Food cinema is the point of this week's Taste of Italy Italian Film Festival, but good food to eat will play a supporting role on opening night.

Six local restaurants will whet appetites for the festival by providing appetizers for a reception 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday. The reception kicks off the five-film festival that continues through Saturday at the Sottile Theatre, 44 George St.

Participating restaurants are Al Di La, EVO Pizzeria, FIG, Monza, Trattoria Lucca and Wild Olive. Although their plans haven't been finalized, a few details are emerging.

Monza, for one, is bringing a classic, tiramisu, its signature dessert. General manager Wendy Jernigan says Monza's is made with Kahlua and rum and is "packed with a punch but really delicious. We think ours is the best in town."

There are rumors of raviolini from Lucca and antipasti from Al Di La. Wild Olive will serve an assortment of crostini. And, of course, focaccia will make an appearance.

Hosted by the College of Charleston, the festival is being described by organizers as "an exploration of the unifying power of food and cinema."

It features five films: "Focaccia Blues" at 7 p.m. Thursday; "La Grande Abbuffata," 4:30 p.m. Friday; "Il Pranzo di Ferragosto," ("Mid-August Lunch"), 7 p.m. Friday; "Lezioni Di Cioccolato" ("Lessons in Chocolate"), 4:30 p.m. Saturday; and "Terra Madre" ("Mother Earth"), 6 p.m. Saturday.

The festival is free and open to the public. For more information on the festival and detailed synopses of the films, visit www.cofc.edu/italianfilm.

The reception itself is sponsored by Slow Food Charleston, the local convivium of Slow Food International, an organization that sprung up in Italy in 1989 in protest of a McDonald's. The group has grown globally with an overall mission to "counteract fast food and fast life."

The local chapter was started in 2004. Carole Addlestone took over its leadership last November as a retiree who could serve as a full-time volunteer. She was a "passionate" member in Atlanta and has attended Terra Madre and Slow Food Nation, two of the organization's major events.

In the past year, Addlestone has set up an advisory board for the local chapter. Membership also has grown to 150 from about 40 a year ago. She says the membership is getting more active and involved in the community.

"We started an organic garden at Sanders Clyde Elementary. ... We're also working on the Time for Lunch campaign, to help upgrade standards for the national school lunch program and to bring farm fresh food into the school system."

She adds, "We've got a lot to do, a lot on our plate."

Teresa Taylor is the food editor. Reach her at food@postandcourier.com or 937-4886.