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Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana - VPN-Certified Pizzeria by Former Oval Room Chef Tony Conte in Gaithersburg


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Nice location, tons of car and foot traffic, school nearby, and directly on my route home from work :D

Hope it's good!

Update from their ad on craigslist:

We are searching for a handful of talented wait staff for the highly anticipated Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana near Gaithersburg, MD. Acclaimed chef Tony Conte is starting the 40 seat restaurant with a projected opening in mid-September. We will be serving VPN certified Naples style pizza along with half dozen appetizers and a couple entrees that will change weekly. The food will be an evolution of what he accomplished at the Oval Room for the last eight years

So there you go, should be opening in a few weeks hopefully.

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(WTF, Invision?  This is a portrait-aspect photo, with correct orientation metadata...even the preview was right-side-up)

attachicon.gifIMG_7191.JPG

Are you taking this with an iPhone? I've recently discovered (and have yet to prove it wrong) that the iPhone requires pictures to be taken sideways, with the round button to the right side and the screen horizontal. Although I've admittedly not uploaded every picture, I haven't had a single problem since doing that.

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Are you taking this with an iPhone? I've recently discovered (and have yet to prove it wrong) that the iPhone requires pictures to be taken sideways, with the round button to the right side and the screen horizontal. Although I've admittedly not uploaded every picture, I haven't had a single problem since doing that.

Yeah, that's called "failure to honor the EXIF orientation data", which is used to this day by nearly all digital cameras, not just iPhones.  Here's the same image re-encoded to use zero degree orientation, although it means some loss of fidelity from having to decode/re-encode.

post-710-0-54194700-1443751006_thumb.jpg

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Yeah, that's called "failure to honor the EXIF orientation data", which is used to this day by nearly all digital cameras, not just iPhones.  Here's the same image re-encoded to use zero degree orientation, although it means some loss of fidelity from having to decode/re-encode.

attachicon.gifIMG_7191-port.jpg

I would honestly, truly appreciate a detailed explanation of this, either via email, or PM (or, if you want, in the Science Forum). I'm dead serious, and not saying this to pimp the Science Forum - I honestly thought of that right when I was about to end the sentence with a period. Enlighten me, oh, venerable master, 'cuz I ain't got shit fo' knowin' whatcho talkin' 'bout! My idea of "dark matter" is kale.

And if anyone thinks that's the least bit racist (it isn't), PM me and I'll delete it immediately, no questions asked; I just thought it was funny and pretty much a perfect verbal representation of my complete, total, lack of knowledge, and I love the contrast with the British fantasy-novel dialect preceding it. I hope we haven't reached this level of PC-ness, but I fear we might have.

And, in terms of practical usage, if you could tell me how you flipped your mal-rotated image, I would appreciate it, because I have some that I want to post, and they're perma-pawed.

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Yep. I was kind of surprised they took that spot because I recall it being very small and narrow. As I said before, it's in a pretty high traffic area, being on the intersection of 124 and 28, and being next to a school with a lot of foot traffic around the other shopping centers.

If it's good, I suspect it will be difficult to get into unless they find some clever way to get a lot of extra seating.

Of course, I am without a car this week so I likely will have to wait until next week to try it. :I

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Finally got to stop in here last night, after an extra long day of work so I arrived a bit after 8. Place was mostly full but I got seated immediately. For what it's worth, the exact hours listed on the door currently say "From 5 until we run out of dough."

So when I was talking about the place being small ... yeah. There are 7-8 tables, with room for maybe 8-10 people at the bar, so you might fit about 40 people in here at a time. They have a hostess and waiters here if you were wondering as well. The space is pretty nice overall, just small.

Some interesting stuff on the menu, but I decided to just try their regular Margherita to keep it simple. The sauce is pretty good, a small step above Pizza CS or Pistarro's equivalent. Crust was a little disappointing, a little too crispy and not as good as Pizza CS's in general. Overall impression is good so far though, I'd take this Margherita over Pizza CS's or Pistarro's equivalent.

