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Side Dish

Festival food runs the gamut, and a restaurant gets rated.

FLIPPED OUT: It's not just pasta that should lure people to Richmond's first-ever Italian street festival this weekend. It's the chance to learn how to toss pizza dough like a professional — and how to make fresh mozzarella cheese, cook with Italian herbs and dance the tarantella.

Viva! Italia comes to Church Hill Oct. 1 and 2, and the tastes, sights and sounds of Italian culture will honor the city's Italian-American community, which numbers 25,000 or more. Among the attractions: bocce, Italian cars and motorcycles, cultural displays and, of course, food. Pizza and cannoli and gelato from a dozen of Richmond's favorite Italian mom-and-pop restaurants will be served, and for a fee, adults can sample Italian-style wines made in Virginia.

Maybe you'll meet Vinny Montecalvo, owner of Italian Kitchen West, whose Italian sausages are sought-after by cooks who want an authentic taste of the country. There will be live music from members of the Virginia Opera, folk dancing and children's activities, and a raffle for a trip to a villa in Umbria.

And, because the event takes place by St. John's Church, the festival includes re-enactments of Patrick Henry's liberty or death speech, which might sound a bit different with a strolling accordion player somewhere in the background.

For details, see

MORE STREET: Downtown, another popular festival returns this weekend with an entirely different menu of delicacies. The 2nd Street Festival offers up smoked salmon, jerk and curried chicken and goat, crab cakes, barbecue, smoked turkey legs and the usual street-fair foods such as funnel cakes, cotton candy and hot dogs. Admission is free, and the event runs from Sept.30 to Oct. 2, honoring the rich heritage of the city's African-American community. See for details.

SEEING DIAMONDS: 1 North Belmont, a Museum District spot that was once a convenience store and later a gourmet carryout shop, now boasts an intimate setting, a strong following and a new award, the AAA four-diamond rating. "It is a recognition of the hard work that goes into creating and operating a restaurant," says owner/chef Frits Huntjens of his French-inspired establishment, which opened earlier this year.

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