Virtual Gourmet

  JUNE 28,  2015                                                                                             NEWSLETTER


Sean Connery and Barbara Carrera in"Never Say Never" (1983)


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By John Mariani


By John Mariani

By John Mariani


By John Mariani

Houston Space Center Control in the film "Apollo 13" (1995)

    Houston long ago belied its food media image as a place just for great barbecue (which it has little of) and mediocre Tex-Mex (which it has a lot of) and steakhouses (mostly chains).  So when NY-based food writers want to get all hipster about Houston, they head for out-of-the-way ‘cue pits, taco stands, the occasional Vietnamese seafood place, and places serving the most eccentric Modernist fare, like The Pass and Oxheart.          They usually ignore the fine dining spots completely, like Brennan’s of Houston, have little interest in Houston’s Italian restaurants, and even snub Robert Del Grande’s pioneering efforts in New Texas Cuisine in the 1980s; he now runs the superlative RDG + Bar Annie, which the Houston Chronicle lists as 65th best in the city, way below Bernie’s Burger Bus (#45), Pizaro’s Pizza Napoletana (which is BYOB; #28), and Good Dog Houston (hot dog truck at #23).
    My preferences (dare I use the un-hip word “standards”?) are for restaurants that show off Houston’s finest, not its most gimmicky, places that speak of  the city’s more sophisticated dining scene, which would include Pappas Steakhouse, with its polished look and great wine list; Underbelly, where Chef Chris Shepherd has embraced and beautifully translated all the food cultures of his beloved city; Hugo’s, which for a decade has run against the grain of Tex-Mex by serving top-notch Mexican cuisine; and the crusading Americás, which gave the green light to modern Latino food and service.


3755 Richmond Avenue

    There is certainly no better restaurant of any stripe in Houston than Tony’s, which began as a modest eatery back in 1965 and evolved into a swanky red brocade dining room serving excellent continental cuisine, and then into an Italian restaurant of daunting excellence.  I would rank Tony’s with the best anywhere in the U.S. and many in Italy itself.
    The ever-fretting, never-still owner, Tony Vallone, is manic about his ingredients, ferreting them out on trips with his cooks to Italy.  He is equally insistent that the best of Old School manners are shown to his guests, who in turn show up well dressed.  Linens are soft and wineglasses thin, the wine list, with more than 1,000 labels, is one of the largest and best selected in the country, and  Tony is always at his namesake restaurant,  lunch and dinner, to greet old and new friends, who have included over the years everyone from the late Luciano Pavarotti to the Bush family. 
The newest incarnation of the restaurant (the third) has a grand design, with an arched dining room with a high, angled, skylighted ceiling,  a 12-foot, free-form sculpture--“The Three Graces” by Jesus Moroles--an intimate “Wine Library Room” with a spectacular Venetian glass chandelier, and a wine cellar that seats 60.
    The menu is always sumptuous, from the crudi seafood tastefully garnished to the white truffle soufflé that’s become a seasonal specialty. The pastas always toe a line of tradition while absorbing heightened flavors in dishes like tortellini in chicken broth with Cerignola Olives, Texas rabbit,  and artichokes;  perfect spaghetti alla carbonara (left); fettuccine with soft-shell crab, vodka sauce,  and house-made sausage; and risotto with fresh abalone, mushrooms and lobster roe.
    Gulf redfish is seared and treated to blood orange essence, stone-ground mustard and lump crabmeat. Center-cut lamb chops from Colorado are generous, tender, well-fatted and delicious, while Sicilian lemon chicken is one of the most requested items on the menu. Duckling (for two) is sided with black Venetian rice, and tangy-sweet Bing cherry sauce.

                                                            Donna and Tony Vallone

    The current chef--whose food I have not yet sampled--is a new one:  Kate McLean, a Houston native and the first woman to hold the position at the restaurant, having risen from sous-chef after training in Seattle, Hawaii, and Provence.
        When you enter Tony's you will be cordially greeted, taken to your well-set table, and, after a while, you’ll find Tony himself beside you, very happy to see you, welcoming a newcomer, making some suggestions from the specials, and wishing you the best meal of your life, which it may well be.


Open for lunch Mon.-Fri., for dinner Mon.-Sat. Dinner prices for starters run $14-$39, pastas $12-$19, and main courses $38-$110.


Four Seasons Hotel
1300 Lamar Street
713-276 – 4700

  Without Tony’s influence on Houston’s Italian fine dining scene, Quattro probably wouldn’t exist.  Prior to its opening four years ago, the second-floor location in the Four Seasons Hotel went through several unsuccessful style changes. The change to a classic Italian menu via Chef Maurizio Ferrarese (below, right) has made all the difference.  You are likely to meet him outside the kitchen as he asks guests their opinions and recommendations. 
    Born and raised in Vercelli in Italy’s Piedmont region, Ferrarese worked at the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze restaurant, a highly refined dining experience now translated  by him to a more casual Houstonian idiom, balancing Italian and American ingredients throughout his menu.
    You might begin with a playfully perfect vitello tonno tonnato, which adds a slice of tuna to a dish traditionally made only with veal and creamy tuna sauce. Pastas (available as half and full portions) include the bread dumplings called passatelli, with striped bass, lobster, clams and shrimp in a guazzetto bath of white wine, garlic, parsley and tomato. His lasagne alla bolognese uses rich Texas Akaushi-style beef along with a rich ricotta fondue, and he adds a quail egg yolk to his gnocchi with fontina sauce. Ferrarese knows well how to reduce to a rich density the sauce in braised short ribs, carrots and adds a crispy potato croquette, and he does a combination of lamb chop, lamb “porchetta,” sweet potato, and asparagus.
    Desserts get a bit more Texan, with items like pecan pie and a granola bar.
    At lunch, you have the option of one of the best pizzas in a city lacking in that department, as well as a chicken panino with mozzarella, tomato, basil, pesto and avocado.
    After several tries, this Four Seasons dining room has come into its own, and Ferrarese is very much his own chef, so go with what he wants you to taste and you’ll trust him again and again. 

Quattro is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.


5512 LaBranch

    Once upon a time a woman named Lucille Bishop Smith (below) became famous for serving visiting potentates and sports heroes her soft rolls, chili biscuits and barbecue.  She was a Houston entrepreneur who in 1937 at Prairie View A&M College developed the first college-level Commercial Foods and Technology Department, incorporating an apprentice training program for which she wrote the service training manuals.        

  In 1941 Smith wrote index-card file recipes for Lucille’s Treasure Chest of Fine Foods, which went through many editions.  She also came up with a recipe for Lucille’s All Purpose Hot Roll Mix as a fundraiser for her church, and it became so locally famous that she sold it as the first hot roll mix to be marketed in the U.S.  Still later, she became founder and president of her family-owned corporation, Lucille B. Smith’s Fine Foods Inc., as well as owner of U.S. Smith’s Famous BBQ (left) in Fort Worth.
    Born out of Ms. Smith’s inspiration, her grandson, Chris Williams, who has trained in kitchens in America, London and Europe, opened Lucille’s in her honor, serving Southern classics with a modern twist that is all his.
    Set within a turn-of-the-century home in the heart of the city’s museum district, Lucille's is not just a restaurant that does what it does better than any other in Houston but one that both honors his grandmother’s work and builds mightily upon it.  As Williams says, “I love the relationship and respect for ingredients that comes from being a chef. That connection and link to traditions and practices and techniques feel so right for me. Lastly, I am a chef because it’s in my blood.”
    I had a fabulous and truly educational lunch at Lucille’s, showing not how far Williams has deviated from his origins but how much he has refined them, beginning with those addictive chili biscuits and fried green tomatoes made with seasoned cornmeal and a spicy aïoli.  Blue crab beignets are treated to a Dijon aïoli with an apple and celery salad, pickled mustard seed and lemon essence, while shrimp and stone mill grits (right) pick up big flavors from andouille sausage and a sherry-tomato broth. 
A generous portion of pan-roasted chicken comes with  fingerling potato hash, broccolini and lemon-caper jus.  And he does an old-fashioned fish fry with basil, corn-and-pepper maque-choux and greens—everything here would have made his grandmother proud.  And she would have approved of all that her grandson does with such a cheery, cordial and intelligent style that shows in the down-home atmosphere of the place, the amiable flair of his service staff, and the generous cocktails he concocts.

Open for lunch and dinner Tues.-Sun.


