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Byline: Martin Luttrell

WORCESTER - A taste of the North End is coming to Pearl Street.

The new owner of the historic Grand Army of the Republic Hall at 55 Pearl St. said he will open a G'Vanni's Ristorante - A Taste of the North End in the building later this year. G'Vanni's has a restaurant by the same name on Prince Street in Boston's North End.

Frank D. Kirby and his wife, Dr. Jacqueline Kirby, of Rocky Hill, Conn., established a limited liability company to purchase the building for $725,000 from Digital Federal Credit Union earlier this month.

"We're going to have a taste of the North End in Worcester," Mr. Kirby said during an interview yesterday. "The news is that we're trying to have a good restaurant and banquet facility. We have a chef, John DeCristofaro, coming here from Boston. His assistant, Greg Levesque, is from Maine. They will move to Worcester in February."

Mr. Kirby said the first floor will offer casual dining, and the second floor will be more upscale. He did not discuss the restaurant's price range.

It will be a minimum of two months before the restaurant opens, he said. The building needs some cleaning, some interior repairs and renovations and some landscaping. In addition, he must obtain a liquor license from the city.

Mr. Kirby, a lawyer specializing in bankruptcy law, said the three-story, 12,945-square-foot granite building that most recently housed the TiNovo restaurant, is an ideal venue for the new restaurant, with redevelopment taking place downtown.

"If you compare Worcester to Hartford, Worcester's downtown is clean and well laid out," he said. "I've been coming to Worcester for 40 years.''

The venture comes at a time of a slowing economy but Mr. Kirby said that didn't deter his efforts.

"I think Worcester is on the verge of something good. I don't think the economy is going to go into the tank. I don't think Worcester has to panic. It's had its dark period. You create the right atmosphere and the business will be there."

He said the downtown's redevelopment - the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts in particular - is good for the city, and will help draw patrons.

Jeff Karll, owner of the Boston G'Vanni's, is providing assistance in opening the new restaurant. Mr. and Dr. Kirby will retain full ownership of the restaurant, Mr. Kirby said.

Mr. Karll met with representatives of the City Manager's Office of Economic Development yesterday to talk about parking and a possible transportation service for patrons to get to and from the Hanover Theatre, nearly five blocks away at 554 Main St.

The Pearl Street building can seat 235 patrons on the first two floors, which would be used by the restaurant. There are no definite plans for the top floor, he said.

The Grand Army of the Republic Hall, originally known as the Bull Mansion, was built in 1870 and was a wedding gift from Daniel B. Wesson to his daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Dr. George Bull. It was acquired in 1912 by the G.A.R., an organization of Union veterans of the Civil War.

Mr. Kirby, a Civil War buff and historian, said he was interested in the building's history, along with the fact that there are three city soldiers with the last name Kirby who served for the Republic and are listed on plaques in the building.

"I'm a historical buff, and I'd like to see this building thrive," he said.


CUTLINE: (1) Shown is a pasta sauce offered by G'Vanni's Ristorante. (2) An exterior view of the former TiNovo Restaurant at 55 Pearl St.
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 24, 2008
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