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JENNIFER HARRIS/The Warren Record

Ahmed Ibrahim stands inside the new Milano’s Italian Restaurant, which he hopes will open by March in downtown Warrenton. The area where Ibrahim is standing will accommodate diners at booths and tables. The space at right will be the kitchen, with a pickup area at the front for takeout orders.

 

Passersby and residents in Warrenton’s downtown have likely noticed contractors this fall busy at 107-111 N. Main St., the site of the new Milano’s Italian Restaurant. Renovations there had been at a standstill for months while the town and business owner Ahmed Ibrahim negotiated how to proceed with issues related to a town-administered state grant for work being done on the building.

Now an end to construction, and a new beginning for Ibrahim, are in sight a year and a half after a raging fire destroyed the old Milano’s on the corner across the street and shuttered CC’s Showers of Distinction beside it.

“It’s been a tough time,” Ibrahim said.

Since the May 2020 fire, he has worked some, but mostly been jobless, which has made it difficult to raise the funds needed to finish his part of the renovation at the new space, which had begun before the fire.

“I had offers to open restaurants out of town, but all of my life is here,” Ibrahim said.

So he is starting from scratch again, just like he did when he came here some 17 years ago.

“We’re rebuilding and starting from scratch again,” he said.

Inside the new Milano’s, the stamped concrete floor is done, and framing is almost complete, making way for electrical work, plumbing and drywall.

The main focus is on the first floor, with the right side for takeout and the kitchen in the back. The left side is for dining at booths and tables for 50-75, depending on pandemic restrictions. A combination ceiling of pressed tin and acoustical tile will be painted black, and the walls will be pale yellow and exposed brick.

Stairs between the two spaces will lead to an open second floor available for private events.

“The menu will be very similar to the old menu,” Ibrahim said. So patrons can expect to order familiar pizza, pasta dishes, sandwiches and salads.

And the best news of all: he hopes to be open by March.

“A lot of people supported us, and we’re staying here,” Ibrahim said. ”People like our food and want us to reopen.”

He may have had offers to leave, but not even a fire that took away his livelihood could take away his spirit.

“All my people are here, my friends, home is here,” Ibrahim said. “When you walk down the street, everybody knows you, and I love it here.”