John Mariani wears a tie and jacket when he goes to dinner. Every dinner. The restaurant columnist for Esquire is a one-man barricade against the onslaught of informality in 21st century dining.
Case in point: When I met him at a media conference in Pittsburgh in 2009, he told me he was planning a trip to Philly to review several restaurants for his annual 20 Best New Restaurants feature. He invited me, then an aspiring food writer, to meet him not by way of the usual “Do you want to join me?” but instead, “Would you care to dine with me?” It’s perhaps the most regal question I’ve ever answered yes to.
We had dinner at the defunct Maia in Villanova (thumbs down) then lunched the following day at Table 31, where Georges hugged him warmly and gave us a tour through the kitchen. It’s a good thing Georges left before our waiter carelessly poured red wine into a glass that was already 1/3 full of white, or Philadelphia might have witnessed its first public execution in modern history. Neither Maia nor Table 31 made the list that year but Zahav and Distrito, where he “dined” after we bid adieu, did.
John continues to be no stranger to Philly. As far as I can tell, he comes down from New York every year to sniff out viable best new restaurant candidates, and he employs local food and wine writer Brian Freedman as a regular contributor to his Virtual Gourmet newsletter.
John’s next appearance in the 215 will be on Monday, when he hosts a celebrity chef/author event at (no surprise) Davio’s–one of Philly’s more established temples to dining luxury. From 6:30-9pm, the three-time James Beard Journalism Award nominee and author of How Italian Food Conquered The World will muse about the role of Italian food in the cornucopia of global cuisine while diners sup on a three-course wine dinner.
Prepare to spend $85 and be sure to wear a tie.
Davio’s Wine Dinner Series [Davio's]