Table Talk: CIA Grad Opens Pizza Restaurant

Table Talk: CIA Grad Opens Pizza Restaurant

Plus, Bethesda couple's Napa winery, and locally made food gifts

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Former Oval Room chef Tony Conte, setting up shop in Gaithersburg. Photo by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg.

Tony Conte, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, former executive sous chef at the widely acclaimed Manhattan restaurant Jean-Georges and most recently the well-regarded chef at the District’s Oval Room, was planning to open Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana, a 1,500-square-foot Neapolitan pizza place in Gaithersburg, in October. Conte, who lives with his family in Darnestown, says his new gig “couldn’t be any further from what I did in D.C. Nobody saw it coming.” Here are five reasons why he made the switch:

1. It’s close to home. “Door to door, it’s two miles on the nose. I’ve never lived and worked so close.”

2. Neapolitan pizza is different for Gaithersburg. “It’s about bringing something to this area that I don’t think exists.”

3. He was looking for a challenge. “I had achieved almost all my goals in D.C.—it was time for something new. Continuing down that road would have been easy.”

4. He wanted to transfer a high-level culinary approach to a humble dish. “This could not be any different from cooking at the Oval Room. But I’ll treat it exactly the same. Just because it’s pizza doesn’t mean it needs to be downgraded.”

5. He loves pizza. “I can eat it all day long, two, three times a day.”

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana, 12207 Darnestown Road, Gaithersburg,   301-963-0115.


Stephen and Sylvia Taplin of Bethesda co-own a Napa Valley winery with family. Photo by Darren Higgins.

Most families hang on to heirlooms, whether they be tattered black-and-white photos or great-grandma’s locket. For Bethesda resident Stephen Taplin, preserving the past meant opening a winery on Napa Valley farmland passed down through five generations.

Taplin, who grew up in St. Helena, California, and is now an internationally known breast cancer researcher at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, founded Taplin Cellars in 2012 with his brother and sister. His wife, Sylvia, a former epidemiologist, now crisscrosses the country as business manager for the 28-acre vineyard.

The winery produces a full-bodied and well-balanced 100 percent cabernet sauvignon called Taplin Terra 9—the name is inspired by Taplin’s great-great-grandfather, who described the land in 1864 as “nine parts rock and one part soil.”

The 2009 and/or 2010 vintages are available in Bethesda at Cork 57, Vino Volo and Capital Beer & Wine; in Potomac at Wine Harvest; in Rockville at The Bottle Shop; and online ($65 a bottle).



Award-winning Potomac chocolatier Rachelle Ferneau makes vegan, kosher, gluten-free and dairy-free chocolates that are rich, creamy and even better than much of the traditional competition. Using premium Belgian chocolate with a high butterfat content, organic soy milk and top-quality vegan butter, among other ingredients, Ferneau crafts creative, vibrantly flavored candies. Holiday specialties include the North Pole Artisan Chocolate Bar and Christmas and Hanukkah truffles. Most gifts are $10 to $30. Available at Williams-Sonoma, Balducci’s, The Bottle Shop (Rockville), The Candy Shop (Silver Spring) and online.


Packaged in attractive boxes, MeatCrafters’ antibiotic-free, heritage-breed Duroc pork salamis—available in traditional and unique flavors—are a great gift for a connoisseur carnivore. Or slice them thinly and serve with cheese, wine and olives at your own holiday gathering. The company—owned by Potomac residents and Central Farm Markets’ co-founders Mitchell Berliner and his wife, Debra Moser, plus sausage expert Stanley Feder—sells its cured meats at the Bethesda Central Farm Market on Sundays throughout the year, and at Rockville’s Pike Central Farm Market on Saturdays through Nov. 21. Salamis are $15 each at the markets; $14 online (minimum order $30).


Biscuit photos by Lesley Riley

Lesley Riley describes herself as an information technology manager by day, background investigator by night and biscuit maker in between. With a lineup of more than 50 rotating flavors, the Germantown resident bakes with butter, not shortening, resulting in biscuits that are more cake-y than flaky. Inventive holiday varieties, which come with pats of flavored butters, include sweet potato, apple and sage; pumpkin, orange and rum; and eggnog peppermint. Available online (shipped frozen; $22.50 per half dozen, $45 per dozen, plus shipping); and soon at Whole Foods markets in Montgomery County.


Photo by Jennifer Segal

Bethesda’s Jennifer Segal—chef, writer and photographer behind the popular food blog Once Upon a Chef (—shares this recipe for sweet-and-salty nuts with a hint of heat. Seriously addictive, they can be served with cocktails, sprinkled over a salad or given as a gift.

Sugar-and-Spice Candied Pecans
(Makes 2 cups)

½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups (8 ounces) pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.  

3. Add the pecans to the sugar mixture, along with 4 teaspoons of water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved into a sticky glaze. If the mixture is still too powdery after stirring, add a few drops of water.

4. Transfer the pecans to the prepared baking sheet and spread out in a single layer, making sure nuts do not touch. Drizzle any remaining glaze on top.

5. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the pecans are crusty on top and caramelized and golden on the bottom. Immediately slide the nuts and parchment off the baking sheet and allow the pecans to cool completely on the countertop. Store in an airtight container; for gift giving, package nuts in a mason jar tied with ribbon.  n


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