Virtual Gourmet

 October 1, 2023                                                                                                              NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson in "Be My Love" (1949)




By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani

The New Gins
By John Mariani


IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:  Mariani's Virtual Gourmet Newsletter will not be published October 8 and 15 because Mariani will be sailing the Tyrrhenian Sea in search of places for his readers to stay and visit and eat and drink. However, I am including two chapters of Going After Harry Lime in this issue. 


By John Mariani

A Pastry Shop in Graz


       Over the next several weeks I shall be writing several stories about my trip in September to Austria, whose food culture has always involved influences from other countries but whose traditions are solidly entrenched both because of local favor and visitors who seek out such dishes as Wiener Schnitzel, Tafelspitz and Sacher Torte.
         Vienna, in particular, has always been a crossroads for food, so it learned from the cooks of the Hungarian plains, Transylvania, the Carpathian and Alpine mountains, Italy, France, Germany and Turkey. The royal courts mounted banquets the equal of any in Paris or Moscow, and drew on an abundance of grain, spices and dairy products. Stews and one-pot meals were everyday fare, and lake fish, where available, were served simply. Hunters brought back a wide variety of game like deer, wild boar, hare, pheasant and duck.
         The first modern cookbook, Wiener Küche by O. and A. Hess, became a bestseller when published in 1913 and has never been out of print, including in English translation. It contains all the classics, along with unusual dishes like liver soup, Bohemian carp with gingerbread, calf’s head, lung and tree trunk cake.
         Modern Austrians’ appetites are as international as any in Europe or America, so that pizzerias, sushi counters and Asian restaurants abound in major cities like Vienna and Graz, but on my recent trip I stuck to the classics, starting with a traditional breakfast of bread and jam with cold meats and cheeses. On weekends locals might enjoy palatschinken, light pancakes with jam and sugar. Lunch used to be the main meal of the day and could be substantial, but, times have changed, and dinner has taken more prominence. In the afternoon the bakeries (Bäckerei), pastry shops and cafés—Vienna has 2,400 of them— do brisk business as Austrians take their coffee and snacks of Apfelstrudel and Linzer Torte.
         In fact, the Ringstrasse road that circles the city of Vienna is lined with dozens of cafés open all day long, each appealing to its regulars, who might be young, old, hipsters, musicians, artists or business people. At most you can have a full meal.
      If you’re traveling to Austria, here are many of the dishes you’ll likely find in restaurants, cafés, pastry shops, butchers and cheese mongers you won’t want to miss.

Wiener Schnitzel is made with thinly pounded veal (sometimes pork) that is fried in deep fat so as to puff up the breading. It is a dish the Austrians and Italians, who claim vitello alla milanese as their own, argue over as to who came up with the idea first. It is served with a slice of lemon and either French fries or boiled potatoes.

Knödele are a variety of savory dumplings, the most popular made with potatoes (Kartoffel), flour, eggs and butter, and may be found as a dish on their own or in soup or on the side of another dish.

Tafelspitz is basically just boiled beef, but the meat and vegetables produce a delectable bouillon of its own that is served as a first course and the beef to follow is suffused with it. 

Gulasch, again, is a variety of meaty stews from Hungarian origins and always contains paprika. There is also a soup gulasch and a fish gulasch.

Rindsbraten mit Rahmsosse is a hearty pot roast of beef with a sour cream sauce. 

Tiroler Kalbsleber is Tyrolean-style calf’s liver cooked with onions, capers and sour cream.

Würste sausages are ubiquitous and very varied, much like German types of bratwürst, weisswürst, frankfurters and many more. A modern favorite is currywürst in a peppery ketchup doused with curry powder.  

Strudel refers to a  variety of flaky pastries stuffed with fruits, Apfelstrudel being the most common.

Linzer Torte is an almond flour cake with cinnamon, cloves and currant or cherry jam, usually with a lattice pastry on top.

Sacher Torte was created in the kitchens of the Sacher Hotel in Vienna in 1832 by Franz Sacher for Prince Metternich and is made as a dense chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam and covered with a chocolate glaze. 

