Virtual Gourmet

  February 19, 2023                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Raquel Welch (1940-2023) at the studio commissary while filming "One Million BC" (1967)



Part Two

By John A. Curtas


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


By John Mariani


On this week's episode of my WVOX Radio Show "Almost Golden," on Wed. February 22, at 11AM EST,I will be interviewing Aaron Goldberg, authority on    ALL THINGS DISNEY. Go to: The episode will also be archived at: almostgolden.



By John A. Curtas


    Man does not live by meat alone. Even if English cuisine is challenged by finding green things to eat, it more than makes up for it with its seafood. The British Isles take a backseat to no one in the flavor of their native fishes, and, if you happen to be there in oyster season, you will find no shortage of bivalves, either,  to keep you enthralled.
    It would have been easy enough to stop into a fish 'n chips shop around London on my latest visit, but we had bigger pisces to fry in our quest for the best. So it was off to Ramsgate (a couple of hours outside London, at the far southeastern tip of England), to sample this iconic staple of British vittles at the Royal Harbour Brasserie, a cozy local's favorite, overlooking the Ramsgate harbor at the end of a half-mile long causeway called the East Pier. The Brasserie is known for the setting—looking as if the dry-docked bridge of a ship had been hoisted wholesale onto the breakwater—the view, with windows on three sides giving everyone the sense of floating in the harbor, and the seafood, of which we plowed through some first-class oysters and the best fish 'n chips of our lives.
    If you're a student of fish 'n chips, you know you look for the perfect thickness of non-greasy, malty beer batter, fried to just done, so the moist, firm fish is enveloped in a steamy, soft, starchy blanket of just the right crunch giving way to a fish (local haddock) that's allowed to show itself to its best effect. If done right, all you need to complete the picture is a splash of malt vinegar, a dribble of lemon juice, or dollop of tartar sauce.
After eating England's national dish, it was back to London, where  Wilton’s (left) took us from one end of the seafood spectrum to the other. Wilton's is as iconic as any eatery in the country, having been serving seafood in one form or another since 1742. The look and feel of the place may reek of old-school Brit exclusivity, but the welcome is warm and the service cheerful and courteous.

    Located among the fashionable shops of Jermyn Street, this is a serious restaurant stocked with big fish in more ways than one. What began as an oyster bar is now the clubbiest of seafood parlors (in looks and clientele), catering to a carriage trade who know their swimmers like a ploughman knows his meat pies.
      English food is best which is interfered with the least, and Wilton's practically invented the idea. This is food “un-foamed and un-fused” (as Colman Andrews once wrote), as true to its roots as Royals behaving badly. The day we were there a
 coulibiac of salmon (right) was being paraded around the dining room to ohs and ahs aplenty. (Typical British reserve seems to melt away when faced with a “salmon Wellington" the size and weight of a fire log. Dutifully wowed, we ordered a hefty slice, which followed a dozen oysters, lightly smoked salmon, Scottish langoustines, and, of course, a Dover sole, (left) barely floured and on the bone. What passes for Dover sole in America (often plaice, petrale or lemon sole) lacks the sweet, firm meatiness of the genuine article. This was the real deal: a thin coating of starch, the flesh sautéed to a wisp of crispness, then de-boned into four dense fillets of uncommon richness—the pinnacle of flatfish sapidity. Wash it down with some Grand Cru Chablis, then finish with cheese, Port and sticky toffee pudding, and you’ll stroll back onto Jermyn Street feeling like a satiated Beau Brummell.

Built in the grand cafe style of various European capitals, The Wolseley is a modern restaurant masquerading as an artifact of days gone by. It is one of those eye-popping restaurants that wows you even before you take your first bite. Being so capacious allows them to hold back a number of tables for walk-ins, so even without a late afternoon reservation, we were promptly seated by the amiable staff and within minutes were tucking into some superb oysters, while surrounded by folks taking in high tea, wolfing down finger sandwiches, crumpets, and other ruin-your-appetite nibbles which make sense (to an American) only if you plan on skipping dinner.
    The menu is huge, the crowds constant, and the vibe something Oscar Wilde would recognize. Food offerings toggle between daily specials and recipes from all over the map. Our tiny sample of those oysters and some spicy, smoked
kedgeree (an Anglo-Indian rice-fish fusion; left) was hardly enough to take the measure of the place, but for a couple of weary Yanks wandering through Mayfair on a chilly afternoon, it hit the spot.

