Virtual Gourmet

  October 13,  2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


"Marseilles Fish Markets" (1903) by Raoul Dufy


Part Two

By John Mariani

By John Mariani

By Geoff Kalish


Part Two
By John Mariani


    You could spend days and days eating your way through Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market, which not only offers some of those items like the Philly Cheesesteak, scrapple and soft pretzels that originated in the city, but is also a panoply of oyster bars, Amish dairies and Italian salumerias. Nearby are some of center city's best restaurants that also feature a particular kind of Philadelphia hospitality.

135 South 18th Street



    Opened in 2011 in the AKA Rittenhouse Square Hotel, (with next door) is Ellen Yin’s fourth restaurant (one is in Manhattan), and I’ve admired her handiwork since she was at the still-popular Fork. The unappealing name in lowercase does nothing to indicate what a fine contemporary restaurant this is, without anything gimmicky on the menu, and everything that’s there is wrought with intense flavors, via Chef Eli Collins.

    The room, opening onto the street, is a stylistic combination of white marble and black steel, with white oak to soften the ambiance. There is counter seating in front of the open kitchen.

    Ours was a table for six, an ideal number to allow people to share the generous portions, beginning with the charcuterie ($18) of chicken liver mousse, corned lamb terrine, and pork and olive rillette.  Adding a buttermilk Ranch-style dressing to cucumbers and kohlrabi with rhubarb and chili honey ($13) makes all the difference in flavors, while the cheese selection ($16) is composed of varieties you rarely see anywhere.

Informed that the burger was really worth trying, I found the ample but not over-stuffed patty of excellent ground beef with American cheese, a sprightly Dijonnaise mayo and good roll ($18) a winning combination, and the veal flank steak ($22) with baby lettuces and assertive salsa verde made for a hefty lunch item. Of course, it’s always satisfying when you find that a chef really knows how to grill a whole fish so that its exterior has a slight char and the interior is wholly moist and sweet ($24).

    Desserts are outstanding, from a Basque pistachio cake ($8) and chocolate hazelnut Paris-Brest ($12) to a light, pretty verbena cream and strawberry confection ($8).

    The wines by the glass are well chosen.


Open for breakfast and lunch Mon.-Fri., for brunch Sat. & Sun., for dinner nightly.





130 South 18th Street



    How such a wonderful restaurant can have such a silly name is beyond me, but all is forgiven when you enter this 100-seat restaurant with communal tables, located near Rittenhouse Square. (It can get loud, so try to snag a table near the front door.)

    This is one of Stephen Starr’s newest creations and one of his most straightforward—no huge statues of Buddha, no gilded bicycles or homages to Mexican wrestlers, no purple alcoves. It’s an American eatery with Starr’s signature hospitality and one of Philadelphia’s most respected chefs, Aimée Olexy (below), who is also at Talula’s Garden and Talula’s Table, where she features a very popular 12-person tasting dinner.

    While there is no pretense in the culinary conceptions and no excessive stylization of the dishes, some of them are as refined as one would have found at Le Bec Fin back in the day. Case in point: a green asparagus soup (above) with whipped goat’s cheese and brioche croutons ($13) that was perfect for the season that in another would not have had the integrity of flavor those summer asparagus possessed. 

    Like the restaurant’s name, there are a lot of way-too-cutesy, wince-inducing descriptions on the menu, like “Eat your veggies,” “feel good plate,” and “turkey MMMelt,” but Olexy doesn’t mess around with her fried catfish and hushpuppy platter with sprout slaw ($22), as good as any you’ll find south of Philadelphia.

    Crab and ricotta ravioli ($22) were delicious, though they could have used more crab, in a rich but light carrot sauce touched with fennel pollen.  For dessert the “dirt sundae” ($11) with chocolate mousse, crushed cookies and cherry pâté de fruit looked a little like potting soil but was a terrific guilty pleasure.

    The wine list, cobbled together by Olexy and sommelier Alexandra Cherniavsky, is sensibly laid out and admirably inclusive, though it could use more good bottles under $50.


Open for lunch Mon.-Fri., brunch Sat. & Sun., dinner nightly.



By John Mariani


22 E 13th Street (near University Place)

212- 951-1082


    Good as they might be, most Indian restaurants in New York lack a sense of humor. Some, like Junoon and Tamarind Tribeca are as elegant as their counterparts in London; others are part of the casual Indian food cultures around Murray Hill and in Astoria; most are affable storefronts in just about every neighborhood in the city. None is as much fun to go to as Babu Ji near Union Square and N.Y.U.

