Virtual Gourmet

  January 8, 2023                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 





By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani



On this week's episode of my WVOX Radio Show "Almost Golden," on Wed. January 11 at 11AM EST,I will be interviewing James Gavin, biographer of entertainer LENA HORNE. Go to: The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.


Part One

By John Mariani



            More than once before I went on a recent trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida was I asked by naïve friends, “Why?” When I replied that I was going to check out the restaurants, my inquirers—none of whom had been to Disney in Lake Buena Vista or Disneyland in Anaheim since they had young children or perhaps ever—looked dumbfounded, assuming that all food service at those resorts was geared either to small fry or so tied to a “theme” that a good adult restaurant was impossible to find.
            That myopic view hasn’t been vaguely true for more  than fifty years, and as someone who, at the age of 10, went to Disneyland the year it opened in 1955 and many times to Walt Disney World Resort, which opened in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, in 1971, I’ve seen the evolution of food service from being good, wholesome and basic to extraordinarily sophisticated and well worth a trip for anyone who also intends to stay at some grandly conceived resorts, swim, play golf and relax, with or without kids in tow. In fact, few restaurants in the city of Orlando or Miami would compare well with the best at Disney.
Food service got serious at Disney with the opening of the international pavilions at EPCOT Centre in 1982, by contracting established master restaurateurs like Paul Bocuse, Roger Vergé and Claude Troisgros to open two French restaurants on the property (left), along with other outside professionals to open the Italian Alfredo the Original of Rome, Chinese Nine Dragons and Moroccan Marrakesh.
        In addition, themed restaurants like The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) and some highly innovative restaurants in the hotels and resorts—like the California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort and Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa—were directly aimed at the hundreds of thousands of adults who want more than burgers and pizza after spending $109 to $189 for a one-day pass.
            Since then Disney has opened more than 500 food service units, including Broadway Joe’s Marvelous Margaritas ($15) on the boardwalk. And, because of its enormous clout in the market and the rigors of its health rules, Disney can order the finest, most consistent meat, seafood and provender in the global market. That goes for stocking wine cellars, with a few of the resort hotel restaurants having award-winning wine lists that would rival the best in any U.S. restaurant. EPCOT Centre’s annual International Food Menu is one of the most extensive and popular in the state.
        Food prices are also comparable with upscale restaurants in Florida, although in décor  and sight lines alone, which include a nightly fireworks show, you get a lot more bang for the buck at Disney.
            On my three-day trip, then, I sought to go back to some established restaurants—which are always being refreshed or re-imagined—and some, post-Covid, new ones.
            Of the latter is Topolino’s Terrace in the Riviera Resort, so called after Italians’ name for Mickey Mouse, though there is nothing to remind you of the character in the dining room. The menu focuses on the cuisine of the French and Italian Riviera, overseen by veteran chef Dominique Filoni, whose work I’ve known since he had his own Mediterranean restaurant outside of Philadelphia years ago.
            The spacious dining room’s décor is done largely in browns, taupe and gold colors, with a huge shimmering chandelier, though the lighting needs to be brought up on the bare brown tables to show off the beauty of the food.
            Among the starters  is a house-made creamy burrata (above, left) with black truffle, artichokes, grapes, verjus gel and yeasty, warm focaccia ($12). Impeccably fried fritto misto includes artichokes, clamshell mushrooms and zucchini with an herbed emulsion and a tangy-sweet golden raisins mostarda conserve ($12 ). Outstanding was red kuri squash soup (above, right) I had owing to its out-of-the-ordinary flavors like espresso, annatto and dried fruit granola for texture ($14 ). Luscious, slow-roasted octopus comes out very tender with a soffritto, crispy polenta-like panisse, saffron aïoli, roasted garlic and a touch of mint ($19.)
            Pastas are all delicious and come in ample portions. Plump but light gnocchi was lavished with rich braised lamb shoulder ragù, mushrooms, red wine reduction and sweet carrots ($18). Rigatoni comes with a braised chicken sugo, broccolini, pancetta and wild mushrooms ($34). Lobster is impeccably cooked to retain its moisture and gains sweetness from English peas and rich, creamy sauce américaine with  pickled onions and a tuile colored with squid ink, all atop linguine ($52). 
Among the main courses the sole meunière  (above) is a bargain at $50, if a bit overelaborated with sea beans, capers, asparagus, English peas, toybox tomatoes and roasted potatoes that detract from the classic simplicity of the dish. A massive veal chop had a slightly smoky flavor, with whipped potatoes, pommes fondant cooked with its juices, baby turnips, and a Sicilian salsa verde ($53), while the pork shank blanquette (above) with parsnips, polenta, apple butter and chimichurri was a dazzlement of gusty flavors ($46). I had some of the best sea scallops in a while at Topolino’s, with butternut squash risotto, root vegetable crackers and cioppino jus ($52).   That most Provencal of all dishes, bouillabaisse ($48) teemed with morsels of red snapper, branzino, clams, shrimps and mussels in a reduction of fennel and a saffron rouille.  
There is a cheeseboard of international selections served with  honeycomb, figs, mushroom conserve and Marcona almonds ($21), and the desserts are requisite to share, like vanilla and citrus crème brûlée with morello cherry compote, strawberry foam, sugared beignets, and chocolate meringues ($14) and the warm chocolate cake (right) with a caramel center, Chantilly cream and raspberries ($15).
        Like many Disney restaurants, Topolino’s features a Disney character breakfast ($49 for adults, $29 for children).


