Virtual Gourmet

  November 26, 2023                                                                         Newsletter

Founded in 1996 


Robert Montgomery, Donna reed and John Wayne in "They Were Expendable" (1945)


VIENNA, Part One

By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


By John Mariani


VIENNA, Part One

By John Mariani


         Any time of year is a good one to visit Austria’s capital Vienna, for even though summers and early autumn are warmer than they used to be, the city has never experienced the 100-degree temperatures now routinely visited upon other European cities. In winter, its holiday and winter festivals are legendary for their color and enticements, and the city is so rife with trees and gardens that spring time is pure joy. With only about 5 million visitors each year, Vienna is never overrun like Paris, Madrid, and Rome. You need not wait on a long line to get into any of the major museums.
         Justifiably, the city center has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. Vienna’s architecture—Gothic, Baroque, Imperial, Art Nouveau, Secessionist—is some of the most striking in Europe. The location of the major arts and municipal institutions within and near the Ringstrasse that circles the city makes walking a leisurely joy, and 27 carefully situated cafés along the Ring's route provide added incentive to take your time, enjoy some coffee and pastry.
       Right now, the Albertina Museum is exhibiting one of the most extraordinary shows of the century, “Michelangelo and Beyond” that deals with the emergence, significance and decline of the depiction of the human nude.  The show manifests Michelangelo’s unmatched mastery of the human form in his drawings and studies for paintings, and how his influence was crucial to Raphael, Dürer, Rembrandt, Rubens, Klimt and Schiele’s own work with the subject of the nude. (The show runs till January 14.) The Albertina has also published a splendid volume to accompany the show.
         Afterwards, just steps away, another Viennese institution, the Würstelstand Bitzinger (Augustinergasse 1), dishes out two dozen variations of sausages,  including bosna, bratwurst, spicy currywurst and hot dogs (all from €5 to €6.80) with French fries (€3.20) and a long list of Austrian beers.
    The stand’s location is at the Big Bus stop, which offers two “Hop-on Hop-Off” tours of about 110 minutes’ duration (from €32.17, valid for 24 or 48 hours.  The Red Line takes you around the city center’s best sites and the Danube; the Blue Line, which I do not recommend, spends about 40 minutes just getting out of town to drive past Schönbrunn Palace and the Belvedere Museum (both well worth visiting on their own).
        What makes Vienna especially appealing for those who speak no German is that all the Viennese seem fluent in English. And if you tire of walking, the tram and subway are easily mastered and very efficient. Purchasing a Vienna City Card makes everything extremely easy (€17 for 24 hours, €25 for 48 and €29 for 72), whose benefits include transport discounts in museums and tourist attractions for up to seven days; 20% discount on the daily room rate in participating hotels, and 20% discount in restaurants.
         As noted, Vienna is very easy to walk around at your leisure, stopping at three or four major attractions in a day, like the Hofburg Imperial Palace and the Rathaus Town Hall, not to miss the vast and very beautiful Kunsthistorisches Museum (left), whose walls contain dozens of the world’s greatest masterpieces, and the impeccably installed Naturhistorisches Museum. The Leopold Museum holds a comprehensive collection of the works of eccentric painter Egon Schiele; The Silberkammer is devoted to silverware; The Third Man Museum to the classic 1949 movie.
