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This Week: Obsessing over Secco

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Built on Obsession
There aren't many wine stores that stock little jars of duck fat among the imported olives, and where workers sprinkle conversations with equal parts wit and food geekiness. But those who've shopped at Carytown's River City Cellars these past 11 years — and those who've shouldered through its packed wine and beer tastings — know that this is a business with an adroit approach. No pretense, no snobbery. Its staff is resolved to learn, taste and please as they unveil artisanal products such as cheese and chocolate-covered figs along with the beer and wine.

It was a natural sequence of events, then, when owner Julia Battaglini decided to complement her shop with a wine bar next door. She might have reconsidered if she'd known how many years of obstacle jumping would lie before her, but now her vision, Secco Wine Bar, is a tangibly chic reality. It's a reward built on battle scars that only those who open food-service businesses in Richmond can fully understand. Secco premieres next week to an audience that's been peering for months into the glass-walled corner at 2933 W. Cary St. It will open at 11 a.m. daily, closing at 9 on weeknights, 10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Tom Brickman, Secco's designer and co-owner, engineered a thousand bits of salvaged picture frames into a dimensional wooden wall and bar that are Brancusi-meets-Frank-Lloyd-Wright substantial. A contrastingly delicate Chris Milk mural above the bar establishes the assured and imaginative tone of the space, where no detail is left to chance. (That's one of the benefits of a slow, slow start-up.)

Tim Bereika is executive chef, responsible for a locally sourced spread of antipasto, soups, sandwiches, salads and house-made pastas and charcuterie. Wines by the glass will include Spanish, Italian and French finds that range from $6 to $10 or so; beers are given equal attention. The staff is already making it known: This place is ready to jump into its long-awaited debut slinging humor and food-geekiness all the way. seccowinebar.com.   

Serving Suggestions
Looking for Benny's: He's staying south of the James, but owner Richard Cacciotti is on the hunt for a new location for Benny's BBQ. His lease is up in December at the small and smoky Stratford Hills joint that's sold hand-chopped pork barbecue to a loyal following for almost 17 years. Cacciotti says he's outgrown that space and is ready to expand anyway, so he's checking out options from Forest Hill to Midlothian. Watch this space for details. bennysbbqonline.com.

World Beer Festival: Tickets are on sale at all Capital Ale Houses for this June 12 event on Brown's Island. It's presented by Fetch-a-Cure, which gets proceeds, and All About Beer magazine. Style Weekly is the media sponsor. Advance tickets are $40 per session, or $75 for VIP status. Expect a sellout for this very big beer deal, coming to Richmond for the first time. fetchacure.com.

Chef's Table at Mise En Place: New to the Shockoe Slip cooking school are monthly chef's table dinners, including an Earth Day repast with Sally Schmidt on April 22, and another four-course dinner with Frits Huntjens on May 7. Seating's limited to 32, and reservations are required. See the Web site for details. miseenplaceshockoe.com.

International food tasting: Globally inspired dishes from restaurants and caterers in the Petersburg area are the centerpiece of a popular annual event benefiting that city's symphony orchestra May 1, 1-4 p.m. The tasting, in the Petersburg Regional Art Center at 132 N. Sycamore St., includes wine, live music, door prizes and a silent auction. Proceeds also provide scholarships to music students. Tickets are $30 and sold at Palmore Decorating Center, 1927 S. Sycamore St.; At the Globe, 201 N. Sycamore St.; and through wcpsofoodtasting5@yahoo.com.

Have a tip about the Richmond restaurant scene?  Send it to shortorder@styleweekly.com.

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