Virtual Gourmet

  September 13,  2020                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Gemma Arterton in "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" (2008)



                                                    Does a Chef Have To Be Italian
                                    To Cook Italian Food Or Chinese to Cook Chinese Food?
                                                                                                    By John Mariani

                                                        MASTER HOUSTON RESTAURATEUR
                                                        TONY VALLONE DIES AT 75

                                                                      By  John Mariani


By John Mariani

By Geoffery Kalish



                            Does a Chef Have To Be Italian

                            To Cook Italian Food Or Chinese

                                to Cook Chinese Food?

By John Mariani

Minnie Driver, Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub, Isabella Rossellini in "Big Night"  (1996)

         Take as long as you like to think about it: How many of your favorite Chinese restaurants have non-Chinese chefs at the stoves? Or non-Thai chefs  in Thai restaurants? Or sushi bars run by American chefs? But, how many Italian restaurants do you know that have non-Italian chefs in the kitchen? I’ll bet it’s plenty. And, of course, there are plenty of American chefs cooking French cuisine, perhaps trained at the Culinary Institute of America or the French Culinary Institute (now called the International Culinary Center), whose courses, not without good reason, focus on basic classic French technique.
         Two questions thereby occur: First, does any chef have to be from the country whose food he or she cooks? And, if there are plenty of excellent French and Italian restaurants in the U.S. run by non-Italians or non-French restaurateurs or chefs, is there anything to back up an assertion that it would be much better if they were?
         The fact, as noted, that so few Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean,  Philippino, Japanese and Cambodian restaurants have anyone but chefs and cooks from those nations in their kitchens might suggest that there is a racial bias against hiring non-Asians, though there’s no evidence of that beyond the daunting prospect of such a cook applying for a job where he or she has not mastered cooking with a wok or bamboo steamer. Who would hire a cook who was not already very familiar with exotic ingredients of a kind rarely found in western kitchens?
         Instead, I think it’s a kind of pathetic hubris that allows American cooks to think there really isn’t much to making pizza, pasta or veal alla Milanese, and to master a good French beurre blanc or demi-glace.  To be sure—my wife and I wrote an entire book entitled The Italian-American Cookbook —many young cooks who come from Italian-American backgrounds grew up knowing the taste, texture, aroma and seasonings of that off-shoot of regional Italian food. And many of them, like Paul Bartolotta, Alfred Portale, Mario Batali, Marc Vetri and others, went to Italy to do the real work of learning the rigors of true cucina Italiana. As have many non-Italian-American cooks, like Michael White of Marea in New York, Christopher Gross of Christopher's in Phoenix and Ken Vedrinksi of Trattoria Lucca in Charleston.
         So, too, in French restaurants around the U.S. you’ll find well-trained non-French cooks who have done stages in France, including Thomas Keller of Per Se in New York and Julian Serrano of Picasso in Las Vegas, and Alice Waters, who spent years in France before opening Chez Panisse (below) in Berkeley, Calif. It is not at all ironic that many illustrious French chefs have learned a great deal about Asian cooking by working abroad, not least Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who, in addition to his modern French restaurant in New York, has also opened Asian restaurants. He much preferred eating his local staff’s food in the French restaurants he ran in Hong Kong and Singapore. But when he hired three Chinese chefs to man the kitchen at a Chinese restaurant he opened in New York, they left after three weeks and the restaurant closed soon afterwards.
         Forgetting for the moment why there are so few Americans in Asian kitchens, it is open for debate whether bloodlines or experience abroad is all that necessary to produce good results.  After all, in so many restaurants in the U.S. the entire kitchen staff might well be Mexicans or Latinos from Central America. My own feelings on the matter are, at the very least, that a little work in the original fields couldn’t hurt to make a cook better understand why a dish tastes the way it does, where it comes from and why, and how the right local ingredients make all the difference in the world. 
         It’s the reason so many Americans come back from abroad and groan, “Why can’t I get food that tastes like I had in France/Spain/Italy/Portugal back here in the U.S.?” Twenty years ago the answer would be that American cooks had little access to the same kind or quality of ingredients that an Alsatian chef has to put into his cassoulet (right); or a Venetian chef has to make a fritto misto of local seafood; or a Spanish chef who has a choice of many great Iberian hams to choose from; or an Indian chef whose market carries 20 different kinds of chilies; or a Korean chef whose options for kimchi are endless. Tossing Sriacha or balsamic vinegar or truffle oil on everything doesn’t do much for the authentic taste of the original dishes you’d have in Mumbai, Modena or Tuscany. Native born chefs know that from long experience, just as American barbecue cooks will argue endlessly about the regional distinctions of their style, choice of meat, smoking time and seasonings.
         When TV cooks tell viewers, “If you don’t have this or that ingredient, just use whatever you do have,” it is like telling the owner of a Maserati he can put any kind of gas in the engine: It ain’t going to work as well.
         Today FedEx and DHL make the delivery of many products readily available—even if the Dover sole caught off the coast of Normandy on Thursday doesn’t reach U.S. airports until Tuesday—but even then it doesn’t mean a cook knows how best to handle them. Having the finest Canaroli or Vialone Nano rice (left) does not mean you know how to make a first-rate risotto. One of my sons, who once cooked at the restaurant Marea in New York, was taught to make risotto by an Italian woman who would only impart her secrets to him and only him. (He’s never even told me what they are.) These things take a long time of practice, even among master chefs.
         André Soltner (right), now retired, was chef-owner of New York’s illustrious Lutèce for thirty years, and he once served me a dish he’d been trying to perfect for all that time and finally came close enough to serve it, telling me how his compatriot, the great Roger Vergé, came to Lutèce one night, tasted the same dish and exclaimed, “André, I’ve been trying to make that damn dish for thirty years! How did you do it?”
         To be fair, I’ve had some wonderful French and Italian food prepared by cooks whose nationality could be Martian, though I’ve rarely had first-rate Asian food via non-Asian chefs, with one exception—OKO in Westport, Conn., where chef-owner Brian Lewis is doing great sushi and Japanese food. I do know that when French or Italian chefs open restaurants in China or Japan, they have been astonished at how quickly the cooks master a technique and how clinically they prepare the mise en place. But they also say that it is cooking by rote, not an understanding of what the dish is or where it comes from.
         As in most things in life, a little learning is a dangerous thing in the kitchen, especially among those young chefs who try to assimilate centuries of culinary tradition of many different nations into their trendy menus. Thirty years may be too long for a chef to perfect a dish, but a few attempts with a recipe and an ego is worth next to nothing.  