Britannia may rule the waves, but in London, its cuisine shares equal billing with any number of countries. You don’t have to search far for Spanish tapas or Chinese dumplings, but Indian curry parlors are as common as corner pubs. High-end Indian on a level found nowhere outside of the country itself is also in abundance. We amended our quest for classic British cuisine just long enough to slide into Bibi, a mere sliver of a space, tucked into the side of a tony address in Mayfair, featuring impeccably sourced groceries (they list the provenance of almost everything on the menu) fashioned into some real stunners: buffalo milk paneer, beef tartare, and a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing green chilli halibut that was as fiery as it was plain to look at.
    I make no pretense in knowing the finer points of northern Indian cooking (so many Indian menus in America are more predictable than an Applebee’s), so whatever metaphors were being mixed or traditions being upended went straight over our heads. But it doesn’t take an expert to appreciate the "Wookey-Hole cheese papad"—a sharp, cheese-flavored papadum dipped into cultured cream, mango and mint, layered in a cup to look like the Indian flag—or the raw Highland beef pepper fry (a crunchy-spicy tartare) that snapped our palates straight to attention.
    Every bite of every dish seemed to be a hidden minefield of flavors  studded with glorious little surprises like the cheese in those papadum, or seared free-range buffalo milk paneer cheese overlain with chillies and a fenugreek kebab masala, none of it familiar; all of it a palate-popping reminder of why god gave us taste buds.
    From the
 sigree (grill) section, we tackled a small portion of almost fork-tender aged Swaledale lamb and finished with an exotic Indian tea, and a creamy/puffy, panna cotta-like saffron "egg.” How you react to BiBi's high amplitude cooking probably depends on how much you want to invest in deciphering the complicated cooking coming from the open kitchen. It is very much an of-the-moment restaurant that is seeking to shift the paradigm for how people think about Indian food. But even if you don't like ruminating over your masalas as much as chef Chet Sharma, his innovations will blow you away ... in more ways than one.
    After days of historical restaurant hopping, we loved soaking up the sparkling inventiveness of BiBi, even if we had traveled across the pond to get away from twee ideas on tiny plates. It may be time for Indian food to get a worldwide upgrade, but England doesn’t need it. A country this steeped in tradition doesn't have to keep re-inventing itself or jump to the next big thing to satisfy diners’ short attention spans and lust for Instagram clicks. Every place we visited was sedate and welcoming. Best of all, none felt like they were trying too hard. If you love impeccable ingredients presented in their purist form, dining around London will fit you like a cashmere cardigan. It is the perfect antidote for the modern American restaurant more resembling a garish Christmas sweater.



John Curtas is a Las Vegas-based food and travel writer
and author of
EATING LAS VEGAS:The 52 Essential Restaurants 



