Virtual Gourmet

  AUGUST 4,   2019                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 


VATEL (2000)


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By John Mariani



By John Mariani

    As the largest city in Switzerland, Zürich spreads out beyond its historic center and seems intent on aggrandizing more of the outlying areas.   But, bisected by two rivers with graceful bridges, it is a city without the bustle and traffic of comparable European capitals. You never get the sense of its citizens being in a great rush, not least because they are assured that all transport leaves and arrives frequently and on time and because the Bahnhof train station is a small city in itself to spend time in.
    More than one survey ranks Zürich as a city with the best quality of life in the world, and like the rest of Switzerland it enjoys an astonishing unemployment rate of only 2.7% in a city of 380,000 people, 90% working in the service sector, especially financial, and there is now a large biotech and medical industry in the city. Salaries are higher than elsewhere in Europe, but the efficiency and productivity of the city’s laborers make for low non-wage labor costs.
    There has been an influx of non-Swiss, many settling along neighborhoods behind the main train station, while Langerstrasse is being built up with modern businesses and apartments, bars and cafés. According to Stadt Zürich, “The city's housing market is currently a source of tension, with many people looking for apartments and having trouble finding one in the City of Zürich.”
    Banking is the backbone of the city—stores of gold bullion lie underneath the streets—with tourism right behind, and the lay-out of the Old City along the banks of the Limnat River, which supplies 70 percent of the city’s drinking water, allows for good long walks from Platzspitz Park and the magnificent Bahnhoff (above) to the Quailbrücke bridge, where the river fans out into Lake Zürich.
    Along the west bank walkways you’ll find small artisan shops for gold and jewelry, local fashion designers and numerous cafés. Farther away from the river, Zürich expands into central shopping districts, especially along Bahnhofstrasse, where, if you care, all the international labels are to be found. The east bank of the river has a much younger vibe, the streets chockablock with restaurants, bars, marijuana shops, tattoo parlors, puppet and doll stores and cheaper clothing stores. On several blocks around town you’ll find Sprüngli chocolate and pastry shops and restaurants (left)—there are six in town, not counting at the train stations and airports—ideal for breakfast, a quick lunch or a breather.
    Churches occupy more blocks of Zürich, and a few are superb examples, including the Church of St. Peter, added onto over centuries in Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles, with the largest four-faced clock in Europe. After Catholics countered the Reformation, they went all out at St. Peter with an interior of flamboyant magnificence. More subdued but esthetically pleasing is the Romanesque Grossmünster (right), dating back to the 14th century, with its easily recognizable twin towers—Richard Wagner called them “salt and pepper shakers”—and intricately carved portal. Founded originally by Charlemagne, whose statue tops one tower, the church became the principal venue from which Huyldrich Zwingli launched the Swiss Reformation in 1519, and there is a Reformation museum in the cloister.
    The Swiss National Museum, in two attached Gothic buildings, is extremely rich throughout, with important works from prehistory and Roman eras as well as the Carolingian and Renaissance periods. Art from Asia is the focus of the Rietberg Museum, but I was most impressed by the deep collection of modern art from the 19th century at the Kuntshaus, where you’ll find the largest number of Edvard Munch paintings outside of Norway, a splendid Monet water lily painting, a room of first-rate Chagalls and another of the romantic artist Henry Fuseli’s work, along with sculptures by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti.  For those with a taste for folklore, what is purported to be a crossbow of hero William Tell, who may never have existed, is on display at the Zeughauskeller restaurant on the  Bahnhofstrasse.
    Zürich has a thriving opera and ballet community, both performing at the gleaming white and gray Opernhaus, re-built in 1891 after a fire destroyed the original. Though it had fallen into decrepitude, it was restored to its current brilliance and has seen its share of youth protests for presenting too many German and Austrian works, probably evoking the disfavor of Mozart, Weber and Wagner, whose busts look down from the façade.

Next week I’ll report on Zürich’s best hotels and restaurants.