        Recast from what had been a Mediterranean restaurant, Citricos in the Grand Floridian Resort is now  more eclectic. And, despite its name, the theme here is from the film Mary Poppins Returns, with the backs of dining chairs and server stations done with sprays of cherry blossoms, for Cherry Tree Lane, while the chairs in the lounges are configured like Mary’s corset. Birds perch in the light fixtures, and the floral pattern in the rug is from Mary Poppins’s carpetbag in the original 1964 movie. There is also a painting of Cherry Tree Lane, where the Banks family resides in both films. Inside the private Sommelier Room you can see the real carpetbag and Polly, her iconic umbrella, on display.
        Chef Andres Mendoza works out of a  big, brightly lighted open kitchen to produce a splendid and very balanced menu that begins with appetizers like  rice balls called arancini studded with wild mushrooms,  with a truffle aïoli and Champagne vinaigrette ($16).
        Compressed star fruit, Thai passion fruit nuoc cham and  a blood orange puff tapioca underpinning  full flavored citrus cured hamachi ($21,) while Berkshire pork belly comes with boniato and plantains croquette, salsa Verde and jicama ($18).
      The entrees have a hard-to-choose-among range. Both seafood dishes are very good— Golden tile fish with juniper rice and chorizo-flecked risotto, fresh Key West pink shrimp and a tomato confit ($46),  and a butter-poached Florida mahi-mahi with mashed fingerling potatoes, grilled asparagus, local mushrooms and a beurre blanc tinged with grapefruit ($42).
        On the carnivore side there is guava-slathered barbecued short ribs with creamy cheddar cheese grits, and roasted poblano chile. The only disappointment was an overly lavish plate of rigatoni bolognese with seasonal vegetables, hen of the woods mushrooms, and a bland vegan “egg yolk” ($15). But you should try the side dish of truffled mac & cheese made with house-made gnocchetti, black truffles and a sprinkling of  tarragon ($21).  By the way, wine suggestions (extra) are listed with each main course.
      Pastry Chef Kristine Farmer’s desserts match the other courses, including an orange blossom flan with blood orange jelly, orange-scented shortbread
and orange blossom honey ($13); an apple rose served with marzipan, raspberry jam and frozen coconut milk ($13);  and a chocolate torte financier with a dark chocolate ganache, Morello cherry and vanilla mascarpone cream ($14).
        The wine list has fifty-plus selections, heaviest in reds, and mark-ups are somewhat lower than you’ll find elsewhere in Florida’s fine dining restaurants. Surprising, then, that none have vintages listed, which are “subject to change.”
        Just reading the menu descriptions and seeing the photos here of Topolino’s and Citricos gives you a sense of Disney's range when it come to upscale dining. But in the execution there are few to rival them in the South.