Next time I will be trying something a little more adventurous to see what else they can do. There was another pizza that caught my eye which had egg, shaved truffles + white truffle oil, and fontina. There's also one with "fairytale squash", n'duja, rosemary, and ricotta, which also sounds pretty amazing.

Beer selection was solid but nothing super exciting. Dessert wise they have ice cream and cookies. I tried the cookies, they were fine but again nothing special, probably wouldn't order them again.

Service was very on point and friendly. I got in and out pretty quickly, and my pizza came out quite fast.

Overall take, I like this place so far. It's much less out of the way for me than Pizza CS, and isn't in an awkward location like Pistarro's. But again it's extremely small, it seems like going here on a day other than Tuesday may be a real crap shoot (especially for the time being). The question remains at this point if they will have a particular kind of pizza that completely wows me, like my favorites at the other places in the area. And I will be pretty interested to see what else they decide to do with the menu here in the future, I'm assuming they plan to add entrees later, and some of the pizza styles I imagine will rotate in and out with the season.

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We were there on Saturday night.

There were a LOT of staff present, I'm sure because they wanted to get everyone involved early on. That did, unfortunately, cause more confusion in service than help, as nobody was really communicating well. At one point, one server was trying to clear plates before food had arrived. One server didn't want to add an item to a pizza "because the computer won't let me do that". But, everyone was friendly, and we got all our food and drinks in a reasonable time.

Three of us started with Shaved Fall Vegetables (Asian Pear, Charred Hot Pepper Vinaigrette), which was surprisingly a salad rather than a plate of shaved vegetables. Delicious, with a nice kick from the peppers. We also tried Burrata (Roasted & Pickled Plums, Long Pepper, Green Olive Oil). Excellent burrata, and loved the plums, but I want some tomato with my burrata, damnit!

We got two pizzas. Ember Roasted Potatoes & Onions (Smoked Mozzarella, Rosemary; Add Bacon: $2.50), but instead of bacon we added n'duja, a spicy loose sausage. I thought the potatoes were cut a bit too thick, but the combination was great. I argued for the DOC Margherita, but was overruled by the women and we landed up with Prosciutto (Arugula, San Marzanos, Olive Oil). Both pies were cooked well, nice leopard spots, and not too soft or too crispy. I like the flavor of the crust from the nearby Pizza CS more, but they've got a few years of headstart in working on their recipe!

We tried the cookies and ice cream - nice, but nothing special. Wine/beer list was decent, also nothing exciting, but I'm sure that will develop more after their first week.

Looking forward to return visits, and to see what else other than pizza Chef Conte can pull out of that oven.

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There are 7-8 tables, with room for maybe 8-10 people at the bar

We were were among the first customers tonight and there were originally only five stools at the bar. An additional stool was squeezed in so that there were three on each side of the corner near the oven.

It looks like the remainder of the bar is being used for pick-up by the servers. At one point, Chef Conte asked a dad sitting at the bar to move his toddler off of his knee and away from the pick-up area. Chef Conte pantomimed hot pies coming out of the oven and landing where the child was reaching with her little arms. The toddler was ultimately moved to a booster seat on a bar stool one over from the pick-up area (she had started to wander around the pick-up area as her parents chatted while sitting up on their stools). At this point, between the sparse square footage and the bustle of activity, there is no space for small children to wander unaccompanied and no real estate for strollers. It's too bad that future expansion into the currently vacant storefront next door is not possible because that space has been taken by an Italian butcher. I wonder if it's the business from the shopping center one block South.

I agree with the previous posts regarding the crust, hopefully, being a work in progress.

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Interesting to see the comments about crispy crust, because our pies from Friday had beautifully soft and light crusts, even if the char pattern was more blotchy than leopard-spotted.  IMHO all of the food was to a very high standard (and wherever he's getting his burrata, it's positively gorgeous, the shell stretched thin over the tender stracciatella core); I'm happy to see people lined up out the door from 6:30 onward even if it makes getting two seats a bit difficult.  It's also interesting to watch walk-ins frown and hem over whether or not to accept open seats at the communal table, even though the spacing is very reasonable and it's not an uncommon feature in Italian osterias...it looks as if older diners tend to be more resistant to the idea than younger ones.