By John Mariani


         Chefs and restaurateurs often say that you have to deeply love cooking and serving people to survive the rigors of their chosen profession, and for any restaurant to survive past the ten-year mark is a remarkable achievement. So, for one man to keep his restaurant at the top of its form for 55 years is nothing short of astonishing. But this is what Tony Vallone, owner of Tony’s in Houston, achieved and he did it all with that grace under pressure few could maintain in a world of fashion, trends, economic downturns, even pandemics. He passed away this week at the age of 75.
         Tony was many things, not least a Houstonian (more so than a Texan) and an Italian-American, whose love for both heritages was borne out by his never opening branch restaurants around the U.S. and by annually visiting Italy with members of his staff, all expenses paid, to see what the Italian chefs were doing and how they maintained such longevity in their restaurants.
         When only 20 years old, Tony took over a tiny eatery from his father, with whom he’d had a troubled relationship, and saw immediately that Italian restaurants in America could be better than their red sauce-and-Chianti image and the caricature of an Italian host who was expected to look and act like the fat, mustachio-ed Tony in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp animated feature. By the late 1970s he had transformed Tony’s into one of Houston’s finest restaurants of any kind, although it was more in the prevailing “continental cuisine” mold than Italian. The walls were red brocade, gilt covered many surfaces and the entire staff wore tuxedos.
        Tony cultivated Houston’s society crowd at a time when Texas had considerable political and celebrity clout, in addition to sports teams that soon brought the world to Tony’s.
         Luciano Pavarotti (right) stood up and sang in the middle of the dining room. Sophia Loren ordered take-out to her hotel, which Tony, shaking all the way over, personally delivered. Not just the Bushes but other presidents dined there, knowing how much exposure it provided. And, amidst a menu of chateaubriand and flaming desserts, Tony always kept a pot of his famous chili on the stove for his Texan friends.
         Tony came to admire the mastery of his field as exhibited with extraordinary suave by Sirio Maccioni, owner of New York’s Le Cirque, who, with his tall, dark, handsome looks and Tuscan savoir-faire, was the physical opposite of Tony, who for his whole life battled his considerable weight. But Tony could match Maccioni in elegant bonhomie—with a little Texas swagger—as well as his grand gestures, like sending the restaurant’s cuisine to regular guests in the hospital. Indeed, it might be said that Tony’s was not the Texas version of Le Cirque but that Le Cirque was the New York version of Tony’s.
    In the 1990s Tony’s was reconfigured as a larger new space that epitomized Houston big-hair glamor and high taste with a modern décor and contemporary artwork that was a good fit for the best architecture of the moment. The menu, by then, had shifted largely to Italian cuisine, with an emphasis on Italian wines in a cellar that ranked with the finest in America. He would FedEx in whatever the seasons brought from all over, not least Italian seafood, cheeses and white truffles.

