivers would talk—they knew the routine and what would happen to them if they did.  But it was even more unlikely they knew anything at all about the grand scheme, not even if there were other trucks or who the first drivers were. And by then the gold would have been safely under lock and key in three different places.”
      “Pretty ingenious all around,” David had to admit.
         “So all criminals are not so stupid then, as you once told me?”
         “You only need one semi-smart one to come up with the plan,” he answered.  “Everyone else just did what he was told.  You always want the smallest number of people to know about any detail.  And, remember, Capone had been planning this for more than two years.”
         The evening ended late, with coffee and a shared piece of cheesecake. 
“Listen,” said Katie, “You think you should drive home after the vodka and the wine?”
         “I’m fine,” said David.
         “Because if you want to spend the night at my apartment, there’s an extra bedroom.”
         David would have liked that but said, “No, I’m fine to drive. But let’s flip a coin to see whose place we meet at tomorrow.”
         “Y’know, you’re really a stubborn guy,” said Katie. “Spend the night at my place and we get an early start going over what we do next.”
         David was tired.  The drive down, the vodka, the wine, the food, the espresso with a shot of sambuca.
         “You sure it’s no trouble?” he asked.
         “I don’t make great eggs, but you won’t starve.”
         “All right, it’s not a bad idea,” he said, trying to sound like it was all her decision.
         They drove their separate cars back to Katie’s place—ten minutes away. Once in her apartment Katie got out some towels and gave David a new toothbrush.  David thought, she’s probably done this before, then put it out of his mind.
         “So, see you bright and early,” she said.
         “I’m up about six-thirty.  Old habits.”
         “Fine, there’s a coffeemaker on the counter.  Wake me at seven-thirty.”
         As it turned out, Katie shook David awake at eight.


© John Mariani, 2015



By Geoff Kalish

     While best known for its production of sweet, fortified red wine, Portugal also produces some excellent, bargain priced, and generally widely available reds, whites, rosés and sparklers. In fact, Portugal boasts the highest density of native grapes per square mile of any country in the world. And from a number of bottles sampled over the past few months, many from the country’s southern Alentejo area, these are my picks to please the pocketbook as well as the palate.

Herdade de Sao Miguel Colheita Seleccionada Rosé 2020 ($7)—Made from a blend of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Syrah grapes, this dry rosé shows a very pale pink color, a bouquet of watermelon and lime and a taste of apples and citrus with a crisp finish perfect to pair with sushi or a range of appetizers, like smoked salmon, bruschetta or toast with olive tapenade.

Caves de Cerca Famega Vinho Verde 2019 ($8)—This light, fruity low-alcohol white was made from a blend of indigenous grapes from the Minho area in northern Portugal. It shows a bouquet and taste of green apples and lime with citrus in its finish. It mates well with shrimp, scallops, lobster or sushi.

Herdade Do Esperao Monte Velho Blanco 2019 ($10)—Produced sustainably in the Alentejo by the Roquette family from a blend of organically grown indigenous grapes (Antas Vaz, Roupeiro and Perrum varietals) this white shows a bouquet and taste of well-integrated flavors of apple, peach, lemon and grapefruit with a long lingering finish. Marry it with shrimp scampi, chicken or pasta primavera.

Casa Santos Lima Lab 2017 ($8)—This very popular red is made from a blend of Castelao, Tinta Roriz, Syrah and Touriga Nacional grapes grown just outside Lisbon. It shows a bouquet and smooth taste of plums and cherries. Serve it with hamburgers, pizza, pasta with red sauce or even grilled skirt steak.

Cartuxa Eugenia de Almedia EA Tinto 2018 ($8)—This blend (35% Aragonex, 30% Tricandeira, 20% Alicante Bouschet and 15% Syrah) is a light, fruity red with a bouquet and easy-drinking flavor of plums, cherries and notes of chocolate in its smooth finish. It mates well with a wide range of fare from chicken to veal to pork chops.

Herade da Esporaro Monte Velho Tinto 2019 ($8)—This red blend (Aragonez, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional and Syrah) is far more elegant than its price would indicate and shows a bouquet and rich taste of plums, cassis and cherries that marries harmoniously with salmon, Arctic char or veal.

Carmim Monsaraz Reserva 2018 ($8)—Made from a blend of grapes (Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira and Touriga Nacional), grown in the Alentajo region, this robust wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak for 9 months following fermentation. It has a bouquet and taste of ripe plums and blueberries and a mildly tannic finish. Currently it makes good accompaniment  to steak and lamb and should become mellower with a few years of bottle age and match a greater variety of fare.

Bacalhoa Quinta do Carmo Tinto 2018 ($10)—Fashioned from a blend of indigenous grape varietals plus Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, this red shows a bouquet and taste of cassis and plums that pairs well with grilled lamb or veal. Of note, the 1993 version (from my cellar) still had plenty of oomph with a taste of cassis and crushed violets that matched well with grilled porterhouse and dark-veined cheeses.

Aluado Reserva 2019 ($14)—This 100% Alicante Bouschet red from the winemaker Jose Neim Correio hails from the Lisboa area along the Atlantic Coast. It has a bouquet and taste of plums, cherries and cassis with a touch of vanilla in its dry finish that matches the taste of turkey, duck or veal quite well.

Herdade do Rocim Amphora Tinto 2019 ($16)—This blend of several native grape varietals, grown in the southern portion of the Alentejo region, was fermented and aged in clay amphora using indigenous yeast and without any temperature control. It shows a bouquet and medium-bodied taste of cherries, blueberries and cassis with a finish dominated by a taste of earthy herbs and peppers that dissipates with some decanting. It makes good accompaniment for veal, chicken or mild cheeses.



Despite saying that he “hates honey” and is “deathly afraid of bees,” YouTube personality L.A. Beast, a "competitive eater," drank an entire gallon of honey, while his head was covered in bees. The feat was made into a  video .


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 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." 

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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