Contes History


The history of Contes began in 1936, when Sebastiano Conte opened the Witherspoon Bar on the current site.  Sebastiano Conte, born in 1895, came to the United States from the Italian island of Ischia in 1920 when he was 25 years old. Where customers now enjoy Contes pizza, there was first a vacant lot, tables and chairs for card games and a bocce court. There were also two apartments upstairs where his family lived.  The long hall along Guyot Street was occasionally rented out for wedding receptions and parties ($15 a night) until Mr. Conte had his next idea.. He believed that people had to travel too far for pizza during this time, so he decided to move the bar into the bocce area (making sure it was positioned so the liquor bottles were out of reach..) for a bar-pizza combination.  Princeton’s first pizza was served at Contes bar on October 13, 1950.  Originally, Mr. Conte hired someone to build the bar, but after watching and learning how, he said he could do it and finished the bar himself.  He spelled out Contes in red glass bricks within the green bricks comprising the base that is still in Contes today. The bar was then room-length and believed to be the largest bar in Princeton.  He made benches and tables as needed, and when interested waned in the shuffle board court in the middle of the room, he made the board into the large table that is still used in the kitchen today for making pizza.  Contes traditional thin crust traces back to a baker from New York who took the train to Princeton every day for a couple of years. Mr. Conte would pick him up every day and return him every night to the station around midnight.  The decor of Contes has remained consistently the same since the 1950s origins: gold walls, brown trim, mutli-colored speckled floors and rug wrapped pillars.  The white top tables are originals, while the brown topped ones arrived in the 70s.  Contes pizza have remained true to its roots-red pies are the rule, neither green vegetables nor “gourmet” toppings are available. Contes was the first Princeton business to have a TV.  Most of the wait staff who work here are family, and the exceptions are usually longtime friends of the family.