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Franco's Ristorante 

Tastemakers

Walk into Franco's Ristorante and you'll notice that it's had a makeover. Paolo Randazzo, owner of the popular upscale West End restaurant, says he decided to renovate his place for a number of reasons. The main one was to expand the dining area and consolidate the ristorante concept. While Randazzo was at it he made modifications to the decor, giving it a "villaesque look," he says, which gives customers the impression they are dining in a Tuscan villa instead of a shopping center on Broad Street.

Randazzo says finishing the job with the right decorations was the hardest part; they went as far away as Sicily to retrieve hand-painted jars and other accent pieces. "After 15 years of being in business we wanted to launch a fresh look," Randazzo says. "We always try to keep up with the cuisine and we felt it was time for the restaurant to reflect that physically." Franco's is still open only for dinner Monday through Saturday in the West Broad Commons shopping center. 270-9124.

Lemaire and the Jefferson Hotel will offer a string of food and drink events this fall, beginning with an impressive wine seminar, "Wine into Words," on September 14. Steve Fox, Lemaire sommelier and University of Richmond wine instructor, will conduct the event, an introductory course on the basics, like buying, storing and decoding the wine label, among many other topics. Participants will also get to taste and learn about 18 of the world's most important wines and be initiated in "sensory evaluation," a professional tasting technique that will enable you to completely describe any wine's character. The cost is $135, but worth it if you really want to know your stuff the next time you're handed the wine list. Call 649-4644 for reservations.

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