Salzburger Nockerl, a specialty of Salzburg (above), is meringue soufflé, much like baked Alaska.



                                                                                    218 West 23rd Street


                                                                               By John Mariani
                                                                                                Photos by Alden Price




    About a year ago the once derelict Chelsea Hotel was revamped and re-opened with a good scrubbing done to the ever-funky Spanish restaurant El Quijote, which got rave reviews, including mine, for its food. Now, this year, Café Chelsea has opened across the lobby and brings a new excitement and raffish style to the neighborhood.

         If you like Balthazar and Pastis downtown, Le Rock in midtown and Orsay uptown, you’ll fit right in at Café Chelsea, assuming you can grab a table at this overnight success.  The reasons are easy enough to discern, not only because the hotel itself has again become a hip place to stay but because Café Chelsea is so good-looking in the way it combines the cherished traditional look of a Parisian bistro like Lipp, La Rotonde and Colbert with a New York kind of swagger and genuine hospitality.

         You enter through an almost unnoticed door to find the bar area bustling, with a mirrored backsplash and a wine cooler as big as a baby’s bathtub.  The interior dining room, with another to the rear, has the look of having been here since the 1930s, with all the appropriate Parisian touches of tiles, bottle glass walls, big mirrors, big globe chandeliers, curtains, tables set with white cloths and napkins and curving zinc bar.

         This bonhomie is, unfortunately, curdled by Café Chelsea being ear-splittingly loud with the addition of thundering noise no one would call background music. If they need music at all, better they should hire a strolling concertina player to sing a medley of  Edith Piaf’s hits. At least it would be more authentic than booming programmed techno. The patio outside is your best bet to avoid the noise.

         Food critics should throw up their hands and retire when they no longer look forward to eating French bistro food. I, on the other hand, always am eager to go to a new one and to east beloved classics that range from a tapenade  to a chocolate soufflé. Executive chef Derek Boccagno is out to please us all.

         You begin with some little bites: seasoned chickpea flour panisse  fingers ($9); a croquette de chèvre ($9) to go with the excellent bread and butter on the table, as is the spicy tapenade ($9) with figs and semolina crackers; boudin sausage  ($12), both noir et blanc, are plump and delectable.

         I think every table orders the ravioles  du dauphiné gratinée ($18) filled with rich Comté cheese  and crème fraiche in a sauce of salted butter and vin jaune, which comes as a pretty, golden sheet of the pasta dumplings—a dish you may want to keep all to yourself. Of course there is a good, hearty pistachio-studded pâté ($17) with the sweet balance of apricot and punch of Dijon. The heirloom tomato salad with herbs ($18) is still sweet at this point in the season.

         All the classic dishes from long bistro tradition make up the main courses, including a fine, nicely chewy steak frites ($42) and a loup de mer ($32), an ugly fish but a delicious one, and the pricey Chelsea burger ($32) with herbed raclette cheese, raw onion, Dijon stuffed into a big brioche bun, with a side of frites, had good flavor but was excessive in its architecture and fell apart upon tasting.

         A bistro is always measured by its roast chicken, and Café Chelsea’s, at an easy-to-like $32, is the half of a whole bird cooked on a rotisserie, very juicy, with grilled new potatoes, a mâche salad and sauce vin jaune.

         Yes, bring on dessert! An oozy chocolate soufflé ($18) fit for two, a nicely textured almond pear tart  ($13), and two ice creams ($10 each) served at the right temperature. For some reason they’re charging $14 for strawberry sorbet.

         And so, dining at Café Chelsea, you are reminded yet again that not only does this kind of restaurant never go out of fashion but also that it creates a warm nostalgia and recognition of what solid, impeccably cooked French comfort food can do for the soul. If only they’d turn off the music, it would be just like the originals in Paris.

         It may be a  coincidence, but the restaurant’s phone number, 1813, commemorates the year Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Nations and sent packing to Saint Helena. Nice touch.


Open daily for breakfast and dinner.


