Williamsport Regional Airport officials are flying high over the presence of something the airport has not had for almost a year.
A full-service restaurant.
Cloud 9 Restaurant and Lounge, which is owned by Fred and Maria Daniele of legendary city eatery Franco's Lounge, is on the second floor of the airport terminal building at the former site of the Skyview Restaurant.
Chef Steven Orso, right, and Andrew Molino work the saute station in the kitchen of Cloud 9, which opens today at the Williamsport Regional Airport. The restaurant, at the former site of the Skyview Restaurant, will be open seven days a week.
The brother-sister team signed a lease agreement with the airport authority, and, after spending four months renovating the facility, open for business today.
The restaurant will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Opening the facility was no flight of fancy, according to Fred. A lot of work, time and money went into upgrading it, he said.
"We cleaned the facility, recarpeted and repaneled it, put in new furniture, new equipment, new fixtures, a whole new kitchen," he said. "We put close to $50,000 to $60,000 in it over the last four months to get it where we wanted."
Maria oversaw the interior decorating, which included the installation of a new bar with a hardwood slab top designed by
Ralph Colone, owner of a woodworking company in Woodrich. Colone also built an "eating table" - a high table common in New York City eateries which customers typically stand around - and installed some of the restaurant's trim.
Geoffrey Haun, of Ankle Root Studio in Williamsport, installed a "cloudy sky" mural in the stairwell and foyer leading to the restaurant's entrance.
The chef is Steven Orso. Daniele's brother Francis is on hand to bake pastries and desserts from Joanna's Italian Bakery, another Daniele family business.
Eventually Orso and Francis will take over ownership of the restaurant, according to Fred Daniele.
The menu includes an "all day menu" that is available from 10 a.m. until close, Orso said.
That menu includes soups, appetizers, sandwiches - including hamburger, ground fresh daily - and salads.
Orso said the menu was designed with the realization that many people in the area had fond memories of the Skyview, which had a decades-spanning history at the airport.
For that reason, portions of the dinner menu could be categorized as "continental cuisine" - European-inspired dishes that were popular decades ago but rarely are seen on menus today.
"People I talked to had sentimental feelings about (the Skyview) restaurant," Orso said. "Everybody was very fond of it. It had been around so long, it was a landmark.
"We had to take it back with some throwback items - all the greatest hits from the (19)60s, 70s and 80s. There are all those older dishes - like chicken cordon bleu - that restaurants quit serving.
"They are still good dishes, but at some point they became old fashioned," he said. "We thought we'd bring them back."
The menu features comfort foods such as roast turkey, roast pork and chicken liver - the latter done three ways, according to Orso.
"We are also featuring items from Franco's restaurant," Orso said. "Everybody has their favorites from there - all the stuff they are really known for."
Orso said it is impossible to recreate Franco's, but it is possible to bring just a little bit of the restaurant's popular cuisine - and a lot of its philosophy - to the new facility.
"You can never recreate Franco's and we didn't even want to try," he said. "But people have come to expect a certain quality of food from them, as well as certain (menu) items."
The hardest part about choosing items from the Franco's menu, he said, was deciding what would be left off the new menu.
According to Fred, the restaurant has an exclusive agreement with Penn State University to carry ice cream made at the university's Berkey Creamery.
The restaurant had a "soft opening" over the course of several days so staff could be trained, Fred said.
Friends, supporters and contractors who worked on the renovation were invited to the facility to dine, thus allowing Fred and Orso to run staff through their paces.
On Thursday, the restaurant was bustling with invited guests, many of whom offered their enthusiastic approval of the new facility and the meals they ate there.
James Bower Jr. said the facility, which offers a windowed view of the airport runway system and the Bald Eagle Mountain range beyond it, highlights two things that make the Williamsport area a great place to live.
"It's a million dollar view," Bower said. "You talk about something that highlights our area - Franco's restaurant and those mountains highlight our area."
Airport Executive Director Thomas Hart said he was extremely impressed with how the facility turned out.
"It is a very, very attractive-looking facility," Hart said, adding that he used to conduct airport business in a room once located in what now is part of the restaurant.
"I think it turned out very well," airport authority Chairman Mark Murawski said. "I'm looking forward to the public and airport patrons coming here and enjoying it."
"It turned out great," said Francis Daniele. "The (airport) authority was wonderful to work with and we have this wonderful view of the mountains. It's beautiful."
For reservations at Cloud 9 Restaurant and Lounge, or for more information, call 601-4603.