Virtual Gourmet

April 13,  2008                                                        NEWSLETTER


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In This Issue


NEW YORK CORNER: kampuchea by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLARPlaneta Brings Sicilian Wines New Respect
By John Mariani


By John Mariani

The Harbor of Portofino
      W hen British rock star Rod Stewart, 62, decided last spring to get married again—to a 36-year-old woman named Penny—he chose to hold the reception at the perfectly-named Hotel Splendido  in Portofino, high above the rippling Ligurian coast.  You may recall that one of Stewart’s big hits was “Some Guys Have All the Luck.”
     He could hardly have chosen a more beautiful place on earth, for Portofino is one of those small hidden harbors full of Moby-Dick size yachts, above which hover piney, flower-dappled hills where Dolce and Gabbana and Giorgio Armani have homes.  The Splendido itself (Salita Baratta 16; 0185-26-7801) is near the top of one of those hills, up a winding road that isolates it from everything surrounding and below it, and the hotel’s walls are lined with celebrity photos of everyone from Ingrid Bergman to Julie Christie who have secluded themselves there. (There is also a charming small hotel in the town associated with the Splendido, called Splendido Mare.)
     To dine al fresco at the hotel’s La Terrazza restaurant (below) is just as glorious as everything else about the place. Certainly nothing improves the taste of food and wine more than salt sea air, and when that air is wafting over La Terrazza and the wine is a local Ligurian pigato, there is nothing to do but surrender to the romance of it all. The first thing to do here is to order one of bartender Antonio Beccalli's aperitifs made from white peaches, raspberry, and prosecco, which he has perfected over his 37 years at the Splendido.
         As I was served an  amuse of a fresh anchovy on toast and took my first sip of the pigato,  I was  immediately struck by the notion that drinking the wines of a region with the food of a region not only makes sense but imparts a greater appreciation of the local gastronomy. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, but when in Liguria, feast on seafood from the Ligurian Sea and drink the wines made along this glorious coastal region, which extends from Lerici to the sprawling port of Genoa and up to the edge of Monaco and the French Riviera.
       What followed that evening was very typical of the cooking of the area, culled from the sea and inland farms and based on the simple idea that good ingredients like langoustines, spiny lobster, branzino, orata, dorade, scampi, and San Pietro fish, along with fragrant olive oil, sweet pine nuts, bitter arugula, and, more than anything else, the most aromatic basil in the world, need nothing more than to interact. To manipulate such ingredients is to compromise them. (Dinner per person, with tax and service included, without wine, will run about 70 Euros.)
   I spent several days in Portofino, which rightly claims itself the most fashionable and exclusive resort on the Riviera de Levante, its small harbor jammed with enormous yachts, its hills dotted with grand villas. No cars are allowed into the town’s center, so people stroll arm in arm on their way to the boutiques or to the tiny, rocky scallop-shaped beach fronted with chic restaurants like Chuflay (Via Roma 2; 0185-26-7802)--an Italian pronunciation of “Shoofly”). Here, just yards from the water (below) wealthy travelers come to sip bellinis, eat seafood, and savor crème brûlée flavored with the sweet Ligurian wine called sciacchetrà.  They serve excellent crudi (raw fish) with Ligurian olive oil drizzled over it, and I loved the light but rich Ligurian goat's cheese from the Savonesi hills with a dressing of pureed olives. Gnocchi are made with vegetables, lobster, and fresh cherry tomatoes, and the mixed grill is the ideal way to sample the day's catch. I, of course, could not resist having another version of pesto, a sauce and condiment that is at the heart and soul of Ligurian cooking. (Dinner per person, with tax and service included, without wine, will run about 70 Euros.)
       Take that perfume-like sweet basil, the pinenuts, some olive oil, and a little garlic, crush them in a mortar with some pecorino cheese, and you have pesto, used in a variety of dishes but so widely in pastas that it has become an obsession among Ligurians who will hotly debate for hours where and when the best basil is to be found.  The Genoese dismiss the idea of hothouse basil (cultivated in Liguria since the 18th century), insisting that only the plants from surrounding communities like Pegli, Palmaro, and, in particular, Prà produce superior basil.  Long before the tomato reached Italy from the New World, basil thoroughly infused Ligurian food culture.
     Some fanatics refuse to eat pesto when the basil flags at summer’s end, though they may secretly pack the leaves in olive oil or make pots of the sauce then freeze it, because it would be difficult for them to hold out until spring without a taste of something than runs in their veins.  It is said that basil should never be touched by metal, insisting that only a marble mortar and wooden pestle be used to crush the herb gently and to incorporate the ingredients into a vibrant green, creamy paste.
The classic pesto dish is trenette col pesto—thin fettuccine-like pasta coated with the pesto sauce to which are added boiled green beans and cubes of potatoes to give it more texture.   Trofie are small, inch-long morsels of pasta, like gnocchi, also treated to pesto.  The sauce is worked into risottos and is lavished on another lovely Ligurian dish made with thin, almost sheer pasta sheets called mandilli de saea (silk handkerchiefs).  When Ligurians make lasagne, they don’t sandwich sheets of pasta with cheese and meat sauce and bake it; they merely layer sheets of boiled pasta with pesto.  Pesto is also lavishly laced into a hearty vegetable soup called minestrone that is a specialty of the region.
         One of Ligurians’ favorite non-pesto sauces is tocco de noxe, made with walnuts, breadcrumbs, ricotta, olive oil, and grated cheese, slowly and gently worked in a mortar. It is traditionally ladled onto pansôti (fat bellies), a ravioli-like pasta filled with herbs.
   In the trattorias of Liguria you’ll find local specialties like the rich fish soup called ‘ciuppin, which lent its name to San Francisco’s similar dish cioppino.  Bagnun is an intense, well-seasoned anchovy and tomato soup served with crusts of bread, and baccalà is salted cod that has been dried then refreshed in water before being turned into dozens of preparations, included as fried morsels.
     The Ligurians are also masters of fritture—fried dishes that range from fresh anchovies and calamari to little cheese puffs called focaccette and bean fritters. On the second week in May, in the fisherman’s town of Camogli (whose dialect name means “Home of the Wives” for the women who patiently waited for their men at sea), they hold the Sagra del Pesce, a feast to commemorate the dire days during World War II when fishermen had to sail between German mines to obtain enough fish to feed their starving families.  Under the protection of St. Fortunato, they succeeded, so that ever since the town repays him by holding a bountiful feast at which huge frying pans 13 feet in diameter are filled with oil and fresh seafood, which is then cooked and given away free to everyone, townspeople and tourists alike.