The one characteristic that I found puzzling was the pacing, more akin to that of a white tablecloth operation, resulting in over an hour for a pretty standard pizza dinner.  There seemed to be plenty of helpful floor staff (know them by their football - soccer - jerseys...except no Arsenal, because Chef Conte apparently hates Arsenal) but the downtime between courses means it's not a quick visit, and fewer turns per night.  Maybe this is just because they're still in early days, or maybe it's a conscious decision, but I suspect they can preserve a sense of unhurried hospitality and still move things along 25-30% faster.

Oh, and a temporary suggestion to diners: it wouldn't hurt to bring cash.  Their new CC processing system was experiencing an outage while we were there.  I'm sure that'll get sorted out before long, but meanwhile it's got to be frustrating for their staff.

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IMHO all of the food was to a very high standard (and wherever he's getting his burrata, it's positively gorgeous, the shell stretched thin over the tender stracciatella core); 

Some restaurants are starting to make burrata in-house (has anyone noticed a *huge* variation in quality and style compared to several years ago, when everyone was importing it?) - knowing Tony Conte, this seems like a distinct possibility.

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This place is a fantastic addition to the area. I can't wait for the oven-roasted entrees to join the menu, because everything coming out right now seems to be on point.

 

Logistically speaking, it's a small but beautiful restaurant with a ton of helpful staff. They seem to have sorted out some of their early communication issues, because service was smooth despite multiple people dropping by our table over the course of the meal. The only problem is that it's just a lot of people to fit into a small, and what looks to be popular, space. We got there around 6:20 on a Saturday evening and were quoted a 45 minute wait for a 4 top, although we managed to get seated after a 20 minute grocery run at the nearby Safeway. I'm not looking forward to when the weather gets colder and people start crowding around the door to wait. Some of the tables definitely get exposed to a good amount of breeze every time the doors open as well; the 6 bar seats, close to the comfort of the pizza oven, may be the way to go. 

 

We ordered a lot of the same things as DanielK. The burrata here is close to a must order, although I wasn't as much of a fan of the Shaved Fall Vegetables salad. For some reason, it reminded me of the Chik Fil A side salad with the prepackaged fried peppers: good spice level, all of the components were there (sweetness, crunch, olive oil), but it just didn't all come together for me. I still enjoyed it, but I'll look to try something else next time.

 

We shared three pizzas, the Ember Roasted Potatoes & Onions with bacon, the Organic Egg, and the DOC Margherita. I was expecting crispy bacon bits, but instead we got plenty of beautiful pink and chewy little pieces of bacon, which combined perfectly with with the potatoes, onions, cheese, and rosemary for an incredibly meaty, hearty slice of pie. The egg pizza was fantastic as well, a nice runny yolk that burst open as we cut through the middle of the pizza, and a generous portion of shaved truffles on top. The margherita paled a bit in comparison to the other two, though it was still quite good. On a side note, why does it seem like all the margherita pizzas I try never seem to have much basil? Three leaves were not even enough to split among four people, and based on the other pizzas, skimping on toppings doesn't seem to be a concern here. My only other comment would be that it might be nice to have a better cutting knife than the butter knives provided. Overall, really good pizzas, and yes, I enjoyed the crust.

 

They seem to have started rolling out new dessert options than just the ice cream and cookies listed online. We tried both of the new additions, one a Vanilla Custard with Stewed Apples and Rosemary Pie Crust, the other a Sweet Potato Custard with Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt. Both came in mason jars, although I question their usage for the sweet potato dessert, since the jar was about 4 or 5 times too big for the custard and made it look like a really small portion size (it wasn't). The sweet potato custard was a lovely dish, where you could really taste the sweet potato, and the shaved dark chocolate with a pinch of salt kept the sweetness to a nicely understated level. In comparison, the vanilla ice cream was very sweet, with two large chunks of pie crust arranged on top and spiced apples layered throughout; essentially a cold apple pie with a generous scoop of ice cream. If you get both, definitely try the sweet potato dessert first, because the sweetness of the vanilla dish will mask a lot of the more subtle flavors of the sweet potato one.

