The Washington PostThe Washington Post

How pizza went from cheap commodity to chefs' obsession

By Tim Carman

31 Aug 2023 · 9 min read

informed Summary

  1. Tony Conte, a chef who made his mark at fine-dining establishments, reversed course in the mid-2010s and opened Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana in Maryland. The pizzeria is part of a wave of craft pizzerias that have helped reform America's reputation for pizza, which was once seen as a commodity product.

During high school, Tony Conte worked at a pizzeria beloved by locals in Hamden, Conn., where the owner was wholly dedicated to the craft of pie-making, at least by the standards of late-1980s America. Regardless, Conte's stint as a teenage cook at DiMatteo's didn't inspire him to follow in the footsteps of countless Italian Americans and open his own pizzeria. He figured he'd been there, done that. Nothing more to learn here.

For a cook with any ambition in the 1980s and 1990s, the goal was not to open a pizza shop, but to land a job in New York or some other metropolis, maybe at one of the marquee restaurants that let its French flag fly. True to form, once he graduated from culinary school, Conte made his mark at fine-dining establishments, including Jean-Georges in New York City and the Oval Room in Washington, where he racked up the stars.

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