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MenuPages Chicago Criticism Breaks Mariani's Silence

By Chuck Sudo in Food on May 20, 2009 3:40PM

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For many food writers, the mere mention of the name John Mariani is enough to raise hackles and raise voices in protest. The "food and travel correspondent" for Esquire makes for an easy target with his byline at Esquire, Wine Spectator and Bloomberg News, ostentatious prose and numerous accusations of questionable ethics, including one instance relayed by moto's Homaru Cantu that's now become legend.

Mariani was in town last week, which gave Helen Rosner of MenuPages Chicago an opportunity to list Mariani's litany of grievances again in the context of a visit to the Bristol (Mariani also visited Graham Elliot, the Violet Hour and A Mano). As grooved pitches go, this one was letter-high with medium cheese. Rosner couldn't have asked for a better softball, and she knocked it out of the park. This, predictably, led to an echo chamber of "he said/she said" anonymous comments and a reply from Ryan D'agostino, Mariani's editor at Esquire, defending him. The comments kept coming.

That might have been enough to force Mariani's hand. Rosner posted a point-by-point rebuttal from Mariani Monday that left few stones unturned, while still taking a shot at "bloggish exaggerations." The news here is Mariani's response. He is an easy target and we've written about him before, but, ultimately, it's just wasted energy, with Rosner feeding into the Second City complex that she herself roundly (and rightly) criticized only a couple weeks back. Conflicted ethics or no, Mariani isn't going to change his ways anytime this late in his game. We will admit, Mariani does raise a good point regarding anonymity when he writes that he "want(s) very much to meet and interview the restaurateur, chef, and sommelier, see how they operate and what they are trying to achieve, and often ask the chef to cook for me—always from the menu—those dishes he thinks his most representative" in order to tell readers what the chef is trying to accomplish with his cooking. Maybe Rosner and Mariani found some common ground with this, but the debate will linger.

Gotta admit, though, the daiquiri on the back of Mariani's business card is exactly as we make ours.