The Twisted Olive | Taste Test Preview

At last, the wait is over. After nearly a year of curious Facebook fans (now more than 6,000 to be exact) following construction updates and menu teasers, the new Twisted Olive is officially open.

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At last, the wait is over. After nearly a year of curious Facebook fans (now more than 6,000 to be exact) following construction updates and menu teasers, the new Twisted Olive is officially open.

The newest venture of the Swaldo family, who envisioned and continues to operate the Gervasi empire, home to a winery, vineyards, restaurants, suites and incredible indoor and outdoor venues, Twisted Olive finally has arrived on the scene, delivering a cool, casual, family—and business—friendly eatery.

There’s no denying that the Gervasi brand is synonymous with atmosphere. Gervasi has elevated our celebrations and given us a brag-worthy destination to show off to out-of-town guests.

Starting with the Bistro and the Piazza (hands-down the best al fresco dining environment in the area), then moving to the Crush House and then the Villas (an extravagant overnight retreat), Gervasi has evolved into a vast, sophisticated getaway right here in Stark County.

It seems the success of the property is all in the details. From the breathtaking setting, meandering paths leading to serene lakes, to the furniture, woodwork, lighting, menus, you name it—it is all thoughtfully designed, with no expense spared.

This strategy of extravagance has carried over to Gervasi’s newest addition: Twisted Olive in Green. Located on Route 241, just north of the airport, Twisted Olive has transformed the 10-acre property, which held the former Belden Lodge, a 16,000-square-foot residence.

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Though primarily a renovation, there’s nothing about this property that implies this once was a home. Apart from the sprawling size, situated on a stunning landscape on a lake, and nestled into federally protected park land, its grand two-story main dining space is nothing short of magnificent.

At 25 feet up to its peak, a fireplace large enough to walk into grounds the space, while a colossal bright green light fixture hangs high above. A corner wall of glass allows a peek into the bustling kitchen from the dining room.

 

In the back, a second-story balcony (one of the only additions made to the building, apart from the entry canopy) has abundant seating, with a modern cable-rail surround for optimal viewing of the lake and adjoining woods. The lower level houses an entirely different pub-like vibe, with a separate, ground-floor patio beyond.

Private dining and special-event spaces of all shapes, sizes and personalities abound. Woodwork, much of which was preserved from the residence, provides an opulent, masculine feel, offset with softer touches in furniture, lighting and pops of the signature playful green.

olive_martiniThough we adore the attention to the smallest of details, foodies historically have been slow to warm up to Gervasi’s cuisine.

At times, we’ve been so blinded by the flash that we’ve let things slide: Inconsistencies, underdeveloped flavors, and on some occasions, mediocrity, which has made paying top dollar for dinner a bit of an agitation. However, where there are shortfalls, the sheer glamour of the Gervasi name has prevailed; there is arguably no finer patio in Stark County and no better venue for our most-special soirees. Crowds pack the Piazza in the summer, weddings fill the pavilion every weekend, and new buildings seem to pop up on the regular—it just never stops.

So what about the food this time around? Executive Chef Jerry Risner leads the team at Twisted Olive, delivering a menu that’s an intentional departure in style from that of Gervasi and the Crush House.

Described as an Italian American kitchen serving “classic dishes with an original twist,” some might call it a fairly conservative menu with (thankfully) a few standout exceptions.

In the starters category are some predictable items (wings, calamari, loaded fries, even cheddar biscuits, which in my estimation sounds more like bread service than a $4 appetizer). Several items caught my attention, including lamb spanakopita, a Greek-inspired, puff-pastry-wrapped appetizer that I would order again in a heartbeat. Seasoned ground lamb is wrapped in a flaky pastry, cut into triangles (more like a quesadilla than a traditional spanakopita).

The plate is then artfully decorated with caramelized onion creme, smoked paprika honey and mint pesto. The lamb is flavorful, the pastry buttery and crisp, and the accouterments, perfection—especially the smoked honey, which offers an unexpected note of sweetness. This was my favorite dish of the day.

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The Twisted Olive also offers some rather fun twists on salads, such as the strawberry and warm brie. The presentation consists of mesclun greens, raisins, cashews, strawberries and small squares of brie, lightly dressed with smoked honey vinaigrette.

While tasty, the barely modified brie could have been a little warmer, and the presentation itself a bit more interesting. The dish longed for creative plating—more of a nontraditional salad approach, where perhaps the salad is resting on top of a larger section of brie—I say let the cheese be the star.

Among some rather vanilla menu offerings (shrimp scampi, chicken breast with basil pesto, pasta carbonara) are a few fresh takes on traditional Italian dishes: namely, the meatballs. You choose your variety from options such as Spanish chicken with garlic cream sauce and manchego, or spicy pork with balsamic barbecue and blue cheese.

Next, you choose your preparation: “naked” (baked and saucy), “smashed” (over garlic toast), or “twisted” (with pasta). I thoroughly enjoyed the Spanish chicken meatballs with salty manchego cheese and rich garlic cream sauce, situated on a bed of mini-toast. The effect is, in essence, a deconstructed meatball sandwich, with a healthy dousing of flavorful sauce.

The libations menu shows creative flair, listing a dozen original martinis and cocktails, as well a make-your-own Bloody Mary condiment bar delivered right to your table. Of course, the whole lineup of Gervasi wines also is available, with many of the grapes now being harvested right from the Canton-based vineyard.

olive_saladNEWThe verdict? Well, I’ll need more visits to be sure. But one thing I’m positive about is how abundantly lucky we are to have the Swaldo family in our community, giving us a top-notch destination (again) that the whole community can be proud of. Twisted Olive takes all cues from Gervasi and delivers a truly special dining venue.

So, I simply cannot wait for the warmer weather—a few nibbles and a cocktail on the second-story balcony during happy hour will be something to look forward to this spring. This will be the spot, I’m sure of it. 5430 Massillon Rd., Green, 330-899-0550, thetwistedolive.com

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass