Virtual Gourmet

  June 28,  2020                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


"The Public Garden" by Jean-Louis Forain (1884)


By John Mariani

Chapter Fourteen

By John Mariani


By John Mariani



By John Mariani

    It is with a sigh of relief that I received the news that   Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como was re-opening this month after Italy’s four-month total lock-down during the corona virus pandemic. The hotel had been closed late last fall as usual for the winter season and due to re-open in March.  So it’s been a very long and difficult time for everyone at the hotel as well as for those, like myself, who regard the resort as one of the finest in Italy.
    For its location alone, in the tiny town Tremezzo at one of the most picturesque parts of lake, the hotel has both a spectacular view and an isolated quietude felt at its most charming in the hillside gardens designed by Emilio Trabella that surround it, now with new 100 olive trees added (left).
    The hotel dates to 1910 at a time when Europe’s leisure class went on their grand tours for months at places like the Villa D’Este and Villa Serbelloni (also now re-opened), but Enea and Maris Gandola wanted something smaller, more secluded and more intimate for guests, who, after World War I, increasingly came to the area for health and sport. In the 1930s ownership passed to the Sampietro family, who managed to keep it open during World War II, and the post-war growth of international tourism, not least American (who last year made up 43% of the clientele), made Tremezzo famous as a place of unpretentious luxury and Italian savoir-faire.
        The local De Santis family bought the hotel in 1973, now overseen by the
 elegant and ebullient Valentina De Santis, who has promised that all will be as it was before, from the elegantly appointed guest rooms to the stately, highly colored lobby with its silk-covered walls, reached by a small elevator. My wife and I stayed at Grand Tremezzo last autumn, and I’ve been anxious to write about our experience, but the pandemic shut-down made me fear that I might never do so or perhaps not as we enjoyed it then. The rooms, each different, all with a view of the lake or gardens, have LCD flat screen satellite TV, free Wi-Fi,  and very large marble bathrooms. For the moment, under Italian regulations, only 30 of the 90 rooms have been initially re-opened, with prices ranging from €890 to €4,800.
    Tremezzo is only an hour’s drive from Milan, but taking the train to Como then a boat ride on cloud-reflecting water is much more romantic. The hotel also has its own beautiful wooden motorboat you may hire for tours of the area (a one-hour tour for up to six people is €300), and a ferry stops almost in front of the hotel to take you across the lake to the hillside town of Bellaggio.
    Checking into the Grand Tremezzo puts you into an immediate relationship with the half-dozen Italians who staff it, and they know your name well before you cross the lobby.
    We had lunch on the terrace, then strolled through the little town of Tremezzo, lined with trattorias and boutiques. The glorious Villa Carlotta museum, now open, set on four acres is just next door, with a very fine collection of art including some Canova statues of stunning beauty. 
    The Grand Tremezzo’s T Spa has also been renovated (the sauna will open when it gets the green light), the two outdoor pools will be open as well as the new T Beach for the same number of guests as before but double the space, and the T Bar for snacks and pizza.
    That evening we dined at the newly renovated, grotto-like L’Escale (left), once quite rustic but now very sleek in its décor and lighting, with a handsome wine wall and a wide array of Italian charcuterie and cheeses that we whet our appetite with, followed by delicate agnolotti filled with eggplant “caviar” in a sweet tomato sauce, and an excellent spaghetti all’amatriciana with a tomato, guanciale, onion and chile pepper sauce. Pizza is served during the day.
    The next morning we were somehow ravenous but not even Boccaccio or Gargantua could make a dent in the offerings displayed on many tables in the sunlit breakfast room next to the huge, new kitchen, with daunting numbers of cheeses, breads, salume and hams, egg dishes, cooked dishes, carafes of juices, preserves and condiments, butter and yogurt, chocolates and enough muffins, cakes and cookies to fill a town pasticceria. International newspapers are available, and the service of espresso and cappuccino is done with amiable dispatch.
    All food service is
overseen by Chef Osvaldo Presazzi, here since 1992, an acolyte of the late Italian master Gualtiero Marchesi, whose elegant classic and nuova cucina is featured at La Terrazza overlooking the lake. When we dined there last fall by candlelight, we zeroed in on the Lombardian dishes, beginning with scallops with a sauce of lettuce; a velvety foie gras terrine graced with balsamico tradizionale, then thin ring-shaped pasta called anelli made into savory pancakes filled with ricotta and spinach; and al dente macaroni with lobster, and Marchesi’s signature dish (right), saffron risotto with a square of edible gold foil. Our main courses were a young local rooster with potatoes and spring onions, and a fish indigenous to Lake Como called lovarello. Desserts far exceed what is usual in Italian restaurants, and the wine list is one of the finest outside of Milan.
    I shall be writing soon about other hotels and restaurants around the beautiful city of Como as they re-open, and, having lost four months of business, I wish them every stroke of buona fortuna this summer.







