Virtual Gourmet

April 5, 2009                                                                 NEWSLETTER

                                                       "The Last Supper"

Readers may now access an Archive of all past newsletters--each annotated--dating back to July, 2003, by simply clicking on

SUBSCRIBE AND UN-SUBSCRIBE: You may subscribe anyone you wish to this newsletter--free of charge--by clicking

In This Issue

Up the Left Coast of Mexico by John Mariani

NEW YORK CORNER: Il Poeta  by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Like Father, Like Daughter, Gaia Gaja Wants Wines with Personality
by  John Mariani


Up the Left Coast of Mexico
by John Mariani
Photos by Galina Stepanoff-Dargery

    As my wife and I drove up the coast of Mexico out of Puerto Vallarta, she surveyed the towns and dusty landscapes and said, "Everything in Mexico looks half built."
     I think she's probably right about that, for two reasons: First, there is a helluva lot of construction going on in Mexico's resort areas, and second, Mexicans apparently build things in pieces, when they have the money or when a son, daughter, or relative moves in.  Now, with the economic downturn, I'm not sure if everything now under construction or in the planning stages will all be finished, but the coastal region called Nyarit was bustling with condos and resorts when I visited several months ago. I was told that in the next thre years 30 hotels are planed, and a few golf courses too.
     Puerto Vallarta has long been the tourist center in the area, but Nyarit extends through the fast-developing Punta Mita region, where the Four Seasons Hotel spurred interest in what was until recently a very out-of-the-way trip of territorty along the Pacific. Things are moving fast: The La Tovara National Park, which is near the very popular and colorful  area of San Blas, has a fine, unspoiled bird sanctuary set within a mangrove forest through which you may glide on lagoons in a quiet motorboat. Nearby is an alligator farm, where these huge reptiles lie in the sun and regard passersby with a low-lidded grin that put me in mind of the song from "Peter Pan" that warns you should "Never smile at a crocodile, no, you can't get friendly with a crocodile./ Don't be taken in by his welcome grin/ He's imagining how well you'd fit within his skin."
      San Blas itself is a very historic area, a 17th century port city with a colonial Basilio fort (left) and church of La Marinera, a stopping point for Spanish missionaries on their way to California as well as for tens of thousands of migrating birds attracted by the lush tropical vegetation here. It is still a quiet town with stretches of largely unoccipied beaches, with a few hotels and small restaurants.
     The best signature hotel here is the lovely 
Hotel Garza Canela (below) in San Blas, owned by four sisters and their brother, making this is a very highly personalized place with familial character throughout décor and service. It also has one of the best restaurantes in the area,  El Delfin, where chef Betty Vazquez, who studied with Spain’s renowned José-Mari Arzak of San Sebastián, served me a delightful sopa de mariscos—seafood soup with two chilies, coconut, and parsley, and then juicy chicken breast stuffed with dates and prunes drizzled with and orange-and-ancho chile sauce. I finished the evening with a traditional flan custard that she had couched in sautéed apples and five Mexican spices, and finally a chile-spiked chocolate cake. Ms Vazquez is an unassuming, charming woman, obviously intent on her guests' happiness, and the hotel itself is well set to allow you to use it as a base of operations in the region.
     Also good, especially for sipping margaritas on the deck at sunset, is Casa Mañanas, itself a small resort hotel on the beach.
If you're starving, try McDonald Mike's Place (which has nothing to do with the global hamburger chain), opened in 1952 by an American at a time when San Blas was even sleepier than it is now. The food is basic Mexican fare, nothing more or less, the place itself barebones.
      In the reclusive (at least off season) town of Rincon de Guayabitos, in the area of Jaltemba Bay, there is little to do except to do nothing at all, which is why people come here to take it easy, lie on the beach, and stroll among the boutiques selling clothes, artwork, and artifacts. In season it gets a fairly tony crowd, and one of its claim to pop fame is that they once shot a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders calendar here. The five-year old Vista Guayabitos is the best restaurant in town with a menu equally split between simple seafood, laced with garlic and hot sauce, and various beef dishes (whose beef, as in most everywhere in Mexico, is imported from the U.S.).
      San Francisco (a.k.a San Pancho) is a town known principally for its Polo Club and for its gravitational pull on artists who come here to get away from the civilized world in order to paint the vistas.  It is very quiet for that reason, and if that is your persuasion, book a room in the darling little boutique hotel Cielo Rojo, with just four rooms, lovingly decorated with folk art. It is a simple place and centrally located so that you go out the door, turn right or left, and you can circle the village in minutes, go to the beach, do some shopping, have lunch at Café del Mar, then back to Cielo Rojo for a siesta.
