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  July 28, 2014                                                                                             NEWSLETTER

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By Edward Brivio

By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


Scarborough, Maine

By Edward Brivio

    Like the two eponymous characters in Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” I find nothing so irresistible as a freshly shucked oyster on the half-shell. I eat them whenever and wherever I can.
     The best I’ve ever tasted were a dozen fines de claires at a raw shellfish bar on the Rue des Abbesses in Paris, near the foot of the Butte Montmartre.  I must now add as a close second the Damariscotta oysters served at the Black Point Inn in Scarborough, Maine.
     Harvested by a dozen small "family farms” in the estuaries of the Damariscotta River where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean, the oysters have a pure, clean, delicate brininess that bespeaks the pristine waters where they grow. Sitting on the inn’s veranda, I dipped the oysters into a Champagne mignonette served alongside, which allowed their subtle tang to shine through while adding a nice acidic finish. Maine has always been famous for its shellfish, especially lobster, and the Inn’s executive chef, William Benner, and chef de cuisine Michael Wiechec take good advantage of the state’s bounty.
     The clam chowder here was as good as it gets, rich with chopped clams, cream and bacon, and thick enough to coat your spoon. The lobster roll also passed muster. Large chunks of sweet lobster meat, with just a touch of mayonnaise, spilled over the traditional top-sliced bun. Only crab deserves to stand toe-to-toe--or should I say claw-to-claw--with lobster. Our other entree was a grilled crab melt with jumbo lump crab meat and melted Havarti cheese on toasted sourdough bread, everything just warm and somehow melded together, with bread as delicious as the goodies it contained. Tasty  homemade potato chips were served alongside.
     These dishes made up a dazzling al fresco lunch on a warm, breezy afternoon on the spacious veranda overlooking a placid stretch of sandy beach. A glass of Maine’s own Allagash White beer--made in Portland, only 20 miles away--as well as one of Terredora Falanghina from Italy’s Campania region only served to make the meal and the afternoon that more splendid.
      Lunch is offered here in the Chart Room, the Black Point’s casual dining room, with comfortable wicker tables and chairs.  Appetizers: $10-18, soups: $6-10, salads: $8-14, mains: $14-30.

 Photo: Robert Pirillo
     We couldn’t resist ordering more Damariscotta oysters to start off dinner at The Point, the Inn’s more formal dining room, as well as another bowl of the best New England clam chowder I’ve ever tasted, and a textbook onion soup gratiné with nicely caramelized onions in a rich beef broth under a tasty crust of melted cheese.
     Next came a cool, refreshing crab and avocado timbale, an artfully turned out cylindrical mound topped with bright green, sugar pea sprouts, with a swirl of tomato coulis and a bit of crunch from gaufrette  potatoes. The lobster gnocchi with chunks of lobster meat in a tomato-tinged cream sauce had wonderful flavors, but the slightly heavy gnocchi called for a finer hand in the kitchen, and the sugar snap peas served with it were a little too crisp, and seemed completely unnecessary.
     Plaice filled with crabmeat, served with asparagus spears and a béarnaise sauce, was satisfyingly sweet and fresh, but the béarnaise lacked character (there was just not enough acidic bite and not enough tarragon). Crumb-topped haddock came with baked potato puree, a delicious julienne of zucchini and carrots and a lemon beurre blanc. Here everything was perfect, the dense, meaty haddock given a nice crunch by the crumb topping, and the warm slaw of julienned vegetables just the right addition.   Seared filet mignon with a crisp strüdel of potatoes and sour cream, and more asparagus, came in a deep brown, rich Burgundy reduction, obviously based on a well-made beef stock.
     The Inn’s pastry chef, Benjamin Rollins, came through with warm blueberry pie, and lemon cloud, a white chocolate lemon marquise, Meyer lemon cake, lemon verbena cream, and candied lemon peel.
     The Point is well-appointed, with well-spaced tables surrounded by that most comfortable of dining room seating, large Windsor armchairs. The capable wait staff is made up of college kids on their summer break, many returning year after year, and whatever they may lack in professional aplomb, they more than make up for with their unfeigned goodwill, guileless smiles and youthful eagerness to please. They are part of what makes one’s visit so pleasant.