646 Amsterdam Avenue

By John Mariani
Photos by Charissa Fay


            A friend recently commented that I seem to cover a large  number of Italian restaurants in New York, but after checking my 2022 archives, I found the number was only five, and one was a steakhouse. Yet the fact remains, I probably could easily increase that number by three or four times, given the number of Italian restaurants—not even counting pizzerias—within the city’s five boroughs, with more opening every week, by far more than any other kind of restaurant.
            That said, I’m trying to keep up with an increasing number of Italian restaurants and trattorias that are going well beyond the usual menus, with young chefs following the lead of the highly successful, small trattoria Rezdôra.
        Osteria Accademia is even smaller, located in a storefront on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and in its décor alone it is unique: Three walls are lined floor-to-ceiling with books, which lends an academic feeling, even if most are not volumes you’re likely to start reading at the table. Our section of the room was full of German scholarly books with snappy titles like Einige Anmerkungen über das Insektensystem des Hr. Geoffroy und die Schäfferschen Verbesserungen desselben by naturalist
Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben.
And it’s a very pleasant, warm and cozy square of a room, and, since it hasn’t many tables and only 36 seats inside, not very loud. From outside on Amsterdam Avenue the glow of golden lighting inside makes it a very appealing, inviting spot.
      The goal of owners Huseyin Ozer
(he also has Bodrum and Leyla) and partner Murat Akinci “is to provide the community with a cozy spot where it is easy to lose track of time over fine food, good wine, and intellectual conversation.”  Thus, no crashing music. The menu is a collaboration between chef Claudio Matt Kaba and consulting chef Massimilliano Convertini (of Cipriani, Barolo), with several regional dishes not found elsewhere.
            There are, of course, several staples of Italian food, beginning with a very good fritto misto ($19) of calamari, shredded zucchini, and shrimp, all cooked perfectly and greaselessly. Eggplant parmesan ($20) uses smoked scamorza mozzarella to add flavor, and the most delightful appetizer is the crocchette ai fungi ($18), a crisp but pliable ball of porcini mushrooms, black truffles, asiago cheese and mozzarella to hold it together and a basil aïoli.
            There is, by the way, a section of the menu offering six egg dishes, including a frittata with pork sausage, caramelized fennel, onion and pecorino ($18).
            The pastas are rich and satisfying, including a very welcome lasagna ($24), a very traditional, nice and gooey rendition with a good balance of cheese, béchamel sauce and pasta.  Pretty green mafalde noodles had the crunch of pistachios and a fresh mint pesto ($23). Gnocchi ($23) with four cheeses—
Gorgonzola, pecorino, Parmigiano and asiago—took on added texture and flavor from caramelized Walnuts  and a gloss of truffle oil on top. The only disappointment was ravioli cacio e pepe ($28), stuffed with pecorino and Parmigiano with shaved winter truffle, whose black pepper was in short supply for a dish that depends on its fiery flavor to succeed. 
Among the secondi are a grilled steelhead trout with baby carrots and lovely green pea sauce ($29) and orata (sea bream) with herbed breadcrumbs, broccoli di rabe and roasted potatoes ($31). But the dish not to miss is the osso buco, with impeccably cooked, richly flavorful risotto alla milanese ($43). You will either share it or bring some home, perhaps both.
            For dessert, by all means have the big, rich cannoli ($12) or the amaretto chocolate cake ($12).
            The wine list fits Accademia’s trattoria status, small but fitting for this kind of food, and with prices well below $100 a bottle.

    No matter what Accademia’s décor, it is a small, fine place for authentic Italian fare whose shelves of books provide a cuddling but sophisticated atmosphere unique in New York.


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


By  John Mariani




“Our worst enemies here are not the ignorant and the simple, however cruel; our worst enemies are the intelligent and corrupt.”—Graham Greene, The Human Factor (1978).


