Virtual Gourmet

  April 29, 2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER


Dexter Fleming, Jason Statham, Jason Flemyng and Nick Moran
  in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


Even in Tradition-Bound Champagne, Change and
Marketing Are Key to Continued Success
By John Mariani


There will be no issue of Mariani's Virtual Gourmet next week because Mariani will be off wining and dining in Bruges and Antwerp, Belgium.



By John Mariani

Photos by Galina Dargery (2018)


         A few years ago I visited San Miguel Allende, Mexico, for the first time and, like most people, fell in thrall to its isolated beauty, its colonial architecture and grand cathedral, and the easy-going flow of the locals in this town 170 miles from Mexico City.

         Made rich as a way-stop for the silver trade and overseen by a few prominent Mexican families of Spanish descent, San Miguel was an early rebel crucible for the War of Independence (1810-1821), and over the next century superb examples of churches, municipal buildings, parks, botanical gardens and artistic venues like the Teatro Angela Peralta and Mask Museum have only made the town more attractive as a tourist destination, now also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

         The grand, always vibrant Plaza, centered by the pink Parroqia de San Miguel Arcangel church, whose towers evoke those of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, is central to everything, and all roads lead to it.  Unfortunately, most of the roads are uphill and paved with cobblestones, which makes navigation a calf-testing trek.

         Other worthwhile sites include the Bibiloteca Publica, the Museo Casa de Allende and the Fabrica La Aurora (now an art and design center), and every weekend there seems to be another festival, from Three Kings Day in January to the International Jazz and Blues Festival in December.

         So delighted was I on my visit that I swore next time it would be with my wife, who is herself a painter and I knew would be enchanted by the artistic atmosphere that imbues the entire town.  Indeed, some decades ago San Miguel was “discovered” by hippies and artists looking for cheap lodgings and space, far from the madding crowds of Mexico City and the tourist-swelled resort towns like Acapulco.

         So the invitation to the wedding of one of my oldest friend’s daughter was a perfect excuse to return to San Miguel with my wife and to stay on for a couple of days to bask in its colonial and post-colonial splendor. Even a long flight from New York with a stopover and then a 90-minute jitney ride over a route with more speed bumps than open road did not dampen our spirits, and we collapsed with jetlag into a secluded, landscaped antique-decorated hacienda of great beauty and quiet.

         The wedding events were joyous, from a rooftop party with fireworks the night before to a marriage ceremony in a courtyard perfumed with  bougainvilleas, followed by a swaying walk through the plaza and on to the reception, serenaded along the way by a mariachi band and accompanied by giant costumed bride-and-groom figures (right) as the townspeople and other well wishers became part of the festivities. It was as memorable a wedding as I’ve ever attended.

         But from the moment I arrived in San Miguel, I sensed a great deal had changed from my first visit.  For one thing, the central part of the town had become a warren of tourist boutiques, most selling the same cheap trinkets. (The wonderful exception was three women’s shoe stores called San Miguel Shoe [left] that feature a sturdy form of wedge-heeled shoes perfect for walking on those cobblestones; pairs cost between $25 and $30.)

         And where there are boutiques there are the tourists to engorge them. San Miguel Allende has, in a few words, become far too successful for its own good, unless, of course you own a boutique or restaurante.  Indeed, the narrow streets have become so clogged by taxis that crawl up and down like snails that they are useless as transport, and since parking is at a bare minimum any increase in vehicular traffic comes at a great price. An expatriate American there told me if the town does not solve its central traffic problem it could lose its UNESCO status.

         And then there are the restaurantes. I really don’t remember where or how well I ate on my last visit, but, except for one popular breakfast place called Cumpanio, with exceptional pastries, I found no restaurante I would ever choose to eat at again, or recommend—despite asking local authorities where to dine. Again, owing to the tourist crowd, the restaurantes, including those that claim to serve true Yucatan cuisine, offered vast menus of the same dishes, including hamburgers, mozzarella and spaghetti Bolognese. The Mexican dishes were bland—not as good as any twenty Mexican restaurants in the U.S. that I could rave about—and mostly variations of tacos, quesadillas and burritos filled with the same ingredients; service was friendly but without any local charm. Otherwise, you have options for plenty of pizza, sushi and Italian restaurants of a kind you hardly expect in a Mexican town of this size.  Were I ever to go again, I would eat where the locals eat—at the massive Mercados near the Plaza Civica, where we saw stall after stall of vendors specializing in different foods—pork, seafood, fried items, cactus leaves and soups (right).  Across the street is the maze of artisans’ stalls, brimming with knickknacks, statuary, silver and shoes.

