Virtual Gourmet

April 12, 2009                                                                  NEWSLETTER

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In This Issue

SPRINGTIME IN ROME by Mort Hochstein

A Few Thoughts on Abruzzo by John Mariani


NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: California pinots need a good night's rest by John Mariani


La Primavera alla Romana
by Mort Hochstein

     In the movie "The Roman spring of Mrs. Stone," based on Tennessee Williams' play, Vivien Leigh had more on her mind, especially Paolo, played by a not-very-Italian-looking Warren Beatty, than adventuresome eating. But when spring comes to Rome, the Romans come feast on what the season brings to the table--wild greens, zucchini flowers, and the famous abbacchio--baby lamb that feeds on the hillsides of Lazio, digesting the sweet mint of the region, an herb that is used ubiquitously in Rome.
Mort Hochstein reports on where to do so.

    Jeffrey told us we would enjoy Dal Pompiere (
38 Via Di S. Maria Del Calderari; 668-8377), and since we always follow our internist’s advice, we sought out his restaurant. If we had followed directions from our hotel concierge just as religiously, our search might have gone easier. Instead we got off our bus prematurely at  Teatro Marcello  and wandered the back streets, asking questions in our halting Italian,  trying to keep the  Synagogue, just off the river Tiber,  in sight, heading toward  the large square  in the historic ghetto where this old-line Jewish restaurant is located.
    Rome’s ghetto embraces a four-block area, and on our way we passed kosher meat markets and  pizza shops, bakeries, Hebraica stores and restaurants, men wearing skull caps and carrying briefcases and families doing last-minute shopping. After several wrong turns, we found ourselves in the Piazza delle Cinque Scole. We  spotted two workers in kitchen whites at a doorway and turned our eyes upward to a second floor, which clearly was a restaurant.  The entrance, however, was not in the plaza but down one last twisting alleyway.
     We made our way upstairs and into an informal dining area with wooden beam ceilings and a warren of tables.  The waiters looked as if they  would be at home in a Brooklyn deli and I half expected to hear a busy server warning “vatch, vatch,” as he rushed to deliver an order.  The diners all seemed to be regulars, heading toward  familiar   tables as if  in their own homes. Our waiter, speaking restaurant English, interpreted  the menu and its tortured translation to us.
       Except for some unfamiliar items, it needed little explanation. We knew we wanted traditional dishes,  particularly carciofi  alla Giudia (artichokes Jewish style, below) and abbachio accompanied by puntarelle in salsa d’alici (chicory salad with an anchovy sauce). We had other dishes in mind, too:  squash blossoms, fried zucchini flowers, and bucatini all’ amatriciana (thick spaghetti  in  a sauce of peppery tomato and white wine).  Jeffrey had told us to look out for the sweet-and-sour pasta and spaghetti alla carbonara and the salt cod in batter, as well as the more familiar gnocchi. Some we tried, some we had to defer for a future visit.
    The artichokes lived up to our expectations. They were a tasty reward for our efforts,  their lacy leaves lightly browned by a quick fry, crisp yet soft in the middle. The squash blossoms and zucchini flowers were new for our grandson Matt, and he took to them more easily than the tangy, slightly  bitter chicory salad.
    It’s not often that I find animelle (sweetbreads) and  cervello (brains) and while they were paired in a fritto misto, I opted for a plate of the sweetbreads, crisp on the outside, pillow soft and oh-so-tender  once dented. We added arancini (pea-filled fried risotto balls),  and the bucatini all amatriciana  before going on to the delicacy of the evening, the baby lamb, which Jeffrey had so glowingly and  correctly recommended. We were  almost sated, pairing our meal with a local  wine, Colle Piccioni,  indigenous to Lazio,  red and lusty though simple.
     There was a small cheese board and a plate of mixed sherbets, which we shared along with  sbrisolona,  a traditional Mantovan cake made from white flour, cornmeal, almonds, sugar and eggs. Flaky and  studded  with nuts, it is a treat to remember, as was our whole evening at Dal Pompiere. The restaurant has been around a long time, has gone through several generations of owners and will probably still be there, serving   carciofi and  animelle and abbachio to Romans and tourists as long as the coliseum stands.

Dal Pompiere is open Mon.-Sat. for dinner.

        Normally, I’m happy to see a crowd in front of a restaurant where I am making my first visit. It vindicates my gamble on an untested dining choice.   But  I’m  also wary of a crowd and when I turned the corner at Piazza della Coppelle (below) in Rome  recently  and saw a throng of young Italians outside of Coco
(Piazza delle Coppelle 54;  813- 6545), I was  concerned that  the place would be overcrowded and the din too much for comfortable dining. Fortunately, as we got closer, we saw that all the happy imbibers were a standup crowd taking advantage of a generous Sunday night Happy Hour-and-dining  promotion. Our table would be sheltered from any commotion.
       On that warm night in Rome, our grandson Matthew had urged us to visit Coco, where one of his fellow students, Simone, worked as a waiter. Matt, who seemed expert in the backstreets of Rome, guided us through a series of twisting and turning alleys fanning out from the Pantheon, assuring us at each turn that Coco was just around the corner. And finally, we rounded the right corner to see all those people  overflowing the front of the restaurant.
    It was a warm Roman night and we dined outside under giant white umbrellas and heat lamps, which were not needed. Simone helped with language problems, putting us onto a savory melanzana (eggplant) pie with buffalo mozzarella for Matt, spicy, fleshy grilled polipo (octopus) with parslied small potatoes for me, and a caprese salad of fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes lightly dressed with a good extra virgin olive oil, for my wife Rollie.
    With Simone  acting as our personal shopper, the going could not have been more rewarding. Matt’s pasta course was a mound of small, pillowy green gnocchi stuffed with salmon and taleggio cheese, lighter and tastier than any  I’d ever had; those enticing  small bites which Matt generously shared,  justified all the questioning, uncertain twists and turns that brought us to Coco.
      Rollie chose  tagliolini all'arrabiata (below), with a  peppery fresh tomato sauce studded with pancetta washing over  the pasta,  setting off a cloud-like ricotta cheese. I went for rigatoni alla grecia, Greek-style pasta,  sauced with guanciale bacon, which added a sweet taste, white wine, and pecorino cheese. Our wine was a rustic Nero d’avola from Sicily, typical of that regional grape with powerful black fruit flavors strong enough for the spiciest of sauces.
    The portions were generous but impossible to leave unfinished. I felt we let Simone down when the three of us pleaded that  we really couldn’t handle  a main course.  We had to shake our heads unwaveringly as Simone urged us to try a Catalana-style salmon, which we had eyed at an adjoining table; Livornese squid, also at a nearby table where several diners were sharing a small mountain of that seaside specialty;   and beef strips with gorgonzola cheese, that last sounding enticing as Simone extolled the taste of  tender beef contrasting with the sharp, rich cheese.
   No, too good and too much!, we protested, overruling his suggestions.
  We compensated by trying a variety of desserts. Rollie would walk a mile for sfogliatelle, so that flaky,  multi-layered pastry was an easy decision for her. I opted, happily, for a lush ricotta cheese cake with cherry jam, and Matt chose a panna cotta with berries and cherries. There were few crumbs left on any plates when we finished. Simone declared we were buon gustai (good eaters)  and urged us to return some day for the piatto principale(main course) at Coco.
     The restaurant was a discovery for us and we will return some day  if we can find our way to the piazza.

  Coco  is open daily for lunch and dinner.

Mort Hochstein, former editor and producer for NBC News and the Today Show, and former managing editor of Nation's Restaurant News, writes  on wine, food and travel for Wine Spectator, Wine Business  Monthly, Saveur and other food and wine publications.


A Few Thoughts on Abruzzo by John Mariani

As the reports and photos come in showing the devastation wrought by earthquakes in Italy's Abruzzo, I am particularly saddened by what I see because that is the region my father's people came from at the turn of the 19th century to settle in New York. Theirs was a town called Vasto, perched above the Adriatic, a fishing village that was as poor as any in Italy at that time, so, like millions of other southern Italians, my grandfather and grandmother came to the United States for a new life that materialized very quickly.
      Today Vasto has become quite a resort town, very popular in summer with Germans and English tourists who come for the beach and the loveliness of the hillside location, the broad piazzas, the little churches, and a small garden that has a curious stone monument to my grandmother's family, the DelGuercios, who apprently aided the town after establishing themselves successfully in America.
       I have not heard any news of Vasto being affected by the earthquake, but my heart grieves for those who have suffered so much in the area around the beautiful city of L'Aquila, the provincial capital, set within the glorious valley called the
Gran Sasso. Long the region's historic and artistic center, with its own   University, Musical Conservatory, Arts Academy, Theater and Concert Society, National Museum of the Abruzzi, and the famed Salvatore Tommasi library, L'Aquila is home to unique monuments that include the Fountain of the 99 Spouts, the 13th Century pink-and-white marble church Santa Maria di Collemaggio (which I don't believe has suffered damage), and the severely damaged Santa Maria del Suffragio on the Piazza del Dumo. It is a wonderful walking city, teeming with young people, with a few pleasant trattorias serving the chile-pepper spiked dishes of Abruzzo and its most famous pasta, spaghetti all ghitarra.
      My faith in the people of Abruzzo (once called Abruzzi, because it encompassed two provinces, the other being Molise), if not in the government, to restore their beautiful city is abiding.  After all, L'Aquila, which means "The Eagle," was destroyed in 1259 by conquest, became a powerful and wealthy city that attracted successive contenders to battle over its domination, was again destroyed in the 16th century, this time by the Spanish, was twice sacked by the French, and, in 1703 destroyed by an earthquake--one of several dating to 1349, 1452, 1501, and 1646. The Abruzzese have seen it all before and not only survived by come back to vibrant life in an effort to preserve not only the beauty of their province, nestled in mountains and pine forests, but their ancient culture and bloodlines that go back ancient Roman times.
     For those who wish to contribute to the revitalization of Abruzzo go to The National Italian American Foundation's  NIAF/Abruzzo Relief Fund for information.