Appetizers: $10-15; a dozen oysters: $30; soups and salads: $7-10;
entrees: $24-34.

                                                                                                                 Photo: Robert Pirillo

     Situated right at the narrow strip of land where Prout’s Neck joins the mainland, the Black Point Inn, surrounded on three sides by water, is one of Maine’s premier hostelries. It’s the Down East equivalent of a great English Country House hotel. The welcoming smell of wood smoke greets you as you enter, and from practically every window there is a view of water, either Saco Bay or the Atlantic Ocean. The Inn has an old New England charm, with a spacious veranda for outdoor dining and evening cocktails overlooking beautiful sunsets, or just a lazy afternoon comfortably ensconced in one of its white wicker rocking chairs. Inside a fireplace crackles invitingly throughout the day and night.
     Our room, a comfortable suite with a separate living room, a sofa bed beside a large bedroom with a king-sized bed, and a well-appointed bathroom, had a lovely view of the ocean from all its windows. A large bathroom, luxurious towels and long bathrobes, as well as high-end toiletries completed the amenities. All rooms are MAP, with breakfast and dinner included in the price, and there are no supplements on the menu.
     It’s easy to see why Winslow Homer chose to spend the last two decades of his life in Prout’s Neck. Dramatic, powerful waves constantly crash against the rocky coast. A Cliff Walk takes you clear around the perimeter of the point, affording dazzling marine views, well-known to anyone familiar with the artist’s work. The walk took us about two hours, but don’t be fooled at the start by the soft, grassy path past a pump house. This is no easy stroll. For most of it, you’re striding gingerly over rocky outcrops, or stumbling along stretches of stone strewn shoreline, both requiring a good pair of rubber-soled shoes to navigate. No flip flops or sandals will work.
     But the reward is a coastline as different from the gentle strand and rolling breakers of Long Island’s South Fork as possible. The raging surf  that pounds the rocky cliffs here sends huge sprays of white water high into the air, against a background of clear blue sky. Homer never tired of trying to capture the spectacle, and his newly restored studio overlooking the ocean can now be visited in small groups by appointment. (A handful of the beautiful paintings he did at Prout’s Neck are on view in room 767 of the American Wing in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.)
     The only sad part of a stay at Black Point is knowing that at some moment one has to leave this paradise and return to the outside world.

 The Inn opens the Friday before Mother's Day, and closes for the season
the last week of October.


                                                                                  Photo: Robert Pirillo




                                                                                                    By John Mariani

Greta Garbo and  Melvin Douglas  in "Ninotchka" (1939)

