Apparently, he has been working in private catering as well as doing some dinners out of Nicole Taylor’s for awhile now, but from what I gather, it is very difficult to get booked with him in either place. Luckily, a friend of mine told me about Tavola di Tosa dinners he is now doing monthly at the Nestle Inn downtown and we booked a table in February. Technically, it was supposed to be a Valentine’s dinner, so it was a little more expensive than the other dinners hosted there (this was $125 if I remember correctly, tax and tip included, but most are $85 for a multi-course, BYOB dinner).
Our first course was a gnocchi dish—not your typical potato gnocchi but gnocchi made from cheese and herbs and dusted in flour and served with a drawn butter sauce with fresh Parmesan. They were very light and I appreciated that they didn’t overdo it on the portion size since we still had several more courses coming. I loved the way Chef Hanslits came out and told us about each course as well. It was fun to see and hear so much enthusiasm.
I loved the next course (of course I did). It was beef Carpaccio with an arugula salad. There was red onion, Parmesan and capers giving it the salt and the crunch and the greens were nicely dressed with the right amount of acid. The beef was so tender and delicious. My only complaint is that I wished I had more of the beef. It felt like a little bit of a tease. But of course, there was more to come.
Next was a pasta course called Nona’s kerchief, which was similar in flavor to lasagna, although it was more petite in size. It was a large piece of pasta that was sort of wrapped up like an envelope around cheese and then topped with marinara sauce and served on top of a creamy béchamel sauce. It was probably the least unusual of the courses, but still tasty.
The last course before dessert was probably the favorite at the table—it was seared sea scallops with really tasty caramelized Brussels sprouts, pieces of pancetta and walnuts, all with spicy chili oil. The scallops were cooked just right and came out smoking hot. The Brussels sprouts practically melted in your mouth.
Dessert was a flourless chocolate cake with a blood orange (and Sprite!) sauce. I don’t really get too excited by flourless chocolate cake anymore, but it was meant to be a Valentine’s meal, so chocolate is sort of required I think. They also sent us home with a couple of truffles as well.
After the meal Chef Hanslits came out and just sat and chatted with everyone—answering questions and telling stories. It’s a little room (it holds seating for 12) so it was a very intimate situation and it was really fun listening to someone who obviously has extreme passion for what he does.
I realized before I posted this, I was going to need to book another night because I have a feeling it won’t be long before these dinners all get sold out as well.
Tavola di Tosa at Nestle Inn
637 North East Street