         The very center of the city, anchored by the gorgeous Opera House, finished in 1869 as the first building on the Ringstrasse, is the beginning of one’s walking tour.
       My wife and I stayed nearby at the Amauris Hotel, converted as such in 2023 from a noble residence where the aristocracy met until the end of the monarchy. Today the Amauris (named after a Monarch butterfly) is an exquisite mating of the old and new, with art by exceptional 19th and 20th century Austrian painters, lighting by the Italian design company FLOS, 160 tons of Italian marble and an historic elevator cage in cast iron.
         The Amauris is a large building but still has the feeling of a boutique hotel, and its rooms are exceptionally spacious, the most impressive being the two-story, 60-square-meter (nearly 650 square feet) Maisonette Suite located just under the skylight roof. 
The elegantly appointed and very chic Glasswing Restaurant is done in tones of white, black and gray, with Executive Chef Alexandru Simon serving a blend of Austrian tradition and fusionary modernism, both à la carte and as a 7-course menu at €160.
        We headed for the Kärntner Strasse, a broad and winding commercial avenue lined with designer boutiques, cafés, chocolate shops, restaurants, and street performers, to find the 12th century St. Stephen's Gothic Cathedral—saved from deliberate destruction in World War II because a German captain refused his superior's orders to reduce it to rubble—now almost fully restored since my last visit, and now as glorious as any similar cathedral in Europe. Composer Antonio Vivaldi is buried in the cemetery next door. Nearby you may stop for Aida pastries and what is advertised as the world’s best ice cream at the Café Konditorei. (It really is terrific.)
         Before devoting our afternoon to more strolling, we sought out a light lunch at Wrenkh (Bauernmarkt 10), which is not strictly vegetarian but is very devoted to seasonal produce on a menu that included Austrian mountain lentils (right) and roasted dumpling in white wine sauce (€12.5); a Wrenkh salad with rapeseed dressing, crispy polenta; smoked tofu and Parmesan (€15.5); a mushroom schnitzel with potato salad and sauce ravigote (€18.5), and a salmon trout filet in tomato butter with artichokes and potatoes (€28.5). The wine list is not long but has several fine Austrian bottlings and by the glass.
         That evening we dined at Das Loft on the 18th floor of the SO Vienna Hotel (Praterstrasse 1) with a fabulous panorama of the city. The lighted kaleidoscope-like ceiling alone is reason enough to go to the cocktail lounge  (drinks run €16-18), but, despite booming techno music that makes conversation difficult—the only restaurant in Vienna where I found this to be so—I highly recommend the modern cuisine and one of the finest wine lists in the city. There is a tasting menu at €130 for four courses, as well as à la carte items. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed a meal of tomato with a blue cheese mousse  with basil emulsion (€22); sweetbreads dumpling with parsnips and truffles (€22) as appetizers; braised veal cheeks in a celeriac, bacon and Madeira sauce (€39); and  very succulent Styrian chicken with cabbage, Jerusalem artichokes and tangy lemon sauce (€39), ending with lovely, inventive desserts of salted stracciatella with pistachio, rose and cherry (€24), and a selection of Alpine Vorarlberger cheese made by Anton Macht (€26), both desserts enough to share for two.


