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How Italian Food Conquered the World Hardcover – March 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mariani, author of The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink and the food and wine correspondent for Esquire magazine, makes a declarative statement in this fact-filled, entertaining history and substantiates it with hundreds of facts in this meaty history of the rise of Italian food culture around the globe. From Charles Dickens's journey through Italy in 1844 to 20th-century immigrants to America selling ice cream on the streets of New Orleans, Mariani constantly surprises the reader with little-known culinary anecdotes about Italy and its people, who have made pasta and pizza household dishes in the U.S. and beyond. Mariani's heavy emphasis on specific chefs and restaurant owners in the latter half of the book may tire your average reader, but foodies will delight as he details the rise and fall of French cuisine during the 1980s and '90s as trattorias eventually take the States by storm. Mariani includes many recipes throughout. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Making sense of Italian food�s history is no small undertaking, but like any true professional, longtime Esquire food correspondent and legendary restaurant columnist Mariani handles the subject with ease. Organized into categories and loosely chronological, Mariani�s trove of facts and anecdotes helps chronicle the cuisine�s rise to fame. Italian food had some troubles early on. Often viewed as cheap peasant grub, it took decades to gain traction outside of Italy. But with time, it was everywhere and could compete (for dollars and critical praise) with even French cuisine, the perennial gold standard. Mariani explains the obvious factors, like pizza�s immeasurable contribution, but touches on many surprising ones, like the allure the Mafia brought to family-owned establishments. The world outside of the U.S. and Europe is barely addressed, though. One wonders whether fettuccini alfredo is as pervasive in, say, India, as it is on American menus. And if not, why? But readers will be salivating too much to mind. Fortunately, classic recipes are included throughout. --Casey Bayer

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230104398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230104396
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #687,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Mariani is an author and journalist of 30 years standing, having begun his writing for New York Magazine in 1973. Since then, he has become known as one of America's premiere food writers (a three-time nominee for the James Beard Journalism Award) and author of several of the most highly regarded books on food in America today.
In 2012 Saveur Magazine won as ASME award for its "Italian-American" issue for which Mariani wrote the lead article. His first book, The Dictionary of American Food & Drink (Ticknor & Fields, 1983) was hailed as the "American Larousse Gastronomique" and was chosen "best reference book on food for 1983" by Library Journal. After a decade when the book was declared a "classic" of American food studies, Hearst Books issued a completely revised edition in 1994. In 1999 Lebhar-Friedman published a revised, expanded version entitled The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, of which he is currently writing the fifth edition, to be published by Bloomsbury.
Mariani' s second book. Eating Out: Fearless Dining in Ethnic Restaurants (Quill, 1985) was called by Food & Wine Magazine "a diner's manual to guerilla tactics for restaurant survival." His third book, Mariani's Coast-to-Coast Dining Guide (Times Books, 1986), which he edited, was widely acclaimed as the American counterpart to France's Guide Michelin. His next book, America Eats Out (William Morrow, 1991) won the International Association of Cooking Professionals Award for Best Food Reference Book. From 1989 through 1999 Mariani co-authored annual editions of Passport to New York Restaurants (Passport Press) and was editor of Italian Cuisine: Basic Cooking Techniques (Italian Wine & Food Institute), which became the textbook for Italian cooking studies at the Culinary Institute of America, and he has written the food and restaurant sections of the Encyclopedia of New York City (The New-York Historical Society and Yale University Press, 1995) and contributed entries to Chronicle of America (Chronicle Publications).
Mariani's other books include The Four Seasons: A History of America's Premier restaurant (Crown, 1997; revised 1999); Vincent's Cookbook (Tenspeed Press, 1995), with chef Vincent Guérithault; The Dictionary of Italian Food & Drink (Broadway Books, 1998) which was nominated for an IACP award; and, with Marie Rama, Grilling for Dummies (IDG Books), which first appeared in 1999 and was revised in 2009.
His newest books are How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2011), which just won the Goumand World Cookbooks Award for the USA 2011, and the Italian Cuisine Worldwide Award 2012. He co-authored Menu Design in America: 1850-1985 (Taschen Books, 2011). He was host for the TV series "Crazy for Food," which played on national PBS stations.
Mariani received his Phd in English from Columbia U. He lives in Tuckahoe NY with his wife, artist Galina Stepanoff-Dargery Mariani. He has two sons, Misha and Christopher.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Fabio, Bleeding Espresso on June 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever wondered how the world ended up with so many "Italian" restaurants with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths and a spaghetti and meatballs special when that snapshot simply doesn't exist in Italy? Then this is the book for you.