            Not since her first meeting on the project with Dobell had Katie given much thought to notorious British double agent Kim Philby (left) being the inspiration for Harry Lime. Nothing she’d read about Greene gave any hard evidence to the idea, but the very fact that Greene and Philby were good friends in MI6 during the war and that Greene seemed unfazed when Philby was finally unmasked as a traitor in 1963 had puzzled everyone who knew the author. 
            Indeed, Greene’s enduring friendship with Philby after his escape to Moscow troubled many of his friends and biographers, and in his later work Greene’s characters often seemed beleaguered by the concept of never betraying a friendship, using the dodge that, well, all human beings are flawed and weak in their own way.
             Even before the Philby affair exploded on the world stage, Greene had written about believing in one’s friend despite his flaws, even criminal ones. It was at the very center of Holly’s admiration for Harry in The Third Man.  Just a year before, in his novel The Heart of the Matter, Greene had written,
“In human relationships, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths.”
            Katie had come to see Greene as a man far less tortured by such personal deficiencies than by the obvious brutality of war on every side—Allied, Axis, Communist, anarchist, all convinced God was on their side. He felt that the petty workings of small men like himself biding time in MI6 in backwater outposts like West Africa served merely to keep the groundwork intact and firm enough for the armies, battleships and bombers to do their dirty work. Three years after Philby fled to Russia, Greene wrote,
“I would rather have blood on my hands than water like Pilate.” 
The more Katie delved into the story of Kim Philby the more astonished she was at the ineptitude of the British government to expose and arrest him. As part of the so-called “Gang of Five” British turncoats, Philby had been a recruiter and mastermind, adept at almost everything he did in his masked life, except his three failed marriages.
            Philby’s was a complicated story, as any spy’s needs to be, a sturdy fabric of lies and evasion, of betrayal and paranoia.            
Harold Adrian Russell Philby was born on New Year’s Day, 1912, to a good family but not upper class. His father was an author and explorer, a friend of T.E. Lawrence, and he nick-named his son after the title character in Rudyard Kipling’s novel of India, Kim. The boy excelled at public schools and at Trinity College, Cambridge, and dabbled in on-campus socialist societies, though he was more interested in all the pretty girls attracted by his blue-eyed good looks.
            In 1934 on a visit to Vienna, Philby fell in love with an Austrian Communist named
Litzi Kohlma (right)—some say it was she who recruited him for the KGB—and he helped her as a courier for refugees between Vienna and Prague. They were married only in order to use his British passport to get her out of Vienna before the Nazis overran Europe. By 1938 the marriage had ended.
Back in London Philby gained work as a journalist for The Times, which sent him to cover the Spanish Civil War, winning a Cross of Military Merit from the right wing Falangist Party.  By 1941 he had been recruited into MI6, as a liaison with Russia, then an ally of Great Britain. At his London offices Philby oversaw young recruits, including one named Graham Greene, who admired everything about his mentor, his erudition, his worldliness, his capacity for liquor and his success with women.
            After the war, Philby was sent to Istanbul as First Secretary of the British Embassy, where he helped organize the Turkish intelligence services. I
n 1946 he was honored as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his heroic efforts in the service of king and company. By 1949 he’d risen to the position of top MI6 officer in Washington. There was even talk that Philby would someday become the head of MI6.
            While in Washington, Philby worked alongside Guy Burgess (right), whom he’d known at Cambridge, but whose vocal anti-American attitude and homosexuality caused the FBI to suspect he was a Soviet spy.
            But it was Philby who had been the principal spy all along, even to the point of helping
Burgess and another agent named Donald Maclean (left) evade arrest and flee to Moscow in 1951, confounding British and American intelligence. 
After the Burgess-Maclean fiasco, MI6 and MI5 were
convinced there had to another mole, whom they referred to as “The Third Man.”  In fact, Philby was repeatedly interrogated as a candidate and sent into an ineffectual bureaucratic limbo before being cleared of suspicion four years later.
            Still, the whiff of treasonous activity never fully lifted from Philby.  He left MI6 to
become a correspondent for The Economist and The Observer in Beirut, where his second wife, Aileen Furse (below), by whom he had four children, died mysteriously in 1957—some said from alcoholism, others said by suicide, still others believed Philby had her murdered.  A year later he married an American woman, Eleanor Kearns Brewer.
            It was not until late 1962 that British officials unearthed new material that convinced them Philby had, all along, been the Third Man. Agents were on their way to Beirut when Philby got wind of an imminent arrest—many say he was tipped off. With the KGB’s help, Philby was squirreled out of Beirut and transported to Moscow, where he reunited with fellow turncoats Burgess and Maclean.
The news that Philby had evaded exposure for three decades rocked the British establishment. Afterwards, every aspect of Philby’s story would be investigated by journalists and biographers, who had to wrestle with the question of how Philby could not only fool MI6 for so long but how high he had risen in its ranks.  
    A year later
another double agent, Anthony Blunt (left), an art history professor, was offered immunity and confessed it was in fact he who’d recruited Philby, Burgess and MacLean while they were undergraduates at Cambridge.  Not until 1979 was Blunt himself publicly outed as “The Fourth Man” in the melodrama.
Katie read more than one account that contended Philby was actually a triple agent, who had all along really been working for MI6  and whose “escape” to Moscow was a way of getting him close to the inner core of Soviet intelligence, which had promised him the rank of colonel.  Instead, Philby lived out his days in a small, squalid apartment on 500 rubles a month under house arrest. His wife Eleanor left him after
finding out he was having an affair with Maclean's wife.
The years went on. Philby married again, this time to a Russian woman named Rufina Pukhova (below). Visitors, including his family, were never given his address; they would be picked up at the airport and be driven to his apartment by a KGB officer. H
is visitors—which included Graham Greene—and correspondence were always monitored.
Drinking heavily, Philby tried to commit suicide, yet in his heavily vetted memoir, My Silent War (with an introduction by Greene), which appeared in 1980, he insisted he never regretted his treason, telling
The Times of London that he’d “absolutely do it all over again,” and that the only thing he missed about England was  Colman's mustard and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce.
       By then Philby lived each day always looking over his shoulder, wondering whether his KGB handlers really had his back.