A few words about dining out in Vienna:

*  Just about every restaurant has a menu in English. 

* Dress, as everywhere in Europ these days, is casual, but at the more traditional restaurants and cafés you will want to dress a bit conservatively, although blue jeans are everywhere.

* There is no smoking allowed inside.

* Service is unfailingly courteous, and in the cafés very efficient. 

* As for tipping, VAT tax and service are already included in the meal’s price, and many list a cover charge. But tipping is not requisite, and leaving more than ten percent, if you wish, is generous.





                                                                              49 W 64th Street


By John Mariani

Photos by Evan Sung

         Nothing seems so impossible to keep up with as the number of new restaurants opening in New York on a week-by-week basis in almost every borough. But when a restaurant of the high polish of Rampoldi opens across from Lincoln Center it is a leap of faith. Rampoldi is the first branch of a restaurant of the same name opened in 1946 in Monaco’s Carré d’Or, where it drew those in post-war Europe who still had money to its tables and it became a notable spot for notables to dine in the little kingdom.
         Now its New York owner, MC Hospitality Group, has debuted Rampoldi on this side of the Atlantic and brought over the original’s heralded chef, Antonio Salvatore (also as a partner), who has won acclaim for his namesake La Table d’Antonio Salvatore Au Rampoldi restaurant set below Rampoldi.  (MC also runs Casa Limone and re-opened The Atlantic Grill attached to Rampoldi in New York.) One can only imagine Miami and Vegas are in the offing.
         There are similarities in the design of the two Rampoldis, with nicely modulated lighting that allows you to see everyone in the room, high ceilings, custom furniture from Milan’s Fratelli Boffi, Rosso Imperiale Italian marble on the floors and wall panels, and Murano glass chandeliers. Designer Domingo Zapata created a triptych of the Mona Lisa “to pay homage to Grace Kelly,” though I don’t quite get the connection. There is a fabulous looking bar area and a unique open pâtisserie.
         Linens and table settings are of fine quality, though the thick Murano water goblets look more like they came from the Vermont Country Store. On the table is a bottle of signature Puglian olive oil as beautiful as a classic bottle of Chanel No. 5.
        The wine list immediately ranks with the best in the city, and prices are comparable to others at this level.
        Salvatore, who is from Basilicata, does not reproduce any dishes from his namesake restaurant that would show his uniqueness as a chef, but the menu in New York is nearly an exact copy of Rampoldi in Monaco; the prices are almost identical, too, and comparable to any restaurant in town with this kind of posh, which is to say, as high as any in New York. Portions, on the other hand, are notably generous. 
The menu is phrased as “modern Monegasque,” meaning a Riviera blend of French and Italian foods and ingredients, many flown to New York, including Salvatore’s own label caviar. There is an entire section devoted to carpaccios, including yellowfin tuna with guacamole and tomato chutney ($29), and a glistening sheet of tangy octopus (below) with lemon, celery, tomato, olives, capers and pistachios ($24).  In addition, there is an array of tartares, of which the crab with avocado, gazpacho, salmon roe and brioche was outstanding (as it should be for $42).
         The chef loves using autumn’s black truffles on dishes like plump snails à la bourguignonne with truffled potato puree ($29), and a pizza with mozzarella cream à la truffe ($43). Truffles also appear on risotto with wild mushrooms, garlic and parmesan fondue  ($47), and figure into a luscious dish of sea scallops with a cauliflower puree ($52).
      The menu lists “Sole à la meunière” ($79), but it does not claim it to be Dover sole, which might justify the price. Whatever kind of sole I was served, however, did not come to the quality of well-fatted, firm-fleshed sole and had a mealy texture.
         Roasted leg of lamb with roasted potatoes ($59) is a hearty winter’s dish and, though I did not try it, it’s good to see filet of beef Rossini (left), with red wine sauce, more truffles, seared foie gras and truffle potato puree  ($79) on a menu. From the grill section comes chicken ($39), filet mignon ($59), branzino for two ($98) and a huge tomahawk steak for two ($220).
     The desserts from the big open kitchen have classic status, among them a chocolate fondant cake with pear sorbet ($18); apple-thatched Tarte Tatin with a rich vanilla ice cream ($18), profiteroles with dark chocolate sauce ($19), and a lemon meringue with lemon mousse on sponge cake ($17).
        At the prices charged, to succeed and thrive in New York, Rampoldi is going to have to attract a celebrity and show biz crowd beyond those in the neighborhood who come for the occasional splurge. When I visited I didn’t see any rap stars, TV hosts or Kardashians, but then I wouldn’t know them if I tripped over them.
        Once Rampoldi gets its act together and smooths out the kinks of service, it should be able to stand on its own without need of celebrities. I was told Salvatore flies over about once a month—which can be grueling—but he was not in New York when I visited.  To create some buzz Salvatore should spend as much time on this side of the ocean as possible, carouse with his chef colleagues and food media to better get to know the New York market.


Open for dinner Tues.-Sun; brunch Sat. & Sun.