337 E 49th Street

                                                                              By John Mariani

Back in the 1970s a slew of Italian restaurants opened on Manhattan’s East Side that elevated the cuisine and décor well above the Italian-American model of the past. Two of those were Il Monello (1974) and Il Nido (1979), stylish ristoranti opened by Tuscan-born Adi Giovanetti, who introduced a sophisticated service, many dishes never served in New York before and had a wine list of the best Italian wines then coming into the country.
            Il Monello—the name means “little rascal”—then on 76th Street and Second Avenue, closed, re-opened and then was sold to Steve Haxhiaj, who had worked for Giovanetti, but shuttered again in 2008.  (Il Nido closed a few years later; Giovanetti passed away soon after.)
            Now re-opened at a different location by Haxhiaj and chef-partner Jaime
 Chabla, Il Monello has the same soft luxury of the original, though in a more modern décor.  The lighting is finely modulated, helped by small lamps that throw a glow onto the white tablecloths.
        The front window faces the street, and there is a handsome bar as you enter. There are 120 seats, but the well-separated tables, with comfortable leather chairs, make it appear smaller, more intimate. The sound level in the room is ideal, perhaps because Il Monello draws a crowd that does not shout to be heard nor need to.
            The menu fits on one broadside and is well balanced in categories that begin with salads, and the one to share is the Il Monello of baby arugula, goat’s cheese, shaved pears, seedless grapes, toasted almond flakes and a lemon truffle oil dressing ($14).
            Among the antipasti the stand-out is the eggplant parmigiana ($19), a hefty square whose lavish tomato and mozzarella cheese looks as delectable as a Wayne Thiebaud still life (right). Tender Littleneck clams are gently dressed with moist breadcrumbs and fresh oregano ($18).
            There are six pastas, and I was impressed by the straight-from-the-flame risotto with wild mushrooms, so impeccably textured and suffused with flavor (market price).  Fettuccine al ragù is veal and tomato based and a good winter pasta ($29). The ear-shaped orecchiette (left), which have a special texture, are treated to chunks of sweet sausage and broccoli with plenty of garlic and olive oil ($28).
        The only disappointment was a dish of bucatini cacio e pepe ($26), a dish now found all over New York and one that takes a careful hand to get right. Here there was little taste of coarsely ground black pepper in a dish whose only two ingredients are pecorino and pepper.
            Consummate care does go into the sea bass (below)that is potato crusted and served with a white wine-based caper-lemon sauce with hearts of artichokes ($39). So,too a flavorful Dover sole was perfectly rendered with a tangy lemon and white wine sauce (market price).
            There is chicken scarpariello on the menu ($35), a dish that usually contains sausage, but, instead, you’ll find in the “Il Monello” both white and dark chicken, potatoes, roasted peppers and a white wine sauce ($35). Best of all was a bountiful pollo parmigiana ($34) that takes the basic ingredients of pounded, breaded chicken breast with tomato sauce and mozzarella and plates it as a generous and attractive circle the size of a pizza (below). The ingredients are key to this dish, and more than a match for the far more expensive veal parm at Carbone’s for $72.
Haxhiaj also owns the Theater District Tuscany Steakhouse, so his meat and seafood suppliers are of the same high quality, and it shows in the massive bone-in ribeye we enjoyed ($69). There is also a bistecca alla Fiorentina here ($63 per person) under the name “Tuscany porterhouse.” By the way, the French fries ($12) are terrific.
        I do, actually, wish there were more Tuscan dishes on the menu, like pappa al pomodoro and pappardelle con lepre, and perhaps they will be specials sometimes. One dish I’m begging them to bring back from the original Il Monello was Giovanetti’s ravioli malfatti—“badly made ravioli”—which has no pasta wrapping at all, instead consisting of a spinach-ricotta filling cooked on its own and lashed with butter.
        I highly recommend a dessert ($14) or two at Il Monello, all freshly made, perhaps the tiramisù or the cheesecake, and with the fruit platter you get a big dollop of whipped cream for spooning onto the dessert plates. It’s a generous gesture.
        But then, everything at Il Monello is, including the service. No little rascals here, just veteran professionals who aim to please. It’s good to have Il Monello back and very good to come back to.