         The continuing denigration of French cuisine by those who wouldn’t know a baguette from a bagel is far more a matter of self-serving American snobbery than it is educated opinion.
         Which is why I was so surprised that in an op-ed article awkwardly entitled  “French Food Goes Town” the extremely knowledgeable New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman (left) laments that the old canard that you can’t get a bad meal in France is now balderdash. “
Today, when I write about Parisian restaurants I have to eat in three to recommend one, and that’s with expert guidance,” he says, “which only means that restaurants in the home of la grande cuisine have become much like they are elsewhere. If you want a meal out featuring great ingredients prepared fresh and with skill you can find one, but you have to be very diligent, very lucky or willing to spend big; the vast majority of restaurants disappoint.”
         Bittman goes on—correctly--to find laughable the French government’s logo and label called “fait maison” to indicate that a restaurant is serving “homemade” food, while exempting frozen food, and farm-raised, antibiotic-laced shrimp from Thailand, as long as some cook plates it in his restaurant kitchen.  And I have to agree that more and more French people are buying the pre-made food straight from the supermarket shelves.
         But to suggest that one now has to look far and wide to get a good meal in France is absurd. It is worth recalling that Bittman two years ago detailed his agonies dining at
"four-star white-tablecloth" restaurants, which he called "circuses without clowns or trapezes."  I don’t know how often Bittman gets to France or if he ever dines as Michelin three-star restaurants while there, but, as someone who visits at least once a year, I have never come back with a batting average like .300 for memorable dining experiences; my average is better than .700, both in and out of Paris.
         The urge to bash three-star restaurants is understandable from a price point, though the owners contend they rarely make money from such restaurants because ingredients, taxes, capital and labor costs make it almost impossible.  But one would have to be wholly lacking in taste to deny the excellence of the cuisine at so many of the starred restaurants in France, which, contrary to ignorant belief, are not all serving the same twenty dishes they did fifty years ago.  A visit to three-star places (there are 27 in France) like L’Arpége, Pierre Gagnaire and L'Épicure (right)  in Paris, La Vague d’Ôr in Saint-Tropéz, Le Petit Nice in Marseille, and Régis et Jacques Marcon in Saint-Bonnet-Le-Froid easily belie such uninformed criticism.
         Even avoiding such restaurants, France is rich in every region—from Alsace to Brittany—in smaller, less heralded restaurants and bistros, many still owned by those revered moms and pops who Bittman insists are disappearing.  It may be possible to find a bistro in a small town in Provence serving frozen frogs’ legs and sous-vide boeuf bourguignon, but with the merest inquiry, one can find the good places readily revealed.         
The key is to be guided by those with wide experience in such matters or, more simply, by those who live in a particular neighborhood.  Extolling a new bistro named Le Bon Georges in Paris’ 9th arrondissement, the peripatetic gastronome Alexander Lobrano, whose new guide Hungry for Paris is requisite reading, wrote recently that, “the better way to see how well a city eats is to go into its neighborhoods and sample the places the locals go to all of the time.”
         Anyone who can’t find wondrous choucroute in Strasbourg or memorable mussels mouclade in La Rochelle or extraordinary charcuterie in Lyon or wild strawberries in season in Le Lavandou has either been misinformed or didn’t follow the locals’ advice.
         It is unnecessary for me to list my favorite restaurants and bistros in France—this article would stretch across many pages—but I would defy anyone with a good nose to find better breads, cheeses, wild mushrooms, truffles, berries, fish and seafood, and chocolate than those in the markets good cooks buy from every day.        
    I shall gladly endure the “agony” of the three-star dining experience to eat grilled langoustines cooked in the finest butter or a dessert so rich in chocolate that a single morsel suffices to show its eminence.  And when hungry for the simple good food of the Parisian bistros, I know just where to go for turbot cooked to the perfect point of succulence, fabulous baby lamb, a cheese soufflé of magical lightness, and a bottle of unfamiliar aged beaujolais I had no idea could be so delicious.

Nostalgia for the food once tasted in one’s youth is an unreliable dining companion.  For I recall that my very first meals in Paris when I got there at the age of nineteen, on a student’s budget, I found everything, absolutely everything, was sensationally good—the bread, the butter, the steak frites, the asparagus, the eclairs.  Those indelible memories have drawn me back to France for four decades, and if I now spend more money and a little more effort to find a good meal, it’s always a pleasure and never very difficult.



