What's on the Menu?
What’s landing on restaurant tables in our area is rarely from a farm in Montgomery County. “Locally grown” is more likely to mean from southern Pennsylvania or other parts of Maryland, areas with smaller populations, larger farms, and more established marketing and distribution infrastructures.
“I do not deal with a lot of Montgomery County producers,” says Ype Von Hengst, co-founder and executive chef of the restaurant Silver in Bethesda and the Silver Diner chain, which promotes locally sourced ingredients. “I would like to, but none of them can supply me with the quantity I need.”
Buying from traditional wholesalers, restaurants have gotten accustomed to products that are easy to order, consistent, affordable and delivered to their doors, services that small farmers may find difficult to provide.
Some connections have been made, however. Marc Grossman, the owner of The Farm at Our House in Brookeville (Our House is a residential job-training and skills building center for at-risk adolescents), sells produce to Black’s Bar & Kitchen, Black Market Bistro, Il Pizzico and Ricciuti’s restaurants—and delivers it personally, at night.
“It’s a lot of work,” says Grossman, who’s a full-time teacher at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring. “People don’t fully understand what’s involved.”
Those who spend the time or money say it’s worth it. “In my opinion, the product tastes better,” says James Ricciuti, chef-owner of Ricciuti’s, who has been buying Montgomery County produce for 25 years. “That’s the primary reason we do this.”
Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana turns Lewis Orchards’ butternut squash into a caponata served with burrata, crushed hazelnuts and olive oil.
A big believer in Montgomery County products, Tony Conte, chef-owner of Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana, buys salad greens from Potomac Valley Organics in Damascus and goat cheese from Cherry Glen in Boyds. During certain times of the year, he picks up produce weekly from Lewis Orchards in Dickerson. Among his past finds and creations: cantaloupe for caponata, watermelon and green tomatoes for marmalades, and corn, onions, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash for pizza toppings. This winter, Conte used Lewis Orchards’ eggs for an egg truffle pizza, and he turned Lewis’ butternut squash into a caponata served with burrata, crushed hazelnuts and olive oil.
12207 Darnestown Road, Darnestown, 301-963-0115, inferno-pizzeria.com
Pistachio, chocolate and hazelnut gelato at Il Pizzico?
Il Pizzico chef-owner Enzo Livia buys milk from Woodbourne Creamery in Mt. Airy for his house-made gelato. The milk’s high butterfat content and the fact that it’s not homogenized makes for a gelato with a better consistency and mouthfeel, he says.
15209 Frederick Road, Rockville | 301-309-0610 | ilpizzico.com
Ricciuti’s first opened in Laytonsville in 1992, right in the county’s agricultural reserve, and chef-owner James Ricciuti became accustomed to farmers dropping by with produce. When the restaurant moved to Olney in 1997, he furthered his commitment to local farmers, purchasing produce from Chocolate and Tomatoes Farm in Poolesville, Blueberry Gardens in Ashton, The Farm at Our House in Brookeville, pork and beef from very small producers nearby, and microgreens seedlings from the horticulture program at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring. In addition, the restaurant’s kitchen is supplied with a small amount of produce grown on the restaurant’s property, and from Ricciuti’s home garden in Brookeville.
3308 Olney Sandy Spring Road, Olney | 301-570-3388 | ricciutis.com
Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm in Poolesville grows specific patches of arugula and spinach for Frankly…Pizza!’s Frank Linn, who uses both greens as a pizza topping (and the arugula for salad, as well). Linn also grows basil, peppers and tomatoes
on the roof of the Kensington restaurant.
10417 Armory Ave., Kensington | 301-832-1065 | franklypizza.com