Open nightly for dinner from 4 p.m.


By  John Mariani

To read previous chapters of  GOING AFTER HARRY LIME, go to the archive


        Katie and David had both been born in the Bronx, though she grew up in the upper middle class section called Pelham Gardens (left)—her father a district attorney, her mother a teacher—while David grew up in a tough, gritty neighborhood called Castle Hill, where, back in the 1950s teenage gangs—Italians, Irish, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans—would battle over turf that sometimes amounted to less than a few square blocks. By the time he’d become a cop, the entire borough of the Bronx had acquired a reputation as a hellhole of violence, burnt-out tenement buildings and drug houses, which was only partially true, mainly in the South Bronx, while most of the North remained residential, with more park space than any other borough in New York.
            David, who was five-ten and stocky, now with some gray in his hair and an occasional three day’s growth of beard, had once had dreams of going to West Point but was never invited, so joining the NYPD seemed the natural trajectory for the son of a cop.  Katie, meanwhile, went to Catholic schools, then on to Fordham University, near the Bronx Zoo and Botanical Gardens, afterwards becoming a reporter who moved up from local news to magazines.
            So the two of them had a great deal in common, but while her education was of the highest level, David’s was mostly acquired on the streets of New York, where he rose to become lead detective in the section that investigated the mobs.
            Katie was tall—with heels, taller than David—and very attractive, with light brown hair and eyes, with a very slight patrician bump on her nose, and hips she wished were just slightly less wide. She had not married, yet, but she had an off-and-on relationship with a man David referred to only as “the lawyer guy,” a bit of condescension Katie had long ignored.  At the moment the “lawyer guy” was still in the picture, but the relationship didn’t seem to be headed any closer to marriage than it had when David met Katie three years before.  That didn’t really give David any hope, but he was content that the status quo let him dream a little.