By John Mariani
Photos by Max Zagor


146 Bowery (at Broome Street)

         Sluggish is not a word I would use to describe the restaurant economy in America.  Indeed, having recently visited cities like Atlanta, Charleston, Baltimore, New Orleans and others, I find restaurants as jammed as airline flights (and often just as uncomfortable).  Upscale dining has never been more popular, more new restaurants are opening than anyone can keep track of, and the food keeps getting better and better.
         Nowhere is this truer than in New York, where, even if I ate out three times a week exclusively at new restaurants, I couldn't keep up.  The crazy thing is that so many of them are very interesting restaurants, not just chain steakhouses, hamburger stands or ramen noodle joints.  Of those I’ve visited most recently, Bacchanal  
  is a stand-out, as I expected it to be, given its owners’ pedigree: Peter Poulakakos and his father,  Harry, have been veteran New York restaurateurs long enough to know that trends and egos always flare brightly then fade.  The father-and-son duo operate Harry’s Cafe & Steak, Adrienne’s Pizzabar, Vintry Wine & Whiskey, The Dead Rabbit and Bathtub Gin, this last with Bacchanal partner Dave Oz.
         Their new restaurant has no intention of breaking rules for their own sake, either decorously or by cuisine.  In fact, the décor of Bacchanal, whose name suggests a room done up with friezes of cavorting Grecian nymphs and drunken gods, is not dissimilar to many in Lower Manhattan restaurants and bars, with lots of dark wood and bare tables, distressed concrete pillars and brick walls. The noise level is sadly high, increased by unnecessary pounding music. Tablecloths would help, too.
         It is in Chef Scott Bryan’s cooking, however, that the distinguishing marks appear as simple ideas impeccably rendered to show the kind of precision such cuisine requires. Bryan had been the first chef at the much-missed Veritas, whose wine list, thanks to its wealthy connoisseur owner, had astounding depth. Bacchanal is still impressive, with 450 very well chosen selections at reasonable price points.
         Reading Bryan’s menu doesn’t begin to tell you just how delicious everything will be--although I don't encourage any chef to spell out any more than necessary about his dishes.  So when you read “hamachi crudo avocado, chili, chive, hearts of palm” (below) you may think, well, how many times have I seen this?  And you may have, often; but Bryan’s version is everything this dish should be, starting with the lustrous, sweet raw yellowtail, enhanced by subtleties of seasonings.
         So, too, “grilled Spanish octopus eggplant caviar, paprika” ($14) isn’t exactly novel these days, but Bryan manages to give the octopus exceptional creaminess within, while providing a lightly seared and very tender exterior that picks up the paprika note.  You won’t find a finer corn velouté, chilled, this summer, here with roasted poblanos, tomatoes and a touch of basil ($10).  Then there are just thin slices of Ibérico ham, which need nothing more than a crust of bread to be absolutely perfect.
         There are three pastas among the main courses: chitarra cut strands are nicely dressed with green onions, a little lemon and mild bottarga--any stronger and the flavor would take over ($18).  Swiss chard and ricotta-filled agnolotti ($17) are delicately light, with a Trentino-style dash of sesame seeds and rich brown butter and sage.  Risotto ($18), impeccably al dente, is laced with an abundance of wild hen-o’-the-woods mushrooms, peas and a generous shot of Parmigiano.
         Atlantic codfish (right) is not easy to make interesting on its own, but Bacchanal’s rendering  ($26) with a white bean puree, Manila clams, roasted garlic and parsley soaks up all the flavors its needs to make the fish proud.  And wild Scottish salmon, with pea shoots, ginger soy vinaigrette, and crunchy sesame seeds ($25), proves why I will never eat farm-raised salmon again.
         Roasted farm chicken ($22), on the other hand, showed that carefully tending a bird can make all the difference in taste and texture, and Bryan’s addition of creamy mascarpone polenta, chanterelles, tarragon and a touch of Madeira marries the succulence of the bird with honor.
         How simple the desserts (all $10) sound: peach tarte Tatin with crème fraîche ice cream and caramel; warm flourless chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and cocoa nibs; and vanilla panna cotta in a pretty passionfruit soup.  And they are simple: simply wonderful.
         Bacchanal succeeds on sheer talent and focus, not by dazzle or unholy alliances of ingredients.  It’s one of those rare places where I feel safe sending anyone and expect to get back enthusiastic, hearty thank you’s for doing so.


Bacchanal is open for business seven nights a week.



You Don't Always Get What You Pay For in a Wine Bottle.

By John Mariani

       It’s hardly a dirty little secret among vintners, but it's not something they brag about. 
          The fact is, some of the biggest, most
illustrious names in winedom sell off sizable percentages of their award-winning wines to other wine companies for bottling under the latter’s name.