 

I can't wait to be back.
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We visited for our first time last night and found the tomato sauce to be our favorite between Pizza CS, Comet Ping Pong, and 2Amys. Wife said the basil was not plentiful on the Margherita but very tasty!

The speck that came with the burrata was delicious! A bit peppery. They should make that one of the optional toppings.

We sat at a communal table and did not feel crowded at all. But the place IS small and loud! I can see that you might not want a table for 2 right by the door 'cause it was drafty.

The coloring of the room was attractive. Oranges and browns. Made you feel warm!

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Agree with everyone ... you are certainly on top of each other ... almost claustrophobic.  The pizzas are fantastic and the one with truffles is as good as I've had (pupatella, bianco, motorino included)

... my wife even called in an order ... 

Glad you're finding the community userful, caboosew! We really need some word-of-mouth, so if you're in any position to take charge in that regard, it would be much appreciated. I haven't ruled out a PR Rep, but that's big money when all we need are simple "get the word out" types of things. Hmm ... maybe I could start a GoFundMe page with ridiculously *low* levels to achieve things. Such a thing could work in terms of recruiting new members. We need help, caboosew - sooner or later, we're going to hit a wall.

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Finally got a chance to collect my thoughts in a blog post.  I'm grateful anytime a chef of this caliber heads to the Maryland suburbs.  This place is worth visiting.  often. The pizza is terrific and the appetizers even better.  Save room for dessert.

"Inferno Pizzeria Napolitana: Chef Tosses Aside Fine Dining For Pizza" by Lori Gardner on beenthereeatenthat.net

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They've changed the layout a bit so that there's more of a distinct waiting area, with a couple of bench seats. You can order drinks while you wait, and the FOH occasionally brought out a complimentary juice or soda for particularly patient kids. The wait for us was about 30 minutes at 6 pm on a recent Saturday.

The Burrata and Brussels Sprouts with Pistachio Pesto and Speck were excellent, although the Mixed Greens salad was forgettable. The pizza was still very good, though not quite as magical as my first visit. Part of the issue may be general busyness, since there are a good number of take-out orders competing with the dine-in customers for the one oven. This led to some pacing issues, as well as our pizzas being slightly overcooked. A few of the pizzas had huge burnt bubbles along the crust that we had to eat around, and the egg on the one pizza was fully cooked through, rather than the deliciously runny yolk from before. The Ember Roasted Potatoes & Onions pizza (& Bacon!) remains a perfect blend of textures and flavors to my taste, but the mushroom pizza was the table's favorite this time around. They do cut the pizzas now into four parts, though you'll still have to do some work if you want to share smaller slices (they do take care to avoid the egg yolk, although in this case it was unfortunately unneeded). We left happy and too stuffed for dessert.

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The pizzas here travel okay but is much better fresh from the oven.  We had gotten takeout before and it was good, but much better fresh.  I would still give Pizza CS the slight edge on the crust, but the toppings here are just fantastic.  Although Montgomery County lags generally on restaurants, it might just have the two best pizzerias in the area right now.

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We finally tried the Inferno tasting menu -- very good!  First up was caviar with meyer lemon.   A very soft lemon cream with a scoop of caviar and drizzled olive oil.  We briefly discussed whether we would have preferred a firmer lemon base and/or more olive oil.  But the dish was quite good.  Next up was crudo of madai (Japanese red snapper), grapefruit, ginger, chili, and cilantro.  Great dish.  There was a lot of chili; the chef is not afraid of the heat.  The grapefruit worked surprisingly well with ginger and chili.  Next was our favorite dish of the night, miso flavored spaghetti, sea urchin, olive oil & garlic.  Slightly umami pasta with a ton of garlic and, as I recall, some chili and picked ramps.  On top was a cold piece of fresh uni.  Fantastic sharp flavor from the garlc and ramp and delicious contrast with the cold uni.  Next was steamed black bass, fennel, green olives & basil.  Perhaps the least standout of the savory courses but still strong.  As I recall, there was some mint in the dish, which was very interesting.  Finally we had snapper with vaduovan spices, bits of cauliflower, an oyster mushroom, and a mound of chili garlic condiment.  Again, a fair bit of heat in places, and really delicious.  The dessert was an old school molten-chocolate cake with soft serve.  The downsides are (1) if you're in DC, Darnestown, MD is a bit of a hike -- a 30-75 minute drive depending on time of day and where in DC you're coming from; and (2) it's not otherwise a fine-dining setup if that's what you're looking for.  But for some really good food and a novel experience, this is worth a try.

