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La Bella Vita, HuHot Mongolian Grill and Kinfolks

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La Bella Vita Ristorante Italiano

La Bella Vita Ristorante Italiano

4475 Northpark Drive, 260-4730,

Earlier this year, La Bella Vita chef Giuliano Casulli bought out former partner Tiziano Cestari, who jumped to the Broadmoor's new Ristorante Del Lago. And this upcoming weekend, Casulli will mark La Bella Vita's second anniversary with specials and giveaways including Champagne and dessert.

Based on a lunch visit last week, there's plenty to celebrate. A special Pollo Saltimbocca ($13.75) pops as a prosciutto-wrapped chicken scallopini with an elegant sage essence in its Madeira wine sauce. The Penne all' Ortolana ($9.75) captures veggie power with talkative peas and faintly bitter broccoli raab in tomato-basil sauce. The Orrechiette alla Giuliano ($9.75; plus $2 to sub sturdy, gluten-free corn-pasta elbows for the ear shapes) stays somehow light in a garlicky ricotta-mascarpone white wine sauce, where piquant sun-dried tomatoes meet perfectly textured prawns. — Matthew Schniper

HuHot Mongolian Grill

HuHot Mongolian Grill

7790 N. Academy Blvd., 598-4044,

I now realize that I hate everything about Mongolian barbecue. A do-it-yourself stir-fry originating in Taipei in the 1950s, it's not Mongolian, it's not barbecue, it's not fun to slop a lottery of mystery sauces over bowls of semi-frozen ingredients, and even if it were, why the hell wouldn't I just do all that from home? But I really feel for the two cooks at HuHot who are working a huge circular grill like some spatulatic ninjas. They're on constant display before the line around them, and while some tip jars speak to a greater benefit, the pace of dump, chop, flip and clean — all the bits of char and grease getting pushed into a black hole in the center — is relentless.

Still, $8.49 brings all-you-can-eat at lunchtime, as long as you don't have leftovers and use these cheap plastic bowls to load your meat and vegetables. Mine tasted like spaghetti with chili paste, but some peanut sauce was OK. Get beef over pork. — Bryce Crawford



950 Manitou Ave., 418-6180

Kinfolks the Reborn isn't exactly Kinfolks of Old, but it's better than Dead Kinfolks. Since taking over in March and opening the doors in June, new owners Jeremy Shand and Lindsay Dugger have done a few things people like (killing the clothing selection) and a few things people don't like (asking for dogs to be left at home). Most importantly, the beer and the live music remain. For the former, a happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. has been initiated that brings $2 PBR tallboys and $3 select drafts; for the latter, Out of Nowhere Bluegrass Band will play Wednesday, July 30.

At the marble bar overlooked by a toy T-Rex holding a fishing pole, the selection is as solid as ever. A full pint ($5.50) of Left Hand Brewing Co.'s Milk Stout on nitro delivered the traditional cream-and-sugar concoction; while a half-pint of Green Flash Brewing Co.'s West Coast IPA ($2.50) brought some bright fruit and a gentle buzz. — Bryce Crawford


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