      “I get very frustrated when I see a well-known wine get 94 points
from a respected expert and then my wine—which is exactly the same
wine!—gets an 88,” says Cameron Hughes (right), whose namesake company is an American négoçiant that makes, imports, and distributes ultra-premium wine under five wine labels: The Lot Series , Hughes Wellman, Cameron Hughes California, Greenlip,  and Zin Your Face.
         Hughes is not alone among those who buy either surplus wine or grapes from vintners in California and Europe, and the practice among some very famous wineries has long been to source their grapes from other estates.  “Originally, we did only spot market purchases,” says Hughes, 42.  “Then in 2007 a well-known Russian River winery had 650 tons of excess chardonnay. We contracted them to make the wine for us, and it came to 100,000 gallons.  The 2012 and 2013 vintages were huge, so that creates a problem for wineries that pride themselves on small production and exclusivity. So a lot of wines that may sell for $175 with a famous label, we might sell the same wine under our own Lot Series for $25 to $30.  One of our Lot 451 Coomsville cabernet for $27 a bottle got a 93-point Editors Choice.   Same wine  from the same vineyard, $75-$125."
         This game of bait-and-switch is hardly new. Wine laws in Europe often delimit the amount of wine that may be bottled under a French denomination contrôlee or Italian denominazione d’origine controllata, so that, if a First Growth Bordeaux or Grand Cru Burgundy estate has a banner year of  production, some of the finished wine beyond a legally defined amount must be sold off, either under a second label or to a négoçiant, who labels it himself or negotiates the sale and export of the excess wine.
         It should be obvious why the wineries do not want their excess production to carry their own label: if there is too much of a good thing, the prices will drop.  And such wineries do not like the social status of having their wines sold cheap at Costco, with which Cameron Hughes does enormous business. “I started out as a négoçiant with my own label,” he says, “selling Sinergi Brand Kitchen Sink wines out of my car.  One day I called the head of Costco out of the blue and told him, `I guarantee you’ll buy the first bottle I send to you,’ and I rushed it down to their headquarters in Livermore [California].  He called me back and said he’d take everything I’ve got. That was January 2004; that fall Costco was carrying my Lot One wines throughout Northern California.”
         I’ve tasted an array of Cameron Hughes wines, including excellent cabernets, pinot noirs, and, to my surprise, a superb 2007 Brunello di Montalcino he sells for a remarkable $39. (Under the original label, the wine won 93 and 94 points from the three top wine media.)  I asked him how he could do that, and--we were eating pizza with the Brunello in a New York restaurant--he replied, “We are looking for a needle in the haystack and kiss a lot of frogs along the way. When we found  this Brunello, we bought everything the producer had--700 remaining cases. We only buy offshore `shiners’--finished wines already in bottle--so, in many cases, if you pull the cork, it will tell you the name of the winery that made it. But the label says Cameron Hughes Lot 372 Brunello di Montalcino 2007.”
          Therefore, Hughes and other négoçiants, here and abroad, turn the old cliché that “You get what you pay for” on its head. Which is why anyone who has bought a moderately priced wine without high expectations can be very surprised by the quality.  Indeed, the response is often, “Wow! This tastes like a Stags Leap or Oakville appellation cab that costs five times the price!”  And the reason is that it is the same wine, but at one-fifth the price.
         Such frequent encounters do, of course, put the number ratings of wines into a different perspective, not because the experts are being
fooled but because they are so often being swayed by the reputation of the labels they know.


Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners
Amore for Abruzzo

by Cristina Mariani-May         
co-CEO of Banfi Vintners America's leading wine importer

    Abruzzo is one of Italy’s unsung regions in terms of its raw beauty, history, and winemaking.  The Cerulli family has been part of the regional fabric of Abruzzo for centuries. Like others in the area they prospered not as much from olives and grapes as from prized wool sheared from local sheep and delivered to Florence where it was woven into world-renowned textiles. The family was always forward-thinking, and in the 1960s were one of the founding families behind Casal Thaulero which, under Cerulli presidency, swiftly went on to become Abruzzo’s most successful wine cooperative.
    More recently, the current generation, led by Enrico Cerulli (below), has taken over management of the family’s ancestral property, Azienda Agricola Cerulli Spinozzi, a 148-acre estate now planted mostly to vineyards of Montepulciano. Long synonymous with Abruzzo, the Montepulciano grape is widely known as a reliable and generous if often predictable red wine what is sometimes confused with a town of the same name in Tuscany where Sangiovese-based wines are produced.
    Enrico’s passion is to make outstanding wine in this immeasurably superior quality subzone called Colline Teramane (Teramane Hills),  Abuzzo’s only DOCG (awarded in 2002), accounting for less than .5% of the volume of the larger DOC. 
    Here, late-ripening Montepulciano thrives on the south/southeast facing slopes, in the shadow of Europe’s southernmost glacier and Italy’s highest summit – the Gran Sasso.  Extra hang time enables grapes to develop lush cherry, blackberry and black currant notes.  Nightly temperatures drop dramatically, by as much as 20° F, enhancing aromatics and structure.  The result is a wine in a totally different class from the everyday quaffing Montepulciano from the lowlands.  Deep colored and long lived, redolent with complex fruit notes, this wine is a perfect example of the oft-quoted “iron fist in a velvet glove.”
    Cerulli farms organically, controlling pests with eco-friendly copper salts and giving leaves plenty of air space. For his top bottling, the single vineyard Torre Migliori, Enrico keeps a small area of 30-year-old vines for the complex must they produce, despite the exorbitant cost of farming these low-yield plants. He hand harvests his grapes in small boxes and vinifies them in a custom designed gravity-flow winery (opened in 2003) to minimize handling.  The wine undergoes a lengthy fermentation on the skins, and is aged in oak barrels for 16 months plus at least six more months in bottle before  release.  It is intense and complex, with notes of rich ripe cherries, blackberries, black currants and cloves.  This elegant, well- structured wine is suitable for moderate aging, and was even selected by the President of the Italian Republic to toast 44 visiting heads of state attending the 2009 G8 summit.
    Enrico also produces a white wine called Cortalto, made from another classic varietal of Abruzzo, Pecorino.  They say the wine takes its name from the sheep (pecore in Italian) who would snack on the grapes while grazing in the nearby fields.
    The wine is fermented in stainless steel prior to partial malolactic fermentation, and is aged on its lees for 5 months prior to bottling.  It has subtle aromas of white flowers, peach and citrus; vibrant and zesty on the palate, it is classically Italian in flavor – meaning that it has a great vein of minerality and acidity that make it a great food wine, with a hint of bitter almond on the lingering finish.
    The duet of Cortalto and Torre Migliori is perfectly symbolic of Abruzzo; the Pecorino goes so well with much of the fresh seafood typical of the Adriatic coast, and the Montepulciano is delicious with classic inland mountain dishes like lamb and roast pork.  The Cerulli family’s commitment to quality has made this family a standard bearer for the land where for several months of the year you can ski on the Gran Sasso in the morning and swim in the warm Adriatic in the afternoon!

Cristina Mariani is not related by family or through business with John Mariani, publisher of this newsletter




On his first day in office, Wayne Ronayne (right) stood down as Mayor of Gosport, England,  after he and his partner Paula Carter upset local pub owners who barred from 36 pubs in the area. According to press reports, the pair was refused entry to two pubs, The Star and Nelson's. Stephen Brown, the duty manager at Nelsons, said: "Ms Carter said to me 'do you know who I am?'  "I said 'no, I don't,' and she said, 'I'm the mayoress of Gosport, I can have you closed down.' "I politely said she still wouldn't be coming in, she was clearly drunk and then continued to be rude and had to be dragged away." Nelsons owner Arthur Caraccio added: "We expect better behaviour than this."