by John Mariani

229 Front Street (near Peck Slip)

     Idon't think I've ever set foot on Front Street, which has got to be one of the smallest in Manhattan, wedged between Peck Slip and the South Street Seaport.
    Yet there it is--a little charmer, lined with trim boutiques and inviting small restaurants, among which is the stellar new Onda, with  a strongly Latino menu whose spice, zest, and easy-to-love small and large plates remind me of the style of the Cambodian restaurant Kampuchea on the Lower East Side.
     As you come off the street you sense the good, cheery vibes here. You will be warmly welcomed by owner Alessandro Passante (below), a Caprese who has a long history in the NYC club and restaurant scene, and he stocks an exciting and unique cocktail list that should get you in the mood for what is to follow, which is all about good vibes (onda means "vibe"), echoed in the vibrant colors, lacquered surfaces, distressed wood, light fixtures, and chicken wire cabinets. I was there early on a midweek night when the place was not yet packed, so I can't report on the noise level, which I suspect rises during the evening.
      Guyana-born Chef Raymond Mohan is a spirited interpreter of modern Latino food, having been chef de cuisine at Patria, and here he is combining the flavors and ideas of food cultures from
Peru, Brazil, Guyana, Jamaica, Ecuador, Cuba, Spain, and the West Indies, commingled in an array of small and large plates meant to be shared. With one of those Technicolor cocktails in hand, start off with the malanga chips with garlic crema, tomato, chutney, and spicy cucumber salsa to nibble on. The gilled beef salad is, in a word, yummy, the flat bread with smoked duck, manchego cheese  and porcini spread with sherried cherry addictive, and the baked baked curry chicken empanada with arugula and pomegranate with pineapple chutney will definitely be fought over at your table. Skip the anticucho of lamb and pork belly skewers with tamarind sauce, cilantro aïoli, and caramelized cipollini onions, which were puzzlingly bland.
     By all means try a ceviche (below)--both the wild striped bass with citrus sauce,  jalapeños,  red onion,   passion fruit sorbet, and almond praline, and the hamachi  tiradito  with
yuzu crème fraîche, aji amarillo, pineapple and basil, both terrific, clean-tasting, bracing. If you're still in the mood for seafood, I highly recommend the coconut crusted Mahi Mahi, which comes with the wonderful addition of oxtail braised in Rioja red wine, with  shaved carrot and chayote escabeche. My favorite meat dish of the evening was a perfectly grilled and very juicy churrasco with pungent chimichurri, tangy pickled tomato, asparagus and watercress,  and the pork belly with habanero mojo, spinach, and chayote. Lima-style chicken, while nice and crispy, was a little dry that evening, served with cilantro and red onions.  The Spanish fried potatoes with jalapeño, red onions, and Idiazabal cheese is another dish you're going to have to either battle for or order two of.
     Desserts are every bit as exciting on this tantalizing, colorful menu, including a warm chocolate cake  with vanilla ice cream, pineapple and mango; Demerera rum-glazed banana with a crispy cookie basket with dulce de leche ice cream; and a  guava crème brûlée cheesecake with Chilean papaya and butterscotch sauce. I'd re-think the idea of Chef Mohan’s White Clouds" made with basil (!) ice cream and pumpkin seed pralines.
     Just reading these menu items tells you that Onda is realizing the true modern potential of Latino food at a very imaginative level. That, coupled with the  expertise Mohan shows in his textures and seasonings, makes this one of the most enticing new places in New York and a very good excuse to visit the charming Front Street area.

Onda is open Mon.-Sat. for dinner. Small plates run $7-$12, large plates $18-$23.