         The hotels, like the new Rosewood, are as expensive as any in Mexico, and, while I thoroughly enjoyed our hacienda, it, too, was very pricey for an Airbnb whose caretaker we saw only once in four days. Internet service was wholly undependable.

         There are worthwhile day trips to Santuario de Atonilco (another UNESCO site) and the archeological site Cañada de la Virgin Pyramid, 18 miles away.  But the streets that lead away from the San Allende Plaza take on a sameness of stucco-ed walls in three or four colors, so often cracked and peeling, with sidewalks full of pitfalls. 

         I do recall those streets when I visited San Miguel Allende the first time, and I suppose I found much of it charming in an antique way.  Now, like Venice, overrun with t-shirted foreigners year-round, the city’s soul has been largely drained by tourism.  It’s still worth a visit, even a week’s stay if you just want to zone out, but beyond that you might easily be in other towns with much more to offer.



By John Mariani

110 South Street

Morristown, NJ



    I suppose Morristown, New Jersey, qualifies as a New York City suburb, though the infernal traffic of  the Garden State’s highways does not make it easy to get to.  Those who brave the slog will, however, be rewarded with one of the best seafood restaurants in the region, daPesca. (If you’re in the mood for pub fare or more casual dining, the premises, called Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen, also contain a Rathskeller and an Oyster Bar.) 

    Veteran restaurateur Chris Cannon is managing partner for this venture, opened in 2014, within the historic Vail Mansion, whose stunning Italian marble staircase is still the centerpiece of the property. The restaurant has three separate dining rooms with period wainscoting, antique fireplaces and a glass-enclosed kitchen run by Chef Craig Polignano (left), previously at the acclaimed Ryland Inn.  He offers four-course ($87) or six-course ($116) dinners (available à la carte Tues.-Fri.), with ingredients culled from individual fishing vessels out of Barnegat Light and Point Pleasant.  Vegetables are from Let it Grow Farm in Mendham.  On tasting Polignano’s food—especially those dishes not too fussed over—you can tell immediately the premium quality of all he buys.

    One way to go simple is to order a bountiful seafood plateau ($68-$124) of oysters, mussels, clams, shrimp, lobster and crudo. Our table of four ate extensively from an early spring menu that began with a glistening tuna tartare laced with black truffles and the nice sour touch of fermented cabbage, sesame oil and egg yolk ($19). Calamari à la plancha ($18) were wonderfully tender, enlivened with tamarind, papaya, peanuts, brown butter and long pepper.  A spreadable rillette was a combination of lightly smoked bluefish served with an “everything” cracker, tangy-sweet pear mostarda condiment and caper berries ($16).

    There were some hits and misses with the pastas, largely because the intensity of added flavors detracted from the pasta itself.  The squid ink cavatelli with rock shrimp, neonata (tiny fish), tomato, prosciutto and breadcrumbs ($27) was, however, a triumph of well-coordinated flavors and textures. But trenette con riccio with surprisingly bland sea urchins, American caviar and cockles (at a whopping $30) didn’t add up to a happy marriage.

    Among the main courses are just-caught scallops (right) with morel and fava beans accompanied by a black garlic polenta flavored with sorrel ($39). Lobster is basted lavishly in the French style, with added nubbins of sweetbreads and chanterelles and the surprise addition of rhubarb, all napped in a beurre rouge red wine sauce ($44).  Glistening ceviche (left) of the best raw seafood in the market is prettily arranged like a flower ($20).
    Very rarely does skate wing appear on American menus, and Polignano cooks it impeccably so that the slivers of flesh are not steamy; it is well served with tangy capers, crunchy hazelnuts, grapes for sweetness and cauliflower ($34).

    Desserts were only slightly less impressive and at least one a  bit gimmicky—the matcha panna cotta with black sesame ice cream, lemongrass puffed rice and caramel lime ($12). Much more welcome was carrot cake with a pistachio crumble, maple chiboust and mascarpone ice cream ($14), as well as a triple chocolate tart ($14).   

    The wine list at daPesca is rich with 500 selections, its focus on Northern Italy, with 40 wines by the glass and sixty bottlings under $50. They also carry more than 200 spirits selections. 

