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From Rome with love comes Chef Fabio
Gervasi Vineyard imports a Roman chef to teach us how to make pasta
This story is part of a special series.

Vivian Goodman
Chef Fabio uses the heel of his hand to knead the dough.
Courtesy of Laura Fong
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In The Region:

If you didn’t grow up Italian, cooking pasta can be tricky.  A cooking school at a Canton luxury resort imported a chef from Rome to show exactly how it’s done. For today’s Quick Bite, WKSU’s Vivian Goodman invites us into the kitchen of Gervasi Vineyard.

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Gervasi was  Ted Swaldo’s mother’s maiden name.

Swaldo is the owner and developer of Gervasi Vineyard.

He’s a native of Canton who ran an automotive water-pump business for 35 years and needed something to do in retirement.

For some years, he’d owned a 55-acre plot off 55th street northeast of Canton. He found a barn on the property built in 1823 and decided to restore it as a small winery.

 “And we were going to serve trail baloney and cheese. And as we were doing the building, we took a look at it and said this would be a wonderful place to have an Italian bistro with more of an upscale kind of menu. And from there it just kept growing.” 

All in the familia 

It’s a family business now, with Ted’s son Scott as manager. And it’s  grown over the last three years to include a meeting center and  ballroom, 24 luxury suites designed to look like Tuscan villas, and a full-scale restaurant.

Last year it hosted 64 weddings.

 “And so we wanted to have a very good catering kitchen and we decided a culinary school in the middle of the kitchen.” 

Teaching the techniques 

Jennifer Wolf Webb runs the cooking school:

 “So this is a workstation for two people here. As you can see we have a Cuisinart, we have a mixer, we have mixing bowls, all the tools. So each station is set up so you have all the tools you need to cook with.” 

And for all the advice you need, they bring in celebrity chefs. Ted Swaldo met Fabio Bongianni last summer at That’s Amore, Bongianni’s restaurant near Rome’s Trevi Fountain.

 “And it was a wonderful meal. Probably the best meal we had in Rome. I asked to see the chef, and we started talking and I asked about the possibility of him coming here to teach.”  

The Chef feels at home 

Chef Fabio agreed to come for a week, persuaded in part by Swaldo’s effort to recreate Tuscany in Northeast Ohio.

 “I told him yesterday I was really shocked how he made such a good job here keeping also the atmosphere that an Italian villa, an Italian place should have. And that’s the best way to enjoy Italian food. Yes, exactly. Well. We’re going to see how you do it now. Let’s go ahead. Perfect. So, we start demonstrating how to make dough. Now, of course. I come from Italy. We are well-known for pasta, so let’s start making pasta. What’s it going to end up as? We’re going to make ravioli with that.”

How it's done

He starts with a small quantity of flour and  makes a well in it.

“So now we crack the egg inside and with a fork we start beating the egg inside.”

Then he begins kneading.

“Gentle in the beginning. OK so you press, you fold, you press, you fold.

Then you start to hold, press, fold, and turn, incorporating all the flour inside. Using the heel of your hand. Yeah this is not pastry dough so you don’t run the risk to overwork your dough. What are you looking for or is it a feel more than a sight? It has to be very, very elastic. So you start working your dough. With a small quantity like this you can start working with your hands like a stress ball and then you have to rest in the fridge. You wrap the dough and you rest for half an hour.”   

Al Dente

International understanding falters only when the topic of boiling pasta comes up. Chef Fabio finds only one fault with Americans: we overcook our pasta.

 “So if it is written 12 minutes probably you cook for 15, but you should cook for 10. And then cook the last two minutes in the skillet with the sauce. What happens? All the starch goes into the sauce and starch give the thickness of the sauce, no? The sauce becomes creamy. Cook the last two minutes in the sauce. Never pour the sauce on the top of your pasta.”   

Ted Swaldo’s mother, for whom his luxury resort is named, would never have done that. He grew up in poverty, the son of a coal miner, but the family always ate well..

 “I was from a family of 10 children and she was a great mother and did great cooking. She came from Italy originally and, y’know, I just wanted to honor her.”  

He says the best thing about the business is his family.

My grandsons come down here and work in the vineyard in the summer. So it’s been fun. The idea I have is for continuation. My grandchildren, my great-grandchildren, I hope they all participate and we can keep this thing going forever.” 

Ted Swaldo, owner of Gervasi vineyard.

The next cooking class there on Wednesday is titled “How to Cook like a Personal Chef.”

Related Links & Resources
Gervasi Vineyard website

Listener Comments:

Looks and sounds wonderful can not wait till may 13th will be attending my nephews wedding.

Posted by: Shirley Amedeo-smith (Stow Ohio) on April 2, 2012 10:04AM
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