But the biggest development was that by the end of the 1970s, the generational taste had been formed, and there was a consensus that the French and Continental food that had been the apparent summit of Anglo-American dining for hundreds of years wasn’t worth the price. Italian food was less expensive and tasted better to Phoenix readers. It was more rewarding to cook at home, more worth top dollar in “white sauce” Northern Italian restaurants, more suited to the budgets of young families, easier to mimic with the relaxed TV- or book-based instruction of Franco and Margaret Romagnoli, and it had become the most popular ethnic food in Boston, as in most of the US. The Italian wave, more like a tsunami, meant that pizza became the only form of fresh-baked bread most people ever ate, that spaghetti was added to every “American menu,” and that French restaurants actually had to be revived in the last five years as a nostalgia category.
I'LL DRINK TO THAT: Phoenix readers have always relished their expertise in libations, from California varietals and microbrews to, more recently, the "classic" cocktail.
The culinary generation gap of the 1970s also brought about a revival of interest in American wines, which until then had not recovered from Prohibition. Boston remained a good market for French, Italian, and German wines, and they were priced competitively in the 1970s (in the mid ’70s, second-growth Bordeaux were sold at Marty’s for $4.99 to $6.99; today these same bottles cost as much as a luxury dinner for two). But older people were the experts on the classic wines, while the explosion of California varietals was something new. A young person could become an expert on California wines a lot more easily, so we did. In a way, this cycle was repeated in the 1990s with the explosion of microbreweries, which made beer a level playing field for Generations X and Y. Why should they listen to 35-year-olds drone on about vintages and vineyard practices when they themselves could become experts on the malts and hops of the world in a few months? And now the new century has begun with a revival of 1950s-style mixed drinks. (Why listen to 35-year-olds drone on about hops, etc.?) Will we return to basement wet bars and fallout shelters? Perhaps not, but apparently each successive youth culture wants to develop its own beverage connoisseurship.
The ’70s also marked the beginnings of Boston’s coffee mania, led by George Howell’s Coffee Connection shops, which defined a Boston taste for distinctive terroir in coffee and a milder roasting style than the West Coast wave that literally engulfed Boston when all the Coffee Connection shops were sold to Starbucks in 1994.
The economic expansion of the 1980s mini-computer boom brought the excesses of nouvelle cuisine to the most expensive restaurants in Boston, but it also paved the way for a number of rising chef-owners, the establishment of neighborhood farmers’ markets, and new ethnic restaurants to serve the city’s increasingly multicultural population of international students and immigrant professionals in high tech and medicine, as well as more modest service employees and medical technicians. Authentic Cantonese and Hong Kong cuisine opened up for the general dining public. The number and quality of South Asian restaurants multiplied, and waves of Latin American, Caribbean, and African storefront restaurants began reaching beyond their core customers to curious and bargain-conscious outsiders.