"Trattoria Il Mulino in the Flatiron District offers the Abruzzese dining of its flagship, Il Mulino, but with relaxed atmosphere. . . . Menu standouts include the ricotta meatballs in a tomato basil sauce, grilled octopus with olives and Yukon potatoes. . . pappardelle lobster marinara, chicken parmigiana, and Chilean sea bass."--Christina Kline, "Going Casual Italian in the Flatiron District," WSJ (7/10/14).


 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from

The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink by John F. Mariani (Bloomsbury USA, $35)

Modesty forbids me to praise my own new book, but let me proudly say that it is an extensive revision of the 4th edition that appeared more than a decade ago, before locavores, molecular cuisine, modernist cuisine, the Food Network and so much more, now included. Word origins have been completely updated, as have per capita consumption and production stats. Most important, for the first time since publication in the 1980s, the book includes more than 100 biographies of Americans who have changed the way we cook, eat and drink -- from Fannie Farmer and Julia Child to Robert Mondavi and Thomas Keller.

"This book is amazing! It has entries for everything from `abalone' to `zwieback,' plus more than 500 recipes for classic American dishes and drinks."--Devra First, The Boston Globe.

"Much needed in any kitchen library."--Bon Appetit.

Now in Paperback, too--How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan)  has won top prize  from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.  It is a rollicking history of the food culture of Italy and its ravenous embrace in the 21st century by the entire world. From ancient Rome to la dolce vita of post-war Italy, from Italian immigrant cooks to celebrity chefs, from pizzerias to high-class ristoranti, this chronicle of a culinary diaspora is as much about the world's changing tastes, prejudices,  and dietary fads as about our obsessions with culinary fashion and style.--John Mariani

"Eating Italian will never be the same after reading John Mariani's entertaining and savory gastronomical history of the cuisine of Italy and how it won over appetites worldwide. . . . This book is such a tasteful narrative that it will literally make you hungry for Italian food and arouse your appetite for gastronomical history."--Don Oldenburg, USA Today. 

"Italian restaurants--some good, some glitzy--far outnumber their French rivals.  Many of these establishments are zestfully described in How Italian Food Conquered the World, an entertaining and fact-filled chronicle by food-and-wine correspondent John F. Mariani."--Aram Bakshian Jr., Wall Street Journal.

"Mariani admirably dishes out the story of Italy’s remarkable global ascent to virtual culinary hegemony....Like a chef gladly divulging a cherished family recipe, Mariani’s book reveals the secret sauce about how Italy’s cuisine put gusto in gusto!"--David Lincoln Ross,

"Equal parts history, sociology, gastronomy, and just plain fun, How Italian Food Conquered the World tells the captivating and delicious story of the (let's face it) everybody's favorite cuisine with clarity, verve and more than one surprise."--Colman Andrews, editorial director of The Daily

"A fantastic and fascinating read, covering everything from the influence of Venice's spice trade to the impact of Italian immigrants in America and the evolution of alta cucina. This book will serve as a terrific resource to anyone interested in the real story of Italian food."--Mary Ann Esposito, host of PBS-TV's Ciao Italia.

"John Mariani has written the definitive history of how Italians won their way into our hearts, minds, and stomachs.  It's a story of pleasure over pomp and taste over technique."--Danny Meyer, owner of NYC restaurants Union Square Cafe,  The Modern, and Maialino.



FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linked to four excellent travel sites:

Everett Potter's Travel  Report

I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the  web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury  Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and  a frequent contributor to National  Geographic Traveler,  and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their  travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special  places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of  staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star  places as five-star experiences."  THIS WEEK: 5 MYTHS ABOUT AIR TURBULENCE; POOLSIDE IN PARIS; LE BON GEORGES

Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio.  He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.


Tennis Resorts OnlineA Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored  two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to  Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).

nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist,;;

MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,   John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Andrew Chalk,  and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

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