      One of the most modern places to stay in Nyarit is the
Hôtel des Artistes in Punta de Mita overlooking Banderas Bay. Spacious rooms, a spectacular view, and a first-rate restaurant ranking with the best in Mexico make this among the prime choices for staying put and visiting the area.  Sitting on the breezy, wood-planked, gauze-draped patio of the restaurant, we enjoyed first-rate margaritas, made with an añejo tequila and freshly squeezed lime. On opening the menu, instead of ordering those old-fashioned Mexican favorites, I just put myself in the creative hands of Chef Gerardo Sandoval, who, though thoroughly stepped in the classic cooking of Mexico, has distinguished himself by translating it with his own style and flourishes in dishes that diverge from the clichés of Mexican resort cooking.
     He brought a “gazpacho moderno,” a sunny, rose-colored cold soup of tomatoes and pimientos with a spoonful of cucumber gelée, a dice of  alligator pear, and a lacing of aged vinegar.  True to tradition on the one hand, it was also an indication of how Mexican chefs are refining their cuisine with 21st century ideas. The old favorite Mexican dishes are still to be found everywhere, but I find this Nuevo Mexicano as exciting as any in the Americas.
      Other dishes in Mr. Sandoval’s repertoire that day included tiritas de pescado—a ceviche of translucent fish marinated in lime juice, coconut milk, chilies and cilantro with sweet plantain chips; there was sandwich of meaty, rose-red tuna with warm, freshly baked bread, tomato, and new potatoes; on the side, a shooter of gazpacho.
     Sayulita is just about everybody's favorite town in thr Nyarit region, even though it's now pretty much overrun by tourists, including a surfer crowd at the beach thast began coming here in the 1960s. The central plaza of the town is jammed with vendors selling beautiful fabrics, artwork, colordul plastic grocery bags, and just about anything else you might need or be taken with. One of the places always packed with tourists is Don Pedro, set beneath a palapa overlooking the surf beach; here Chef Nicholas Parrillo serves as many Mediterranean dishes as Mexican. Choco Banana is both the name of a must-drop-in eatery in town and of its signature item, a chocolate covered frozen banana that may not be among the heights of Mexican cuisine but is good, cooling fun in the afternoon after a swim in the Pacific. Incidentally, a very good book written about buying land and building a house as a second home in the area is Barry Golson's Gringo in Paradise.
      Another of the more picturesque towns along Nyarit--and there are plenty that are not--is La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, only about 20 minutes north of Puerta Vallarta and 15 from Punta Mita. Here, set on a hilltop overlooking Banderas Bay, is an enchanting little bed-and-breakfast named Villa Bella (left), with large, very comfortable. well decorated rooms, and owners who bend over backwards to make you happy, which includes setting a splendid breakfast at which you will meet your fellow travelers over good coffee, tropical fruits, eggs, and terrific pancakes. There are rooms with Jacuzzis, King Size beds, kithcenette, and other amenities, and the pool and terraces have a grand view of the water and sky.
       For the grandest of luxe experiences, however, nothing comes quite close, as yet, to The Four Seasons at Punta Mita, with its spectacular golf course
(with an optional third hole located on an islet across the water from the tee on the mainland), spacious rooms and  public areas, and excellent restaurants for every taste, including  the large numbers of families who come here.  When I first visited upon its opening in 1999, the property was up an unfinished, very bumpy road and the resort was intended as much for rich Mexicans and South Americans as for the U.S. clientele, but it has been enormously successful and every bit the catalyst for much of what is now being built in the area. The casitas and suites are done in Mexican-style tiled rooves, with marble floors and balconies overlook the beach at Banderas Bay.
The most formal restaurant here--which doesn't mean dressy or pretentious--is Aramara  (right), which offers a 5- and 6-course dinner of modern Mexican cuisine and plenty of fine Mexican wines too. Ketsi is a more casual spot for casual food, but the newest restaurant here, and very beautiful it is, is Bahia, an alfresco dining area that specializes in a wide array of grilled seafood and meats cooked on the mesquite grill; it also offers a "catch of the day" programme, where guests can work with the chef to choose from a variety of fresh seafood right off a local fishing boat, with the chef cooking those selections at both lunch and dinner. Every Saturday Bahía hosts cooking classes with Chef Juan Gaffuri.                             photo: Four Seasons