By  John Mariani



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

Parliament building, Budapest

         Upon awakening Katie saw the red light on her phone blinking. She called downstairs and was told an envelope for her had been delivered that morning.  She dressed quickly and went to retrieve what turned out to be a letter from Gorgo Toth’s office.  It read:
         “We are pleased to inform you and to ask if you would kindly join Mr. Gorgo Toth at his country residence in Tata tomorrow, Friday at 15:00.  Mr. Toth says that you will have a better and longer interview there than at his Budapest office.  A car will be provided to transport you from your hotel at 14:00. Please reply as soon as possible.”
         Tata was a town an hour’s drive northeast of Budapest and close to the Austrian border. The concierge told Katie it was a charming small town in the valley between the Gerecse and Vertes mountains, and a popular tourist destination for Hungarians, Austrians and Czechs. Many wealthy Hungarians had country homes there, he said, and he believed it was where Gorgo Toth had his collection of vintage automobiles.
         Katie immediately told David the news. They had a quick breakfast in the hotel and met Janós Frankel for their tour of the city, telling him the news from Toth.
         Frankel smiled and said, “Well, he must be very impressed by you and your magazine. I don’t know any journalist who’s ever been invited there. God, I’d kill to see his auto collection.”
         “Why do you think he’s being so magnanimous?” asked Kat
         “As I told you, Toth needs the international publicity, and I suppose he thinks McClure’s will give him that. It may offer him protection, or at least time, from being ousted by the Russians
         David chimed in. “Katie’s a very well-known journalist in the States, and Toth may have heard of her.”
         “She is indeed,” said Frankel, though I don’t know if you can buy a copy of McClure’s anywhere in Hungary.”
      Katie kept quiet about having Dobell send Toth her less provocative articles about powerful men.
         “Well, until tomorrow, let’s see some of my hometown,” said Frankel, “so we’ll start across the Danube in Buda.”
         As Katie and David had already seen, Budapest had not yet thrown off the decay the Soviets had allowed to creep into the city. Buildings had not been cleaned and the city looked shabby. It would be years before new hotels opened. Still, set as it is on the Danube, the city’s vast sprawl indicated how grand and powerful Budapest had once been among the great cities of Europe.
         Frankel took them across the Chain Link Bridge to Buda’s Castle area, where the National Gallery of Art was slowly being restored and the works of 20th century Hungarian painters once banned by the Soviets were now being hung. Dating back to the 13th century, the Old Town had retained much of its medieval character and the
Mátyás Church (above) was undergoing a repainting of every square inch of its intricately patterned interior.
         They had lunch at a local bistro Frankel said was better than average, digging into chicken soup, hortobágyi chicken crȇpes and pig’s knuckles, ending off with an overly rich Hungarian torte and coffee.
         “I want you to come back in ten years,” said Frankel. “Budapest will be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Again. Never as powerful as it once was, but very beautiful, very cultural. And less and less influenced by the old oligarchy. You wait and see.”
         The rest of the afternoon, the trio spent on the Pest side of the city, touring the grand boulevards, past the opera house, the Neo-classic Parliament building, Saint Anne’s Church, Saint Stephen’s Basilica (above) and the Great Synogogue (right).  Religion, said Frankel, had blossomed again among the Hungarian Catholic and Jewish populations  after decades of being forbidden to practice it.
         After dinner that evening, the three parted and Frankel wished them luck, again saying he wished he was going with Katie and David.
         “You may come away with a scoop,” he said. “Take some pictures of the car collection if you can.”
         Frankel was still unaware of the full scope of Katie and David’s intentions in interviewing Toth and the car collection was not on their list of interests.


