It all started with a unused, run down, dilapidated 200-year-old-barn. The historic barn originally housed livestock for an old dairy farm in Canton, Ohio. It was brought back to life and given a purpose by The Swaldo Family, the owners of GV Destinations. The family had a passion for hospitality and was on the path to building a beautiful, Tuscan-inspired winery and Italian Bistro.
Many would have seen this old run-down barn as useless and seek to tear it down to rebuild. However, owner Ted Swaldo and his family saw the barn as a winery and a restaurant where friends and family would gather for special events and celebrations. It would soon become the cornerstone of their visionary dream, Gervasi Vineyard.
Today, that barn is named The Bistro, and is an upscale rustic Italian restaurant, named one of America’s most romantic restaurants in 2019 by OpenTable and a winner of USA Today’s Ten Best Reader’s Choice Awards.
The Vision of Gervasi Vineyard Starts with The Bistro
Driving through Gervasi Vineyard’s front gates you are transported from Canton to the sights and sounds and old-world charm of a village plucked from Tuscany, Italy. At the time, Ted did not realize this would be the first step toward building what is now a 55-acre, Tuscan-inspired winery resort. The barn was completely restored and converted to a signature restaurant, now a romantic Italian Bistro.
It is hard to imagine what this now picturesque estate looked like when The Swaldo Family purchased the property in 2009. But The Swaldos had a vision, and they created a plan. The barn, built in the late 1820s, was painstakingly renovated.
“We had a family friend who was an expert in old barns, and he said he thought the barn was salvageable. We contracted with an architect, engineers and contractors to help us with the redesign and restoration. We also had an Amish based company – experts in working with old barns – help us completely replace the foundation.”
Swaldo said they had to lift the barn off the foundation and suspend it in air while the foundation was replaced. When the restoration was complete, the lower portion became the winery, and the upper levels were used for dining and wine tasting in the restaurant.
“Our first winery, located in the lower level of The Bistro, was built to make 5,000 gallons (25,000 bottles) of wine a year and we thought it would take a while to reach that level of sales,” Swaldo said. “Surprisingly, we sold 5,000 gallons during our very first year!”
Today, the winery produces 20,000 gallons (100,000 bottles) of wine annually, with the ability to produce up to 25,000 gallons (150,000) of wine a year.
The Trees and the Wood
Previously a tree farm, most of the structures and landscaping were overgrown and had been untended for years. They began by clearing and beautifying the property, reviving and reinventing the land and buildings, including a residential farmhouse, milk house and historic barn. The family thoughtfully replanted over 200 trees on the estate that had to be moved for construction to plant the vineyard, creating a beautiful picturesque landscape throughout the 55-acre estate.
All of the buildings on the estate incorporate elements of the original property. Much of the wood from the barn that had to be removed during renovation was reclaimed and reused elsewhere on the property. In The Bistro, the wood was repurposed to create the floor in the restaurant, as well as to build the “tavola lunga” (Italian for “long table”) which is placed just inside the entrance for dining and wine tasting.
Recent Renovations to The Bistro
Last year, during the destination winery resort’s ten year anniversary, renovations were made to The Bistro, including updates to the structural integrity, kitchen equipment, wooden floors, dining tables and the balcony space on the upper level, totaling over $150,000.
Swaldo said after a decade of use, the wood floors needed to be reconditioned. Gervasi found a company from Colorado who specialized in that kind wood to handle the upgrades. The floors received an extensive reconditioning of the wood providing “an incredible new finish”.
“Because of its history and its uniqueness, The Bistro has become a place for families to ‘celebrate life’ by dining together while commemorating special events in their life,” said Swaldo.
The visionary of the Swaldo Family took what looked like a lifeless old barn and made it into a top-rated restaurant and destination winery resort within a decade. Plan your visit to dine in The Bistro and enjoy the ambiance and elegance of this two century old romantic Italian restaurant.
Learn more about The Bistro and Gervasi Vineyard at gervasivineyard.com.