         Tony was obviously a taskmaster in a rough industry, but in public and with his clientele, he was always very sweet, very gentlemanly and extremely discreet in a dining room where men with women not their wives might show up with regularity. He had to deal with Texas-sized egos, whether they were billionaire oil men, tech tycoons or Houston Astros not used to the finer things in life.
         At his side and behind him there was his marvelous wife, Donna, whose own down-to-earth spirit made everyone who met her relax within the swirl of Tony’s dining room. She also tended to Tony over the past couple of decades with various medical problems, not least his see-saw weight losses and gains. Sadly, the Vallones also lost one of their sons this past summer, which was a crushing blow.
         I came to know Tony very well by the 1980s and I was in total admiration of his character, his kindness and his resiliency. He even asked me to co-author his autobiography after an earlier attempt fizzled, and we were supposed to meet for several interviews over a six-month period. But Tony, ever busy with work and new ideas, could never find the time to sit down with me. I still have my notes from the time we did have some time together, about his early years, his fear of being thought of as just a spaghetti-slinger and how those first years were so tough in initiating even the slightest changes that might put off his dinner guests.
         I wanted so much to go on with the story and into those years when he and his restaurant came to such glory, widely recognized as one of the very best restaurants in America, and Tony himself was considered to rank with the country’s most legendary restaurateurs, like Dave Chasen of Chasen's, Lester Gruber of the Detroit Chop House in Detroit, Vince Bommarito of Tony’s in St. Louis, Lee Comisar of Maisonette in  Cincinnati, Ernest Byfield of the Pump Room Chicago, Victor and Roland Gotti of Ernie’s San Francisco, Piero Selvaggio of Valentino in Los Angeles and, yes, Sirio Maccioni, who admired Tony immensely.
         Donna (right) has said she will carry on Tony’s legacy at the restaurant, and, knowing how professional and how devoted his staff has always been, I hope that will be the case. Tony’s without Tony will not be Tony’s as it was. Indeed, there could never be another like it. But I hope it endures and thrives. America needs the kind of inspiration Tony Vallone gave us all.                



By John Mariani


    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
—John Mariani

To read previous chapters go to archive (beginning with March 29, 2020, issue.


By John Mariani

Cover Art By Galina Dargery


         The day before leaving for the States, Nicola received another call from the International Herald-Tribune writer, whose name was Hermione  Schlosser, asking if this was a better time for Nicola to do an interview.


“Well, I’m leaving for New York tomorrow,” said Nicola, feeling pressured. “How long would this take?”

