Upon hearing Teddy Diggs planned to open his own restaurant in Carrboro, I had to learn more. North Carolina is full of people who’ve come here from somewhere else, bringing their ideas and backstories to our burgeoning melting pot of a state. Diggs brought his name and resume to our state’s table and built upon that with further success at Il Palio in Chapel Hill. Now, Teddy has embarked on the journey that is starting his own Roman-style pizzeria, Coronato Pizza. And as long as he at least keeps up with his own pre-set pace, this new venture will remain a Triangle mainstay for a long time.
Teddy Diggs of Coronato Pizza
Why North Carolina?
Carl Hedinger: What brought you to North Carolina and where do you call home these days?
Teddy Diggs: I live in Chapel Hill-Carrboro with my wife Holly, my two daughters (Keira, 10 and Lenah, 8) and my dog TJ, aka Teddy Junior! We moved to the area from Martha’s Vineyard, a little more than five years ago. My wife and I basically cast a net over the entire country to see where we wanted to plant our roots as a family. The Triangle was near the top of the list. We were attracted by the small-town feel combined with the global relevance and influence, the tight-knit community, and the educational opportunities for our daughter.
Of course, there was also the budding restaurant scene that was quickly gaining national attention. Furthermore, I found a terrific opportunity with the Siena Hotel and Il Palio, which was my first gig in North Carolina. Il Palio was the perfect job for me at that point in my career. Plus, it provided me with the opportunity to move to a unique place where we could thrive as a family.
Favorite Food and Place to Visit in North Carolina
CH: What’s your favorite thing about North Carolina? Got a favorite spot to visit here?
TD: The food! There are so many great chefs and hospitality professionals scattered throughout the state and I am proud to be a part of the mix. I have plenty more areas of the state to explore, but I do really love Asheville, and even look forward to visiting there more often!
CH: You seem to be rocking it as a chef. How did you become one and who do you cite as inspirational figures?
TD: I grew up watching the Food Network as a youngster and being a Navy brat, I moved often during my childhood. I found that watching the Food Network was a valued consistency in my life. Since a very young age, I remember being excited about each move we made. That’s because I loved exploring the cultures and cuisines that were unique to each place that we lived. Think Indian fry bread on Native American reservations in Oklahoma, or the search to find the best clam chowder in Newport, Rhode Island.
I began cooking and experimenting in the kitchen for myself after I received an Emeril Lagasse cookbook for Christmas in the third grade and continued to cook at home throughout my childhood. These interests led me to take culinary classes in high school and working at restaurants after school. By my senior year, I knew that after I graduated high school, I would attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
CH: Since you worked in Washington, DC for a while, care to share the most powerful or famous person you cooked for?
TD: I have been able to cook for so many wonderful people. In DC, I cooked for many politicians and notables such as Steve Jobs, but my most memorable experience was when the terrific chef and person Jose Andres ate at the restaurant that I ran (Ripple) when I was 24. I actually cooked for more celebrities while working in Martha’s Vineyard. The restaurants that I ran up there would regularly see the likes of Mike Myers, Lady Gaga, Bruce Willis, and (then) POTUS Barrack and FLOTUS Michelle Obama.
CH: As a chef and restaurant owner, what achievements you most proud of?
TD: In terms of career achievements, I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity to showcase my cooking at the James Beard House in 2016. I was invited to cook a dinner that I created, and it was a tremendous experience.
On a larger scale, I am proud of my ability to navigate through the restaurant industry and demonstrate (somewhat successfully) a work/life balance. It has always been a goal of mine to balance the demanding lifestyle of a chef with the ultra-important and equally demanding lifestyle of a family. And while it is a constant work in progress, I think that I am finally starting to get the hang of it.
CH: Any advice you’d like to give to someone wanting to do what you’re doing?
TD: Work hard, every day, with enthusiasm, determination, and integrity. It is a difficult job and the work environment can be emotionally treacherous. The aforementioned attributes will keep you on the path to success.
Final Thoughts and Yours, Too!
While we anxiously await the opening of Coronato Pizza (located TBD), Teddy will be hosting pizza pop-ups for the public. I can’t wait for the next one and if you’re in the Carrboro area, keep an eye out for these fun events. You can stay up to date via Coronato Pizza’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
If you’re in Chapel Hill or nearby in the Triangle and surrounding Piedmont area, are you looking forward to eating Teddy’s delicious pizza? Where else should he explore in North Carolina beyond Asheville?