John Mariani, the food writer for Esquire, publishes a weekly newsletter, Virtual Gourmet, in which he regularly serves up industry news -- and another critic. In the November 22 edition, it was Jason Sheehan's turn.
Under the heading "THAT'S VERY GOOD, JUST KEEP ON TRYING TO THINK LIKE A NORMAL PERSON" and the photo above, Mariani offered the following excerpt from "Mourning," the October 28 review of Mark & Isabella written by Sheehan for "Wordswest" (later corrected to Westword):
"There's a reason I write these reviews the way I do--why, for the past seven years, have taken them so personally and written (almost) as much about myself as I have about the food. It's because every time I walk through the doors of a restaurant, I try to imagine myself in the situation I actually found myself in last week: as a customer who, for whatever reason, doesn't just want dinner, but needs it. First dates. Last Dates. Marriage proposals, Grief. Restaurants are, in so many cases, stages for all of mankind's small dreams. . . . Every week I try to think like a normal person--not a critic, not a writer--and imagine how I would feel had I been given. . . this."
It's true that Sheehan takes his reviews personally, and occasionally writes more about himself than he does about the food. But in more than seven years, he'd never written a review as personal as his piece on Mark & Isabella, in which he spoke of his father dying and the surviving family members going out for dinner -- a godawful dinner that failed to provide the solace that comes from the best communal meals shared at bad times.
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The day we learned that Mariani had poked "normal person" Sheehan, we also got another bit of news: Mark & Isabella is no more.