         “Whatever you can give me. Half-hour, hour?”
         Nicola looked at her watch and said, “Okay, if you can come here—I’m still packing—I’d be happy to do the interview.”
         One hour later, the very odd-looking Ms. Schlosser arrived at Nicola’s dorm.  She was perhaps sixty, five-foot-two and a tilt past 150 pounds.  She sported a short henna bob, wore a moo moo in a black-and-white Op Art design, thick round glasses in the style of Le Corbusier,  and what appeared to be gold-tasseled ballet slippers. 
         Nicola expected her demeanor to match her look, but instead Hermione Schlosser was a very down-to-earth reporter who, after asking each question, nodded and kept murmuring “mm-hmm” till the answer was finished. She wrote in an eccentric shorthand that made Nicola wondered if it was shorthand at all.
         “So,” began Hermione, “Let me get this straight: Patrizia Palma—I love her work, don’t you? So underrated—saw you at Le Langhe and—"
         “Actually it was at Bagutta,” said Nicola.
         “Okay, Bagutta.  Wherever.  So she spots you and leaps across the room and cries out, `You will be the next big thing in Milan!"
         “Not exactly. She said I looked like Claudia Cardinale and that a model she was using the next day had to drop out and asked me if I would go on the runway.”
         “Well, I’m sure your head just must have ... popped!” said Hermione, splaying her fingers from the sides of her head.  “Patrizia always acts on the spur of the moment.  Gets her in trouble sometimes.  So you agree, and then what?”
         “Well, first I told her I’d never modeled.”
         “That wouldn't matter to Patrizia.”
         Nicola went on to describe the next 24 hours, adding to what Hermione already knew and correcting what she thought she knew.    “Well, whatever happened, “ said Hermione, “you’ve caused quite a stir. It’s like”—blocking headlines in the air—`UNKNOWN AMERICAN GIRL TAKES MILAN FASHION WEEK BY STORM!’”
         Nicola winced a little at that and said, “I think that’s overstating the case a little.”
         “Honey, the only reason I’m here is because everybody’s still talking about you. You have been unofficially christened `The New Girl,’ and you are doubly, triply interesting because you seemed to have vanished since then.”
         Nicola explained that, with Fashion Week over, there really wasn’t any other immediate venue for her to model, even if she wanted to, although she had gotten phone calls to sign with an agency and to model in the future in Milan.
         “So what’s the back story?” asked Hermione.
         “The back story?”
         “Your background. Where are you from.  America, obviously, and New York, I can tell.  What else?”
         “I was born and bred in the Bronx,” began Nicola.
         Duh Bronx,” repeated Hermione with a thick New Yawk accent. “That’s a good angle: girl from New York’s poorest, most dangerous borough rises to the cream of the crop in Milan.”
         “Ms. Schlosser,” said Nicola, yet again trying to hold herself back from blasting away at such ignorance, “The Bronx is a really big borough, and while it’s got the same problems as the other boroughs, there are parts of it, like where I live, that are neither poverty stricken nor dangerous.”
         “Where’s that, honey?” asked Hermione, scribbling furiously.
         Nicola went into a brief, almost curt, description of Belmont, and said she hoped the reporter would accept what she was told about the neighborhood.
         “Got it,” said Hermione. “So what else about you?”
         Nicola finished the interview playing up her academic credentials and insisted that she was going on to grad school.
         “So, no more modeling?”
         “I’m not sure at this point.”
         “Girl like you can make a lot of money. You hit the cover of an Italian fashion magazine, or model for one of the big designers, you’ll get noticed in the States, where the big money is.”
         “Well, all that is definitely not part of my current thinking. I’ll just have to see what happens.  I am going back to the U.S. tomorrow to do a shoot with a new magazine.”
         Willi, right?  I heard.”
         Nicola was amazed at all Hermione had apparently heard about her, almost wanting to ask the reporter’s advice but realizing it was already past the hour she’d agreed to for the interview.
         Hermione was gracious, thanked Nicola for her time, told her the article would appear the next day in the Trib, and, upon heading for the door, said, “Honey, I don’t think this is the last I’ll hear about you.  I think you’ve really got what it takes, if you’re willing to take it on. Okay, gotta go. Gotta go write this thing.”
         Nicola laughed when Hermione strode off to hail a taxi, hoping the old girl would write something Nicola would want her family to read.
         Then she finished packing, sat down on the bed and stared out the window at the drizzle that seemed yet again to hold springtime at bay.  She watched as a small van stopped in front of the dorm’s entrance and a man got out with a bouquet of flowers.  A few seconds later her bell rang and she let the man in, meeting him at the landing. 
         Signorina Santini? Prego.”
         Nicola brought the bouquet of spring flowers into her room and, sure they were from Giancarlo, gleefully tore open the little envelope.  The note read, “Have a good flight! Can’t wait to work together this week! Best, Elena Duran.”
         Nicola was impressed by her new benefactor’s graciousness, but, although it didn’t occur to her until that moment she received the flowers, she now wondered why Giancarlo had not sent her a going-away bouquet.
         That night her dorm friends took her out for dinner at Bagutta—where more than a few heads turned when she walked in--and wished her luck, demanding to be informed of all the details of her coming visit to New York. 
         “I have your phone number,” warned Catherine, “You will be getting calls.”
         Then Nicola remembered that she still had never gotten Giancarlo’s phone number nor did he have hers back in the States.  “Well,” she thought, “I’ll be back in a week anyway.  No time for either of us to expect a letter.”
         The next morning, when Nicola arrived at Malpensa airport (above) and went through security, she found the day’s edition of the International Herald Tribune displayed at the newsstand. She bought a copy and riffled the pages until she came to the fashion report, with a story headlined, “Girl from `Duh Bronx’ Takes Milan Fashion World by Storm” by Hermione Schlosser.
         “Shit!” said Nicola. “The bitch.”  But when she read the story the ridiculous headline gave way to a very balanced report on Nicola, with no need of corrections, that was more about how the city’s fashionistas were ever in search of “The New Girl” and seem to have found her to be a beautiful, unassuming, perhaps reluctant American girl who “had her head on straight.”
         Nicola told herself, “This I can show to my family.”
         The announcement came for her flight and Nicola boarded, asking which was the First Class cabin.  She was cordially seated by a pretty stewardess in a sky blue Pan Am suit, who asked if she’d like some Champagne before taking off.  Nicola sat back in the roomy seat—no one sat next to her—sipped her wine and felt she was, at least for the moment, living in a charmed bubble, like those breaking to the surface of the Champagne.