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


    Nicola and Catherine exited the Armani show quickly and, realizing that taxis would be impossible to hail, ran to the restaurant Bagutta on the street of the same name (left). Since the 1920s Bagutta had been a journalists’ haunt but in the 1950s it attracted the international movie crowd, like Gina Lollabrigida, Claudia Cardinale, Yves Montand and Ingrid Bergman, whose photos hung among the art on the walls. Now, during Fashion Week, it would be packed by designers, buyers, models and photographers, all vying for what they perceived to be the best tables.
    Nicola and Catherine had dined at Bagutta several times, and, although they were not among the fashionistas about to descend upon the restaurant that day, they were always extremely well received and given tables in the nicer rooms by the maître d’ named Carlo, largely because they were beautiful American women who reveled in spending their American dollars at the restaurants.  Pretty girls always “dressed” a room, said Carlo, so Nicola and Catherine never had a problem getting a table. More than once, they were asked by regulars if they were models.
    It was by then one o’clock and, with no more shows scheduled till later that afternoon and evening, the buyers with sales books in hand and the reporters and editors with spiral pads or Moleskine notebooks descended on the restaurant.  Outside, the streets were lined, double parked, with limos, which in Italy did not mean stretch Lincoln Continentals but Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs.  Paparazzi as thick as flies formed a semi-circle around the entrance of the restaurant, snapping away at everyone who entered.
    The girls had arrived at Bagutta ahead of the crowd and, having made a reservation, were greeted cordially by Carlo, who asked them, “Is the Armani show finished?”—expecting an onslaught within moments. The girls told him yes and he shook his head, his hands shaking in exasperation, confiding,  “This week is tutto pazzo! Is impossible to please anyone!  Everyone come to see who is with everyone else at every table. And we have two more days to go!”
    Nicola and Catherine were shown to a table in the first room, beyond the art-lined entrance hall, soon to be occupied by editors, reporters, buyers and sellers, along with young chain-smoking designers who had already had their show on Monday or that morning and who looked far too nervous to eat anything.
    Everybody did indeed seem to arrive at once, some of them effusively showing off that they knew Carlo and vice versa, others waiting before the maître d’ stand for less than five seconds before starting to fume with impatience.  Captains were pressed into service, checking the guest list as the guest tapped his fingers on the stand.  Carlo did, of course, know many of them on sight, giving them a big smile, addressing them by name and showing them immediately to their table, some of which had “RISERVATO” signs on them.
    It went without saying that every waiting guest was well aware of which were supposedly the “A” tables, all in the front rooms, each with only four coveted corners.  Of course, the other rooms at Bagutta were equally as comfortable, every one with walls completely covered with artwork.  But they were not the right tables, so the people waiting in limbo would insist they had a reservation that Carlo could not find—“Is it possible, signore, it is under another name?”—and eyed the room like secret service agents looking for assassins among a crowd of dignitaries.
If a guest was of obvious importance and known to those waiting—a top designer, editor or major buyer—no effrontery could be taken.  But if  someone unfamiliar were to be seated in the first or even the second room, faces fell or grew red.  Hands slid into pockets and out came high-denomination lira notes, shoved into Carlo’s willing palm.   But Carlo knew that if he could not provide the kind of fawning resolution of their problem to their complete satisfaction, it would be absurd to accept their money.
    After a while, the fidgeting, argumentative crowd up front began to thin as more guests were seated, many muttering that they would never return to the restaurant but knowing the situation was just as bad at most other restaurants during Fashion Week.  Many, seeing Nicola and Catherine smiling like cats from their table against the wall in the first room, regarded the young women with a mix of envy and wonder as to who they might be to have earned such an envied table, even before anyone else had been seated.  Perhaps they were models—the new girls everyone wanted to work with—waiting for one of the designers to arrive or one of the many men who dated such women.
    Not surprisingly, the regulars who actually lived in Milan took it all in stride, knowing that when Fashion Week ended, Bagutta and its egalitarian seating policies would return to normal.  For now they simply whispered to each other how ridiculous the fashionistas were about such matters when there was business to be done.
