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The Fifth Floor Restaurant Opens April 2 in Commerce Building

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When George Guarnieri first went to the Commerce Building to inquire about a liquor license, he had no intention of opening a full-size restaurant. He was looking to open something small, a venue for “maybe 10 or so people” to keep him “out of my wife’s hair.”

When he stepped off the elevator and into the space previously occupied by the former Youngstown Club, he knew that it was somewhere he needed to be.

“When I saw how gorgeous it is, I knew that I had to be here,” says Guarnieri, who describes himself as semi-retired.

On April 2, the space officially reopens as The Fifth Floor. Guarnieri had planned on opening the first of the month, he jokes but says friends dissuaded him from choosing April Fools’ Day. He maintains the staff will be ready by the first and the restaurant open that day as well.

For 17 years, Guarnieri owned a Belleria Pizza franchise in Struthers. The new restaurant is a “big shift” from everything he’s done before. “It’s not similar at all. The closest I’ve been was when I was in Florida and sometimes helped a friend with banquets,” he says.

While the Youngstown Club was for members only, The Fifth Floor will be open to the public. A wine bar divides the main dining area into two sections. On one side of the bar, tables are topped with tablecloths and the silverware wrapped in cloth napkins. On the other is a lounge with smaller tables and a standard bar.

“We wanted to play down some areas so you don’t feel like you have to get dressed up. You can come down after work, sit in the lounge area and be comfortable,” Guarnieri says. “We’ve also got a pub in the back that’s even more casual. We want to appeal to everybody.”

The menu was written to offer something for almost all tastes.

“Our plan from the beginning was to cater to everyone’s taste,” Guarnieri says. “We obviously can’t do everything. But we want to cover a range from simple sandwiches, soups and salads to pasta dinners up to fine steak and seafood. Although we do have pasta, I want to be clear that we are not an Italian restaurant.”

Rich Mills, president of Ohio One Corp., which owns the Commerce Building, says the restaurant will bring something new to downtown. Where most of the new restaurants downtown focus on offering a bar-like atmosphere, The Fifth Floor will be more upscale.

“It’s big-time good for everyone and it adds to the options downtown for people to have a fine dining establishment,” Mills says. “The city clubs have lived their life. That model is pretty much over. This is just an evolution of the restaurant business downtown.”

Since Guarnieri took over the space in October, he completely updated the kitchen as Ohio One replaced the heating and air conditioning. When he revamped the dining spaces, Guarnieri says, he wanted to keep as much of the original architecture and features as possible.

“We’ve been working hard. Virtually every piece of kitchen equipment is brand-new. Most of the furnishings are new although we wanted to keep as much as we could,” he says. “It’s mostly just the chairs we kept.”

In the pub, the original bar – reminiscent of a British pub in the 1800s, with Romantic-era paintings and a small piano in the corner – is still in place, an addition built when Ohio One acquired the former Haber’s Furniture store in 1989, transformed it into the Commerce Building and built new space for the Youngstown Club, which moved from the former Bank One building.

For manager Kathleen Fabian, the return of a restaurant in the space is exhilarating. After growing up in Youngstown, later spending time in Chicago and South America, she’s happy to be back in her hometown working at someplace similar to the big cities she’s been to.

“The fact that it’s downtown during this revival is something my family loves. My father was a coach here for 50 years,” Fabian says. “Three of my brothers played for YSU. We love this city and the revival. That’s what we want to be part of.”

An added benefit is the members-only policy of the Youngstown Club is gone. The memory that remains, however, is a misconception that The Fifth Floor might have to overcome, she says.

“We had a fundraiser already here and it sounds like this is exactly what the city needs right now,” the manager says.

Since the announcement was made in October that The Fifth Floor would open, people have shown they’re interested, Guarnieri says, coming in to check on the restaurant’s progress.

“We have people coming in all the time asking when we’ll be open,” he says. “Hopefully, everyone who says they’re coming does.”

For more information, call 330 744 9556.

PICTURED: George Guarnieri sits in one of the dining areas of The Fifth Floor restaurant, which opens April 2 in the space former occupied by the Youngstown Club on the fifth floor of the Commerce Building downtown.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.