       In Genoa, one of the best places to try fritto misto (mixed fry) of seafood is at the very popular 60-year-old restaurant Da Rina (Mura delle Grazie 3r; 010-246-6475; left), whose very attentive, impeccably dressed materfamilias is 95 years old! The fritto misto will include whatever is freshest that day--sardines, squid, anchovies, mullet, and other items.  codfish fritters came with crisp-fried vegetables, and paccheri pasta is stuffed with fresh tuna with a sauce tomato, olives, and capers. Chef Roberto Cantatore's mandilli de saea at Da Rina was one of the best I've had in Genoa. Sautéed ricciola (amberjack) in a balsamic reduction.
    Afterwards., you can stroll under the ancient arcades, said to be "a thousand paces long"--of Genoa where certain shops specialize in nothing but fried food, the ingredients for which they obtain just steps away in the seafood markets across from the harbor.
(Dinner per person, with tax and service included, without wine, will run about 50 Euros.)
     The harbor area and historic district teem with little cafés, candy shops, bread stores, and spice emporiums under those ancient archways. In the pastry shops, look for the cookie with the word zena on top-- a local name for Genoa, and the rich, chocolate-flavored and buttercream custard called sacri pantina.  Ask where to find  Viganotti Romeo: You walk down a narrow one-block long carruggio (alleyway) named Vico Castagna off the Via Petrarca, and on the left-hand side is a wooden door that opens onto a small interior as unprepossessing as a shoe repair shop. But this is considered one of the finest artisanal chocolate shops in Liguria, lovingly made in small, beautiful batches by the maestro Alessandro Boccardo.
     Unless you spend a great deal of time
touring historic palazzos along the Via Garibaldi and the gallerias and museums, the old central part of the city may be walked around in a morning and afternoon, including Porto Antico, where the Aquarium is located and architect Renzo Piano has been in charge of the renovation of the port.   The Cathedral of San Lorenzo is a very 12th century Romanesque church of black and white marble with Gothic additions and a sacristy holding a museum of jewels, including a plate supposedly used to hold the head of St. John the Baptist.