    From outside you see only a bar with a few tables, but upstairs is a two-room dining area. The rear room is darkened and very loud but the main section is well lighted, full of color and the noise level not so onerous. On the white brick walls an old Bollywood movie plays silently, while large photos of festively dressed Indian men and women deck out the other walls. You can even pluck a cold beer from the refrigerator here and bring it to your table.

    The party atmosphere is not accidental, for owners Jessi and Jennifer Singh, who also run three restaurants in Australia, named Babu Ji after an Indian figure who functions as a “self appointed neighborhood ambassador who knows everyone and everything that’s happening in the village,” and who “unashamedly indulges in food and hospitality.”

    Jessi is a self-taught chef, and his ideas about Indian food balance many traditional dishes you’ll find around town with some smart new concepts that are wholly his. You might want to trust his instincts by going with the $62 Tasting Menu, with matching beers +$24, with wines +$34. Otherwise, go with a foursome or more and order from all over the menu.  Surprise will co-exist with comfort food when you do.

    A selection called “From the Street” should begin with  crisp papadum wafers and naan with chutney ($16) and a pop-in-the-mouth yogurt kebab  ($15) spiced with green chili and cardamom served over beet and ginger sauce (right).

“Colonel Tso’s Cauliflower” ($16) is a play on China’s General Tso’s chicken, here done in Indo-Chinese style as cauliflower in a bright tomato and chili sauce, the vegetable so tender and aromatically seasoned. "The Original" Naan Pizza  ($16) is a further step away from India, though it’s baked in a tandoor oven, the fragrant steamy bread lavished with sweet-pickled chili butter and fontina cheese.

    “From the Pots” is a section that includes “Unauthentic Butter Chicken” ($21) of yogurt-marinated chicken, tomato, ginger, garlic and fenugreek curry that has a richness and creamy texture but not the heaviness of some versions.  Short Rib Korma ($25) is a wondrous, hearty plate of tender beef with fresh curry leaves, cardamom, coriander, coconut and cashew curry, while palak paneer  ($18) is a cream-enriched spinach curry spiced with cumin and chili. Lentil dals are always found on Indian menus, and Babu Ji’s of split yellow lentils with ginger, cumin, turmeric and coconut milk ($14) has a freshness of flavor you don’t always find in a dish too often left to stew on the stove for hours.

    From the tandoor comes a big platter of lamb chops  ($26) with cumin-spiced potatoes, raita yogurt and apricot chutney that add measurably to the mild flavor of the meat—pricey for New Zealand lamb. Indian restaurants so often overcook their fish dishes when done in the fiercely hot tandoor, but the nicely charred dorade ($24) at Babu Ji was very succulent, served with a ginger-honey sauce and micro radish greens.

    On the side you’ll want to order the aged basmati rice ($5).

    Babu Ji offers a number of Indian-spiced cocktails ($14), some that work, some that don’t.

    For dessert, the one to have is a stick of kulfi ice cream.

    While writing this report, so many of the sensory memories of the food at Babu Ji came rushing back—especially after I’d just returned from nine days in Spain—and Indian food of this caliber is what I’m craving. Plus the place is a lot of fun, if you get a less noisy table, and the service is as affable as you’ll find in Manhattan.


Open nightly for dinner. For brunch Sat. & Sun.




By Geoff Kalish

Guido Bellucchi Estate, Franciacorta

    About 20 years ago on a visit to northern Italy’s little known Franciacorta area, I was unimpressed by the quality and value of most of the sparklers tasted,  especially when compared with that of the Prosecco region, only 100 miles away.

    In fact, while Franciacorta sparklers are made by the same process as used in Champagne (i.e., making a base wine, then adding additional yeast and sugar to the bottle to produce carbon dioxide bubbles), our visit revealed many with a strange, somewhat oxidized bouquet and a too sweet taste. Moreover, at that time one could hardly find a bottle of Franciacorta bubbly at more than a handful of U.S. retail outlets.

    That’s all changed. Now I’ve found that the bouquet and taste of a number of sparklers from Franciacorta not only outdo those of Prosecco but rival the likes of many bottles of Champagne —and at a very modest price when compared with that of most bottles of Champagne. Today many more shops nationwide are carrying more than a token brand or two of Franciacorta sparklers.

