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A Tale of Two Charlottesville Restaurant Weeks

January 13, 2013

Charlottesville Restaurant Week doesn't only satisfy the stomachs of local foodies, but it also helps local charities.

This year, though, there's another Restaurant Week in town helping another nonprofit.

The Virginia Institute of Autism is the beneficiary of the second week, with funds going to help build a new playground. The equipment on the current space for the kids has seen better days.

"It looks like the facilities are in need of a little bit of an update," said Brian Helleberg, chef and owner of Petit Pois.

The playground is in store for an update. An anonymous donor has already given $30,000 toward the construction of a new special needs playground, but the institute needs an additional $55,000.

"A dollar per meal across 26 restaurants -- we could raise a substantial amount of money to help these guys out," said Peter Castiglione, owner of Maya Restaurant.

Twenty-six local restaurants are participating in the new Restaurant Week, all offering meals at special rates, ranging between $16 and $36. One dollar from each meal will go to the playground fund.

"I think it's a unique opportunity for someone to have a tangible effect for their charitable donation," said Andy McClure, owner of Citizen Burger Bar.

The playground at the Virginia Institute of Autism is in need of some major repairs. The swings are rusty and the playground supports are uneven. That's why every meal sold during Restaurant Week can really make a difference.

"It's a good price and a little money goes to charity, so it's a win-win for everybody," Castiglione said.

This, though, is actually the second Restaurant Week in town. The first, which has been organized by the Hook newspaper for the past few years, features 13 restaurants and benefits the Local Food Hub. That begins Jan. 21.

The second Restaurant Week begins one week later on Jan. 28.

"We're all working together as a team and kind of showcasing what Charlottesville can do as a dining destination," Helleberg said.

The special needs playground slated for the institute will feature more swings and more opportunities for kids' interaction.

"For us, we really see it as an extension of the classroom," said Ethan Long, executive director of VIA. "You can do a lot of teaching and help our kids learn out on that playground."

"We are all working together toward one common goal, and that's to make our area better," McClure said.

All it costs are just a few bucks and a full stomach.

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