Or forget chairs altogether and toss down a picnic blanket to nibble cheese, sip wine and watch sunshine shimmer across a spring-fed, six-acre lake.
“It’s a different experience every time you come,” mused Peter Boerner of Jackson Township, while enjoying a glass of red wine with family and friends on the stone patio this summer. But that’s not all. There is the Marketplace patio for lattes and lunch, twice-monthly winery tours, a farmers’ market on Wednesday evenings through fall, and three more events in the Art Series in The Vineyard.
Roaming, relaxing and discovering a favorite spot is what the owners had in mind.
“We wanted people to come here for food and wine, but also to spend time on the property,” said Ted Swaldo of Jackson Township, who owns the 55-acre former tree farm with his wife, Linda. “We welcome them to spend hours if they’d like.”
And they do. An estimated 45,000 people have visited Gervasi since its opening in March and the Piazza’s debut Memorial Day weekend. Many love to linger.
“Sometimes by 7 or 8 p.m., the lawn is full with guests sitting by the lake, people playing yard toss, just hanging out,” said Scott Swaldo, Ted and Linda’s son and general manager.
The couple’s daughter, Christi Blackerby, also is involved in the business.
“When it gets dark and we light up the fire pit, people who don’t even know each other will gather around it. It becomes a communal fire.”
The Swaldos are serious about inviting visitors to feel at home.
“If the Bistro is full, or if guests want a less-formal situation, they can have some folding chairs or a blanket in their trunk and have a back-up plan,” Scott said.
From the Marketplace, picnickers can purchase bottles of wine and prepackaged foods such as wraps, salads, artisan cheeses, breads, meats, chocolates and sorbet. For now, wine is made on site from grapes purchased from California, Oregon, Washington state and Ohio.
“We planted between five and six acres of vineyards on the property,” Scott said. “In three to five years, we will be producing our own varietals.”
Currently, Gervasi offers six whites and three reds. Truscano, a Sangiovese blend, is the signature wine.
Having so many options appeals to Pat Fehlman of Plain Township. She has lunched and dined in the Bistro, and attended a catered event in the 250-person pavilion.
“One of the things I really enjoy is that if you don’t want to, you don’t have to spend a lot of money,” Fehlman said. “We had a lunch of pizza and salad and did a wine flight, and it wasn’t that much money for a really special time.”
As an avid gardener, the landscaping always turns Fehlman’s head. So does the parking lot.
“I notice there are so many cars from out of state,” Fehlman said. “This is becoming a real destination place. For our community, this is just absolutely wonderful.”
Ted Swaldo is awed by the response, locally and beyond.
“We estimate between 25 to 30 percent are people from outside Stark County,” he said. “And now we have 82 people on our payroll, because the business has grown. It’s nice, because Stark County needs a little shot in the arm.”
With the $5 million project completed in just 17 months after purchasing the property, Ted Swaldo is ready for a breather. Sort of.
“I have a very low tolerance for boredom,” said Swaldo with a chuckle.
He retired fewer than two years ago as chief executive officer of ASC Industries in Green and recently started a yacht charter service in Florida. He is working on connecting Gervasi to the nearby Stark Parks Trail.
“We’d like to connect to the trail so people can jump off here,” Swaldo said. “People can walk, ride bikes. It is a horse trail, too.”
He also has something up his sleeve for later this year. All he is saying is that “it’s keeping with the idea to make this a destination.”
Sounds like yet another experience. And no doubt Gervasi fans will raise a glass to that.
Summer hours: Bistro and Piazza, 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 1-8 p.m. Sunday. Marketplace, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1-6 p.m. Sunday.
FROM THE BISTRO MENU
Theo’s Sicilian chicken wings, $9
Bianco 4-cheese spinach and garlic pizza, $10
Italian meatloaf (Tuesday only) with balsamic glaze, Parmesan mashed potatoes and asparagus, $32 (serves 2-3)
Lobster pasta (side dish) with basil bread crumbs, $13
Seared scallops with spinach and polenta, $27
Appetizers, pizza, salads, sides and entrees plus one family-style special each day.
FROM THE PIAZZA GRILLE MENU
The 10-oz. Angus Reserve GV Grand Burger, $9.95
Pulled pork sandwich with Italian slaw, $8.95
Grilled vegetable panini with goat cheese, $7
Grilled beef kabob with jasmine rice, $13.95
The Piazza is “patio-style” service. Guests purchase beverages at a walk-up bar, and food is ordered at the walk-up kitchen. Servers deliver menu items to tables.
FROM THE WINE LIST
Chardonnay, blush, Riesling, late harvest Riesling, Vidal Blanc, Sangiovese blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio.
On-site bottle prices range from $20 to $34.Take-home bottle prices range from $13 to $26.
Per-glass prices range from $5 to $9.
Flight of three wine samples is $6.
HAPPENING AT GERVASI
Winery tours, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. the first and third Saturdays through October.
Farmers’ market, 4-8 p.m. every Wednesday through Oct. 20.
Art Series, 4-9 p.m., featuring art vendors and performance themes: Aug. 19, Dance and Drama in the Vineyard; Sept. 16, Strings in the Vineyard; Oct. 21, Youth Arts in the Vineyard.
Live music, Friday and Sunday evenings.
The Piazza outdoor patio, with fire pit, bocce and yard toss.
The Marketplace brick patio, cafe and picnics-to-go.
The Pavilion, for weddings and special events.