By  John Mariani

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

      Once across the border, the M1 motorway turned into the A4 autostrade, and before long they were on the outskirts of Vienna, just beyond the Ringstrasse that circles the center of the city. Along the way, the Austrian police spoke of their city in a way that almost sounded like they were tour guides, pointing out places of interest along the way.
         The road led along the Leopoldstadt district on the east side of the Danube, where the Wurstelprater amusement park was located.  Clearly visible and towering above all else in the park was a tall Ferris wheel.
         “Is that it?” asked Katie. “Is that the Ferris wheel you see in the movie The Third Man?”
         The Austrian in the front passenger seat replied, “Yes, it’s called the Wiener Riesenrad, and it’s a big attraction for foreigners who have seen the movie.”
         “Look, it still has those old cars Holley and Lime went up in,” said David, “where Lime makes his speech defending his actions and Holley thinks Lime might push him out of it.”
         They then turned off across the Franzenbrucke bridge and along the Ringstrasse, around the State Park and down Krugerstrasse, passing the façades of historic cafés and new restaurants.
         It was now a week before Christmas and Vienna was in full swing for the holidays, blessed with a light snow that peppered the roofs of the old Beaux Art buildings in the center and the grand Gothic steeple of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. They turned left at Kamptner Strasse and came to a stop in front of a large Neoclassic building that took up the entire block. Its wide maroon awning was festooned with five flags: those of  U.S., U.K., Austria, Germany and the European Union—conspicuously absent, Russia.
         A doorman opened the back door of the car and said, “Welcome to the Sacher, Miss Cavuto, Mr. Greco.”
         “We’re staying at the Sacher?” said Katie, who was not even trying to look nonchalant, and repeated the question. David only muttered to himself, “Holy shit!”
         The Sacher was the hotel Holley Martin stayed at and where several scenes of the movie had been shot. The doorman said, “This way, please,” and Katie said, “I’m afraid we have no luggage.”
         “It is already in your rooms, Madame. Now let me show you to the front desk.” Apparently, the Hungarian and Austrian police had arranged for their baggage to precede them.
         They were shown to the lobby, which blazed with fine marble and ornate gilded chandelier and sconces. In the center was a marble table holding a statue of a young angel, his finger to his lips as if to say, “Ssshh!” To the left was the front desk, where a concierge and two women welcomed the Americans. Katie thought she looked a mess and David longed to collapse in his room.
         The concierge beckoned to David and said, very quietly, “There is a Doctor Drucker waiting to see you in your room, Mr. Greco.” David looked puzzled at first, until one of the police officers said the physician was just there to check David’s condition after the events of the day.
         “Do you want our passports?” asked Katie.
         The concierge said, no, everything was in order. Katie said to David, “Why don’t you go upstairs, see the doctor, and ring me when you’re done? I’ll ask some questions about. . .”—she waved her hand around the lobby—“all this.” David agreed to call her as soon as he was finished being examined.
         One of the policemen was in conversation with the concierge. Katie asked the other, “Can you tell me something about everything that happened to us today? I have a hundred questions.”
         The officer smiled and said, “Our instructions were just to pick you up at the border and bring you here to the Sacher. But I believe you will be met shortly by authorities who will be able to answer your questions.”
         He pulled off his glove and put out his hand to shake hers.
         “It was a pleasure to be of service, Madame.”       
“Oh, believe me, officer, the pleasure was all ours,” said Katie, who just then realized the young policeman looked a good deal like the German actor Hardy Krüger.
         The concierge handed her a heavy room key and an assistant in a crisp blue suit showed her to her room.
         “Your first time at the Sacher, Madame?”       
“Yes, and it’s actually a surprise I’m staying here. Someone booked it for us.”
         “Well, I hope it is a very good surprise,” he said, opening the door and showing her into a fairly ornate room Katie pronounced to be “very, very beautiful.” She then noticed her suitcase was on the folding stand; how it got there was one of the questions she wanted to ask her benefactor.
         Meanwhile, David was being checked out by Dr. Drucker, who asked him as many specific questions as general ones about his health.
        “This drug they injected you with, Mr. Greco, did Mr. Toth mention its name by any chance?”
         “No,” said David, “he just said it was experimental but they’d had good results in animal tests treating dementia. Katie and I were to be his first human guinea pigs. And he said the antidote was vinegar.”
         Dr. Drucker turned his head this way and that and said, “Well, it makes some sense to me. Vinegar is a form of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter and seems to have a beneficial effect on the nervous system and metabolism. The vinegar may either have helped metabolized the drug or counteracted it in some other way. In any case, I think you are a very lucky man.”
“Lucky there was vinegar in the cupboard, too.”
         The physician wrote out a prescription for a mild sedative and told David to take it only if needed. “Otherwise, I think you are, what do you say in America? ‘O.K. to go?’” 
David called Katie and told her everything went well with the doctor and that he was going to take a nap before dinner.  It was now six o’clock.
         Katie said, “Actually we’ve been invited to dinner at eight, apparently with some people who can tell us about what we went through today. See you then?”
         “I’ll leave a wake-up call for 7:30. If I don’t show up, have some vinegar sent up to my room.”