                                                     *                         *                         *                         *


         The next morning Budapest had acquired a light mantle of snow, which made Katie think of The Shop Around the Corner (left), her favorite Christmas movie, a fairy tale  romance that takes place in Budapest, though entirely filmed in Hollywood, where the snowflakes were always perfect and the holiday decorations adorned every shop.  And now, here she was, warming to the cold city and vowing to return on sunnier days. The sense of being in an Old World café for coffee and pastries during the holidays reminded her of how lucky she was to be a writer, a journalist, someone who gets to travel around the world.        
       But a darker cast came over her when she remembered that her last two journalistic adventures had almost gotten her killed. She saw nothing so dire in the one she was now on, feeling that she was getting very close to her original intent, which was to go after Harry Lime. Now, here she was about to interview a Brit turned Hungarian pharmaceutical magnate whom she might ensnare in her story as also being a criminal who had escaped justice for more than fifty years.
         David, who had breakfast in his room, had enormous respect for Katie and felt extremely protective of her. It was not something he felt about his cop colleagues in the old days; those guys could handle themselves. Katie had an iron to her he found in few other women outside the NYPD, and even though she was only ten years younger than he was, he felt paternalistic about her. And maybe it was more that than the romantic infatuation he had taken such joy in since first meeting her three years before. Now, he thought that being with Katie as a great gift to him in retirement.  There was, as it panned out, an aspect of danger that made it all exciting, far beyond what he thought would be routine investigations.
         This current project David was enjoying, first, because it was with Katie again, and, second, because it involved subjects he had a passionate interested about—old movies, especially mysteries and spy films like The Third Man.  In the Al Capone investigation David felt well invested and far more the authority than Katie on the subject; on the Vermeer project he felt way out of his comfort zone in the world of fine art and auctions. With this project he felt on a near-equal footing with Katie’s expertise and actually enjoyed the archival work and reading he’d had to do to get to the bottom of it. This afternoon, he felt, he would help Katie get her vindication and be able to prove her original thesis that there was a real-life person behind the character of Lime, who had come to seem a hovering, smirking presence as time had gone on.
         When David thought about Lime he always saw Orson Welles’s face and the way the actor not only embodied Lime’s amoral duality but, with just a few minutes on screen, made him into one of the most charismatic figures in movie history. At the end of the movie, nobody wanted to see Lime arrested or killed. Everyone wanted to see him escape, if only to come back in a sequel.  Of course, Lime did, in those radio shows in which the disembodied voice of Welles brought him to vivid life again, if only as a shadow behind a radio speaker.




