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How Italian Food Conquered the World [Hardcover]

John F. Mariani , Lidia Bastianich
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 15, 2011

Not so long ago, Italian food was regarded as a poor man’s gruel—little more than pizza, macaroni with sauce, and red wines in a box. Here, John Mariani shows how the Italian immigrants to America created, through  perseverance and sheer necessity, an Italian-American food culture, and how it became a global obsession. The book begins with the Greek, Roman, and Middle Eastern culinary traditions before the boot-shaped peninsula was even called “Italy,” then takes readers on a journey through Europe and across the ocean to America alongside the poor but hopeful Italian immigrants who slowly but surely won over the hearts and minds of Americans by way of their stomachs. Featuring evil villains such as the Atkins diet and French chefs, this is a rollicking tale of how Italian cuisine rose to its place as the most beloved fare in the world, through the lives of the people who led the charge.


With savory anecdotes from these top chefs and restaurateurs:

• Mario Batali

• Danny Meyer

• Tony Mantuano

• Michael Chiarello

• Giada de Laurentiis

• Giuseppe Cipriani

• Nigella Lawson


And the trials and triumphs of these restaurants:

• Da Silvano

• Spiaggia

• Bottega

• Union Square Cafe

• Maialino

• Rao’s

• Babbo

• Il Cantinori

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.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; First Edition (states and 1 in number line) 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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #501,956 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
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Italian Food Conquered the World March 22, 2011
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched and engaging -- great read! June 19, 2011
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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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mariani Scores! March 21, 2011
By ChefMC
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully rich 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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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only all history was this entertaining!!! March 28, 2011
I ordered "How Italian Food Conquered the World" because John Mariani's other books are so authoritative and impeccably researched. But this one is just over the top in terms of both its content and presentation. I wanted to read it like a novel from beginning to end, and warn other readers not to start it when you're hungry! His anecdotes and thumbnail sketches of various Italian chefs are alone worth the cost of the book. And his wit is as sharp as a sushi chef's knife. This is a MUST for any foodie's library.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Should have been proofread by an Italian-speaker May 29, 2011
I am an American who lives in Italy and loves the food (who doesn't?) and I ordered this book after hearing a radio interview with the author. Although I enjoyed reading the book, I was shocked by the large number of Italian terms that were misspelled.

One example is the constant capitalization of adjectives like milanese, siciliana, and bolognese, as in "risotto alla Milanese." Other mistakes include "a true cotolette" (instead of the singular "cotoletta"), "Trattoria alle Le Langhe" (instead of "Trattoria alle Langhe"), "insalata di caprese" (instead of "insalata caprese"), Federazione Italiani Cuochi (instead of "Federazione Italiana Cuochi"), and "halibut steak alla Siciliano" (instead of "alla siciliana").

I also noticed some factual mistakes. The author places the region of Le Marche in southern Italy when it's actually in central Italy and he refers to "a classic recipe from Val d'Aosta in Piedmont" when Val d'Aosta is a separate region bordering the region of Piedmont.

I'm not suggesting that a person who writes about Italian food has to be fluent in the language of the country. I do think he could have avoided such errors by using an Italian-speaking proofreader.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars A dull read full of pretentious name-dropping and factual errors
Perhaps editorial oversight was missing here, but the misspelling of Italian words and outright factual errors (such as placing locales in the wrong part of the country) make this... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Hey ... Al Dente!
The tables were a dingy green that had been around long enough to have been wiped down by a busboy probably ten thousand times if you added up the years. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Antonio Christopher Dittmann
5.0 out of 5 stars Gotta love it
The book not only concentrated on the history and evolvement of Italian food but also brought you up-to-date. I was hungry the entire time I was reading the book.
Published 8 months ago by M.Rose
4.0 out of 5 stars very historical
I love history and I love italian food so this is a great thing for me. Great finding out where this food we love so much has its origins.
Published 10 months ago by Eric Dale Kimbrell
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful History
I'm not always in agreement with Mariani's assessments of different restaurants and personalities, but there's no denying that he spins an engaging tale with a lot of insight into... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Chris P.
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable
Nicely done recap of Italian food and it's changing styles in both Italy and the US. A better title might be how it conquered the US, very little detail of its influence in other... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Roger Neustadter
5.0 out of 5 stars History and Food
If you love Italian food this is a good read. The history of Italy and it's foods are so interwoven it is like a plate of pasta and yummy sauce. I rad this book as did my husband.
Published 20 months ago by Carol Manuel
5.0 out of 5 stars How Italian Food Conquered the World
A history of food full of fascinating facts and people. Americans just love their pasta. And all of the many places, you can get it.
Published 20 months ago by Anonymous
4.0 out of 5 stars If You Are INterested in the History of Italian Cooking
I enjoyed reading this book because my Mom was born in Italy and she cooked a lot of meals that were much different that my friends' Moms cooked. Read more
Published on November 18, 2012 by Samuel B. Lopez
2.0 out of 5 stars Bougie bore Italian food lore - emphasis Manhattan
The book never delivers on the promise of the title. Historical facts devolve into Manhattan food reviewer/restauranteur name dropping. Read more
Published on April 18, 2012 by Long Eye
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