    At about one-thirty, when things had settled down and people were sipping glasses of Champagne or just mineral water,  the front door opened and four people, two women, two men, came in. One woman, about fifty, led the others, all in their twenties, and was in a high state of frenzy, not over where she would sit—Carlo knew her and had already saved a table in the front for her—but over a problem having to do with a show.
    Waving her hands and speaking in bullet-speed Italian, a cigarette in one hand and a FAX sheet in the other, she was cursing the heavens for causing her unimaginable agony at that very moment.  The other woman, dressed in a black turtle neck and slacks, seemed to bear the brunt of the tirade, glancing at the two men, who were obviously assistants, to indicate she’d never seen the woman in such a rage.  Once seated, the woman demanded bottled water—subito!—telling her assistants that she was not eating anything.
    The rest of the room watched the woman’s display; some, who knew her, smirked that this was not untypical of her.  Nicola and Catherine were fascinated by the operatic nature of her display.  Then, all of a sudden, the woman went dead silent and squinted at Nicola for several seconds, dropped her spent cigarette into an ashtray, and said softly, “Cardinale. . . .”  Her assistants looked at each other in complete puzzlement and then, after looking again at Nicola, all nodded in unison.  Their boss thought Nicola looked like the Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, and, well, she did.
    The woman, whose table was just across from Nicola’s, suddenly got up and took two long steps, snapping her fingers for Carlo to bring her a chair.  Nicola and Catherine stared at this very strange Italian woman and pulled back in their seats.
    “Bella,” said the woman to Nicola, surprisingly warmly. “Come si chiama?”
    Nicola stammered in Italian, “Io mi chiamo Nicola Santini.”
    “Santini?” said the woman, detecting an American accent. “You are American?”
    Nicola nodded while Catherine tried to suppress a smile.
     Realizing the woman could speak in English, Nicola replied,  Si, from New York.”
    “What you doing here? You a model?”
    Nicola smiled and said, “No, I’m a student here.”
    The woman turned towards her companions and said in Italian, “You see what I see? This face, even the headband. She’s Cardinale!”  Her assistants, who always agreed with their boss, started enthusiastically nodding and repeating,  Si! Si! Cardinale! Claudia Cardinale.”
    The woman raised her eyes and hands to the ceiling, saying “Mi dispiace!” as if to beg God’s forgiveness for her earlier words of sacrilege.  Then she turned to Nicola.              
“Listen, Signorina, I get a little pazzo sometimes, but I have big, big problem, and I think you are the answer to it.”
    “Me?” asked Nicola, slightly laughing.
    “Si, ah, forgive me, is okay I sit down here?” Not waiting for a response, she occupied the chair that Carlo had provided. “My name is Patrizia Palma and I’m a designer here in Milan.”
    Nicola glanced at Catherine for a sign of name recognition but her friend shrugged.
    “I know you no know me,” said Patrizia Palma, “because my clothes they never show in America. This week I have my first show here in Milan to introduce my first line of clothes for international sale. Capisce?  And the … come se dice? Temo?”
    “Theme,” said Nicola.
    “Si, theme. Okay, my theme is go back to the nineteen sixties fashion of Italy.  I colori, the big skirts, miniskirts, Capri pants and”—pointing to Nicola’s head—“the headbands. Just like Claudia Cardinale wear then. You know Claudia Cardinale?”
    Nicola effusively said yes, reeling off three or four of the star’s movies, including “The Pink Panther” and  “8 ½.”
    The woman smiled grandly. “Ah, benissimo! Claudia was—is—a beautiful woman!  I know her.  So my problem is I have my big show tomorrow and I going to have all my models in my clothes and with make-up from the 1960s so they look like Claudia, Virna Lisi, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollabrigida, Stefania Sandrelli—so many beautiful girls then, wonderful actresses!” Almost all of Signora Palma’s sentences ended with an exclamation point.
    “That’s a wonderful idea,” said Nicola, smiling and revealing her perfectly straight American teeth.
    “Si, is good, eh?,” said the diva-like designer. Then, frowning and turning to her own table, “Federico, una cigaretta, per favore!” and to Carlo, “Bello, una bottiglia di Champagne, per favore. Grazie.”
    Carlo lit her cigarette and rushed away to get a bottle of iced Champagne.
    “So, Nicola—I call you Nicola, okay?—here’s my big problem.  I already pick all my models, beautiful ragazze who look like the actresses. And I had one who looked a little like Cardinale, non perfetto but is okay, we can do a little magic with make-up.  And she have a perfect figura, you know, not too, too—come si dice, magro? Ah, skinny! My models they have curves like real women not like these models who look sick.”