      Katie and David met in the lobby a few minutes early and could tell immediately the two unsmiling men near the door were their escorts to Toth’s.  Both were dressed in black—jeans, peacoats—not thuggish but not welcoming either.
         “Ms. Cavuto, Mr. Greco,” said one of them. “We are to take you to Mr. Toth’s residence. Will you follow, please?”
         “Not very warm and fuzzy,” said Katie.
         “I’ve had warmer welcomes at police commission hearings.”
 the men, who waved away a doorman and showed the Americans into a black Mercedes limousine, lightly dusted with snow.  About the only words the two me said were, “Please,” and any questions Katie and David had for them about where they were going and how long it would take were answered in one or two words.  Apparently the trip would take just a little over an hour. There were bottles of water in the car doors.
         The Hungarian countryside outside of Budapest was mostly flat, but about a half hour out of the city the Americans could see the foothills of the western mountains and then they were climbing for a few minutes before descending into a valley where Tata was located. There was no intention of stopping in the town, however, for the car took a road with no signs on it, well paved, two lanes, with snow starting to stick from the lack of traffic.  After a few more turns onto smaller roads, the Mercedes headed towards a fairly large, lodge-like structure behind a fence with wooden gates. 
The driver pushed a button on a remote and the gates opened, revealing a gravel road lined with oak and fir trees that banked away into a thick forest and up the sides of the low-lying Gerecse Mountains.
         “This is really beautiful,” said Katie, admiring the way the two-story lodge had been adapted to the natural landscape. “It must be stunning in summer.”
         “Looks like the drug trade pays very well,” said David, thinking that this must be what the Russian rich call their country dachas. Were it iced over, he could imagine Doctor Zhivago and Lara spending the winter there (right). Then again, David sensed that only a hunter would be out here in the winter. The forests looked perfect for deer, bear, probably wild boar, which no one hunted alone. 
As they exited the car, a large man was already standing in the front door. Katie and David knew from a photo in Frankel’s article it was Toth. He was tall, heavy set, with a gray window’s peak. He was dressed in casual but expensive clothes of a kind English country gentlemen wore on the cover of Country Life magazine—tan moleskin trousers, brown boots, an olive-colored cableknit sweater and pale yellow tattersall shirt.
         “Well, hello!” the man bellowed in a distinct British accent. “Welcome to my little home away from home.” He held out his hand to Katie and said, “Gorgo Toth. So glad you could join me in my favorite place in the world. Please, come inside out of the snow.”
         The interior of the house was far grander than the exterior and looked much larger. While retaining much of the wooden cabin lineaments, the refinement and polish of the décor and furniture showed that an enormous amount of money must have been spent to make it look so impeccably homey, without the heavy, overstuffed look of an Eastern European hunting lodge. There was a stag’s head on one wall and thick wool blankets were carefully folded on the chairs and a leather sofa, but no bear rugs or hanging pelts. There was a billiards table and a long wall of bookshelves and Hungarian objets d’art, along with framed photos, most of them including Toth, dating back perhaps twenty years, many apparently taken in this very room.  Above it all hung a magnificent chandelier of entwined deer antlers.
         David’s eyes were drawn immediately to a rack of beautiful hunting rifles and shotguns—perhaps a dozen—which included at least three Berettas, a Browning, a Remington and a very expensive Famars.
         There was the requisite huge stone fireplace, hissing and popping, and a long dining room table with folkloric carved legs. Beyond that was an open kitchen with a large range and rotisserie oven.  No cook was evident at that hour. There was only a small shelf for wines to be drunk on a daily basis. A doorway to the left led to what was probably a far better stocked wine cellar.
         Above the main room was a mezzanine that wound around the perimeter of the house, showing perhaps six bedroom doors, all reached by a broad central staircase.
         It was now 3:30. Toth said, “I don’t usually drink in the afternoon, but if you’d like a beer or a cocktail, go right ahead.” Katie said she’d wait until after the interview. David said he wouldn’t mind a beer.
         “So, let’s sit before the fireplace and begin the interview, shall we?” said Toth. “We have the rest of the afternoon. By the way, Mr. Greco, do you hunt?”
         David turned off the irony of the question at that moment and said, “I used to be a New York cop, so I did some hunting in my day. But not for animals.”
         “I noticed you were looking at my gun collection.”
         “Pretty impressive.”
         “Yes, they are the best guns in the world, and the wonderful thing about them is that, the more beautiful they are, the better they are made—weight, balance, power, efficiency. There’s beauty in those beasts.”
         Toth took David over to the gun rack and continued to talk about them as among his favorite treasures. Meanwhile, Katie was looking over the long book shelves, which contained mostly volumes in English, histories, biographies and novels.  Among the last she found several of Graham Greene’s works, including a paperback of The Third Man novella tucked in between The Ugly American and The Heart of the Matter. Among the small framed photos on the shelves at eye level she found pictures of Toth in his hunting clothes, most of them with friends, taken over what she assumed was the last decade. A few photos were obviously older, some faded, and there among them Katie saw one with a young man who appeared to be Toth next to a figure who was clearly Graham Greene.
         The photo was taken in winter—both men were in overcoats and the trees were bare—and at the edge of the frame was the blurred rim of what looked to be a Ferris wheel. Katie knew she had to bring this to David’s attention, certain it was a photo of Toth and Greene in Vienna, probably at the amusement park, in February 1948, when Greene was doing research before writing the script of The Third Man. 

She thought of asking Toth if she might take pictures of his home, hoping to get close enough to that photo as evidence that Toth was really Harold Neame and was standing with Greene in the exact location where Lime had met with Holley. She felt flushed by the realization.
         “Well, then,” said Toth, “shall we get started?”