       Driving south of Genoa you come to the Riviera de Levante region of Cinque Terre—five quaint villages, each with its own character—and the fishing villages-turned-resort towns of Portofino, Santa Margherita, Chiavari, Camogli, and Rapallo.  To the north of the city is the other Riviera, with equally beautiful towns like Noli, Finale Ligure, Cervo, San Remo, and Ventimiglia. The locals vie to paint their house facades in bright colors of trompe l'oeuil, which was also a way for the seafaring Ligurians to spot their homes on their way back.
  The sea is everything in these towns. Locals revere seafood as an inexhaustible resource that has sustained these villages in good times and bad for a millennium. Nowhere is this bond more jubilantly celebrated than in Camogli, a vibrant fishing village with pine-darkened mountains looming above a harbor packed with fishing boats and an increasing number of yachts.
    All share, more or less, the same food traditions, and even after you cross the French border, you’ll begin to see many of the same dishes you saw in Liguria, modified with French names.  Thus, pesto becomes pistou, and  fried fiori di zucca (zucchini flowers) become fleurs de courgettes; chickpea flour fritters called panissa in San Remo become panisses in Saint Tropéz, while the chickpea pancake called farinata in Chiavari is known as socca in Nice.
      Farinata is somewhat puffier than socca, and often flavored with herbs or onions.  At the very rustic, very popular restaurant in Chiavari named Luchin (
Via Bighetti 51; 0185-301-063)--this year celebrating its centennial in business--farinata is a specialty, cooked in copper pans in a big pizza-like oven.  It bubbles up golden brown on top, and it’s brought to you outside (left), where you sit under a sun-screening arch at a wooden table and drink the slightly sparkling house wine as you nibble one piece, then another of the farinata, while thinking about the fried anchovies and the minestrone to follow.  And you get a lot for a little: The pastas run 7 Euros, the main courses 7 to 10 Euros, and local wines by the carafe 7 to 8 Euros.
      In any of these towns along the sea, there is an array of gelaterias selling artisanal ice cream and everywhere—as everywhere else—pizzerias. But in Liguria the specialty pizza is called sardenaira,  topped not with mozzarella cheese, but only with olives, anchovies, garlic, basil, and olive oil; on the French Riviera this  is called pissaladiére.
    Best of all are the numerous focaccerie—storefronts selling the puffed-up, dimpled bread called focaccia.  Hot from the ovens, baked with onions, or cheese, or herbs, and sprinkled with sea salt, focaccia is as proudly Ligurian as pesto, and the people consume as much of it as they do bread.
      A good focaccia has a slightly crispy top and is tender within, not so spongy as you find elsewhere in Italy or the United States.  Once you taste it, you will give yourself over to the ritual of lining up outside your favorite focacceria and wait with others, ravenously hungry, for the big steamy squares to come out of the intense heat of the stone ovens.  In the town of Recco they even hold a Festa del Focaccia attended by thousands of people who start with plain focaccia and coffee in the morning and end the afternoon with focaccia stuffed with cheese while enjoying a glass of local vermentino.
      Focaccia and pesto, seafood and olives, and good wine have sustained the people of Liguria for centuries.  Now, in times of abundance they still enjoy their native food with tremendous gusto and a generosity of spirit that is infectious.  So, whether you are eating a glistening branzino with only a benediction of green-gold olive oil at a place like La Terrazza or noshing on fried anchovies and ordering another carafe of white wine at a trattoria like Luchin, you will be surrounded by people who seem quite justified in believing there is no more beautiful place to be and no better place to eat and drink.
      On my last night in Portofino I ate at a charmingly casual trattoria at the north end of the town--the lovable Concordia, (
Via del Fondaco 5; 0185-269-207), where the owner Gian Battista (left, center) lavished our table with fried anchovies and zucchini blossoms, raw fish drizzled with olive oil, and grilled octopus. He serves an exquisite pesto lasagna, thin sheets of fresh pasta layered with a beautiful, smooth pesto that’s sweet from the basil and pine nuts and tangy and salty from Pecorino cheese. With it we drank a bottle of Azienda Agriciola Riccardo Bruna Pigato 2006 from the region around Ranzo Borgo. It showed a big floral bouquet followed by minerals picked up from gravelly soil and the saltiness of the sea that gave it a nice, brisk structure in the finish. Concordia's winelist focuses on the wines of northern Italy.
     The evening was wholly typical of the cooking of the area – simply prepared food made with wonderful ingredients culled from the sea and inland farms, a menu of langoustines, spiny lobster, branzino, orata, dorade, scampi, and San Pietro. On that night in Portofino, watching the pine green hills slowly darken above a sapphire-blue sea and beneath a cerulean sky, and drinking the cold pigato and dining so beautifully,  I knew that my appetite for Liguria had only just been whetted.