    What’s accounted for this change is multifactored: Since the late 1990s the region has witnessed an emphasis on enhanced quality of viticultural and vinicultural practices —especially a movement in the region to produce the wines organically, with the great majority now “certified” organic, as well as an effort to determine the best growing area for different clones of the Chardonnay and Pinot Nero grapes (the predominant varietals used in these wines); decreased sweetness, or even elimination of the dosage (the liquid that’s added to Franciacorta sparklers when, as in the process in Champagne, the wasted yeast from the second fermentation is removed, a process known as “disgorgement”); and of course some savvy marketing — the combination of which has led to the export of over 12% of the annual production.

    To evaluate the result of the effort to enhance the quality of these wines a tasting of 15  currently available for consumers to purchase was conducted at New York City’s The Leopard des Artistes by the Wine Media Guild (a U.S.-based organization of professional wine communicators). To be honest, I didn’t love every one of those tasted, finding a few too sweet and others not rising above the quality of good Prosecco. On the other hand, I found a number of the wines outstanding, and the following are my notes on these with my top choice in each of 7 categories.




Castel Faglia, Dosaggio Zero, Millesimato 2012 ($23)

This sparkler is made of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Nero grapes and, as the name implies, no additional sugar is added to the wine when it’s disgorged. It shows a straw yellow color, a steady stream of rapidly rising bubbles and a delicate, fruity taste with hints of almonds and cinnamon in its dry finish.



Il Mosnel, Extra Brut. Vintage 2013 ($52)

Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, this wine was fermented in small oak casks over five months with the second fermentation taking place over 3 years. It has a pale yellow color, very fine bubbles and a refreshing bouquet and taste, with hints of vanilla in its finish. One might be hard pressed to distinguish this wine from a top-tier Champagne.




Ca Del Bosco, Cuvee Prestige, Brut NV ($32)

This bubbly is made from 75% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Bianco and 15% Pinot Nero grapes. Fermentation took place in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks over five months. In making the final blend, a small amount of  “reserve” wine from other vintages was added, with the second fermentation taking place over 25 months. Of note, disgorgement takes place in an oxygen-free atmosphere, so that very little sulfur dioxide needs to be added. It shows a bouquet and taste of peaches and brioche and has a very fruity finish with a bit of vibrant acidity.




Franciacorta, Bellavista, Millesimato, Brut Vintage 2012 ($45)

Made from 73% Chardonnay and 27% Pinot Nero, this outstanding sparkler underwent primarily stainless-steel tank fermentation, with 30% of the grapes barrel fermented. The second fermentation was conducted over 36 months. It shows a pale straw color and a fine stream of bubbles, with aromas and an elegant taste of ripe apples and brioche, with a  long memorable finish, that has notes of almonds and vanilla.


SATĖN    (A classification unique to the area in which the blend must be made from only white grapes and have a bottle pressure so as to produce a very “foamy” wine.)


Ricci Curbastro, Saten Millesimato NV, Dossagio Zero ($49)

This 100% Chardonnay wine was fermented in oak and underwent its second fermentation over 48 months. It has a straw yellow color, a bouquet and creamy taste of apples and peaches with hints of fennel and lemon in its smooth finish. This wine makes an excellent mate for grilled salmon, veal or smoky cheeses. 


Guido Berlucchi, Rosé NV ($29) 

Made from 60% Pinot Nero and 40% Chardonnay, this great value from the producer who first made sparkling wines in the area shows a fragrant bouquet and taste of ripe cherries and strawberries, with hints of lemons and limes in its finish. More than just an aperitif wine, it makes great accompaniment to pasta with red sauce as well as grilled branzino or shrimps.




Majolini, Blanc de Noir, Brut NV ($56)

While a bit pricey, this 100% Pinot Noir wine, from grapes hand harvested from a vineyard on a hilltop loaded with calcareous soil, represents Pinot Noir bubbly at its best, with fragrant flavors of ripe berries and a taste of berries and hints of dried apricots in its long smooth finish. This is an ideal wine to mate with a wide range of food from scallops to grilled chicken or veal.




Noma Guide to Fermentation: Including Koji, Kombuchas, Shoyus, Misos, Vinegars, Garums, Lacto-ferments, and Black Fruits and Vegetables

By René Redzepi and David Zilber

A Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Stuart, FL, ended its Monkey Mondays after a 9-month-old capuchin monkey bit someone. The weekly tradition surrounded a  pair of monkey owners — Mary and Richard Van Houten — who brought at least one of their five pet monkeys in each week to the restaurant.





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, benefitted 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.


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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