As promised, here are Esquire restaurant man John Mariani's thoughts on New York restaurateur Joe Bastianich's new memoir, Restaurant Man, which calls Mariani, among other things, a "self-righteous, condescending prick." Mariani tells Eater that he was surprised by the harsh words because he's always had cordial relations with the Bastianich family — Joe's mom Lydia even wrote the intro to Mariani's book, How Italian Food Conquered the World.
Calling the whole thing "preposterous," Mariani says that while he's "not about to psychologize Joe Bastianich after he lost twenty pounds doing his Iron Man, trying to prove himself sort of thing," he did send the letter Page Six referred to earlier, which is run in its entirety below.
Joe, as you can imagine, I am astonished at what I have read about me in your new book, not because one would think that my long relationship with your family should prevent you from telling the truth but because you have so completely warped the truth to suit what are clearly your own insecurities. Your characterization of me—in language that permeates the book in what seems an attempt to out-Bourdain Bourdain and must appall your mother—is so distant from what you have, obviously and hypocritically, led me to believe all these years as to defy understanding. You must have found it stomach-churning for you when you invited me into Del Posto's kitchen to taste Mark Ladner's new pasta dish.
You seem to base a long-held grudge—20 years!--against me for what you characterize as my deliberate attempt to demolish your ego and your family's history at Becco, when in fact I do not even remember the incident at all. Anyone who knows me would be astonished at my ever even using the word "vomit" in a restaurant, much less to destroy a restaurateur's self-esteem. More important, if I found Becco s loathsome, why would I include it in Esquire's 1993 Best New Restaurants of the Year? I wrote of "fabulously rich pastas" and irresistible suckling pig and baby lamb. Why would I fail to mention that offensive fish? Or rave in a column about Lupa in Esquire? Or write of Becco in my Passport Guide 2001, "With no shortage of trattorias in the theater district, Joe Bastianich's simple and successful concept is a stand-out. . . No wonder these rooms are always packed"? And why would I include Babbo as a best new restaurant in 1998? And why would I rave about your wine book when it appeared as one of the best of the season? Or interview you for a column in Bloomberg? And if I held you and your restaurants in such low esteem, why in God's name would Esquire have put you into our Hall of Fame two years ago? Why would you attend, if you found my writing so unimportant to you? Nothing you say makes sense.
Your characterization of me as a “self-righteous condescending prick” is not just vile but so duplicitous that it’s difficult to imagine you are truly the son of your ever cordial, ever civilized parents. Why, were I such a thing as you say, would your mother ever bring herself just last year to write the foreword to my book How Italian Food Conquered the World?
And why, if I have had no "importance" as a food and wine critic for so many years, would you send me your wines to write about?
As for your dad saying "John eats for free," I would ask your mother if I ever once asked her and your father for a free meal. Ever. Or have I ever asked you or Mario for a free meal? Ever.
Also ask your mother if any other food writers who dined at Felidia ate for free. If you picked up my check on occasion—even to the point of inviting me to your restaurants--that says more about you than me.
Though this smacks of a typical operatic Italian betrayal, I am not in the business of vendettas. But since you “and everyone else who has had to deal with” me to be a "condescending prick," it would probably be wise on my part to avoid dining in your restaurants or accepting your wines for review in the future. Entering one of your restaurants would not only make me feel uneasy but I certainly don't want to make you "pass out." If as you write of that long-ago night at Becco (1992!), I "just sliced your balls off, right there at tableside, and let them bleed from my crotch," it explains a lot. You obviously do lack the balls ever to have said any of this to my face in the past 20 years. Instead, you've just smiled and talked family and thanked me for all the superlative things I've said about your restaurants, despite my not being "important"; to you in a long while.
My best to your mother and sister,