                                                                       *                                  *                                  *


            The next day Katie went to the McClure’s office to see her editor, Alan Dobell, who as usual had his feet on his desk with an article manuscript in his lap and a red pencil in his hand.  He was an old school, daily newspaper kind of editor, obsessed with deadlines, even though McClure’s was a monthly, so he could only go into his deadline rant once a month.  As meticulous about good writing as much as he was about solid reporting, Dobell trusted his best writers’ instincts, especially after forcing them to defend a story proposal he pretended he had qualms about.
            “Think I got a good story for us,” said Katie, walking through Dobell’s ever-open door and sitting down in a swivel chair that had been squeaking for at least the past five years.
            “So what’s it gonna cost me?” asked Dobell, his legs still up on his desk. Katie tried to remember if she’d ever seen them off the desk.
            “Oh, I don’t know, a couple of hundred thousand in expenses,” Katie joked, knowing that Dobell thought her actual expenses, even with international travel, had always been completely reasonable to get prize-winning stories that panned out to be way out of the ordinary.
            “Well, maybe I won’t mind this time, unless you end up getting yourself killed and not handing in the story.”                                            
                                                                                                                                                                                                 Graham Greene
            “Oh, believe me, Alan, I try very hard not to get killed. I would not want to be six feet under and hear you standing over my grave bitching about my not handing in the story.”
            “Okay, so what’ve you got?”
            “You know the movie The Third Man, right?”
            Alan nodded.
            “And you know Graham Greene wrote the script.”
            Another nod.
            “So you know that Greene had been in the British Secret Service during the war, right?”
            “Yeah, he was pals with the British double agent Kim Philby.” (below)
            “Exactly. And from what I’ve read, even after the Brits caught on to Philby and he escaped to Russia, Greene always said he was one of the most fascinating people he’d ever met.”
            Dobell tossed the manuscript on his desk.
            “And you think Philby was the inspiration for Harry Lime.  So what?  We’re not a literary magazine. That’s something the New York Review of Books might publish, maybe The New Yorker.
            “I realize that,” said Katie, “and I have no idea if Philby was the inspiration. But somebody Greene knew must have been.”
            “Or maybe an amalgamation of several people he knew. Or nobody at all.”
            “Very possibly.  But I’m not interested in just digging through Greene’s works and letters and making a reasonable conjecture.”
            “You’re not?” asked Dobell, showing he was losing interest.
            “Nope. What I want to do is to really dig deep, talk to people who were involved with Greene during the war . . .”
            “Not too many of them are likely to be alive.”
            “True, but there have to be some.  And then try to find out if the most likely suspect is still alive. See?”
            “What I see,” said Dobell, “is a wild goose chase that will have you trekking through the sewers of Vienna looking for a Harry Lime type who probably died twenty years ago.”
            “But, if he didn’t die and I can find him, wouldn’t that be a fabulous story? Because the guy would have been some sort of criminal back in the old days and gotten away with it.”
            “Or, Katie, he could have been swept up by the British and jailed or by the Russians and never seen again.”  Dobell drew an imaginary knife across his throat.
            “I know, I know, but, well, what if I start doing some digging on my own, and if it turns out to be a story for the literary mags, I’ll pitch it to them.”
            “And get paid peanuts for your effort.”
            “Hey, I hear The New Yorker pays better than McClure’s.”
            “Now that was bad salesmanship, Katie. But, what the hell, if you want to do it on your own time—as long as you keep working on stories for McClure’s that I’ve already approved, I won’t stop you.”
            “And if I do find the real Harry Lime living lavishly somewhere in Vienna or a dacha in Ukraine, you’ll send me to find him?”
            “Big if, but maybe. I’ve always trusted you before.”
            “Great, thank you, Alan.” Katie got up to leave while there was still a positive spin in the air.
            “Uh, isn’t there something else you want to ask me, Katie?”
            Katie tilted her head and squinted.
            “You mean hiring David Greco to help with my research?”
            “You know that’s exactly what I mean.”
            “Alan, you know my Capone and Vermeer stories would never have been as good as they were without David’s help.  But I’ll be frank with you. At least at this point I don’t think I’ll need his help, unless I get to the point where the story’s going in a devious or criminal direction.  For the time being I’m just going to be reading up on Greene and make some phone calls.”
            “Listen, Katie, I know Greco’s been invaluable and I like the guy.  But as of now, you’re on your own.”
            “Actually, David did say he’d work with me on this without getting paid.”
            “Hmm, so he thinks like you too. Okay, go read up on Graham Greene and huddle somewhere with Greco and let me know where it’s going.  But right now I expect you to go back to your cubicle over there and finish up the story on that hospital finance scandal.  When’s that coming in?”
            “Soon, Alan, soon.”  And Katie was gone.

John Mariani, 2017






        It’s said that if you want to make a small fortune in the wine business,  start with a large one. Add to that, “If you want to start and maintain a boutique winery, be sure to have another job." With this second adage in mind I recently met with Marla and Geoff Bedrosian, owners of Sonoma County’s critically acclaimed Domaine de la Rivière, to talk about their experiences in starting and running a boutique winery and to taste some of their recent vintages. The answers to my questions were provided by Marla Bedrosian, followed by my own tasting notes on their wines.


How did you happen to start a winery?

In the late 1990s and 2000s we became California wine enthusiasts and travelled frequently to Sonoma and Napa from our home in Westchester County, New York. During these trips, the personal connections we made in Sonoma County with the people, the land and the wine from the Russian River Valley made us want to become part of the wine country community, and in 2011 we purchased a 22-acre ranch, planted to 11 acres of Pinot Noir, in the Russian River town of Windsor and we became grape growers, selling what we made. On one of these visits we met Kale Anderson, our winemaker, and after six harvests under our belts we decided to make wine, focusing on production of our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Middle Reach neighborhood.