California pinots may need a good night's rest

by John Mariani

     Over the last week I’ve learned something extraordinary about California pinot noirs: They improve with age! Oh, I don’t mean by keeping the bottles in your cellar for the next several years. I mean they improve overnight after you’ve opened the bottle and drunk some of the contents.
      With most wines I taste, then close—reds like cabernets, merlots, syrahs, and just about every white, there is no improvement in the wine; indeed, the oxygen that enters the bottle begins immediately to deteriorate the character and quality of the wine. (I always close a sampled bottle wine with a plastic pump-like gadget that sucks out as much oxygen and possible before inserting a rubber stopper.) But for reasons that escape me, several of the 20 or so California pinot noirs I sampled, including some I didn’t much care for, tasted not just different the next day but better.
      The oft-cited problem—which many aficionados find a great virtue—is the high alcohol level of so many California pinots, which can make them jam-like, tasting more likes prune juice than wine. Which is why it’s little wonder that they win prizes over pinots from California and other countries whose alcohol level is closer to 13.5 percent.  High alcohol and big fruit flavors can be impressive on first sniff and swirl, but they show little of the refinement that you find in the better red Burgundies, whose balance of fruit, acids, alcohol, and tannins provides levels of flavor and go so splendidly with food.
     For this tasting I sampled a few California pinots up to 14.5 percent, but most were 13.5 to 14. The overnight rest and the infusion of oxygen seemed to tame the hot blast of alcohol and fruit in the California pinots, so that I was tasting wines 24 hours later that had settled into better harmony.
     The biggest surprise was a 2007 La Crema Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($29), with a whopping 14.5 percent alcohol. On first tasting, it was curiously light in color and translucence, almost petillant.  It was very pretty, with lovely, distinct pinot flavors but an admirable sunny California boldness too. But then it finished hot, almost bitter.  I then drank it with dinner but after one glass didn’t want anymore.
      The next day with lunch, however, the wine had somehow become refocused, the bitterness gone, the fruit more pronounced and is supple tandem with the light tannins. I polished it off with real enjoyment.
      La Crema’s 2007 Los Carneros ($29) was hotter still and did not develop much after opening, while the winery’s 2006 Sonoma Coast ($23) was lighter, with only 13.5 percent alcohol, and good to go with food right away. Overnight it gained in mellowness.
      Also gaining in the rest period was a Cartlidge & Browne 2006, which was thin at first but better the next day, and at $13 a bottle a very good buy. It would be splendid with salmon. Land’s Edge Vineyards 2006 Sonoma Coast was bigger-bodied and offered a lot of fruit but needed more complexity.
       Those pinots that had some bottle age on them were of varying interest. Fess Parker 2004 ($23) from Santa Barbara didn’t have a lot going for it, and I was very disappointed on first sip of a lackluster Mark West 2005 ($13); the next day it had improved at every level of flavor and refinement, with the real taste of the pinot grape coming through beautifully.
      The pinot I was most pleased with was 2005 Bearboat Russian River Valley—a steal at $20.  Sonoma’s Russian River Valley is a terroir many, including myself, believe offers the best hope for great pinots in California, and the Bearboat had wonderful, rich fruitiness without the jammy quality.  With just 13.5 percent alcohol, this made sense, although it faded a little in the glass. The next day, though, it really blossomed, with all its virtues embellished by a little oxygen.
      I don’t really know why so many of these re-stoppered wines were so improved by 24 hours of minimal exposure to air, but it makes me think that in the future I will open my California pinots the night before I intend to drink them. Anyway, it’s something to sleep on.

John Mariani's 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.



"Rio de Janeiro is one of those great cities that works its way into your plasma and lingers there, time and distance notwithstanding."--By Matthew Stafford, "Soma," San Francisco Weekly (2/10/09).


According to the NY Times, Robert Uri Heller, a psychologist and professor at the Adler School of Professional Psychology, leads a "Furry Kids Passover Seder" in Chicago this Saturday at which the guests will be dogs, to be held at Wigglyville pet store, sponsored by Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company to promote its kosher varieties, endorsed by the Chicago Rabbinical Council. When members of his synogogue protested that such a Seder might be sacrilegious,  Dr. Heller replied, "We’re having fun."      (photo by J. Lott,  2005) . . . . Meanwhile, NYC businessman Martin Silver is launching a new kosher tequila called Agave 99 in time for Cinco de Mayo. Silver told AP that a half million cases of the 99-proof kosher tequila ($41.95) are being made in Mexico using methods certified by a rabbi.



