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Do you need any more reason to go?

The 39th Houston Italian Festival began yesterday and takes place through Sunday on the grounds of the University of St. Thomas. The event, produced by the Italian Cultural & Community Center, offers many great opportunities to celebrate elements of Italian culture, from art and film to food and wine to competitions. 

The beverage options start with the Introduction to Italian Wine tasting and seminar, which will be held six times between Thursday and Sunday. This tasting includes five Italian wines, chosen for their diversity and unique qualities. 

For beer lovers, the festival has several events pertinent to your interests. Friday evening, Jon Denman of Drink of Ages (the radio show broadcast on ESPN 97.5 FM, from the local establishment of the same name) will lead a tasting of five Italian craft beers. On Saturday, Birradamare will lead two tastings of their craft beers, at 1 and 6:30 p.m. (You may remember Birradamare from their partnership with Hotel Granduca.)  

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Food is all handmade by ICCC members.

No Italian festival would be complete without food, of course, and this one has a wide variety of classic dishes and newer favorites, from spaghetti and lasagne to chicken Marsala and baked artichoke hearts to meatball sandwiches and Italian sausage on a stick. For dessert, you might try the Italian cookies, a cannoli, or some gelato. All the dishes are homemade by Italian Cultural & Community Center members and volunteers. For the festival, the Daughters of Italian Heritage made more than 15,000 handmade meatballs in the meatball marathon, now in its 14th year.

For tickets and more information, visit www.houstonitalianfestival.com.

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