 
 
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Finally made it back to Inferno after over a year away (why?).  As I parked my car at the CVS to purchase real Sudafed (can't get it from Amazon - thanks Walter White) it dawned on me that I was steps away from Inferno.  Right before 6pm on a Saturday night the dining room was full but ordering takeout was a breeze.  FOH was very efficient and I did see Chef Conte working the line as I glanced over.  I walked to CVS, swore I wouldn't make meth with 48 Sudafed pills and walked back to Inferno.  The waiting area was now also full and a party of five had also followed me in.  I sat on an open spot on the bench for about 2 minutes and my pizza was handed to me and off I went.  The three left hand turns back home were quick and the piping hot pie was amazing!! It is the best Neapolitan pie in my neck of the woods!

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January 14, 2018

The BEST Pizzeria in DC/VA/MD!! Impeccable in ingredients, composition and execution!! The crust is sublime!! Super delicious beyond words!! 

inferno.jpg

Smoked Prosciutto

Lemon Braised Fennel, Fior di Latte, Ricotta!!

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Black Truffle
Smoked Scamorza, Fontina, Fior di Latte
 
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17 minutes ago, silentbob said:

Many of the so-called "top" pizza places in the U.S. follow an until-the-dough-runs-out model, like Beddia and Una Pizza.  Maybe that's how they do it in Naples?  I think some ramen places are like this too, until the noodles run out.

That's how my brother does it, way up yonder in Belgrade Lakes, ME. https://www.facebook.com/168-Main-134485510225693/

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Even in my small hometown on busy nights the good pizza place that made homemade dough might run out.  I assume it is because you plan for what you think might happen, but since most good pizza places use a retardation process in the rise, they are multiple day rises, and for consistency you can't normally just pull out tomorrow's batch (well and also you are shooting yourself in the foot then for tomorrow), you may be able to use something from the night before if you had extra, maybe.  So while you might know you will be busy and try to plan for that, you also don't want to be consistently wasting dough, and sometimes you only have space/time to be holding so much dough for any given day and if you steal from another batch you could be risking the consistency of the pies.

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They run out of dough by probably 9 PM seating, on most nights.  If you don't get there shortly after opening, maybe up to 6:30 for a small party on a  bad weather weekday, you're looking at a wait of some kind up to 8:30.  But it's not quite the crazy wait of a DC hotspot.  Probably more like 30-45 minutes for a smaller party during peak times.  Though we just go right at 5 and always get seated immediately.

The pizza there are excellent.  The toppings were always exquisite.  I used to think the crust lagged a little behind Pizza CS and year one Pupatella.  Now I think they got it really right. 

 

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April 28, 2018

New addition to the pizza menu since my last visit in January.  Fennel Braised Fennel, Fior di Latte, Green Olive Gremolata.  Impeccable in ingredients, composition and execution!  Super delicious beyond words! 

Selection of wine by the glass has got my attention with this offering of Cembra Kerner Dolomiti IGT (Trentino, Italy) 

  • "Created in Weinsberg, Germany around 1930, the Kerner is the result of a crossing of Schiava and Riesling. It prefers the light, gravelly and sandy soils of the highest slopes and exposed to the sun, like those of the Valle di Cembra. Manual harvesting of the grapes, delicate processing and pressing, fermentation at controlled temperature and maturation on the noble lees in stainless steel tanks, refining on the lyses for about 4/5 months before bottling."

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