John Mariani, 2016



Part One
By John Mariani

         Gin has been around since the 13th century, when monks made it as a medicinal aid flavored with juniper (its original name was jenever). Cheap to produce in vast quantities, it became the predominant alcoholic beverage of England in the 17th century for rich and poor alike. Yet, not much has been done with gin to alter its basic profile and flavor, and in the U.S. today it is found more often in a summer afternoon’s gin and tonic as vodka—thanks to James Bond— pushed it out of the classic Martini. Brands like Beefeater, Boodles, Hendrick’s, Gilbey’s and Tanqueray all have their advocates, and they don’t care to have their favorites messed with.
         Now, however, there has been a significant new interest in gin cocktails and flavored gins made with various herbals or citrus and sugar. I’ve been tasting a remarkable number of these new “premium” gins and find that, rather than claim superiority among them, I found their differences intriguing, so I will report on what they are rather than how much I preferred one to the other.


Las Californias ($30)—This is a range of gins using both indigenous botanicals as well as plants brought to the lands via cultural migration that “celebrates what is possible when the flavor, cultures and spirit of two countries converge.” Juniperus californica, Artemesia from Baja, damiana, Yerba Santa, lemongrass, Vidra hops, white sage and even kelp may go into the mix. Las Californias Cítrico is crafted using a maceration of figs and apricots after the distillation.


Nikka Coffey Gin ($50)—From Japan’s esteemed Nikka Yoichi Distillery  as of 2017, this gin uses 11 selected botanicals, with four kinds of Japanese citrus—Yuzu, Kabosu, Amanatsu and Shequasar, along with more traditional botanicals of juniper and orange peels, which give it a real burst of flavor all on its own. Its alcohol is 47%. The “coffey” refers to a continuous still used in Nikka’s whiskies. The base spirit is corn and barley. Production is limited to 12,000 bottles.


Tulchan Gin ($45-$55)—Tulchan in Speyside is well known for its Scotch whiskies, so a London-style gin from Scotland (45%) is unusual, although it is not alone; other regional brands include Hebridean, Glaswegin, Seaglass from Orkney and The Botanist from Islay. It is made in copper pots in small batches. London gins tend to be a lighter than Dutch gins. The novelty here is the handsome blue squared-off bottle with a tartan print with a metal, wood, cork stopper and Scottish thistle stamp. It’s owned by the Stoli Group. 

Minke Irish Gin
($30)—If the Scots can make gin, why not the Irish? This 43.6% product by Clonakilty from a copper still was “inspired by the Minke Whale, the majestic creatures that swim wild off our Atlantic Ocean coastline,” where they forage botanical Rock Samphire (edible sea beans) by hand and only when in season. It has a pleasing citrus flavor and a hint of sea salt. 

Farmer’s Botanical Gin
($30)—Produced in Buhl, Idaho, 1,000 Springs Mill is a locally owned (Tim Cornie and  Kurt Mason) organic and non-GMO organization making products that benefit the local community, including gin made from USDA-certified organic wheat and other crops. The grain is brought to Distilled Resources Inc. in Rigby, founded in 1988 by Gray Ottley, whose distillery was the first in the United States to be certified organic in 1999. The gin is made in a  continuous fractional distillation four-column system tightly controlled to produce certified organic spirits in a sustainable manner. The Organic Gin is 46.7% alcohol, whose botanicals include hemp seed. Its Reserve Strength hits 47.8%

Four Peel Gin ($76)—Distilled from corn, four citrus peels are used in the making—grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime, so it is citrus forward and excellent for a gin and tonic. It’s made by the Watershed Distillery in Columbus, Ohio.  At 44% it has a light body and is representative of the move away from heavier juniper-driven gins. They also make a strawberry-infused pink gin ($40). Founders Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo had been professional volleyball players in Switzerland, and began making gin in 2009 in a state known for its micro-distilling.

Purity Gin ($40)—The distillery, family owned and operated within a 13th century Swedish castle, calls this “Nordic Navy Strength Organic Gin” at a whopping 51.7% alcohol. It begins with vodka distilled 34 times from Swedish wheat and malted barley for smoothness, and afterwards the botanicals are added, including Juniper, coriander, lavender, cardamom, angelica root, basil, thyme, Nordic lingonberry and European blueberry.  





Forget Naples. The world’s best pizza is made at Napoli on the Road in Chiswick" By Giulia Crouch, London Times (10/23)


 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