By John Mariani

43-04 47th Avenue
Sunnyside, Queens

    Having run low on Cambodian snack bars, taco food trucks and vegetarian burger stands in Brooklyn to cover, the New York food media have turned their sights on Queens in search of the same kind of low-rent, small-menu eating places—all of which well deserve coverage—while largely ignoring more traditional, less trendy restaurants.  It’s hard to remember when the media have covered any Italian restaurants above the level of a pizzeria. Here’s one thus far ignored that deserves kudos galore.
      As an admirable labor of love, Senso Unico—which means “one way” in Italian with the additional meaning of doing things one way, the right way—is a corner osteria that exudes good feelings and hospitality from the moment you meet owner Laura Garofalo at the doorway. She’s the wife of chef Vincenzo Garofalo, whose long résumé includes time at notable restaurants like
Antica Osteria Nonna Rosa and Il Pellicano in Italy, as well as a stint with the Maccioni family at Sirio in New York.  But his most enduring and endearing influence is the cooking of his grandmother.
    I love restaurants with a corner entrance, and Senso Unico’s is particularly inviting into a small, tidy, colorful room that opens onto the street in the Queens neighborhood of Sunnyside. A sign on the wall (left) in Italian reads "Enter as friends, leave as family."
    The food is alla famiglia, and housemade pastas are the focus, but the antipasti are not to be ignored. We began with cuoppo (below, right), a plate of lightly fried, crispy calamari, shrimp and mixed vegetables ($15). You can tell when a fresh, light oil is used at the right temperature.

    Vincenzo is obviously manic about the seasonal freshness of his ingredients, evident in the cherry and Roma tomato salad with Castelvetrano and Gaeta olives, pickled onion, basil and—surprise!—a splash of Campari ($11). A fine beef carpaccio had shreds of peppery arugula, shaved parmigiano and a tangy lemon dressing ($14), and it was so good to see an old Italian-American favorite, prosciutto and melon, served; the melon was succulently ripe and very sweet, the prosciutto draped in feather-weight slices, with a delightful, unexpected pistachio dressing ($12). Also dependent on absolute freshness was a carpaccio of sea scallops with capers, cantaloupe, pink peppercorn, a dash of fresh chili and lemon oil ($14).
    And so, on to the delicately wrought pastas at Senso Unico. Spaghetti with plum, cherry, and Roma tomato sauce was the essence of summer in a bowl ($24), as was the scialatielli alla Nerano, a fat form of spaghetti with green and yellow squash, basil butter and Parmigiano ($24).  Spaghetti with the small vongole clams in their shells seems a simple dish, but getting the balance of the white wine, tomatoes and salsa verde takes canny timing, and Vincenzo’s got his down pat ($17). The heartiest of the pastas I sampled was fusilli Avellinesi (left), made with sweet Italian sausage, tomato and a truffle sauce ($19). Portions are very generous.
    As requisite as the pastas are, there are some good secondi on the menu, including a tagliata cut of beef with mixed grilled vegetables ($36); a nicely crisp and juicy Cornish hen with roasted potatoes and brown butter-rosemary sauce ($26); an eggplant parmigiana ($15) so good that the old-fashioned dish deserves to be brought back to eminence; and branzino al cartoccio that was exceptionally succulent, steamed and baked with zucchini, yellow squash, cherry tomato and white wine sauce ($26).
    I didn’t really expect that Vincenzo would make his own desserts, but, of course, he does, and his classic tiramisù ($6)—another version with beer is merely odd— and flakey puff pastry napeolon (right) with amarena cherries ($9) are expertly made.  The refreshing dish called affogato (“drowned”), made by pouring chocolate sauce and espresso over vanilla ice cream ($6), is always going to be a simple pleasure, and I haven’t tasted a zabaglione with vin cotto, glazed berries and vanilla gelato ($8) this good in a very long while.
    For anyone who lives in those other boroughs or drives to Queens for  Mets game or US Open, Senso Unico is well worth the price of a subway or Uber fare or a drive. The people of Queens have already found out how lucky they are to have the Garofalos cooking for them.


Senso Unico is open for lunch Fri. & Sat., and for dinner Tues.-Sun.




By John Mariani

I always taste new bottlings in the market with food, never on their own in a sterile atmosphere. Food buoys wine and vice-versa, so, depending on what I’m eating this long, hot summer, I choose my wines with a view to their potential for good marriages. Here are some very good ones.


