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Ciao, Wichita. Italy dining was molto bene, but now it’s time to catch up on Wichita dining news

Denise Neil

Ciao, Wichita. Since my last report, I’ve been eating my way across Italy. My daughter and I took her high school graduation trip a year late, but it was worth the wait. We stuffed ourselves with pizza, pasta, seafood, focaccia and gelato as we traveled from Milan to Venice to Cinque Terre to Florence to Tuscany to Rome. If anyone else has an Italian vacation planned, hit me up and I’ll share details about some of our favorite places to eat.

Now that I’m back, though, there’s lots to catch up on. First is news that downtown restaurant Cafe Bel Ami is about to serve its last meal at 229 E. William. Saturday will be its final day in business there, though owner Nabil Bacha says he thinks he’s close to signing a lease on a new spot. The business has to move because its building’s faulty air conditioner will take 14 months to repair. Bacha hopes to be reopened in a new spot within three months or so.

Also, the Wichita Riverfest opens on Friday, and one of its main attractions will be the big food court that operates outside of Century II. A few big changes that people will notice: The Original Corn Roast booth that serves giant corn-on-the-cob won’t be in the main food court. Instead, it will operate on evenings and weekends at the smaller food court adjacent to the Kennedy Plaza stage. The main food court will get a new vendor, though. One of the local Popeye’s franchisees will have a booth this year from which it will serve its chicken sandwiches, nuggets and fried apple pies. The festival runs through June 8.

Denise Neil, a Dodge City native and a KU graduate, started as a reporter at the Wichita Eagle in 1997. She took over the restaurant beat in 2000 and since then has built her popular column and Facebook page, Dining with Denise, where she keeps Eagle readers updated on all the happenings in the dining scene.