by John Mariani


78 Rivington Street(corner of Allen Street)

     I don't know if New York is in for a slew of new noodle parlors--it's not as if the city hasn't long had plenty of them, in and out of Chinatown and Queens--but the overhyped success of David Chang's Momofuko enterprise in that genre has certainly made chefs and restaurateurs think about opening their own.  Kampuchea on the bustling Lower East Side has been around since last year, and its popularity is based on all the right moves:  The place is casual but snappy, the open kitchen allows you to see what's going on, the prices are right, and the service staff couldn't be nicer. It has also, wisely, dropped "noodle bar" from its name; indeed, while the noodle dishes are terrific, they are equally matched by the great sandwiches and other dishes.
     The name is the Khmer word for Cambodia, and Chef Ratha Chau, whose parents emigrated to the U.S., is doing a great job of approximating the street food of that country, not just with noodle dishes but with a panoply of unusual dishes you won't easily find anywhere else in NYC. I have no experience with Cambodian fare--the only other NYC entry was South East Asian Cuisine, which closed--but I assume Chau, who is self taught, is paying his most sincere homage to the food of his home country.
     The small restaurant has expansive windows on two sides, some communal tables, and seems to get as many families with kids in tow as it does LES denizens. Kids seem to take to this food readily: a lot is fried, most can be eaten with your fingers.  And if you want to complain to anyone, Chau is standing just feet away in the kitchen.
      It's an overly ambitious menu for such a small kitchen--18 small plates, 12 sandwiches, 5 crepes, and 11 soups, noodle dishes, and stews. But most of what I had was pulled off with panache, beginning with chilled rice vermicelli with grilled Berkshire pork, Chinese sausage, an egg over easy, shallots, and crushed peanuts.  The cold noodles worked nicely with the warm pork and texture of the peanuts. I'm not a huge fan of monkfish liver, but the seared version at Kampuchea with a beef jus, macerated spiced pears, pickled daikons, and bush basil had enough extra flavors to work with the too-often-pungent liver.
      Tamarind baby back ribs with cilantro and a lime dip was addictive, and at only $13 everybody at the table should get their own rather than fight over one plate. I do love sweetbreads, and Chau (with Scott Burnett left) does well by them, giving them a quick searing then bobbing them in a shiitake broth with an enoki-basil salad.  Mussels, not too big, not too small, are not for th faint of palate--the spicy-sour broth packs a wallop, tamed by okra and tomatillos and sopped up with a crusty baguette.
ow, about those sandwiches: They are sensationally delicious, proving that something considered as lowly as a sandwich can rise to gastronomic heights if you just take care and use great ingredients, much the same as with a well-made pastrami on rye at Katz's Deli nearby. Have the num pang, a tasting of three of them, perhaps the coconut tiger shrimp with toasted coconut; the sweet pulled oxtail with tamarind-basil sauce; or the Hoisin sauce meatballs with tomato sauce. They are the kind of dishes that make you wish you lived right around the corner from Kampuchea.
     We also noshed our way through a catfish crepe with ground peppercorn, honey-soy, and sesame seed; a grilled whole mackerel with chili sauce; and crispy pork belly with honey, scallions, and apple cider.  And, oh yeah! The noodles: A hot, rich chicken broth with flat rice sticks, ground pork, duck confit, chicken breast, tiger shrimp, and herbs--a kind of kitchen sink dish that succeeds as much on complex flavors as on sheer bravado.
      All of us really enjoyed the food at Kampuchea--as well as the signature cocktails like the mango caipirinha--but I think what I enjoyed most was in seeing the commitment and self-taught talent of Ratha Chau and his kitchen staff bring something new to New Yorkers who profess to have seen and tasted it all.