             Had he actually been a triple agent, MI6 might have helped get him out of Russia but never did.
death was never reported by the Russian newspapers but was confirmed by the Soviet Embassy in London.  No date or cause of death was given, but years later there was a military honors ceremony held at Philby’s gravesite at Kuntsevo Cemetery.
Deep into her research, Katie saw more and more hints that Greene must have had Philby in mind when he created the Harry Lime character. The more she read into The Third Man novella, the more she saw clues in the characters’ utterances, like the way the book’s narrator,  Major Callaway, describes Holly’s melancholy upon hearing of  Lime’s death: “A world for Martins had certainly come to an end, a world of easy friendships, hero-worship, confidence that had begun twenty years before.”  None of Greene’s other friends from those days seemed to fit that description. None except Philby.
Years later Greene’s 1978 novel The Human Factor seemed transparently based on Philby, though Greene denied it. In that book the parallels were very close.  The main character, Castle, is an ineffectual MI6 agent recruited by the Soviets in exchange for facilitating his wife’s escape to her native South Africa.  Castle convinces himself he could be of help fighting the controlling anti-communist National Party’s brutal apartheid policies.   By the “human factor” Greene meant loyalty, of which later he  said, “I never believed in the prime importance of loyalty to one’s country. Loyalty to individuals seems to me to be far more important.”
Katie thought to herself, “That sounds just like Kim Pilby.”
On another occasion Greene spoke directly about Philby:
"He betrayed his country—yes, perhaps he did, but who among us has not committed treason to something or someone more important than a country? In Philby's own eyes he was working for the shape of things to come from which his country would benefit."  That, Katie thought, did not sound like Kim Philby.
In the balance, Katie had to admit, actual links between Philby and Lime were highly tenuous. The main argument against the Philby-Lime connection, as David had told her, was that Philby was exposed fourteen years after the release of The Third Man. Had Greene no knowledge of his old friend’s treason in the late 1940s there was no good rationale for making him Harry Lime in the 1949 movie.  But then Katie would ask herself, if Greene did believe Philby was a double agent back then—if not a black market peddler—there was a good deal of circumstantial evidence for Philby and Lime to be connected.
Alan Dobell had always warned her, “Never go into a story set on proving a theory. Only bad journalists do that; the good ones look at every angle, every possibility.”
Katie was too good a journalist to follow her instincts alone. Still, at least on the surface of things, she really did want Graham Greene’s Third Man to be Kim Philby.

Katie felt the Philby connection had either to be documented, proven or disproven once and for all, especially since Greene kept up a correspondence with Philby until his death in 1988.  Three years later, Greene died, with a letter on his night table from his biographer asking Greene’s last thoughts on Philby.  Greene had never answered back.                    


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

John Mariani, 2016



By John Mariani



                                            By John Mariani

The wines of
Oltrepò Pavese



            The wines of Oltrepò Pavese in Lombardy have nothing like the reputation of neighbors Tuscany and Piedmont, known mostly for sparkling wines made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio or Pinot Bianco.  Other varietals like Bonarda and Croatina are less well known, often produced in bulk. But there are some innovators in the region, not least Conte Vistarino, whose founder, Count Augusto Giorgi di Vistarino, was the first to plant French cuttings of Pinot Noir (or Pinot Nero) in the region as of 1850 and spurring the production of sparkling wines in the champenoise method. His family descendants have  maintained the estate near Pavia and today, under Ottavia Giorgi Vistarino, the winery has become a standard bearer for innovations in the vineyards and the winery itself, including an impressive tasting room and opportunities to take guided tours of the area and visit the estate’s museum.
            I interviewed Vistarino about the commitment to Pinot Noir as a varietal on which Oltrepò Pavese can build its reputation.



Your ancestors have always promoted the virtues of Pinot Noir. What do you like about the grape you don’t find in Italian varietals?

Pinot Noir makes everyone agree on its peculiarities, especially the great wine producers who are fascinated by this vine. The refinement of the tannins and the  fragility of the fabric recall the most precious fabrics not for their thickness but for their delicacy. Pinot Noir has that typical characteristic of "less is more" that fascinates those looking for extreme elegance, not to mention drinkability, or that continuous invitation to drink and taste again due to its grace. In Italy, vines such as Nebbiolo and Nerello Mascalese recall these characteristics, making the most demanding palates agree. 
     I love wine in all its expressions because I'm curious, but I feel more at ease and more satisfied when I drink both sparkling and red Pinot Noir. Of the blanc de noir, I love the acidic edge and of the second ones the delicacy of entry on the palate with the immensity that opens immediately after the first sip.


You still make sparkling wine with Pinot Noir using the classic Champagne method. Do you also use Chardonnay in the wine?

