Taste: Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana has been crafting high quality food from their carefully curated menu for upper Montgomery County since 2015. Chef-owner Tony Conte’s bona fides are incredible–so his move from fine dining to a shopping center in Darnestown is quite the leap and one I’m grateful for. In fact, Chef Conte is a nominee for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic for the 2018 James Beard Foundation awards.

Inferno’s chef-owner Tony Conte is a 3-starred chef and 2018 James Beard Foundation nominee for best chef in our region. (Image: Pizza Today)

The combination of the buzz around his new restaurant along with its location next to where I practice martial arts has kept it on my mind as a place I must try. Why it took three years, I can’t honestly say, but I picked Inferno for my belated birthday dinner with my husband and 2 daughters this year and I’m so glad I did.

Inferno’s oven produces that delicious, blistered wood-baked crust. (Image: Inferno)

The space is tiny, only stays open “till the dough runs out,” and doesn’t take reservations so you may be in for a bit of a wait. We got there shortly after opening and opted to sit at one end of their communal table so we were seated pretty much straightaway. Inferno has a high-energy vibe, with cheerful and attentive servers in soccer jerseys zipping around to fill your water glass and inquire how everything is over the thumping beats of reggaeton.  Our server, Sarah, was super sweet and helpful and my girls impressed by her glittery eyeshadow.

Inferno’s space is compact but packed with positive energy. (Image: DC Eater)

Seasonal Salads

Since it was a special occasion, we wanted to try a variety of items from the menu. We started with their winter vegetable salad and gently roasted beets. The finely shredded kale leaves and thinly sliced apples and persimmons in the winter vegetable salad were tossed with a spiced vinaigrette and toasted pumpkin seeds. The beet salad combined tender beets with cherries, celery, basil, and toasted hazelnuts for a satisfying mix of textures and flavors.

Inferno’s salads are seasonal and delectable. (Left: Winter vegetable salad, right: Gently roasted beets salad.)

Brick Oven Pizzas

Next, we moved on to our pizzas. Easily visible from just about any seat in the restaurant, Inferno’s brick oven cranks out delicious pies with a properly charred crust and a delightful smokiness. My youngest daughter and vegan husband both opted for custom combinations, my oldest daughter chose the Winter Black Truffle with added prosciutto and basil, and I had the Smoked Prosciutto. High quality ingredients with mindful preparation are what Inferno does best. Indeed; the prosciutto was sliced so thinly it was transparent and the fennel atop my pizza retained its crisp, lemony brightness. Why shouldn’t people be able to access well-prepared food from fresh ingredients beyond starred restaurant settings?

Inferno uses imported artisanal flour, an authentic wood burning oven, and traditional methods with a twist to craft their outstanding pizzas. (Upper left: custom with pepperoni, upper right: Smoked Prosciutto with lemon-braised fennel, lower left: Winter Black Truffle with prosciutto and basil, lower right: custom vegan.)

Delectable Desserts

Of course we opted for dessert since our meal was part of a birthday celebration. My vegan had to abstain but we ordered and shared the triple chocolate cookies, ricotta cheesecake, and affogato. The triple chocolate cookies were dense with the chocolate flavor turned up to the max. The cheesecake resembled more a parfait, served in a jar topped with jam and a crumble. And the affogato swirled a twirl of soft serve into a cup of bitter and rich coffee. All three desserts were a definite delicious alternative to birthday cake, that’s for sure.

Inferno’s simple but quality ingredients allowed the desserts to shine, ending our meal on a high note. (Left top: ricotta cheesecake with spiced cherry jam and oat-nut crumble, left bottom: triple chocolate cookies with sea salt sprinkle, right: affogato.)

As we finished up our meal, surrounded by other happy diners, the sunny wait staff, and the view into the open kitchen, I found myself satisfied by not only the delicious meal just savored but by the knowledge that living upcounty doesn’t mean a long drive to enjoy a meal thoughtfully prepared. A happy birthday to me, indeed!

What are your favorite pizza toppings? Please share in the comments. Thanks!

Looking for more things to try in upper Montgomery County? Read Taste: Mexican Grill and Travel: Button Farm Living History Center.

Want to try your hand at making your own pizza? Click here to purchase The Essential Wood Fired Pizza Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques From My Wood Fired Oven. A portion of your purchase will help maintain my blog. Thank you for your support!

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