LA CREMA  WILLAMETTE VALLEY PINOT NOIR 2016 ($30)—It was a stifling July evening with pizzas and lamb chops cooked over a charcoal fire. I reduced the temperature of this Oregon Pinot Noir to a reasonable 60 degrees, and it was both refreshing with the pizza, whose Gorgonzola cheese and sweet onions needed a red wine, and a good mineral match with the nicely fatted lamb on the bone, all at a very good price for a party of people.

SANTOLA VINHO VERDE ($6 to $10)—In Portugal Vinho Verde is an everyday wine that is drunk with abandon—it’s only got 9% alcohol. Very often, like this bottle, there isn’t even a vintage listed on the label, though you be sure it came from 2018. Nevertheless, like Portuguese wines in general, Vinho Verdes are both improving and showing variety, usually with a tinge of fizz. This one is on the drier side. With soft shell crabs and sautéed tilefish, it was just what I wanted to drink. At these prices, buy ‘em by the case!

JOSEPH DROUHIN PULIGNY-MONTRACHET FOLATIÈRES 2013 ($116)—When I buy lobster for dinner I know I’m always going to want a great white Burgundy like this Puligny-Montrachet by Drouhin. The lobster, especially with melted butter, needs a rich component, and this Chardonnay-based wine has layers of flavor and just enough acid to be wholly complementary to the crustacean’s luscious, creamy flavor. The grapes are pressed very slowly, without yeasts or enzymes, and the last pressings are not used. After decanting the wine goes directly into French oak barrel, where they spend a year. It’s now six years old, showing the power and aging potential of these Burgundy whites.

RICASOLI CHIANTI CLASSICO RONCIONE GRAN SELEZIONE 2015 ($85);  COLLEDILÀ CHIANTI CLASSICO GRAN SELEZIONE 2015 ($70); CENIPRIMO CHIANTI CLASSICO SELEZIONE 2015 ($85)—Readers of these columns well know my affection for Chianti Classicos, though I didn’t expect them to be at these prices. Worth it? Yes, because while they retain the Sangiovese flavors that distinguish these Tuscan beauties, they also edge towards the heights of the best Brunellos and estates like Ornellaia and Sassicaia. Ricasoli has been at the job since 1872, and in fact pioneered the composition of what we know as Chianti. These three current examples are all 100% Sangiovese: The Colledilà (which means the “other side of the hill”) comes from a calcium rich soil, so you taste that minerality; the Roncione gives you a rush of fruit up front that is calmed by a good acidity underneath to goes on to a long, satisfying finish; the CeniPrimo, a half-percent higher in alcohol at 14.5% than the others, has marvelous color and depth with finesse, too, and a longer finish. It’s from the smallest of the Ricasoli estates, with only six acres, and grapes are hand harvested. The tannins are still loosening up, but right now it went impeccably with a plate of spaghetti with a pesto basil, garlic, pine nut sauce.

LYNDENHURST CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2015 ($85)—I buy my well-marbled ribeyes cut about two inches thick; indoors, my wife sears them in a cast iron skillet then sticks them in a hot oven for five minutes. In summer, on the charcoal grill, that sear gets darker and crustier, so a big California Napa Valley Cabernet is requisite, but not one so high in alcohol as to blunt the enjoyment after one glass.  This one reaches only 14.4% alcohol, and the fat of the ribeye and the big fruit and light oak flavors mingle magnificently.




Bay Area-based biotech start-up Perfect Day, founded by
vegan bioengineers Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi, are now producing ice cream in the lab made from whey protein produced by genetically modified yeast rather than by cows.

"Rhodes and his wife and co-owner, Chana Rhodes, aim to challenge systemic racism and oppression in America with their restaurant. Rhodes delivers monologues between courses on weighty topics ranging from mass incarceration to the Great Migration, but even without them, Indigo’s very existence is part of the work: a fine dining restaurant in a historically underserved neighborhood, serving food that unabashedly claims its purpose. In a more equitable dining culture, none of this would be revolutionary, but today it is; diners simply don’t see restaurants like this very often."--
Hillary Dixler Canavan, "Beach Side Cafe,"



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

   The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books) 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 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:

Eating Las Vegas JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas food and restaurant scene since 1995. He is the co-author of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants (as well as the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas. He can also be seen every Friday morning as the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3  in Las Vegas.


MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Gerry Dawes, Geoff Kalish, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.


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