Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: DiFara Pizza, Brooklyn



Is DiFara Pizza http://www.difara.com/ (1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn) the most legendary of all pizza joints?  Maybe. I discovered it a few years back, exploring the outer boroughs of New York. We went to Patsy's in East Harlem (awesome); L&B Spumoni Gardens (near Coney Island; good but not great); and Zero Otto Nove in Bronx's Little Italy (very good pie, much like Osteria in Philly).

But the topper, by far, was DiFara. I've only been there twice. It's a tiny place on a corner in a very Jewish part of Brooklyn; parking can be a challenge. Every single pie is made by Dom DeMarco, for over 45 years. He's a spry guy in his 70s, and I don't know how he can tolerate the heat on summer days coming from the ovens; one tiny window A/C unit is completely inadequate to provide any cooling.

Dom does have help, mostly family members. Somebody in the back room preps the dough and brings it out to him. His sons and daughters work in front, grinding cheese, opening cans of tomato sauce, and working the register. Dom forms the dough into the pie crust, applies the San Marzano tomatoes (one site reports that he mixes fresh and canned tomatoes), puts one entire ball of fresh mozzarella on every pie, and bakes it. When it comes out, he drizzles it with imported olive oil, sprinkles on grated grana padano cheese, and then with huge shears he snips a generous portion of fresh basil on each pizza.

On our second visit, we waited TWO HOURS (big mistake was ordering a square pie, pictured above; he doesn't make them as fast or as frequently) for pies that cost $30 each (if you just want a slice, it's $5). The seating area was too hot and too crowded. We took our pies and placed them on the trunk of my car; we sat on the curb, eating pizza before a Mets game. After ONE BITE, we instantly concurred: "Worth it!!"

My daughter finds this to be the best pizza she's ever had. It is truly remarkable, but I still give a very slight edge to DeLorenzo's on Hudson Street in Trenton.

Good news is that the pies won't stop when Dom is done making them; a second DiFara is opening in Las Vegas this summer. Let's hope they can execute his exacting vision for a perfect pizza.

Di Fara Pizza on Urbanspoon

4 comments:

  1. Cool blog! I agree, Di Fara is the best in the city. Well...at least the best I've eaten so far. Still have a long way to go...

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  2. It probably goes without saying, but DiFara, like DeLorenzo's on Hudson in Trenton, earns 10 out of 10 stars.

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  3. Hate to be the heretic on this place. The pies are good, if a bit oily/drippy from the oil Dom douses them with after cooking. To the unititiated, it can seem downright ridiculously swimming in it. I think the theater is what makes DiFara so special. Everyone comes to see Dom perform his ritual, which is meticulous, formulaic and maddeningly inefficient and slow. The wait can be interminable, the prices bordering on criminal ($5 a slice? c'mon!)and the reward not worth the pilgrimage and inconvenience, especially when their "system" is none at all. Like I said , it is certainly good pizza.

    Take away the theater..and Dom...and you have a good pie place, just like the one his son opened on Houston Street (called "DeMarco's). But, not good enough to stay in business too long, even at "normal" pie prices.

    Give me DeLorenzo's any time...not much theater, but a pleasing entire experience and I don't feel like I don't want to bother coming back. (In fairness, one son prefers DiFara slightly to DeLorenzo's..either place. I actually prefer Modern in New Haven to DiFara, though the pies can be floppy in the middle.)

    I'm sure Dom won't be in Las Vegas..and I doubt the aura will translate there any better than it did to Houston St.

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  4. Chester County Pie GuyOctober 19, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    I agree, at this point the hurdles to a DiFara pie make it "not worth it." Still, it's world class pizza. This week I hope to get to Dom Jr's LV place.

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