     If you want to see just how rampant construction is in Nyarit, take a drive to Nuevo Vallarta and see the condos rising, which gives the region more of a cast of Miami Beach than Mexico. While there, just outside the gates, is a very good, simple seafood restaurant named La Laguna Tina's (left), where beneath a thatched roof you sit at colorful tables and order freshly made ceviches, beautifully grilled whole fish, shrimp in a béchmel sauce, and conch au gratin. Al fresco, even when the weather gets warm, there is always a breeze and plenty of cold Mexican beer.
    And if, after a few days in Nyarit, you choose to enter into the whirl of Puerta Vallarta (if you wish to read more about P.V. click here), with its hawkers outside restaurants offering dollar margaritas and chain eateries shipped in from the States, there is one restaurant I was very fond of, just off the beaten track of the main drag. It's called Los Xtomates, a fine-looking, two-storied place with rough stone walls, bright tablecloths, a very good stash of wines, and a superb chef in Javier Fernandez Somellera Ochoa, whose own training in London and the States has given him the finesse so often missing in the cooking of the tourist areas. The food is outstanding, with an emphasis on the namesake tomato, wild mushrooms, and savory coconut shrimp.  If I had one chance to dine--not nosh--in P.V., it would be here.


Il Poeta
9804 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY

      Just about every inch of Queens is lined with ethnic storefront restaurants--right next to one another will be an Italian trattoria, Indian curry house, Chinese dim sum parlor, Cuban café, Jamaican barbecue, Japanese sushi bar, Afghani kebab shop, or Greek taverna, and within certain neighborhoods, you will find pockets of Indians or Russians of Greeks or Jews or Central Americans who have re-created their own little food cultures. And they cater largely to their own neighbors.  Il Poeta, in Forest Hills, aims for a larger draw of discerning clientele and does so on the basis of its refined Italian cuisine, which is more difficult than you might think in a borough as large as Queens.
     Chef owner Luca Puracchio, born in the seaside town of Pescara in the region of Abruzzo, has opened Il Poeta with his partner-chef Mario Di Chiara, formerly chef at Harry Cipriani in Manhattan.  Il Poeta is their little dream, a cozy place decorated simply, with reproductions of Renaissance masters on the walls, tile floors, crisp linens on the tables, and a little bar to the rear with a wall of wines.  That's about it, plus the amiability of the owners and their staff.  The food is the reason to head out to this neck of the woods.
      Do not skip over the antipasti, which includes grilled vegetables with melting goat's cheese and a touch of truffle oil. Baked artichokes are served with shrimps and lightly smoked scamorza cheese. Fried calamari come golden crisp with fresh, bright light marinara and tartar sauces for dipping. The buffalo mozzarekla here is wonderfully creamy, and the asparagus gratin a lovely idea you don't see often enough in New York. Neither can you find polenta with taleggio cheesed and Speck, the smoked northern Italian bacon.
     Among the pastas, too, there are unusual renderings, along with hearty and delicious tagliatelle alla bolognese with as many vegetables as meat shreds, to give the sauce body and flavor. Hand-rolled ridged garganelli come with sausage, radicchio and a spicy tomato sauce. Impeccably al dente, perfectly sized gnocchi di patate come with aTrentino-imspired sauce of chopped walnuts, baby arugula, and a rich taleggio sauce. There is also something here you used to see in Italian restaurants a lot--old-fashioned cannelloni of veal, lighter than usual, baked with béchamel sauce and truffled cheese.
    Stay true to Italian form and order a simply roasted orata, or let Chef Di Chiara show his talent for seafood with a Mediterranean stew teeming with fish and shellfish in a light tomato and garlic broth served with crostini useful in mopping up the aromatic broth.  If you'd prefer meat, there is a well-prepared, tender and buttery vitello alla Milanese with arugula, tomatoes and onion salad; a thick, grilled  and sliced sirloin steak, big enough for two, served with mixed mushrooms and parmesan cheese; and chicken breast crusted in parmesan cheese and cooked carefully in a lemon and white wine sauce.
   The desserts are not out of the ordinary and strike no new ground in Italian restaurants, but they are fresh and wellmade, as is the espresso if you ask for it to be ristretto.
    Il Poeta wants you to drink wine, not trophies, so the owners have wisely stocked a list for our times--many, many, many good bottles under $50, and they are chosen to go well with the food here.
     If you need an excuse to go to Queens, Il Poeta fits the bill (which will not be very high anyway).  If you're going to a Mets game, on the way to the airport or the U.S. Open, you;'ve got plenty of excuses to dine here. And if you live within the borough, you might make this your favorite Italian restaurant and something to brag about.

