WEIRTON - Not all lounges are created equal.
Take Gio's Family Restaurant, which recently turned its banquet room into a lounge.
"A lot of people think because we have a lounge, we have gambling back there, but we don't and we never will," owner Lynda A. Rossi said. "Gambling would ruin it for other uses - we couldn't let kids back there, for instance, if there were machines. We're trying to keep it as a family restaurant. That would be hard to do if there was gambling back there."
POSITIVE RESPONSE — Gio’s owner Lynda Rossi says reaction to interior renovations to the family restaurant, located at 3013 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, has been positive. Rossi said the changes include two murals, new light fixtures, a fresh coat of paint and a lounge. The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., while the lounge is currently open two days a week. -- Linda Harris
Rossi, ex-wife of Gio's founder Giovanni Rossi, took over the restaurant in 2011, though she'd been involved in its operation one way or another throughout her marriage.
"People assume we're under new ownership," said Rossi. "We're not. I think what it is is nobody ever likes change, and maybe they think they're not going to be able to get the food they're used to getting here. I just want them to know it's the same good food. We follow the same recipes, to a 'T.'"
Rossi, in fact, said her ex-husband "taught me how to do the cooking, and we're using all his recipes."
"Nothing's changed there," she said. "He's an excellent cook, and I always like to give credit where it's due. But we did put a few things on the menu we didn't have before."
They started by overhauling the interior, giving it a Tuscan flavor. In the main restaurant, they knocked out walls, added a pair of murals, and eschewed the old booth seating in favor of tables they could configure to meet the ever-changing needs of their patrons. The banquet room got new flooring, new lighting fixtures, new chairs and a bar.
The entire building got a fresh coat of paint.
"My customers love the idea. Everybody says we did such a good job with the remodeling," she said. "We still have a smoking section - I think we're one of the few restaurants that still allows smoking. We don't allow smoking in the (main) restaurant area, we keep it in the lounge."
Provided they don't have any meetings or banquets going on, she said patrons who wish to smoke are welcome to request a table in the lounge area.
She said the main restaurant now seats 108 people and the banquet room/lounge will accommodate 36 people at tables, plus seven at the bar. If the room is configured for a banquet, she said it can handle 60 people.
"The lounge is kind of a multi-purpose room," she said. "We still use it for banquets, bridal showers, birthday parties, graduation parties and funeral dinners, we do that during the day. The restaurant closes at 8 p.m., but we stay open until 2 a.m. for the lounge ... right now, it's just two days a week, Tuesday and Friday, but during football season we'll probably keep it open seven days a week."
Rossi, who earned her degree in accounting and business at what is now Ohio Valley University in Parkersburg, has been working in the food business most of her life, getting her start at the old Bonanza in Weirton when she was just 16.
"I always wanted to be back in the restaurant business, I love every aspect of it," she said, recalling a bit of sage advice from her father, Ralph E. Jones Sr., back when she was looking for that first job.
"He told me when you get a job, no matter what it is, to give it 110 percent," she said. "He told me if you can't do that, you don't need to work."
Gio's restaurant area is open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and has all-you-can-eat specials four days a week - Sundays, chicken; Tuesdays, spaghetti; Thursdays, rigatoni; and Fridays, beer-battered fish. The restaurant also caters.
On Saturday, Rossi's planning a grand reopening/customer appreciation celebration beginning at noon and continuing until 2 a.m. with games, food, prizes and a DJ, as well as a performance by a local band at 9 p.m. in the lounge.