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New restaurants and happenings

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The restaurant resurgence in downtown Durham got a boost this month with the opening of two restaurants on West Main Street—Alivia's Durham Bistro and Piazza Italia across the street in Brightleaf Square.

Alivia's Durham Bistro (900 W. Main St., 682-8978, www.aliviasdurhambistro.com) is part espresso bar, part fine dining and part bar scene, open from 6:30 a.m. weekdays (9 a.m. weekends) until 2 a.m. Menu choices under chef Matt Hardner (formerly of Lantern and Elaine's on Franklin in Chapel Hill) vary with the time of day, from breakfast (pastries and burritos) to lunch (soups, salads, sandwiches) to fine dining in the evening (pan-seared scallops, grits cake, country ham, tomato concassé) to a bar menu after 10 p.m. (burgers, Chinatown chicken wings, etc.). Look for the outdoor newsstand/espresso bar to open in a few weeks.

Piazza Italia (905 W. Main St., Suite 18A, 956-7360, www.piazzaitalia.us) offers homemade pastas and gelatos and regional Italian home cooking (plus a market) based on the travels in Italy last year by owners Raquel Siqueira and Rosana Silva. It's open for lunch and dinner every day except Sunday.

In Chinese culture, tea is much more than steeped leaves with honey. The pouring of tea for someone represents a high respect, gratitude, and sometimes even symbolizes submission. Tea ceremonies occur at weddings, farewells and welcomings, and there is a fine art to the whole process that goes way beyond boiling some water and throwing in a bag. ORiEnTspiration, in the Falls River Town Center (10940 Raven Ridge Road, Suite 122, Raleigh, 846-0910, www.orientspiration.com) is offering a Chinese tea tasting party on Saturday, Feb. 24, from 1 to 4 p.m. Every hour, a new tea will be introduced, complete with the rituals of the Chinese tea ceremony. Green Dragon Well, Jasmine Bud, Apple Blossom and Iron Guan Yin will be featured.

On Thursday, Feb. 22, 3 CUPS (431 W. Franklin St., #15, Chapel Hill, 968-8993, www.3cups.net) will host Michael Tiano of the Haw River Wine Man for a class, "Wines of the Rhone Valley," from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The class will investigate what distinguishes wines from the Rhone Valley, where the sun shines strong but is tempered by The Mistral—fierce winds that blow down the valley from the Alps. The cost is $30, $25 prepaid. To sign up, visit the 3 CUPS shop, e-mail badi@3cups.net, or call.

Also on the wine front, The Grape at Cameron Village (403 Daniels St., Raleigh, 833-2669, www.yourgrape.com) is hosting an Oriel wine dinner on Monday, Feb. 26. Five Oriel wines will be paired with a four-course menu. Tickets are $50 (plus tax and tip). They will also be having a Bordeaux tasting Saturday, Feb. 24.

Beer boosters Pop The Cap (popthecap.org) are hosting a winter warmer community beer dinner Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. at Ever Which Way (6464 Tryon Road, Cary, 233-5332). $35 plus tax and tip for family-style comfort food and a large selection of winter ales from Belgium and the U.S. Make reservations with the restaurant.

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