Il Poeta is open Tues.-Sun. Antipasti run $9.50-$12.50, pastas (full portions) $14.50-$18, and main courses $19.5-$28.50.


Like Father, Like Daughter, Gaia Gaja Wants Wines with Personality
by  John Mariani

      It is not by following dogged tradition that the wines of Gaja have gained a reputation as among the very finest—and most expensive--in Italy. By breaking revered viticultural rules, Angelo Gaja revolutionized winemaking in the 1970s not just in his native Piedmont but throughout Italy. With his daughter Gaia, 29, now thoroughly engaged in the family business, there is every reason to believe the winery, which dates back to 1859, will continue to do so.
      Not least among Gaja’s innovations was to age both his red and white wines in French oak barrels called barriques (225-liters), now common practice in Italy. He also aimed for lower yields, shorter pruning, and—most shocking in a tradition bound country like Italy—introduced non-indigenous varieties like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and chardonnay to Piedmont, where nebbiolo had for centuries been the most distinctive grape, used in wines like Barolo and Barbaresco.
“The Piedmontese are gamblers,” says Gaia Gaja (below), whom I met for a meal of pappardelle pasta with short ribs ragù and a porterhouse steak at Parlor Steakhouse in New York. “My father admired what was being done at Robert Mondavi in California and how the French use barriques, and he translated that into our Piedmont vineyards because he was convinced the traditional nebbiolo wines could be better and that great cabernet could be produced, too.”
      Today, a glance at Gaja’s American importer’s website, Terlato Wines International, lists 18 different wines, many with dialect names, like Darmagi, which means “what a pity!”—his father’s response to his son’s ripping out nebbiolo to plant cabernet.
     Gaia, like her father, travels widely to spread the Gaja gospel and, she says proudly, “Our wines are up in sales in every major market in the world.” Twenty percent of production goes to the U.S., 20 percent stays in Italy, 20 percent to Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, and the other 40 percent to the rest of the world.
     Gaia scoffs at wineries that make wines that taste “manufactured” to please critics. “I’m not interested in technically perfect, `well-made’ wine.  I want to taste the personality of the producer.”  Which, in the case of Gaia and her father, would be a wine of enormous refinement, fiery passion, and enduring pleasure. “In Italy you drink wine as you eat,” she says. “As I start to cook in the evening I follow the rhythm of the wine and how it develops. But I do not decant my wines. I taste it after 20 minutes and I feel obliged to follow its progress. After a day of frantic work, wine makes you go slow.”
     Gaia looks for “emotion” from a wine. “I know our wines are a luxury product”—many Gaja wines sell for $100-$200—“so they should be very special and not taste like anyone else’s wines. Our single vineyard wines should always taste like Gaja but they should also be different expressions of our work, so we may use different grape varieties than are traditional. But we are still very proud of our Barbaresco and Barolo.”
      Indeed, Gaja’s Barbaresco and Barolo can be called “classic” because they manifest the dictionary sense of the word as a standard of excellence based on refinement.
       That day over lunch, however, with the rich, beefy flavors of the food, we drank wines from Gaja’s Tuscan ventures. Ca’ Marcanda 2005 ($165) from the Bolgheri region, is 50 percent merlot, 40 percent cabernet sauvignon, and 10 percent cabernet franc. Its dialect name means “house of endless negotiations,” owing to Gaja’s attempts to buy the estate from its previous owners. Here the soil is a mix of clay, sand, limestone, and pebbles, and the varieties are separately vinified, then blended and aged in barriques for 18 months, then for at least a year in bottle.
      The result is a very silky, lush wine from the high percent of merlot with supple tannins of the cabernet and 14 percent alcohol, giving it body and structure beneath the fine fruit.
      Pieve Santa Restituta is an estate producing two brunello di Montalcinos—-Rennina and Sugarille. I tasted the 2004 vintage of both. Rennina ($155) has the big flavor of the sangiovese grosso grape, quite complex, with a high acidity that gives freshness to the boldness of the fruit and tannin. The Sugarille ($170) was tighter, with firmer tannins, showing a clear indication of how another year or two will bring it all into elegant balance. Both wines spent a year in barrique and another in large oak casks.
      Gaja has never played by the rules and even changes or eliminates them along the way. But by setting their own rules they have also set the bar for Italian wine.

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 on the Saturday Bloomberg Radio and TV.



The Oakdale Testicle Festival in Oakdale, CA, drew 450 guests who paid $65 last Monday, with proceeds to benefit the Oakdale Cowboy Museum and Oakdale's Rotary Club. Tickets are $50, or $65 at the door. 

