Buon Appetito…Despite spending 16 days traveling (read: eating) in Italy, I’ve have yet to reach my fill of Italian food, wine, and culture. But it seems I’ve arrived back in Denver just in time to savor more of this enchanting country with the second-annual Festival Italiano (Sept. 20 to 25). The five-day festival includes a performance from I Musici, a chamber orchestra from Rome; a display of Italian Renaissance painting at the Denver Art Museum; and a free screening of the classic film Caro Diario. But what’s Italy without food and wine…starting on Saturday, Sept. 24, Belmar hosts 60 Italian food, wine, and product vendors featuring sausage, gelato, pasta, herbs, vino, and more. Don’t miss the red-sauce cook-off, the spaghetti fest, or the Banchetto Italiano—an al fresco dinner from 6 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25, with 18 local chefs and restaurants cooking up an Italian feast. www.belmarcolorado.com or 303-742-1520.

Calling all foodies…It’s a festival kind of weekend with the Denver Food and Wine Classic on Sunday, Sept. 25. The Colorado Restaurant Association and Southern Wine & Spirits of Colorado call it the largest single-day food and wine tasting experience in Colorado—and from 2 to 6 p.m. you can indulge. Sample cuisine from Denver’s favorite restaurants and more than 300 wines and spirits while watching a steel (no, not iron) chef competition. Don’t miss the Bombay Sapphire Lounge for a chilled martini. Proceeds from the event (tickets are $50 in advance, $60 at the door) go to the Colorado Restaurant Association Fund, Post-News Charities, and the American Red Cross’ Katrina Relief Fund. Universal Lending Pavilion, 1700 Seventh St., 303-830-2972, www.denverfoodandwine.com.

New kid on the block…It just got easier to eat well in south Denver. Last Wednesday, Whole Foods Market opened its sixth Colorado store at 7400 Hampden Ave. Look for the usual gorgeous produce, artisan cheeses, and prepared food that’s blessedly free of artificial additives and hydrogenated oils. The 50,000 square foot store is flanked by the Merchant of Vino, a wine store specializing in regional, family-owned wineries, microbreweries, and organic products.

Berry, berry good…Summer is pretty much over but through the end of September, you can still nibble on summer with a fresh strawberry. For strawberries gone gourmet, catch breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Randolph’s Restaurant and Bar (1776 Grant St., 303-318-7272). The seasonal menu includes dishes such as pan-seared duck breast with strawberry beurre blanc, the strawberry Napoleon, or the strawberry tuna tartare. Of course, there’s also a fresh strawberry margarita, daiquiri, or mojito at the bar…

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.