    So, if you live anywhere near Morristown, daPesca is the obvious choice for very fine dining, and if you live farther away it’s well worth the trip if you want to stay over in town. Few places in New Jersey offer seafood of this superb quality.


daPesca is open Tues.-Sat. for dinner.






Even in Tradition-Bound Champagne, Change and
Marketing Are Key to Continued Success
By John Mariani

    The insistence by Champagne lovers that their favorite beverage goes with everything was tested the other night when I dined with Veuve Clicquot’s Chef de Caves Dominique Demarville (right) at the oldest family-owned Italian restaurant in New York, Barbetta.
    The various Champagnes we sampled went very well with hors d’oeuvres of smoked salmon—a classic match with Champagne—and an array of Piedmontese dishes like cheese 
fonduta with quail eggs, veal-stuffed agnolotti pasta, risotto with wild mushrooms and roasted rabbit in a lemon-wine sauce. All except for the tagliarini in tomato sauce, whose acidic flavors battled against the delicacy of an Extra Brut ($85), a blend made only from vintage years.

     Chances are Demarville made a mental note of that clash so that he could go back to Reims and figure out a new blend that would go well with tomato sauce. “We must innovate,” he said. “The world is changing, and if we don’t keep up with people’s tastes around the world, a house like ours would disappear.”

    Not that such a demise is likely to happen soon. Veuve Clicquot (since 1987 owned by the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy group) was founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron and has always been among the more innovative houses in the tradition-bound Champagne industry, where a house style, once established, is rigorously maintained every year for customers who prefer it to another house’s style.

    Indeed, Veuve Clicquot is believed to have pioneered the process of remuage, by which a cellared Champagne bottle is tilted and frequently turned in order to settle and collect the sediment in the bottle (below), as of 1811, at a time when Clicquot’s widow, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin (left), became the first woman to take over control of a Champagne house. Madame Clicquot managed to be the first to ship her Champagne to Imperial Russia during the Napoleonic Wars, and the tradition of using a saber to open a bottle of Champagne came about when she shipped bottles to the Prussian guards. She was also the first to create a rosé Champagne in 1818 made with the addition of red Bouzy wine, ever since a standard practice for rosés. In honor of this year’s 200th anniversary, Veuve Clicquot launched a limited-edition packaging for the Non-Vintage Rosé Champagne ($70) with black foil around the bottle neck, under which is a hidden message.

For more than a century Veuve Clicquot has been made in a somewhat drier style than Champagnes of other houses, which in the 19th and early 20th century favored sweeter demi-sec versions. Veuve Clicquot’s basic and best-selling, non-vintage brand has always been called “Yellow Label” ($49), but top-of-the-line La Grande Dame ($150), made with the smallest amount of added sugar (called the dosage) to coax a second fermentation, has been made drier and drier. (Demarville's first La Grande Dame vintage is from 2008.) Nevertheless, said Demarville, sales of these so-called préstige cuvée Champagnes account for only two to three percent of sales.

    Overall Champagne sales wax and wane with the world’s economy. “The U.S. is still our biggest client, but the Japan market keeps growing and growing for us,” said Demarville, who had previously worked at Mumm. “The UK sales have been declining because of the current economy, although we haven’t yet seen any problem because of Brexit. When the economy is good, people will drink more Champagne.”

     mentioned that recently the winemaker at Moët & Chandon told me that his brand is even encouraging serving Champagne on ice, to which Demarville merely shrugged and said, “Why not? If you’re sitting by the pool or the beach, Champagne on ice is a good idea, no? We even make a label called Rich ($70) in a silver bottle that is sweeter and made just for that preference. You pour it over ice and add your own slices of fruit.” He also said that while Veuve Clicquot is not heavily promoting demi-sec Champagnes yet, he admitted that there has been a recent growing interest in the style.

    Demarville was appointed Cellar Master at Veuve Clicquot in 2009—only the ninth since 1771-- having spent several years as Cellar Master at Mumm. Since all Champagne is made from only three grapes—Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier—Demarville is a firm believer in using a diversity of terroirs to achieve balance and elegance in his wines to produce a consistent style in accord with the house’s motto "Only one quality, the finest." To this purpose reserve wines up to fifteen years old are used in the various blends.

    Change in Champagne is now inevitable, if only because of global warming, of which Demarville says, “the heat builds up more sugar and phenols, which have to be taken into consideration in the future.”

