Nearly two years and countless questions of “When are you going to reopen?” later, Gervasoni’s Restaurant soon will start sizzling those 20-ounce rib eyes again for your enjoyment.
The longtime downtown Modesto mainstay was forced to close and move out of its Ninth Street location in December 2015 as part of the ongoing Stanislaus County Courthouse project. But while that massive $267 million redevelopment deal continues to move at a glacial pace, mother-daughter Gervasoni’s co-owners Rosalie Clark and Serena Sisson are nearing the end of their own painstaking process of bringing the venerable dining establishment back in its new, north McHenry Avenue location.
The duo plans to reopen and begin serving up Gervasoni’s signature rib-eye steaks and rack of lamb to their loyal, though increasingly impatient, customers this month. They should be open by Thanksgiving, if not sooner.
“Some days we’d get five, six people stop by here to say we’re waiting, we’re waiting. We want to be the first ones in the door,” Clark said. “It’s been a really long road and a lot has gone on in the past two years. I’m just glad we’re almost at its end.”
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After first looking for another downtown location, the women settled on a spot six miles away on a rural stretch of McHenry, north of Kiernan Avenue. The lot has plenty of room for parking, one of their major concerns given a lot of their customers drive big trucks. Over the years Gervasoni’s, which was founded in 1975, has been a favorite power lunch place for judges, lawyers, police, farmers and businesspeople.
The new building housed the old sportsmen’s club card room for some 25 years before that group moved to a larger, more prominent location down the street. The structure has sat vacant since then and required a full gut and remodel to turn it into the new-and-improved Gervasoni’s.
The women received $100,000 from the city to vacate the Ninth Street spot, and continue to get reimbursed — albeit slowly — by the state for some relocation costs. The pair has also sunk all of their own savings and then some into the venture. Clark had worked for the restaurant’s namesake owner Gary Gervasoni as chef before buying the restaurant from him in 2012. Sisson worked with the Modesto Elks and is currently a bartender at P. Wexford’s Pub.
They had hoped to have Gervasoni’s back by last November. But it has taken much longer than they expected to get project bids accepted and reimbursed from the state. The last big push has been a $50,000 kitchen remodel, which is now completed. They have to finish hiring staff and have one final inspection to pass before they can turn on the “open” sign.
What all those antsy Gervasoni’s fans will see once they step in is a totally refreshed though thoroughly familiar restaurant. Clark and Sisson pulled all of the old eatery’s furnishings and decor out — from tables and booths to the original bar and its famed standalone fireplace — and installed them in the new place. The walls will also be adorned with the assortment of vintage advertising and artwork that hung at the original site. Even the red-and-white sign outside is the same.
Until now all this stuff has been quietly waiting inside seven storage containers, not to mention every spare space in the women’s homes, to be brought back out until now.
“We saved everything we could to use here. Ceiling fans, lights, tables, dishes. I think some of the glassware is still in (Clark’s) home,” Sisson said.
What you won’t see, and what neither Clark or Sisson will miss, is the old green carpeting. The new restaurant has new wood-grained flooring, crisp cream walls and an airy feel inside. The dining room and bar combined has a slightly larger capacity — at 127 people.
Diners will find the same menu, with perhaps a few revamped items, coming out of the kitchen. Clark, who has 25 years of cooking experience, will continue to serve as head chef and Sisson will take over front-of-house managing duties. Gervasoni’s at 5801 McHenry Ave. will be open for lunch and dinner every day.
So what do Clark and Sisson hope people say when they finally are able to walk through Gervasoni’s doors again?
“That it’s like they’re at the old Gervasoni’s,” Clark said.