One of the Northeast's most lauded chefs, George Germon of Al Forno in Providence, R.I. has died. Germon and his wife Johanne Killeen opened Providence's landmark Al Forno in 1980. Over the next 30 years, the restaurant — which began as a side project for the couple — would garner national acclaim for its tasteful Italian fare and rule-bending spirit. Germon and Killeen are considered the creators of grilled pizza, a mainstay on Al Forno's menu.
RI NPR reports Germon died Tuesday following an illness.
In 1990, Al Forno was named the best restaurant in the world for casual dining by The International Herald Tribune. In 2014, Eater's roving restaurant editor Bill Addison visited the restaurant and wrote, "Al Forno's pizza deserves its pedestalled status.":
The story goes that Germon was talking with a fish supplier who'd recently come back from Italy and was raving about the grilled pizza he'd tried in Florence. It turned out that the guy was confusing a grill with a wood-burning oven, but the idea stayed with Germon. When he and Killeen experimented with dough cooked directly on the grilling grates, they were taken with the charred pockmarks left by the flames, and the texture that seesawed between crisp and chewy.
A friend and fellow restaurateur Bob Burke told NPR: "George Germon was a quiet genius." Indeed, he didn't dwell on the impact of what he put out into the world. Eater's senior reports editor Hillary Dixler wrote last year: "Germon says that on a busy night the restaurant will sell about 200 pizzas, all of which are made by a single cook working the grill station. Germon says he sometimes forgets the power of his pizza: 'We've been doing it for so long now, I take for granted how special it is sometimes.'"