         Katie suspected she was in for a lot more vinegar jokes for the foreseeable future. Katie had checked which of the Sacher’s restaurants they’d be dining in. Of the two, the Restaurant Anna Sacher was the more formal but the Restaurant Rote Bar, where they had the reservation set, was hardly less so, a room of dark red damask walls, huge, looming crystal chandelier and oil paintings celebrating the joy of hunting wildlife.  Katie thought the hacking style jacket she’d bought at DAKS in London would fit the ambience; for David, his well-worn blue blazer would have to do.
         They met downstairs in the lobby at the appointed hour and were shown into the Rote Bar to a table in the rear of the restaurant.  There was a table with one person who got up as the Americans came close.
         “My God, it’s Chambers!” said David, grabbing Katie’s arm. “We’re having dinner with him?” 
Both David and Katie’s minds were racing, trying, step by step, to make some sense of why the antagonistic MI6 agent was about to receive them. The Rote Bar at the Sacher Hotel in Vienna seemed an unlikely place to meet, seeing as the last time they’d seen Chambers, the agent had said it would be the last.
         Chambers managed as much of a smile as he was capable of, saying “So, we meet again. Please sit down.” Then he turned to the maître d’ and said, “Would you please bring us a bottle of Pol Roger. We have something to celebrate.”
         Katie was straightforward and cold, asking, “What are we all doing here?”
         Chambers sat, shrugged and said, “Well, for one thing, given what you two have been through, I think you probably have a few questions.”
         “And you have all the answers?” asked David. “Last time we spoke you said we’d never see you again. In light of what we went through, that now sounds like you knew what we were about to face.”
         “All in due time, Mr. Greco. By the way, do you mind if I call you Katie and David? We really are all on the same side.”
         The waiter brought the Champagne, Chambers nodded his approval. The waiter opened the bottle without fanfare, pouring it into tall fluted glasses.
         “To what shall we toast?” asked Chambers. “Being alive?” He raised his glass, but the Americans chose not to clink theirs with a man they didn’t trust.
         “Why don’t you just start talking?” said David.
         “All right, let’s begin a little before the beginning. Some while before we all met at Heathrow, MI6 had gotten wind that you might be going to Moscow to try to find Kim Philby.”
         “Southey told you? Or was it Lentov?”
         “I’ll have to keep that information out of the conversation for now. Suffice it to say that Col. Kovalyov confirmed our suspicions and alerted us from the moment his men picked you up at Philby’s door.”
          Katie snapped, “So you admit it was Phiby we saw!”
         “Yes, of course we knew that. For the record, we did believe Philby had died when the Soviets said he had, but after the Soviet Union collapsed, we got wind that he was not dead. One thing led to another, and Col. Kovalyov was the one who confirmed it.  Of course, there was never a question of the Russians turning him over to us. For them it was better that Philby was dead, and for us it would have been, uh, disruptive to open up all the old wounds, since Philby might just as well have been dead, living the way he was. It was in everyone’s interest not to stir the waters. Shall we order?”
         The captain brought the menu, printed in both German and English, whose signature dishes were highlighted, so the three foreigners ordered accordingly: a goose liver tart with chutney; marinated salmon trout; braised beef roulade; and Wiener Schnitzel.
         “So, I suppose we are now up to the beginning, where you two came in,” said Chambers, buttering his bread. “By the time you arrived at Heathrow we knew all that had occurred in Moscow, and Col. Kovalyov encouraged us to send you back to the States as soon as possible. But knowing both your reputations—you as a reporter and you as a former police detective—we were pretty sure you could be useful to us if we gave you some leeway.”
         “You could have fooled us,” said David. “We got the feeling we were persona non grata in London.”
         Chambers went on, preferring to brush aside the Americans’ comments and get further into his side of the story.
         “I admit trying to persuade you that you got the Philby story all wrong,” said Chambers, “but I knew you wouldn’t be put off by my blather about libel laws here and in the U.S.  I knew you were going to write some kind of story, Katie, and we wanted to make sure we knew as much as we could in order to defend the Foreign Office should your article prove embarrassing. And the way to do that was to let you fly off to Budapest to find Gorgo Toth. We actually assumed you’d never get in to see him, and that would be that. No story. More Champagne?”
         The first courses arrived and Chambers took a pause from his story to sample the food, pronouncing it excellent.
         “What interested me more,” he said, “was your bringing up this fellow Harold Neame, whom I hadn’t heard of till you asked me about him. When I looked into the matter I found out somewhat more than I led you to believe.”
        “You mean that Neame probably was Toth.”
         “It began to look that way. And he would be a person of real interest to us. As I said, back in the 1950s it was not an MI6 matter, it was Military Police. But an international warrant for Neame’s arrest for the murder of Austrian children by selling them fake penicillin was never posted. Had he just been involved with the usual black market commodities, the statue of limitations would have run out long ago and no one would care.  But murdering children, well, as you can imagine, that doesn’t go away.”
         “And you were hoping we could sniff out Toth for you?” asked Katie.
          “Yes and no. As I said, it would have been useful had you done so, but we, that is, the Foreign Office, had no real proof of the Neame-Toth connection.  If you could prove that there was one, we would have more evidence to request extradition, probably to Austria.”
         “Sounds like a tough thing to pull off across borders,” said David.
         “Yes, it would be.  Except, thanks to you, we had some assistance from another source.”