    “But I’m not a model,” said Nicola.
    “Bella,” Signora Palma said, touching Nicola’s cheek. “Is nothing to be a model if you as beautiful as you.  But listen to me: The girl I picked to be Cardinale had another job this week and she gonna be back tonight and my show is tomorrow afternoon.  And what happened is una disastro!  Una calamità!”
    Nicola assumed the girl had taken ill. “She’s sick?”
    “Worse! Sick, they can still walk down the runway. All those skinny ragazze look sick!”
    “What then?”
    “This girl she goes off on a job on a yacht off Sardegna and she gonna fly back.  But this goddamn yacht she stop going, you know?”
    “Broke down, you mean?”
    “Si, si, broke down. And so the model she no able to get back to Milano tomorrow, so I have no Cardinale. Capisce? Now all the girls they busy with jobs tomorrow.  How I gonna find a Cardinale?”
    Nicola said slowly, “A-a-n-nd. . . .”
    “You will be my Cardinale!”
    Nicola said, “Signora Palma, I’m really flattered but I’d be terrified on the catwalk with all those professional models, I could never—”
    “Cara, listen to me.  Most these girls they too young, they just come to Milan for a few days, and everyone—tutti—is very beautiful.  Armani, Versace, Cavallo—they hire only models they work with in the past, the big names.  You know the Polish one, Paulina—I can no pronounce her name.”
    Catherine piped in, “Poriszkova. I think she’s from Czechoslovakia.”
    “Si,” said Signora Palma. “I no can afford, I no want those girls. People see them too much.  I want girls nobody never see before.  I want you, Nicola Santini. Bella, I need you. Domani.”
    Nicola was flushed, never expecting such a crazy thing to happen to her.  True, when she was a young teenager, she did some catalog modeling for a Sunday ad supplement, but she never cared to pursue it beyond that.
    Signora Palma looked at Nicola with the sad, imploring eyes of a mother asking her child for help.  Per favore, bella, please, please do this for me.”
     Tentatively, Nicola said, “And if I do, I get paid for what, one show, one day?”
    “Bella, I only have one show, but I pay you well, I pay you very fair.  You ask the other girls. You make a big hit on the runway, you see, other people want to hire you.  You could have a very big career.”
    The Champagne arrived and Carlo popped the cork and poured some for everyone at both tables.
    The prospect of  what Signora Palma just said about a career caused a slight chill in Nicola, for while she thought she might actually consider the Signora’s one-day offer—which would be fun, after all—she sensed that to go any further would be to compromise everything she loved, had studied and planned for.
    She turned to Catherine—knowing what she’d say—and asked, “I don’t know, Catherine. What do you think?”
    “Nick,” said Catherine, putting her hand on her friend’s forearm, “if you say no, you’ll always regret it. If you say yes, you’ll have a helluva story to tell everyone back home. And you make a few lira. What have you got to lose?”
    Signora Palma held out her hand. “Allora, you say okay?”
    Nicola, brightening, shrugged, shook hands and said, “Well, . . I guess so.  But what do I have to do?”
    At the other table Signora Palma’s assistants took out notebooks and pens, prepared to write down every detail of what they were about to hear.
    “Okay, you come to my studio tonight, we have a first fitting.  I want to see you with a bob, like Cardinale, and a headband.”
    “You want me to cut my hair?” Nicola asked in semi-shock.
    “No, no, bella, your hair is too beautiful to cut. We give you a parruca.”
    “Oh, a wig.”
    “Si, a wig.” Taking Nicola by the chin, Signora Palma said, “Carissima, molte grazie, molte grazie.  You save my life.” She kissed Nicola on both cheeks, then a third very big smooch of a kiss.
    There were a few more details to go over, including Nicola’s fee, which was generous, worked out over glasses of Champagne and Bagutta’s food.  When a stuffed agnolotti came to the table, Nicola for the first time in her life regarded a plate of pasta with hesitancy.  Would eating this delicious agnolotti, full of ricotta and dressed with butter and sage, make it impossible to fit into the clothes Signora Palma had planned for her to wear?  Then, noting that she’d eaten no bread and wasn’t going to have a second course or dessert, she ate every pasta pillow on the plate with both gusto and enormous satisfaction.  Signora Palma’s fitter could deal with it.
    At the end of the meal, by which time Bagutta was emptying out for the afternoon shows, the six of them at the two tables clinked classes one last time and Signora Palma toasted, “Buona fortuna!”
    Nicola repeated the phrase, knowing she was going to need it badly.