      Once considered a largely celebratory wine, Champagne is now being promoted at different price levels to compete with red and white still wines. It is also being promoted to be enjoyed throughout a meal, even with a club sandwich at the beach in Saint-Tropez. Now if DeMarville can just figure out a way to make a Champagne that goes with tomato sauce, Italy may become the company’s new frontier.



C-House in Tampa, FL, has a menu on which all foods start with the letter C, especially cheesecake, Champagne, and charcuterie, because  owner Danna Haydar's favorite foods start with a  C. Fish and chips is  called “cod and chips,”  and they only serve craft beers, Canadian beers, ciders, and wines that begin with the letter C, like Chardonnay.



"Deli fu cious: Fish burgers, crab croquettes, and anago (conger) hot dogs are the name of the game at this laid-back, popular diner. Main man Shinya Kudo was initially a sushi chef, so he has the training and connections to ensure everything is excellent quality. His attitude permeates the restaurant (note the “F U” in the name), but in a mellow way that fits easily in the ever-hip Naka-Meguro neighborhood.”—Robbie Swinnerton, "The 15 Hottest New Restaurants in Tokyo," (4/19/18)




Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners


   Wine is a joy year-round but in cooler weather one grape varietal has really taken center stage in my daily activities – that most Italian of grapes, Sangiovese, and its ultimate expression – Brunello di Montalcino.
    From mid-September through mid-October, the Sangiovese grown for our various styles of red wines are be harvested, culminating with the top selection for Brunello di Montalcino.
    Second, cooler weather here means it is time to start enjoying more red wines and especially Sangiovese based wines.  That includes Banfi’s cru of Brunello, Poggio alle Mura, literally the cream of the crop of our Sangiovese vineyards. Alongside our Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino, this year we introduced two more wines from the cru Poggio alle Mura – a Rosso di Montalcino and a Riserva of Brunello.  Rosso is sort of like the younger brother of Brunello, also made from 100% Sangiovese grapes but usually a selection from younger vines and the wine is aged only two years compared to the four required for Brunello.  The Riserva, on the other hand, is an even more selective harvest of Sangiovese, and ages for an additional year before release.
    What is so special about this cru Poggio alle Mura?  Well, it is the result our over 30 years of ongoing research at my family’s vineyard estate, Castello Banfi.  When we first began planting our vines there in the late 1970s studies from the University of Bordeaux indicated which strains of many varietals we should plant, based on the soil type and microclimate of each vineyard.  But when it came to the region’s native Sangiovese, there was only local lore, no scientific research.  So we took it upon ourselves to figure out this vine, and set off on three decades of incredibly detailed research.
    We started with 600 apparent variations on Sangiovese, because it is so susceptible to variations in weather and soil, and narrowed that down to 160 truly genetically different clones.  We planted a vineyard with two rows of each type, made wine from each of them, and charted the differences – remember, you only get one chance a year to make wine, so this took time.
    It took about ten years to get some concrete results, though we continue to experiment today and always will – you never stop learning in science and nature!  Once we determined which were the best, complementary clones that could be planted together to make the best Brunello, we chose to plant them in what we determined to be the optimal vineyard sites.  Coincidentally, the best soils and climate conditions are in the slopes surrounding the medieval fortress today known as Castello Banfi, known since Etruscan times as Poggio alle Mura – the walled hilltop.  Hence the name of our most special “cru” of Brunello, representing a synthesis between tradition and innovation.
    Though the focus of this study was our Brunello, all of our Sangiovese-based wines, including the super Tuscans SummuS, Cum Laude, and Centine, benefited from this work.  And that’s the third reason for celebrating Sangiovese this month, for the range of wonderful reds that usher us into autumn!  One wine in particular was inspired by our research – the BelnerO, a Sangiovese dominant blend with what I like to call a kiss of Cabernet and a whisper of Merlot.  We grow the grapes a little differently for BelnerO than for Brunello, make the wine with less oak aging and released it earlier from the winery, providing a counterpoint to Brunello and a lovely terroir-driven wine in its own right.
     If you know Italians, you know that by nature we are multi-faceted, varying in mood, and always passionate.  As a nation, we span from the hot sunny beaches of Sicily near the African coast to the rugged mountains and Alpine ski slopes of Trentino-Alto Adige in the north.  Sangiovese is grown in almost all of Italy’s regions and reflects the unique nature of each; it is most famous (rightfully so) in Tuscany, yet even there it reflects the nuances of each hilltop, valley and subzone.  It has something a little different to say in Brunello than Chianti, Morellino than Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso di Montalcino than Super Tuscan blends.
    Here is a smattering of Sangiovese-based wines that you may wish to get to know better, reflecting a spectrum that appeals to every occasion, every taste, and every budget.  We can assure you that the conversation will never become boring.