© John Mariani, 2020



                      BARGAIN BOTTLES TO MATE
                        WITH FALL & WINTER FARE
                                            By Geoffrey Kalish

What makes a bottle of wine a bargain? Yes, it’s locating bottles you like at less than normal price or buying 6 or 12 bottles at a shop and getting a markedly reduced overall cost, often from a bargain bin box. But, there’s other bargains, like finding reasonably priced bottles that far exceed the expectations of the usual quality of that type of wine or the wine from a particular area, for example Beaujolais or Chablis. Or finding top-quality products at a good price (say under $30 a bottle) from little known areas or from areas not in the current mainstream of popularity (like Fixin in Burgundy). However, no matter what the price, if you don’t enjoy the wine it’s never a bargain. So, based on tastings over the past year, here are some of my selections (by category) that “fill the bill” as bargains and great mates for hearty fare.



2016 La Chablisienne Chablis La Pierrelée ($27)

2015 Louise Dubois Chablis ($25)

Located about halfway between Paris and Beaune, the Chablis region is noted for unique soils containing clay and limestone as well as ocean fossils, giving most of the wines produced in the area a distinctive crispness in their finish in addition to their ripe apple and lemony bouquet and taste. These two wines have that crispness and both mate well with appetizers like smoked salmon and olive tapenade on toast as well as with main course items like grilled swordfish or pasta with cheese sauces. What makes these two wines bargains is that they drink like much more expensive Premier and Grand Cru selections from the same region.




2018 Forge Cellars Dry Riesling ($17)

2016 Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling ($21)

 What makes these New York State wines “racy” is that on top of their bouquet and taste of mangoes and apricots and a touch of ripe pineapple, they both show vibrant acidity in their finish, with wines of equal or higher caliber of dry Rieslings from California or Germany costing quite a bit more. And both marry harmoniously with spicy fare, broiled or roasted chicken, as well as turkey or rock Cornish hens.                                                                  


2016 Gamlal Cabernet Sauvignon ($19)

2016 Segal’s Fusion ($17)

 With many even modest California Cabernets costing  upwards of $40 a bottle, flavorful wines of this varietal from other areas in the $15-$20 range make good sense as these two from Israel demonstrate. An added feature is their appropriateness for drinking on any of the upcoming Jewish holy days. Both mate perfectly with deep flavored fish, like tuna, salmon or mahi mahi as well as veal, lamb or braised brisket of beef.     

The Gamlal is an easy-drinking oak-aged wine, made primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon and some Merlot and Cabernet Franc from the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee It offers a well integrated bouquet and taste of cherries, plums and cassis.  Additionally, it’s meshuval (important for Orthodox Jews), meaning it can be handled and served by non-Jews. And, hailing from Israel’s Galilee Heights, the Segal Fusion is not technically a Cabernet (it contains 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc), yet it tastes more like one than a typical Merlot, showing dry, long-lasting flavors of cassis and blackberries and a bit of tannin in its finish.



2018 Nicole Chanrion Domaine de la Vouté des Crozes Côte-de-Brouilly ($20)

2016 Robert Perroud L’Enfer des Ballouquets Brouilly ($17)

2011 Albert Bichot Fixin ($24)

2016 Lucien Muzard & Fils Vielles Vignes Santenay ($34)

While neither of these Brouillys made of Gamay grapes from southern Beaujolais are on the tip of even the tongues of the wine cognoscenti, they both offer great value in bold full-flavored wines that show bouquets and tastes of ripe cherries and raspberries with hints of spice in their finish. Pair either with casseroles, charcuterie or pasta with meat sauces.

The other two Burgundies (a bit aged but still available in the marketplace) are great choices for those that enjoy the fragrant bouquet and smooth, elegant plummy, cranberry taste of good Burgundy but are unwilling to pay the upwards of $100 a bottle now being asked for many bottles of this quality from this now prized region of France. They both make perfect accompaniment for duck, seared tuna, rack of lamb or veal.


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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."  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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