By John Mariani

218 Third Avenue (near 18th Street)

          Senegalese cousins Chekh  and Cissé are further proof of the continuing realization of the American dream. Having moved to the U.S. in 1995 they, like so many immigrants, got work in the restaurant business, gaining experience at Daniel Restaurant, Vong and Mercer Kitchen before opening their unique French-African restaurant near Gramercy Park seven years ago. (They opened a branch in Harlem last fall, too.)
    The premises do have a traditional bistro look, with brown leather banquettes, tiled floors, pale yellow walls, and French doors, but the West African paintings and wood sculptures lend the space more contemporary color throughout.
    So, too, the overly long menu lists several French bistro favorites like poulet rôti, gougères, escargots and salade Niçoise, along with Italian items like penne alla vodka and lobster ravioli, and requisite burgers.  (Who would come to such a restaurant and eat a burger?) But the innovations here are clearly the West African dishes, some with enchanting, mellifluous names like niokolokoba ($30), which is a g
rilled sirloin steak marinated with Senegalese spices and served with splendidly crisp French fries and sauce au poivre.  The name commemorates a Senegalese National Park.
    Start off with crispy chicken rolls called nem ($10), which I find were originally Vietnamese, brought to West Africa by Vietnamese refugees; the crispy tuna ($12) is riddled with big flavors of cilantro, pickled soy ginger vinaigrette and wasabi aïoli.  All the food here has a kick, not always a hot one, but the use of sweet and sour is evident throughout.  Truffled macaroni and cheese ($10) may not have anything to do with Africa or France, but Ponty’s version is a big square of lusciousness, perfectly browned on the top. 
The Kasbah lamb shank with merquez sausages, five spices, steamy couscous and onion sauce ($25) is deeply flavorful and a lacquered mahogany color. A braised branzino  ($27) is the basis of a dish “a le guet ndar," with salad and sweet plantains (below), whose name evokes the fishing village St. Louis in Senegal.
      There are several mussel dishes here, and we of course wanted to taste the moules Africana ($12 as appetizer, $18 as main course), a huge bowl of medium-sized sweet bivalves blended with African spices and shallot garlic in a white wine sauce, served with French fries. You may also try them with a saffron sauce, Provençal style, or other variations.
        The desserts (all $7) are not exceptional and quite predictable--tiramsù, cheesecake, tarte Tatin--none Senegalese, which is a shame, because what I read about the honeyed desserts of that country make them sound delicious.
        Perhaps owing to the restaurant’s size, Ponty’s wine list is modest, with only a couple of South African wines, when I would have expected many more.
        The street that Ponty Bistro is on is inundated with the usual Italian, Indian, sushi, Thai places that offer nothing out of the ordinary.  Clearly Ponty Bistro does, and because of those African novelties alone, it’s a place the Cissé brothers should proud of.                             

Open for lunch Mon.-Fri; brunch Sat. & Sun.; dinner nightly.





By John Mariani

    Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Lyndon Johnson’s birthday--all good reasons to break out the good wines this summer, which is not the same thing as the expensive wines these days, when so many excellent values are available, both in and out of the sale bin.  Here are some I’ve really enjoyed this month.

Casillero del Diablo Malbec 2013 ($12)—As noted, good things come in inexpensive bottles, and this Chilean malbec from Concha y Toro is of a kind that proves that country’s eminence with this varietal.  It’s very well-fruited without being plummy, and its 13.5% alcohol makes the second glass as enjoyable as the first.


Paul Hobbs Cross Barn Rosé of Pinot Noir 2014
($15)—The reputation of Paul Hobbs for his Sonoma pinots translates impressively into this charming rosé, at 12% alcohol, so that the fruit and the acids are of equal weight and the floral flavors make it such a good wine for summer seafood or pork.


I Poggiarelli Brunello di Montacino La Mannella 2010 ($95)—With only 334 cases produced in 2010, this single-vineyard brunello shows why this Tuscan wine is so widely respected. It spends 36 months, total, in wood, so it’s as soft as velvet but tastes as if it just came out of the ground.  Ideal for lamb and beef.


Antinori Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino 2009 ($50)—Ages ago, drinking a brunello less than 50 years old was considered folly, but, albeit with very mixed results, much younger brunellos have proven delicious upon release.  This one, from Antinori, is certainly well priced enough either to drink right now or to wait without worrying how time treats it. The Antinori pedigree has always guaranteed the high quality level of their wines.


Avignonesi Grandi Annate Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011 ($86)—With 100% sangiovese, the wine shouts Tuscany, and vino nobiles have too long dwelt in the shadow of brunello and so-called Super Tuscans.  Earthier and in some ways more honest, vino nobiles have heart and soul in equal measure, robust, long-lived, and Avignonesi’s is produced only in the finest years (“Grandi Annate”), of which 2011 was one of the best.


Famille Perrin Château de Beaucastle 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($180)—Can a wine, like lasagna, taste better the next day?  This Southern Rhône beauty did, perhaps because oxygen opened the wine up, from being quite bold and concentrated, with 14.5% alcohol, to delectably smooth and inspirited.  The vintage was one of the best of the decade, and I may have drunk it too young, but it was a pleasure.