What are your backgrounds as relates to the winery?

I’ve spent 25 years in the hospitality industry, conducting corporate group sales for an international hotel company, and now run the day-to-day operations of the winery, particularly sales and marketing. Geoff is involved in investment banking and had the opportunity to sell a number of vineyard companies, so he became familiar with the ins and out of the business aspects of a winery. Duff, our oldest son, has been working at a real estate investment management company since his graduation from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. (Both Geoff and Duff are continuing to work at their jobs in addition to their involvement in the winery.) Kale Anderson, the winemaker, a graduate of the Viticulture and Enology section of UC Davis, has worked at a number of wineries over the past few years, most recently Pahlmeyer.


What is your basic philosophy in making wine?

We believe that each wine has a story of its own. Our winemaker patiently orchestrates the development of the fruit after it’s off the vine and gently guides it through the craft of wine making. By marrying modern tools and equipment with the traditional practices of Burgundy, the unique characteristics of the fruit with the terroir in which it grew creates authentic artisanal wines.


How much wine are you producing?

One thousand cases annually, which is made at Grand Cru Custom Crush in Windsor, with all of our grapes sourced from ultra-premium vineyards in the Middle Reach Neighborhood of the Russian River Valley and vinified to have a Burgundian style.


Where or how can I buy it?

In addition to sales from our tasting facility at Grand Cru Custom Crush (1200 American Way, Windsor, CA), our wines are sold directly to individuals and corporate customers in 45 states. In addition, our wines are available at restaurants in Sonoma, Napa, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo,  Chicago, Connecticut and Arizona.


What are your plans for the future of the winery?

Our immediate plans are to continue making the highest quality wine from grapes grown in the Middle Reach area of Sonoma, and to continue to incorporate our two sons Duff (interested in winemaking) and Zak (interested in marketing) into the business. Our concierge approach to customer service is an important differentiator that we will continue to develop since it serves as the foundation on which our future will grow.


Current Vintage Wines

2021 Soshana Rosé of Pinot Noir ($36)—Named for the Bedrosians’ daughter, this wine from early harvested Russian River grapes shows a very fruity bouquet and taste of pears and peaches with a surprisingly crisp finish. It makes a great aperitif as well as an excellent choice to serve with spicy Asian fare.


2019 Next Door Neighbor Chardonnay ($62)—Following fermentation, this wine spent 11 months in oak (42% New French) and exhibits a bouquet and taste of ripe apples and pears with undertones of vanilla. Try it with shrimp, lobster or mild fish like branzino.


2019 Flora Marie Vineyard Chardonnay ($70)—This white is reminiscent of a Premiere Cru Chablis, with a dry, rather austere taste of pears and apples and a crisp finish loaded with notes of brioche—a perfect match for clams and oysters on the half-shell as well as grilled shrimp


2020 Domaine de la Riviere Middle Reach Village Pinot Noir ($70)—This 100% Pinot Noir was made from grapes grown on steep slopes in gravely, sandy loam soil. Following fermentation, it was aged for 11 months in oak barrels (65% New French oak) and shows a bouquet and taste similar to a top-flight Pommard, with a concentrated flavor of cherries, plums, and cranberries, and hints of vanilla in its finish. It’s ideal to accompany baked chicken, duck, grilled tuna and even swordfish.

Dr. Geoff Kalish writes about wine for several publications. He lives in Mount Kisco, NY. 





The TSA reports several incidents of passengers at US airports trying to sneak guns and drugs on  planes by using food as cover. On Dec. 22, officers extracted parts of a disassembled handgun from two jars of Jif peanut butter. Which is really dumb since peanut products are not allowed on planes  on 60 airlines in any case. . . .  A gun was found jammed inside a raw chicken at a TSA security checkpoint, and just before Halloween a traveler tried to hide 12,000 blue pills of suspected fentanyl inside boxes and sleeves of SweeTarts, Skittles and Whoppers.



 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.



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


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© copyright John Mariani 2023