© John Mariani, 2020




By John Mariani


    Winemakers around the world have always known that to make a good wine the vines have to struggle, meaning that vines that must search for water gain strength in the exercise. The point is certainly well taken in Oregon, where ripening is not taken for granted in a cool climate like that of the beautiful Willamette Valley.
    As recently as the 1960s few thought that Oregon could make good vinifera-based wines at all. David Lett, called the “Papa of Pinot Noir” in the state, disproved that fallacy by the end of the decade, and, helped by investments by some top French and Italian estates, Oregon Pinot Noir growth soared in the 1980s.
    As conventional wisdom goes, Pinot Noir is a famously finicky grape that can produce an over-extracted fruit bomb of a kind made by so many California wineries, or a too delicate Burgundy of a style even an aficionado may have trouble loving.

        As Alex Sokol Blosser, owner of his namesake winery, told me: “In France the earthiness of their wines make for a softer, rounder texture and more minerality. The most important component in pinot noir is acid; complexity hangs on that acid. In California the pinot noir is picked riper to make a heavier, showy style. The riper the grape the more phenolics, and the sugar goes up and ferments into higher alcohol. Here in Oregon, we’re in the middle, between France and California. We don’t have the former’s soil but we don’t get California’s heat. Our summers are drier, and this year we had like two weeks of snow on the ground. So we treat the grapes more delicately. In California they harvest in September or October; we harvested in August last year.”
    Many wine lovers and media are now saying that Willamette Valley makes America’s finest Pinot Noirs, and I am inclined to believe it, especially after tasting an array of them with various foods that ranged from grilled ribeyes to pasta with sausage and grapes. Here are some I think are way up in the Pinot Noir firmament, along with a few very good Chardonnays of varying styles.



LEFT COAST TRUFFLE HILL CHARDONNAY 2018 ($24)—The 17-year-old winery, 37 miles from the “left coast,” sits among four acres of European Black Truffle-inoculated hazelnut trees, shrub roses and holly oaks, with its Swiss clone Wädenswil Pinot Noir planted on five acres and five of Chardonnay at the hilltop. I’d have to squint hard to convince myself of any truffle scent in the bottle, but the aromatics of peach and pear underpinned with a nice acid cut keep this from being a cloying Chardonnay while still offering a stylish American take on the varietal. Very well priced.

YAMHILL VALLEY VINEYARDS CHARDONNAY 2018 ($28)—Yamhill Valley is part of the Willamette Valley region and the winery, begun in 1983, planted this Chardonnay block in 2005. The cool climate, 35 inches of annual rainfall and rich clay soil make for a complex Chardonnay that does not depend on over-oaking for its flavors, making it perfect for grilled salmon or poultry.

WILLAKENZIE ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2018 ($75)—The name of the winery comes from the region’s two rivers, the Willamette and the McKenzie. It was founded by a Burgundian named Bernard Lacroute, so it nods to his heritage, and the wine has a substantial body of a kind you find in some of the Grand Crus like Aloxe-Corton and Chevalier Montrachet. The vintage was one of ideal conditions, and the Chardonnays are at their peak for drinking well. Further aging is unlikely to improve them much. I love the fresh fruit of this wine. It’s pricey but it’s in a league of its own among Willamette Chardonnays.  A broiled lobster with butter demands a wine like this.
    WillaKenzie’s 2017 Pinot Noir ($50) is also close to a Burgundian style, being of moderate body and silky texture with tannins complementing the fruit. An excellent choice for lamb, pork or veal. Oddly enough, it costs less than the winery’s Chardonnay.


GRAIN MORAINE YAMHILL CARLTON PINOT NOIR 2018 ($35)—Should you be drinking Pinot Noirs this young? Absolutely, the exception being the greatest, priciest red Burgundies, which wouldn’t be released so early anyway. But the terroir of Oregon allows the fruit to ripen and emerge above softened tannins, so drinking a Pinot Noir like this right now is a capital idea. The winery is only seventeen years old and its first vintage was only in 2005, but Grain Moraine started by using some of the finest Dijon Pinot Noir clones—667, 777 and 115—and has already built an impressive rep.


($75)—Oregon native (there aren’t that many in the wine trade out there) Tom Huggins and 11 investors founded Eola in 1986, and with winemaker Steve Anderson here for more than 20 years, they’ve had a lot of time to sort out vineyards and clones and all that goes into making their superb Pinot Noirs. He employs what he calls a “judicious” use of American oak (16 months), so that the big dark fruit flavors and lush aromas come through on their own. With game birds this would be impeccably married.





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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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