We'll be sprinting toward the food line at this year's Greek festival.

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We'll be sprinting toward the food line at this year's Greek festival.

Shortly after it was announced last March that Hallmark's dining division, Culinary Concepts LLC, was turning over three of its Crown Center operations -- Crayola Café, Golden Harvest Bakery and Milano -- to the management of the Hyatt, the bets were on the table: How long would it take for Milano's handsome and talented executive chef, John Korycki, to find another job?

The answer, it turned out, was about 5 months. Korycki said arrivederci to Milano's kitchen crew on August 20, having secured a new position in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He will serve as executive chef for a brand-new Italian trattoria, Zazios, which is privately owned by a Michigan developer. Zazios is slated to open on October 2, by which time the Korycki clan will have settled in the Great Lake State, where John, a Detroit native, and his wife, Stacy, from Alma, both were raised.

"We're really pleased with the move, since we'll be closer to our families," Korycki says. "And the new restaurant's a great opportunity."

Korycki was Milano's high-profile star for 5 years. He won't comment on rumors that the Hyatt brass have been eager to cut costs at Milano and downscale the menu, but I still predict spaghetti and meatballs will show up on it before too long.

Speaking of Crown Center, there's one local ethnic festival that isn't planning a return to that venue, which had a kind of ethnic (festival) cleansing back in 1984. The 43rd annual Greek Festival, presented by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, is staying at the church grounds at 120th Street and Wornall Road.

Since last month's Summer Olympics in Athens got me all worked up -- for Greek food, not athletics -- I've been counting the minutes before I can sprint over to the church, which hosts the festivities September 10-12.

The festival started back in 1961, when the church was located at Linwood and Paseo, with ladies dishing up a few tasty items to every patron who held out a single plate. Now it's a massive, 3-day extravaganza, with lots of food, music and dancing; last year more than 12,000 Kansas Citians muscled their way through the food lines, heaping up dishes with moussaka, pastitsio, gyros and spanakopita. Stella Kartsonis remembers that the 1961 event was almost demure compared with the raucous atmosphere of today's festival. "People took their plates and ate inside the church, very quietly," she says.

In any event, as a world-champion eater, I'm going for the galaktoburiko instead of the gold.

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