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Tony Hanslits at Nicold Taylor's Pasta & Market
Dinner with Tony & Rosa

We recently had the good fortune to be included in a party of eight for one of the private dinners hosted by Chef Tony Hanslits and his wife, Rosa, at Nicole Taylor's Pasta & Market in SoBro. Perhaps Indianapolis' best-kept culinary secret (or not), Tony's private dinner/cooking demonstrations are held 3 to 4 nights per week (except when they take time off) and are usually booked out a year in advance.  With only eight guests, Tony cooking and Rosa presiding, this is a very personal and fun experience.  

In case you have not lived in Indianapolis for the last 30 years, Tony is something of an icon on the local culinary scene, having been executive chef at 14 West, Peter's, Something Different, Malibu on Maryland, and one of our favorites, his own Tavola di Tosa in Broad Ripple, which defined Italian dining in the mid '90s. Tony went on to be the Director of Culinary Education at the Chef's Academy and he now prepares private dinners in Rosa's restaurant and pasta shop a few nights a week. 

Fishers Wine Guy, Mike Lynam, was enjoying a dinner there in February when Rosa mentioned an unfortunate, or in our case, fortunate, cancellation call, and Mike quickly grabbed the date and invited us, Carlene, Doug Cycotte and spouses to join in the fun. 

Our evening began in the back room, where Rosa serves lunch, with Ca'del Bosco Franciaorta, an Italian sparkler, that served as a great aperitif. The party then moved to the working kitchen where a giant cutting board served as a table for eight, as well as Tony's work surface.

After fun conversation with Tony and Rosa about their business model and success, we watched a flourish of chopping and sautéing as Tony presented the first course of panned morel mushrooms, with fresh ramps and a yellow mustard cream sauce...absolutely delicious. It paired beautifully with the Lafage Tessellae Grenache-Syrah-Morvèdre blend that we chose.

The second course was linguine with peas and asparagus with mint, parmesan and pistachio pesto, served in such generous portions that Linda enjoyed it as leftovers for lunch the next two days. Surprisingly, in spite of the asparagus, it paired beautifully with Carlene's pick, the very ripe Hartford Four Hearts Chardonnay. And we were just beginning! 

Then, as the main course, Tony  perfectly seared and roasted beef tenderloins in a giant cast iron skillet and served them with a black lentil ragu and brussels sprouts sautéed with crisp pancetta and walnuts. 

The tenderloin was accented with a rich, red wine sauce that further enhanced our wine choice, a 2009 Chateau Trotanoy Pomerol Bordeaux that was absolutely exquisite. And I must confess, I normally don't open bottles of $400 Robert Parker 98 point Bordeaux (I'd rather sell them), but this one showed signs of possibly being "cooked" with a purple streak on the back label...luckily, it was perfect... a happy accident!  Our back-up wine, The Hess Collection Block 19 Cuvée 2013 also paired well, but the Bordeaux was a hard act to follow!

A rich, chocolate olive oil cake rounded out the evening, along with a little Terra d'Oro Zinfandel Port - a perfect compliment. It felt like eating dinner with friends in a big homey kitchen, and a comfortable conversation with Tony and Rosa about not just the food, but vacations, kids, future plans and life in general. 

This is not an experience for the faint of palate, because the flavors are big, as are the portions (but they thankfully provide high-quality take-home containers), and if you enjoy pairing the wines as much as this crew did, Uber is a necessity. Good luck with trying to reserve for 2018 dinners! They accept reservations in person or on the phone only and they will begin taking reservations for 2018 on July 5th. 

Nicole Taylor's Pasta and Market

1134 E 54th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 257-7374