The event used to be called the Calf Fry. Its current slogan is "You'll have a ball!!!" The official festival icon is shown here.


"Sometimes my Mom thinks I'm overly opinionated in the kitchen (i.e., an asshole) and she no doubt has a point."--Michael Ruhlman, Notes from the Food World.



* In Washington DC, Taberna del Alabardero marks the restaurant’s 20th anniversary and will kick off a year-long celebration with an array of unique offers and events beginning in April, offering more than 100 wines at retail cost, regularly priced at $55 or above, from their award-winning wine list. Visit; call 202-429-2200.

* In NYC, The Modern welcomes Spring with a lineup of new menus and events, incl.: Spring Awakening Menu, 4-course menu available in the early evening in the dining room for $65. . . . For guests seated at The Modern’s bar, Chef Kreuther’s new offerings present his bar snack classics, starting at $2.50. . . . Modern Classics – a 5-course dinner tasting menu in the Bar Room at $58, featuring a selection of Chef Kreuther’s signature Alsatian dishes (and a trio of his favorite Alsatian wines for just $28). . . .  Sommelier Free Sundays: The Modern will waive corkage fees and provide guests with a wine key so they can pour their own wines at the table. . . .  Weekend Lunch on the Garden –now open for Sat.  & Sun. lunch in the dining room as of April 11. Visit

*In NYC Artisanal is featuring a month-long Grilled Cheese Du Jour Menu with 30 versions of grilled cheese ($14.50) -- one for each day of the month, paired with a glass of wine at half price. Visit; Call 212-725-8585.

Beginning April 13, Mediterra Restaurant in Princeton, NJ, will feature the cuisine and wines of Israel in a weeklong festival, ending with a Grand Dinner created by Michael Solomonov, chef at Philadelphia’s Zahav, who will partner with Mediterra’s chef Luis Bollo. $95 pp. visit

* On April 14, NYC’s Center Cut is presenting a 4-course Robert Sinskey wine dinner, limited to 20 people, at $95 pp. Wine expert Ryan Looper, representing Robert Sinskey,  will discuss each pairing. Call 212-956-1288.

* On April 15 in Portland, OR, Castagna Restaurant will look back at the past decade with a family-style dinner at  $55 pp. Call 503-231-7373.

* On April 15,  Chicago’s Old Town Brasserie owner Bob Djahanguiri would like to do his part to help stimulate the economy by giving  all dining customers a gift of $10.40, which must be used by June 1, 2009 Call 312-943-3000. Visit

* The week of April 20th in Boston, the Brewers Associationwill hold their annual conference and trade show, incl. Craft Beer + Cheese from 3 Coasts, and book signing with Lucy Saunders; If Craft Beer Could Talk! Seasonal and Limited Release Tasting;Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales Beer Dinner! Shorts Brewing Craft Brewers Conference After Party hosted by; West Coast Dedicated Craft Beer Evening; Spring Release Dinner: An Evening with Nolan Ryan Beef.

* On April 20 in Miami Beach, Blue Door at Delano is presenting a 5-course wine dinner featuring Joseph Phelps winery, consulting chef Claude Troisgros,  and executive chef Maria Manso,  $150 pp. Call 305-674-6400.

* On April 21 in Austin, TX, Driskill Grill & Bar will hold a Broadbent Selections Wine Dinner with winemakers Mike Ratcliffe of South Africa, Iduna Wienert of Argentina, Vicente Aresti of Chile and Irene Canalejo of Spain for a odinner with 4 courses and 7 wines.  Visit; call 512-391-7162.

* On April 24 Messina Hof Winery and Resort will celebrate the release of their new vintages at their 2009 Spring Release Dinner at The Vintage House Messina Hof Winery and Resort,  Bryan, TX; $59.95 pp.Call 800-736-9463.

* On April 24-26 St. Michaels Food & Wine Festival features 150 distinctive wines and unique food demos by chefs both from the Mid-Atlantic Region and beyond, with  food and wine dinners on Fri.  & Sat. evenings; festival seminars, tastings, and entertainment will be held at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum at Navy Point in St. Michaels, MD. Visit or call 443-205-2185.

NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with 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."  To go to his blog click on the logo below: THIS WEEK:  THE STATE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL.


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). THIS WEEK:

Family Travel Forum: The Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!", is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy, safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.

Family Travel Forum

All You Need to Know Before You Go


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

 John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Bloomberg News, and Diversion.  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).

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

My 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

© copyright John Mariani 2009