Three Sticks Bien Nacido Vineyard 2012
($60)—Owner Bill Price, whose moniker back in his surfing days was “Billy Three Sticks,” has put as much personality into this splendid 13. 9% pinot noir as into his life’s other passions.  (He also owns Durell Vineyard, below.)  The wine is made from grapes planted on the Santa Maria Mesa, which gives its soil and grapes the cooling climate  and minerals of the Pacific Ocean via morning fog.  The vintage was an excellent one, and it shows in the wine’s complexity, gaining just the right amount of oak from 16 months barrel ageing.



Lutum Pinot Noir Durrell Vineyard 2013
($60)—I have more than occasionally inveighed against overly extracted, high alcohol Sonoma pinots, but Lutum seems to have hit the sweet spot.  The pinot tastes like pinot—so often not the case in California—with mid-weight heft, though the wine faded by the end of a meal of medium-rare veal chops.  Lutum (Latin for “soil”) shows its coastal terroir well.  The same winery’s 2013 Durell Vineyard Chardonnay is good but for $50 a bottle, it should be extraordinary


Quinta da Giesta Dão 2011
($17)—Portuguese reds get better and better, and the vignerons there have had long experience with this workhorse wine, which has never been expensive.  This one is simple, straightforward and ripe, to be drunk right now with any red meat off the grill.  It’s a wine not worth discussing, just drinking with a smile on your face.



Franciscan Magnificat Meritage 2012
($50)—So-called Meritage wines, which use the grape components of Bordeaux, have long ago proven to be among the finest reds out of Napa Valley, and this is a superb example (named after a Bach canticle), very rich but, even at 14.5% alcohol, not overripe, despite the merlot being picked quite late in autumn. Franciscan has been making this wine now for three decades and it gets better all the time.

David Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 ($35)—In a lighter style of pinot, this example cannily triumphs over 14.5% alcohol by its balance, spice, and fine minerality.  Age may not improve what is right now a good wine for the summer of 2015, but the price is easy to digest.


Sbragia Gino’s Zinfandel 2012
($34)—According to Ed Sbragia, “For 32 years I drove to Napa and made Cabernet and Chardonnay, but when I came home we drank Zinfandel.” I can understand the sentiment, and Sbragia’s blend of 94% zin, 4% carignane, and a sprightly 2% petite sirah, aged for 18 months, fits proudly among the state’s best examples.  There’s no getting away from its high, 15.1% alcohol, but then again, that’s probably where zin should be for a wine more complementary to cheeses and roasted nuts than with meat courses.







A McDonald’s branch in Glasgow known for frequent altercations between customers (the police have reportedly been called to the restaurant 200 times in the past 14 months) is attempting to calm its customers down by piping in classical music by Handel, Beethoven, Bach, and others.“We heard classical music being played the other night and it was actually quite pleasant,” said one regular. “It’s better than the kind of rave music we’ve heard before so I think they may be on to something.”



“As you fly above North Carolina, about halfway between the mountains and the coast, you notice one thing that stands out: the color green.”—Rosemary Plybon Kennerly, “The Triad Thrives,” Delta Sky (June 2015).




    If you’re an Italophile, you may have heard that 2010 vintage Brunello – released in January 2015 – is historic. Only the 15th time the Brunello Consorzio has awarded five stars since it began using the star-rating system in 1945. But don’t take it from us – hear what the experts have to say. According to Master Sommelier Fred Dame, “The critics are saying that the 2010 Brunello is the best in some 200 years. Any anytime you hear that much hype, you’re skeptical because you’ve heard it all before—but this is the real deal.”
And Antonio Galloni of Vinous Media stated, “2010 will go down as one of the great all-time vintages in Tuscany…Stylistically, the 2010s remind me of the 2004s, but with more fruit and overall depth. The finest wines should age gracefully for years, and in some cases, decades….”
    With 2010 being such a fantastic vintage, critics have been gushing over the offerings from Montalcino’s leading producer, Castello Banfi. For example, Castello Banfi Brunello 2010 awarded Best in Class and a Gold Medal at the Los Angeles International Wine Competition. For 76 years, the Los Angeles International Wine Competition has showcased the finest domestic and international vintages through a wine-tasting event that is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious in the United States. An esteemed panel of judges use a blind-tasting method, maintaining the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.
    Previously in another blind tasting, The Winemaker Challenge, Castello Banfi was named Winery of the Year, Europe, in part for the beautiful showing of its 2010 Brunello. Robert Whitley, competition organizer and esteemed wine critic, writes:
“Castello Banfi was named Winery of the Year, Europe. Along with its Banfi division in Italy’s Chianti region, the Castello amassed 11 medals, including four platinum awards. The star of the Banfi show was its 2010 Brunello di Montalcino ($75) [Best of Class Italian], but its 2013 San Angelo Pinot Grigio ($19) also won Best of Class. Banfi also won platinum with its 2011 Chianti Classico Riserva ($19). The latter two wines are a steal at the price.”
Furthermore, Castello Banfi receives praise for its 2010 Brunello outside the world of competitions in the press and among sommeliers. A few examples, first for Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2010:

Fabulous aromas of dried rose petal, orange peel, and oyster shell with hints of dark fruits… 95 points." James Suckling, Tasting Report, December 2014.
Aromas of flowers, spices and cherry are prevalent.  This is juicy, fresh and full bodied on the palate with lots of refined silky tannins.  Well balanced and very impressive. 92-95 points.” --John Fodera, Tuscan Vines, March 2015.

    Earthy, but not rustic, showing plums and deep berry fruit.” --Somm Journal, April/May 2015.

    This wine will age beautifully because of the balance.”--Fred Dame, Master Sommelier.

    And for Castello Banfi Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino 2010: A wine that shows such layered and in-depth character. 97 points."-- James Suckling, Tasting Report, December 2014.

    “Opens to brooding dark concentration and an impressive sense of depth. The aromas that characterize the wine are in a school of their own. Instead of the standard red cherry and rose, this expression of Sangiovese gives you rich layers of blackberry pie, Indian spice, cured meat, wet terra-cotta, tar and black licorice. The tannin management is excellent and there’s a distant point of textural firmness that will soften with a few more years of cellar aging. 95 points.” eRobertParker, February 2015.

    “I hate to use the word ‘classic’ but this is it – dark cherry, dark plums, firm, not harsh tannins…balanced.”--Master Sommelier, Fred Dame.

    “Deep ruby red. Very clean and intense on the nose, strong aromas of blackberry, and prune, together with captivating notes of Rose and seeds of coriander. Compact and concentrated at first, in a second moment it shows very ripened berries, and it opens with mature and elegant tannins, sweet and creamy, very long, it invites to drink a full bottle! 94 points” --Falstaff Magazine.

    “Loads of wild berry and floral aromas on the nose. As it opens, it adds a touch of mocha and spice.  Very attractive to smell.  On the palate there is a masculine full bodied core of ripe wild berry fruit.  Chewy, quite tannic but balanced well with a long, fruity, juicy finish.  Spices and toast dot the finish as well.  This is really good, but clearly needs time. 92-95 points.”--John Fodera, Tuscan Vines, January 2015.

You can learn more about the 2010 vintage, and share your thoughts about it, at


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

   I'm proud and happy to announce that my new book, The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books), has just been published through Amazon and Kindle. 
     It is a  novella, and for anyone who loves dogs, Christmas, romance, inspiration, even the supernatural, I hope you'll find this to be a treasured  favorite. The  story concerns how, after a New England teacher, his wife and their two daughters adopt a stray puppy found in their barn in northern Maine, their lives seem full of promise. But when tragedy strikes, their wonderful dog Lazarus and the spirit of Christmas are the only things that may bring back his master back from the edge of despair. 


“What a huge surprise turn this story took! I was completely stunned! I truly enjoyed this book and its message.” – Actress Ali MacGraw

“He had me at Page One. The amount of heart, human insight, soul searching, and deft literary strength that John Mariani pours into this airtight novella is vertigo-inducing. Perhaps ‘wow’ would be the best comment.” – James Dalessandro, author of Bohemian Heart and 1906.

“John Mariani’s Hound in Heaven starts with a well-painted portrayal of an American family, along with the requisite dog. A surprise event flips the action of the novel and captures us for a voyage leading to a hopeful and heart-warming message. A page turning, one sitting read, it’s the perfect antidote for the winter and promotion of holiday celebration.” – Ann Pearlman, author of The Christmas Cookie Club and A Gift for my Sister.

“John Mariani’s concise, achingly beautiful novella pulls a literary rabbit out of a hat – a mash-up of the cosmic and the intimate, the tragic and the heart-warming – a Christmas tale for all ages, and all faiths. Read it to your children, read it to yourself… but read it. Early and often. Highly recommended.” – Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of Pinkerton’s War, The Sinking of The Eastland, and The Walking Dead: The Road To Woodbury.

“Amazing things happen when you open your heart to an animal. The Hound in Heaven delivers a powerful story of healing that is forged in the spiritual relationship between a man and his best friend. The book brings a message of hope that can enrich our images of family, love, and loss.” – Dr. Barbara Royal, author of The Royal Treatment.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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  ITALY

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,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Andrew Chalk,  Dotty Griffith and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

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