John Mariani, 2016




                                                                        By John Mariani


         This fall I was asked to gives a series of lectures on Italian food and wines onboard a sailing ship plying the Tyrrhenian Sea off the western coast of Italy. Since I wanted to tie in my lecture to the regional ports we were visiting in the south, I showcased the wines of Irpinia in the region of Campania, with wines provided onboard by the Consorzio di tutela dei vini d’Irpinia. Some bottlings I already knew, at least by producer, but I was newly impressed by the high quality and distinctiveness of the wines, especially the whites, which I would rank among the finest now being made in Italy.

         Irpinia, which takes its name from an ancient word for wolf, still used as its provincial symbol, is a volcanic area, divided by the Apennine mountains, whose soils and changing climate—hot days and cool nights—add measurably to the  mineral taste of the wines.  As a result, Irpinian wines have in recent years acquired a remarkable number of DOCG appellations, Italy’s highest.

Until the 1920s Irpinia was one of Italy’s most valuable wine growing regions, with a “wine railway” that allowed producers to ship grapes to buyers in northern Italy and France, but a phylloxera infestation crippled the industry, followed by the worldwide Depression and World War II. A massive earthquake in 1980 devastated the region, and while farmers were encouraged to re-plant with more dependable northern varietals like Sangiovese or Montepulciano, they resisted and continued to plant and improve southern varietals like Aglianico, Greco, Fiano di Avellino and other local varieties.

Starting in the 1980s, Taurasi, sometimes called the “Barolo of the South,” became the region’s best known red wine, made from the Aglianico grape,  now produced in 17 municipalities in the province of Avellino. White wines are made from Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo. Fiano, writes Ian d’Agata in his monumental Native Wine Grapes of Italy (2014),“may well be Italy’s greatest white wine grape,” and, after my tastings of the Irpinian wines, I wholeheartedly agree. Fiano is one of Italy’s oldest grapes planted by the Roman, though nearly forgotten by the 1970s. It is really only in the present century that the varietal has regained its reputation at new wineries.  

Among the DOCG Fianos I loved was Empatia ($26), a single vineyard cru from one of the area’s most prestigious largest estates, Donnachiara in Montefalcione at about 600 meters above the sea level. The soil has a high chalk content that is said to give the wine a hint of balsamic herbs, making it ideal with seafood. Their 100% Greco di Tufo has a charming ripeness and creamy body. Greco di Tufo is cultivated at high altitudes and retains a refreshing acidity, and the wines have become much sought after.  (They also make an excellent red Taurasi.)

Donnachiara was founded in 2005 by Chiara  and Illaria Petitto, the fifth generations of their aristocratic family. Enologist Riccardo Cotarella, president of Union Internationale des Oenologues and Professor of Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Tuscia of Viterbo, aims for a balanceof aromatic fruit and an acidity that allows the Fiano a lovely toastiness reminiscent of hazelnuts. 

Tenuta Sarno 1860 in Candida was established in 2004 by Maura Sarno on seven hectares of clay-rich and calcareous soils, owing to volcanic residues.  Fiano is all the estate makes, focusing  on organic means of viticulture. The grapes are processed only in steel, resting on the lees for 12 to 36 months, then aging six months after bottling.  The company produces Fiano di Avellino in four different labels: Sarno 1860;  Sarno 1860 ERRE;  Sarno 1860 EMME ($30);  and Sarno 1860 Sparkling.

    Ponte dei Santi’s Greco di Tufo ($30) was established by Villa Raiano in 2009, when the family bought the old mill factories of the Basso family on a hill in San Michele di Serino, with 37 hectares, seven of them devoted to Greco, where the soil is quite sandy at 550 meters altitude.  The vinification takes place entirely in steel vats and spends 12 months in bottle, developing nuance and refinement of its minerality.

I was unaware that anyone was making sparkling wines from Greco di Tufo, so I was delighted by Petilia Greco di Tufo Frizzante Ancestral 2022 ($19) from eight-year-old vineyards located in Altavilla Irpinia, one of the 8 municipalities of Greco di Tufo area. The grapes undergo an “Ultra soft pressing” and follow  the ancestral method with fermentation in the bottle. Amazingly, it is not filtered, giving it considerably more body than is usual with frizzante wines. There is a lovely perlage and flowery aromatics, making it a delectable wine to serve with first courses and fresh cheeses.






"Sometimes, when a certain sort of restaurant opens in London, the jostling of our national critics to be first into print borders on the ugly. Like the jockeys and horses at the starting line of the Grand National (except fatter and drunker), we circle and hustle and snort and puff, unsure when the starter will call us to form an orderly line, reluctant to surrender position, steaming in the cold air with pent up energy and nervous frustration, occasionally shitting and pissing right where we stand" By Giles Coren, London Times (Nov 16).


 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