* In Charlottesville, VA, Amy Lewis, Keswick Hall’s Head Gardener is offering a “From the Garden to the Table” package –a class on the important nuances of spring pruning followed by a fresh lunch in the Villa Crawford. This 2 night package also incl. accommodations, breakfast, dinner Fossett’s, and a garden tour of Monticello. Rates begin at $813, available thru May 31, Call 1-800-274-5391 or visit

* The Palm Restaurant Group announce their “Spring Dining Stimulus Plan” with an all-new Business Lunch Menu and $39 Biggest Steak dinner, available at Palm Restaurants nationwide. through May 31. Visit

*  On April 17, "Springtime in Paris"  takes place in Orlando at Rosen Centre hotel's Everglades Restaurant, with its 2009 "Vine and Dine" Series-- a 5-course Parisian-inspired menu with French wines.  $65 pp. Call 407 -996-8560; visit or

* In Nantucket, MA, American Seasons Executive Chef Michael LaScola and General Manager/Sommelier Orla Murphy-LaScola celebrate the restaurant’s 21st anniversary with a $20 entrée menu and its  “American Bistro” menu. Call 508-228-7111 or online at

* On April 25 NYC’s Benoit will hold a “Taste of Rosé,” 20+ French rosé wines with charcuterie. $35. Call 646-943-7373.

* From April 13-17 in Washington, D.C., Asia Nine celebrates Songkran, the Thai New Year, with a special menu designed to capture the holiday’s spirit of cleansing and renewal. Call 202-629-4355 or go to

* On April 16 in Charlotte, NCSouthpark's Upstream Restaurant will host a 5-course wine dinner by Executive Chef Tom Condron and Chef de Cuisine Scott Wallen.  celebrating Nickel & Nickel Vineyards. $95 pp. In addition, guests attending the wine dinner will be given a $25 Upstream gift certificate to use on a future visit. 704-556-7730;

* On April 19 in MiamiHeart of a Chef Festival to benefit the Florida Heart Research Institute, will be a family friendly day, in the Tree Top Ballroom at Jungle Island;  $25 for adults, $10 for children. Celebrity Chef Cook-off ; Wine Seminars; Kid’s Demo and Chef’s Interactive; Call 305.674.3020 or visit . . . On April 25 in Miami,  Driven to Dine, also to benefit the Florida Heart Research Institute, takes place.   Priced at $5,000 per limo, attendees begin with a reception at NFL Coach Don and wife Mary Anne Shula’s Indian Creek home, draw envelopes that determine their destined restaurants, incl. Chef Sean Brasel/Meat Market, Peter Vauthy/RED the Steakhouse,  Patrick Boucher/Acqua at the Four Seasons, Dale Ray/Casa Casuarina,  Gaetano Ascione/Gaia Ristorante,  Giancarla Bodoni/Escopazzo,  Kurtis Jantz/Neomi’s at the Trump International, Sean Bernal/Oceanaire, Odel Arencibia/ The Capital Grille, Virgile Brandel/Gia-Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar at the Eden Roc, John Critchley/Area 31, and Jonathan Wright/The Setai. Call 305-674-3020 or visit

* From April 18-22 Pizza Fusion on North Miami Beach, FL,  celebrates Earth Week with family festivities, incl.  free pizza, Honest Tea giveaways and raffle drawings for Jamis bicycles, a ‘Green Home Makeover,’ a trip to wine country, a Sierra Club Excursion Vacation, et al.  Visit:

* On April 22 in National Harbor, MDOld Hickory Steakhouse’s Wine Dinner Series will hold the  Dr. Loosen Wine Dinner from Germany’s Mosel Valley with cuisine by Chef Wolfgang Birk welcoming Ernst Loosen, head of the Dr. Loosen Estate. $95 pp. Call 301-965-2718.

* On April 22 Il Buco in NYC will hold its Second Annual Earth Day Fund-Raiser to Protect the Amazon Rainforest, by reducing customers' total lunch bill by 15% for one week and  donate the 15% saved by its guests. Call  212-533-1932; visit

* From April 27-May 3 in Atlanta, Highland Tap celebrates its 20th Anniversary with Chef Bert Chapman featuring $20 signature dishes and $20 wine pairings. Visit

* Beginning April 30, NYC’s Hearth and Insieme present their Spring Series of Wine Dinners with wine Directors Paul Grieco (Hearth) and Greg Majors (Insieme). 4-course dinner. Cal; 646-602-1300.

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."  THIS WEEK: ARE YOU USING TWITTER FOR TRAVEL?--AN AFFORDABLE RUSTIC GETAWAY IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE?--SEVEN TRAVEL BOOKS THAT RETRACE HISTORIC FOOTSTEPS.


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).

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, Wine Spectator, Bloomberg News and Radio, 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