Recommendations for Celebrating Sangiovese 

BelnerO Proprietor’s Reserve Sangiovese – A refined cuvée of noble red grapes perfected by our pioneering clonal research. This dark beauty, BelnerO, is produced at our innovative winery, chosen 11 consecutive years as Italy’s Premier Vineyard Estate. Fermented in our patented temperature controlled French oak and aged approximately 2 additional years. Unfiltered, and Nitrogen bottled to minimize sulfites. 


Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – Rich, round, velvety and intensely aromatic, with flavor hints of licorice, cherry, and spices. Brunello di Montalcino possesses an intense ruby-red color, and a depth, complexity and opulence that is softened by an elegant, lingering aftertaste. Unfiltered after 1998 vintage. 

Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino – Brunello's "younger brother," produced from select Sangiovese grapes and aged in barrique for 10 to 12 months. Deep ruby-red, elegant, vibrant, well-balanced and stylish with a dry velvety finish. 

Poggio all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – A single vineyard selection of our most historically outstanding Sangiovese, aged five years before release, the additional year more than that required of Brunello including 6 months in barrel and 6 months more in bottle to grant its “Riserva” designation.  Incredible elegance and harmony. Intense with lots of fruit and subtle wood influence. Round, complete, well balanced with hints of chocolate and berries. Unfiltered after 1998.

Poggio alle Mura – The first tangible result of years of intensive clonal research on Montalcino’s native Sangiovese grape.  Estate bottled from the splendidly sun drenched vineyards surrounding the medieval Castello from which it takes its name.  The Brunello di Montalcino is seductive, silky and smoky.  Deep ruby in color with an expressive bouquet of violets, fruits and berries as well as cigar box, cedar and exotic spices. The Rosso di Montalcino is also intense ruby red.  The bouquet is fresh and fruity with typical varietal notes of cherry and blackberry, enriched by more complex hints of licorice, tobacco and hazelnut.  It is full bodied, yet with a soft structure, and a surprisingly long finish. The Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is deep ruby red with garnet reflections and a rich, ample bouquet that hints of prune jam, coffee, cacao and a light balsamic note.  It is full and powerful, with ripe and gentle tannins that make it velvety and harmonious; this wine is supported by a pleasing minerality that to me speaks soundly of that special hillside in southern Montalcino.

SummuS – A wine of towering elegance, SummuS is an extraordinary blend of Sangiovese which contributes body; Cabernet Sauvignon for fruit and structure; and Syrah for elegance, character and a fruity bouquet.  An elegant, complex and harmonious red wine. 

Cum Laude – A complex and elegant red which graduated “With Honors,” characterized by aromas of juicy berries and fresh spices.

Centine – A Cuvee that is more than half Sangiovese, the balanced consisting of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Vinified in a firm, round style that easily accompanies a wide range of dishes, this is a smooth and fragrantly satisfying wine with international character, and a perennial favorite at my own dinner table. 

Banfi Chianti Superiore – The “Superiore” designation signifies stricter government regulations regarding production and aging requirements, as compared to regular Chianti.  An intense ruby red wine with fruit forward aromas and floral notes.  This is a round wine with well-balanced acidity and fruit.

Banfi Chianti Classico – An enduring classic: alluring bouquet of black fruit and violets; rich flavors of cherry and leather; supple tannins and good acidity for dining. 

Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – Produced from select grapes grown in the "Classico" region of Chianti, this dry, fruity and well-balanced red has a full bouquet reminiscent of violets.

Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico – This is our newest entry into the Chianti arena, coming from a 99 acre estate in Castellina, the heart of the Chianti Classico region.  The wine is a captivating mauve red that smells of cherry, plum and blackberry with hints of spice.  It is round, full and balanced with very good acidity.  

Col di Sasso – Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Luscious, complex and soft with persistent notes of fruit and great Italian style structure.



 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.


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

MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Geoff Kalish, Mort Hochstein, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.


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