Tony Incontro: Putting Beef Salumi on The Map
Originally from Omaha, Tony came from a family that was rooted deep in Midwestern and Southern Italian traditions. His grandparents were from southern Italy, and it was with his Nanu (grandfather) that he remembers his earliest food memory. This memory included making homemade sausage with his Nanu; it was the feel, smell, emotion, and taste that made him fall in love with food and creating it from scratch.
It was that love of food that led him to go to culinary school in Omaha, Nebraska. This is where he met Chef Benjamin Maides.
During culinary school, Tony started a three-year apprenticeship at Omaha Country Club, under master French, Lionlel Have. It was after graduation that he had an opportunity in New York City, which fell through, just weeks prior to moving. When he had to change plans he took a risk and moved to the west coast in the Napa Valley area.
This is where he got an opportunity to start at one Michelin star restaurant, The Martini House in the Napa Valley. Tony started working in the pantry and then would move his way up to fish and meat cook. It was here that he got to learn under Todd Humphries and Chris Litts. Here they noticed his skills and let him start to run with his passion for charcuterie and salumi.
He then moved to San Francisco, Staffan Terje's restaurant Perbacco that has won the Birra Moretti Best Authentic Italian Restaurant Award for North America as rated by S.Pellegrino. This restaurant focuses exclusively on influences from the Piedmonte region in Italy, much like Casa Bovina. It was here that he immersed himself in learning to cook Northern Italian cuisine from Chef Staffan Terje. The experience showed him a whole new level of whole-animal butchery and salumi knowledge and origin. It increased the importance of his knowing the history and technicality behind a dish or menu idea before cooking it.
Tony then got the itch to do something different and original, which is when he reached out to a chef friend to propose a new idea. It was that proposal that gave him the opportunity to move back up to Napa Valley and become the Salumist and Chef de Cuisine at Del Dotto Family Vineyards. During an unparalleled 7-year run, he helped lead an incredible venture that was the first of its kind in North America, right from a wine cellar/cave paired for Del Dotto Family Wines: Curing salumi with the wine made on-site and including wine within the meat. While at Del Dotto, he worked under Chef Joshua Schwartz, who was the previous right-hand man to chef Thomas Keller.
From there, Tony had gained demand and following for his salumi, and he decided to take the leap and start his own venture using his name on the label, Incontro Cured. While starting this brand he worked with the family-run Golden Gate meats. At this time he also helped create their very first in-house-made brand of cured meats. His goal was to make salumi integral in American fine dining like it is in Spain, Italy, and other European countries. He achieved many personal goals by getting Incontro Cured meats featured on the menus of one, two, and three Michelin star restaurants in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City. No other cured meat brand in America has accomplished as much, at such a high caliber.
After 15 years in California, Tony and his wife, Macey, headed back to Nebraska to help grow his brand and be with family. This allows them to raise their children Sammy and Rossi with a Nebraskan upbringing, learning hard work and perseverance.
It was Chef Ben that told him about the opportunity at Certified Piedmontese, and Tony could not pass it up when seeing the bright horizons at the company.
He is thankful for this opportunity and the company allowing him ample liberty to be creative and try new things with this unique type of beef. He would love to achieve his goal of putting premium beef salumi on the map.
We are thankful to have Tony at Certified Piedmontese and The Mercato, and cannot wait to see his hard work pay off even more!