Kampuchea is open  for lunch Fri.-Sun, for dinner daily. Small plates $6-$12, sandwiches and crepes $10-$17, large plates $15-$18.


by John Mariani

     Wine has been made in Sicily at least as early as the Fifth Century B.C. but it’s taken about 2500 years to get it right.  Even 20 years ago Sicily was known mainly for Marsala and dessert wines like Malvasia delle Lipari and Moscato di Pantelleria,  whereas many of the region’s cooperatives deliberately overproduced wine to be distilled into alcohol allowed under EU laws.
    Only a handful of Sicilian wineries, like Duca di Salaparuta and Regaleali, used modern technology to produce premium varietals, and only in 1995 did Planeta, with holdings in Sambuca di Sicilia since the 1600s, produce its first vintage—a highly successful chardonnay and a fiano; now, after a dozen vintages, Planeta also makes wines at their other estates at Menfi (syrah, merlot, and others), Vittoria (nero d’avola and frappato), and Noto (nero d’avola and moscato bianco).  In that short time Planeta has helped bring Sicilian wines, both traditional and new varietals, considerable  respect in the international market.
     I met with Francesca Planeta, who owns the company with her cousins Alessio and Santi (below), at a restaurant in Tuckahoe, NY, named Angelina’s that cellars one of the largest Italian winelists in the tri-state area. Over generous portions of Southern Italian food that included eggplant rollatine, gnocchi with tomato and basil, and a very good pizza alla margherita, I sampled ten of Planeta’s wines, ranging from $15 to $40.
     Born in Palermo, Planeta, 35, is the daughter of an English mother and a Sicilian father who is president of island’s best-known cooperative, Settesoli. She studied classics in Palermo, earned a masters in communications in London, then another in Milan, all by the age of 22, when she worked briefly in public relations for the Milan-based marketing division of Nestle before joining the family business.
     “My father’s motto, and also mine,“ she said, “is, if you compare yourself only with your neighbor, you will never improve.”
    Speaking of her efforts to distance Planeta from other Sicilian wineries, she explained that Sicily has a myriad of terroirs, and too many farmers simply grow whatever will produce the most grapes. “There are at least 100 microclimates. Only the area around Mount Etna is volcanic, others are sandy, and western Sicily varies a great deal in soil composition.  That’s why we plant different grapes in our different estates. You can’t make the same wine from grapes that have such different characteristics.”
     Indeed, I found the Planeta wines had marked differences, though every one manifested the robust sunniness of Sicily, giving body to both reds and whites.
     Fiano di Avellino is the white varietal in Planeta’s Cometa 2006 ($39), which shows the minerality of its chalky terroir. The fruit has a real smoothness and blossoms on mid-palate, kept refreshing by a balance of acid. It is a lovely wine with seafood and I might even try it with salads dressed with lemon or vinegar because it can hold up to those sharp flavors.
     The 2006 chardonnay  ($39) gains from 10 months in French oak barrels, whose toastiness harmonizes with the voluminous honey and peach fruit flavors. This is a sun-struck wine of power that, with 20,000 cases produced, has understandably become a favorite restaurant wine with customers.
     La Segreta Rosso 2006 ($15) is a delightfully complex red wine drawing on different grapes from different regions, 50 percent nero d’avola, 25 percent merlot, 20 percent syrah, and 5 percent cabernet franc.  The first gives the wine its big body and tannins, the merlot softens it,  the syrah provides a cherry-like spice, and the cab franc rounds it all out. It went perfectly with the pizza and the tomato-rich gnocchi.
     Planeta’s Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2006 ($15) is not the same wine as the rose of the same name made in Abruzzo from montepulciano di Abruzzo. Instead it is a dry red—the name means “cherry red”--made from 60 percent nero d’avola and 40 percent frappato, a Sicilian grape that really does have a cherry red color and flavor.  Both pick up the iron from the region’s soil, along with abundant fruit that just misses being cloying, so it goes well with Italian cheeses like buffalo mozzarella and asiago.
     I was especially impressed by Planeta Santa Cecilia 2005 ($39), made exclusively from nero d’avola in the Noto region. The grapes are allowed to macerate for 12 days, giving it a tannic backbone, and 12 months in oak tames that into a velvety, lustrous and uniquely peppery wine, an excellent foil for fatty roast duck or venison.
     The last wine I tasted is called Burdese 2005 ($39),   Planeta’s Bordeaux-style blend of 70 percent cabernet sauvignon and 30 percent cabernet franc. It’s a powerhouse, robust and vigorous, rather like a wine from the Médoc that spent summers in Sicily. It would be beautiful with charred steaks, and should get better for some time to come.
     “We make our wines to be drunk as soon as we release them,” said Planeta. “But if you have patience, which is the key to all winemaking and the enjoyment of wine, a little age will only make them better.”

John Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis, and some of its articles play of the Saturday Bloomberg Radio and TV.



Lollipops from - where else? - China have been recalled after metal fragments were found in at least two lollipops sold at central Florida stores.


660 Curries by Raghanan Iyer (Workman, $32.50).


*   On April 30 The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce proudly presents the 11th Annual BROOKLYN EATS™ at Abigail Kirsch at Stage 6 Steiner Studios, showcasing Brooklyn as a dining and cultural destination. More than 34 local restaurants will serve tasting portions of signature  food dishes with international wines, micro-brews, coffee and Brooklyn sodas. Announcement of the winners of the sixth annual Brooklyn Eats Scholarships.  Advance Purchase: $95 pp; at the door $115;  Visit

* On May 1 restaurateur Sirio Maccioni will be honored at the 2nd annual Taste of the World to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at Chelsea Market, with an international menu of signature dishes from 24 New York area restaurants, incl. Avra Estatorio, Graffiti, Hudson River Café, Klee Brasserie, Landmarc, Le Cirque, Lever House, Mai House, Maremma, Osteria del Circo, Payard Bistro, San Domenico, and Toloache.  $250- $750 pp. Call  212-986-8783 or email Visit

* On May 2, a “Five Star  Night” gala will benefit the Alameda County Meals On Wheels, hosted by Narsai David, at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension  in Oakland, CA.  It features a champagne  and fine wine reception, silent and  live auctions, gala dinner created by 15 Bay Area chefs,, and dancing to  the live music of The Fabulous CruiseTones. $300 pp. Call 510-577-3580;

* On May 4, six top female chefs from the Chicago area will prepare the 12th Annual Girl Food Dinner at West Town Tavern. Chef Susan Goss and Drew Goss, the restaurant's owners will donate all proceeds to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Chefs participating incl.  Christine McCabe, Blue Plate; chef Jill Barron, Mana Food Bar; chef Karen Armijo, Gary Comer Youth Center; chef Leah Caplan, The Washington Hotel; and chef Nadia Tilkian, Maijean Restaurant. $150 pp. Call 312- 666-6175;

* On May 7  Sustainable Food Center's “Farm to Plate”  fundraiser  to benefit Austin Farmers' Market  will be held at Triangle Park, with 16 chefs and 8 Hill Country wineries. For info visit


NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with two 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."  To go to his blog click on the logo below:


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). Click on the logo below to go to the site.



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

John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Wine Spectator, Bloomberg News and Radio, Diversion.,, and Cowboys and Indians.  He is author of The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink (Lebhar-Friedman), The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink (Broadway), and, with his wife Galina, the award-winning Italian-American Cookbook (Harvard Common Press), and other books below.

 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from by clicking on the cover image.

6y6My newest book, written with my brother Robert Mariani, is a memoir of our years growing up in the North Bronx. It's called Almost Golden because it re-visits an idyllic place and time in our lives when so many wonderful things seemed possible.
    For those of you who don't think of the Bronx as “idyllic,” this book will be a revelation. It’s about a place called the Country Club area, on the shores of Pelham Bay. It was a beautiful neighborhood filled with great friends and wonderful adventures that helped shape our lives. It's about a culture, still vibrant, and a place that is still almost the same as when we grew up there.
Robert and I think you'll enjoy this very personal look at our
Bronx childhood. It is not yet available in bookstores, so to purchase a copy, go to or click on  Almost Golden.
--John Mariani

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 © copyright John Mariani 2008