In a brisk, chronological narrative, Mariani, Esquire's food and travel correspondent, surveys American eateries from menu-less Colonial taverns to Delmonico's opulent Paris-style restaurant in early 19th-century New York to Bern's, a garish and extravagant Tampa steakhouse that he calls ``the most remarkable [and] one of the most famous restaurants in the entire world.'' Mariani's straightforward history has little in common with another recent survey, the Sterns' wittier, more entertaining American Gourmet (p. 1004). Much of the author's material appears to be recycled from more specific popular histories such as those listed in his bibliography; and his commentary and summary judgments (on Italian immigrant food, for example) are generally pat and conventional. Still, Mariani knows how to highlight salient aspects of a trend or establishment, and his perfectly readable narrative abounds in diverting facts, quotes, anecdotes, and profiles. (Did you know, for example, that the first golden arches, made for a Phoenix McDonald's that opened in 1953, are now on permanent exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan? Or that the famous ``21'' Club began as a high-class speak-easy to replace a predecessor, ``No. 42,'' that was displaced by Rockefeller Center, and closed with a lavish, bang-up New Year's Eve demolition party?) For libraries, Mariani's account can function further as a handy time-line of American gastronomy; and, not least, the 200 b&w photos to come promise a banquet for browsers.
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