Alternatively, even if you've never really thought about that question before but are now interested in the answer, I also recommend this book for you.

In How Italian Food Conquered the World, Esquire magazine food and wine critic John Mariani takes us from Venetian trade routes for spices to peasant kitchens to Michelin restaurants as he traces the journey Itailan food has made over the past several centuries. Mariani meticulously covers the historical, sociological, political, and Hollywood-themed factors that have shaped what the world has come to know as Italian cuisine.

Note that although the title refers to "the world," the focus is most definitely on the United States with only brief mentions of other places around the world. Staying true to his food critic roots, Mariani focuses heavily on the Italian (upscale) restaurant scene in the United States, and in New York City and California in particular. While I understand the significance of documenting changes in Italian cuisine in such restaurants, I personally would have loved to learn more about how ordinary people and more "mom and pop" restaurants through the United States are also going back to Italian cuisine's peasant roots -- thanks in no small part to cooking websites, magazines, and television shows.

On that note, I especially enjoyed the first half of the book, which discussed the earliest origins of Italian food dating back to Greek, Arabic, and other influences as well as Italian immigrants' contributions.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By isd on March 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A most wonderful book! The subject of this book intrigued me enough to buy it, but once I started reading it, I just couldn't put it down. I never realized how Italian cuisine evolved and what strong influence Italian Americans have had on what we all know as Italian food. In addition to Mr. Mariani's depth of knowledge, his writing is superb which made for very enjoyable reading. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Italian cuisine and wants to find out how it became the best loved food everywhere. Kudos to Mr. Mariani.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Long Eye on April 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The book never delivers on the promise of the title. Historical facts devolve into Manhattan food reviewer/restauranteur name dropping. The influence of Italian cuisine is seen from the same camera. The view is opened just enough to reference US and European locations to hint of a world beyond. The influence of Italian immigration to Argentina, Australia, and other locations is not tied to the title's premise. Americans, including the "non-elite" Italian immigrants, are portrayed as rubes with no palate.
There are so many unanswered questions. The book does not attempt to answer why I can find a very decent pizza in Xian, China, or odd interpretations of "standard" pasta dishes in the Ginza district of Tokyo. How did "Wedding soup" migrate from the immigrants to menus of nearly every restaurant in Western PA/Eastern OH? A single Google search produces many references. The author is keen to entomb French influenced food in America. Why is it that most of the fine dinning Italian restaurants use French derived techniques? The word for the head of a kitchen in Italy is "Chef!" The story telling continually winnows facts to return to Manhattan with an excursion to the Bronx.
The author devotes pages to "Italian American" stereotypes and the pain caused by anti-Italian bias - all real and painful. In 1990, my mother-in-law, an immigrant, cried at her kitchen table when a non-Italian family member told her "Don't worry, you're one of the good Italians." The author also ignores the violence, pain and oppression of organized crime and the role of Italians in organized crime. The airport in Palermo was renamed to honor two judges killed by the Mafia in the 1990s. There are many representations of the Italian ex-pat experience that portray the full view. Why not reference these?
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By ChefMC on March 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
John Mariani has captured the soul of the American diners desire (read requirement)to enjoy Italian food more often than any cuisine in America. In my world Mr. Mariani is a food writing god, to see him turn his pen to his cultures cuisine is a joy. Having seen, from the inside, the last 30 years of this culinary odyssey I can tell all you would be readers "GET THIS BOOK" and be prepared to lick each page!

Michael Chiarello - Bottega Ristorante - Younville (Napa Valley) CA
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Karris on March 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a delightfully rich book which might also serve as a history of the United States as seen from the perspective of food.

While it is understandable that Mariani would spend considerable space on New York City and even Los Angeles, I would have appreciated more about the role of Italian food in the areas between the two coasts.

Occasionally Mariani adds recipes at the end of chapters. Yummie!

Mariani is not well served by his proofreader(s) at Palgrave Macmillan who allowed such blunders as the following. Page 50 provides an annoying repetition: "Originally it had been set up set up just to serve the clients of a bordello in the building." Page 94 has a sentence with two past tenses: "... Americans did not see the insult because they had were so fascinated by the lifestyle." Page 133 renames the United States: "Once Americans accepted drier wines, the Unites States would become a wine-drinking nation." Finally on p. 182 an important "of" is dropped: "... photographers recreated the paparazzi's black-and-white flashbulb photos the 1950s and shot models..."
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