Road food

Michael Anthony’s at the Inn at Versailles is worth the trip

By Paula Johnson

You’d think a place called The Inn at Versailles might feature a French restaurant, but Michael Anthony’s at the Inn is Italian inspired. I found this out on a recent food-centered road trip (is there any other kind?) I took with PIP (Palate In Progress) and friends Chef Maria and husband Eric.

Italian at Michael Anthony’s means not just red sauce, garlic bread and mozzarella sticks. Italian here means the best, the freshest, the most in the moment seasonal produce to be found. It means sauces that are light, zesty with herbs and perfectly balanced, organic local meats that are savory with the taste of wood fired smoke, seared and juicy. Do I have your attention? Thought so. Read on!

Vegging out

So often the vegetable is given barely a glance, and little care is taken with preparation. Vegetables at Michael Anthony’s have their own section on the menu—so Italian! How serious is the man is about his veggies? Chef Michael sources nearly all of the restaurant’s produce from the Inn’s private operation, Sycamore Bridge Farm.

Heirloom is the new black

The Heirloom Carrots ($6) we tried were a colorful mélange of white, purple and yellow, punctuated with a few bright orange slices. Tossed with a dusting of fresh herbs, they were delicately sweet and tender. The Baby Brussels Sprouts ($6), earthy little gems with compact little heads, were bright green with a tasty hint of grilled charring on the outer leaves. Wintery and hearty, they paired well with the salty pancetta cubes they were served with. Each serving was enough for the table to share.

Say cheese!

I jumped ahead with the vegetables. We began with appetizers—Fried Calamari  ($10) and Antipasta Platter for Two ($17)—and a lovely glass of bubbly, a Ferrari Rose, chosen for us by sommelier Telisa Delligatta. Telisa, Chef Michael’s knowledgeable (and bubbly herself) partner is responsible for the front of the house, and the restaurant’s award-winning wine list, recognized by Wine Spectator magazine for its excellence.

The marinara served with the calamari was tangy and tasty, perfect for dunking the tender squid bits. I was really impressed with the generous array of imported and domestic artisanal cheeses on the antipasta platter, more than enough for the table.  The Smoked Confit Chicken Agnolotti ($12 appetizer size) we shared proved to be an excellent choice as well. These pillowy pockets were filled with house smoked local cage-free chicken, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese and caramelized shallots. The pasta was firm yet yielding, and the filling a delicious mix. The light sauce they were bathed in was mild and fresh tasting, almost a broth.

The Lamb Shank redemption

The Braised Lamb Shank ($34) was my immediate choice, though Michael Anthony’s menu offers a nice range from straight ahead Spaghetti and Meatballs to a surprising Choucroute. The shank, braised in tomato, garlic, celery, onions, white wine and orange zest, rested atop Hull’s Trace cheddar buckwheat polenta. It was what a lamb shank should be, with shards of tender meat coated in aromatic sauce pulling easily away from the bone. The creamy softness of the buckwheat polenta mingling with the sauce was lovely. Topped with flash fried olives, the plate was completed with a lacy tangle of herbaceous micro greens. So many tastes and textures married perfectly in this dish!


Meat was also the minds of the menfolk, PIP choosing the Pork Chop Italiano ($13, each additional $8), and Eric, the London Broil ($21). I loved the peppery pop of the London Broil’s peppercorn sauce, and the creamy heirloom au gratin potatoes were noteworthy. PIP loves his pork chops, ordering them every time he finds one on a menu. This one was perfectly seared, slightly garlicky and topped with a lemon cream sauce along with caper berries, always great with pork. He deeply regretted ordering only one. He paired his pork with a side of fettucini alfredo ($3 additional charge). His regret this time was that he didn’t order a whole plateful.

Chef Maria tried the evening’s special, a Red Drum ($34). The blackened style seasoned filet arrived nestled against a mound of red beans and rice, and sautéed greens. Telisa had recommended it along with some crisp white wine, and Chef Maria was quite satisfied with the  mild and flaky fish and the peppery kick from the spicy cajun coating. The greens were terrific because, well, vegetables don’t take a back seat at Michael Anthony’s.

The pizza problem

On the drive to Versailles we had spent a lot of time discussing the menu, and Eric brought up the wood fired pizza. Our goal was to do dinner, and to try as many of the chef’s creations as we could. It wasn’t a pizza night. “But I’m telling you his pizza is off the rails!” Eric had insisted. Michael Anthony’s pizza is made in house with a locally-grown spelt wheat ground at Bear’s Mill in Darke County. So when I ordered dessert, Eric ordered a pizza to go. He picked the Michael Anthony ($14), topped with salty pancetta, garlic, spinach, rosemary roasted potatoes and a wonderful aged provolone. The pie was finished with a fried egg sprinkled with lots of fresh cracked black pepper. And the crust? Smokey wood-fired, crisp and chewy at once. Splendid. How did I know? Because we ate nearly the whole pizza in the car on the drive home. And this, friends, is how and where you road trip if you’re food-obsessed.

Michael Anthony’s at the Inn is located at 21 W. Main St. in Versailles. For more information, please visit or call 937.526.3020.
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at

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