 At the moment we produce four Classic Methods Labels; two of them are 100% Pinot Noir, the other two are a blend of 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay. That little percentage helps to mitigate the great freshness and acidity of the Pinot Noir, and give us very appreciated wines.


You’ve said that the changes you’ve made were based on what you perceived to be how “the market evolved beginning in the late 1980s.” What happened? 

In the 1980s my family business was selling our wine to the biggest players of the Italian sparkling wine industry. Considering the renowned quality of our land for Pinot Noir, I decided to produce our own wine label. The change was difficult, because it was first of all a cultural change, and our job is much more complex now, but I am sure that we made the right decision and we are proud to represent our land and our history around the world.


What is the composition of the soils and terroir that make it similar to that in French vineyards making Pinot Noir?

Oltrepò Pavese is on the same parallel as Burgundy, we have the same calcareous and clay soil and the same climate, with cold winters, hot summers and big temperature shifts. With more than 3,000 hectares dedicated to Pinot Noir (out of the total 13,500), Oltrepò Pavese is the third largest area in the world, after Burgundy and Champagne, for Pinot Noir’s production.


Tell us about your new wine cellar.

The cellar, finished in 2017, was a big challenge because we decided to renovate an old existing building instead of building something new. We worked as a  team with a prestigious expert in wine cellars and the Milanese studio of the architect Andrea Borri. We worked months to integrate the specific needs of the production process to existing walls and history and do it with style! The surface covers 3,000 square meters on 4 floors. Here grapes move exclusively by gravity. We also invested in technology for some strategic machines of the cellar such as the Optic tool for the selection of the grapes or the grape pressing machine that’s very important to treat the delicate Pinot Noir grape.  Here we process the 95% Pinot Noir, both for red and white vinification, as well as for the sparkling wine bases. That’s why we renamed the cellar “The House of Pinot Noir.”


You keep your old vintages in what you call the infernotto. How have you  found older vintages to mature and evolve?

In general, the three Crus (Pernice, Bertone and Tavernetto) evolve very well and we can drink excellent bottles that have more than 10 years. As always, it depends also on the vintage. Recently we had a vertical tasting of  Pernice and we opened a bottled of 2010; we were all surprised by the freshness of that wine. Of course, the aroma had evolved: berries but also a balsamic note, maybe also mushrooms and leather.


What technological changes have you made in the cellar to keep ideal conditions and battle climate change? 

In the cellar we studied a system of currents that refreshes during the summer time, but the deep old walls of the building create a first important barrier to heat. We also collect rainfall and we use it for the cleaning of the cellar. However, we deal with climate change mostly in the vineyard: because to make good wine you need first of all a good and healthy fruit. In the vineyard we make practically no use of chemical fertilizers, preferring the implementation of agronomic practices aimed at preventing and countering atmospheric events or bacterial attack. In the last years we anticipated the harvest to mid August.


 You make several Pinot Noirs. Can you describe the differences among the labels Pernice, Bertone and Tavernetto? (all current  2019 vintages $69)

Bertone is probably the most elegant, refined, mellow and smooth. The altitude and the woods that protect that little terroir help the freshness and acidy of this wine. Tavernetto has more structure, more evident tannins and pleasant aromas. Here we use a bigger percentage of new barrels, so the wine is less complex and very attractive. Pernice needs more time in the bottle. The color is an intense dark red, it has a complex, broad fragrance with aromas of violet and red berries and is the wine that mostly represents our terroir identity.


What wines do you make from traditional grapes like Barbera and Croatina?

Yes, the fizzy red Bonarda (from a Croatina variety), and Costiolo (or Sangue di Giuda, “Judas’s Blood”), a blend of three traditional grapes. The name of this wine, according to an old legend, tells that Judas, repentant over having betrayed Jesus, was forgiven and resurrected in the Oltrepò, where he performed the miracle of healing the local vines affected by an illness. This is sweet wine that pairs well with spicy dishes, spicy cold cuts, dark chocolate desserts and red fruit salads.



“A way to reach Gen Z is first recognizing what their generation represents,” explains Wright. “I believe their generation is looking to support social change. Championing and recommending farm-focused [and] organic vineyards, female-driven wineries and Black-owned wineries is a great step in the right direction.”—Robin Wright, Beverage Director at Ci Siamo in New York City in Wine Enthusiast.  


 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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