Pizza is a very useful thing to have around. Just think of all the issues that can be solved with a healthy serving of pizza!
There’s pizza for a cheap bite. Pizza for a fancy date. Pizza for a microwave-cooked greasy mess. Pizza delivered for a lazy day. Pizza for easy party food. Pizza to comfort an upset child.
The pizza at Di Fara Pizza, I regret to inform, is not very useful for any of these situations. For starters, it is not cheap. It doesn’t come quickly. It requires a trek out to a random neighbourhood deep in the middle of Brooklyn which, while not too inaccessible by subway, is far out of the way for most New Yorkers.
Di Fara is useful for one thing and one thing only: satisfying the pizza snob wondering where to find the best in NYC! The pies here have always been on must-try lists for pizza fanatics and its inaccessibility just adds to its mystical allure.
Good pizza in New York City is a subject that can be endlessly debated because of the huge variety available. There’s everything from refined Neapolitan-style pizzas at Motorino to old classics like Grimaldi’s and Lombardi’s.
Almost everyone agrees that Di Fara Pizza is a unique experience though. The run-down neighbourhood pizza parlour appearance is no reflection of the pizza-making magic that happens inside the kitchen.
On this particular day, what limited table seating there was here was fully booked for a private event. What should have been a 30 minute wait for pizza turned into a 2 hour wait, even though I arrived several minutes before opening!
Not a single person waiting for their pie wavered in their desire though, as if there was no substitute to taking home pizza from here and here alone.
Waiting isn’t so bad when you get to watch the master Dom DeMarco at work! I don’t usually make a comment about service but watching him make the pizzas is a show worth paying for in itself. It’s not often that you get to watch someone so dedicated to their craft at work from start to finish and I found the whole process captivating and magical!
The meticulous process of making a Di Fara pizza has been previously detailed in this excellent article on Epicurious.
It starts with his son bringing out a ball of fresh pizza dough from the back room along with a bowl of whatever toppings are necessary for that particular pie. Most of the time the latter is unnecessary as the most frequent order seems to be their plain margherita pie.
Dom takes the dough and stretches it out before laying it on a pizza peel. Next up is a ladle or two of his fresh homemade tomato sauce that gets spread out over the dough.
The cheese comes next: first a grating of fresh fior di latte (cow mozzarella) on top, then a chunk of buffalo mozzarella straight from his hometown that is hand-ripped into chunks, and lastly, Grana Padano cheese (a very crumbly Italian cheese similar to parmesan) crumbled over everything.
A few swirls of extra virgin olive oil later, and it’s in to the gas-powered pizza oven for a 10 minute bake. There’s no fancy wood or coal-fired oven with super high temperatures, just a regular gas oven that manages to punch far above its weight class!
Once out of the oven, it’s a few more swirls of olive oil drizzled on and another crumble of Grana Padano cheese. For the epic finale, Dom takes a handful of fresh basil and oregano and cuts it into pieces with scissors over the pie. And just like that, the pizza is ready to be served!
It’s a slow process that’s made slower by Dom’s insistence of doing every single step himself to ensure quality but it really is refreshing to see so much care and love get put into something that most do with 10% of the effort.
That doesn’t mean that the pizza here is consistent or perfect, rather Di Fara’s style is very homely and some imperfections like clumping of cheese or getting an even char are not as important as long as the pizza is made the “right way”.
It’s easy to see that Dom DeMarco keeps at this because it’s what he loves and what he excels at! He pursues the art of pizza-making at his own pace, never too rushed and worried about making maximal profit but rather making food with tender love and care.
This isn’t somewhere to quickly grab a slice to go though: eating at Di Fara’s requires a time commitment, an apt contribution for the commitment that Dom himself affords each order.
Both whole pies ($28-$32, round and square available) or by the slice ($5 each) are on the menu. There’s nothing haughty about ordering pizzas here: you’re free to make your own pie however you’d like with the usual assortment of toppings available. Just don’t come expecting a white pizza to be available!
I really enjoyed my pie here! It really gives a homely feel that comes from using quality ingredients just as I’d imagine it to be in the Italian countryside even if his setup isn’t all that special and easily fixable imperfections occur.
Would I call this the best pizza in NYC? I always hate saying using the word ‘best’ with something as diverse as pizza because there is no comparable to Di Fara’s style of pizza. Trying to compare this to the ones I had at Motorino feels like a futile exercise.
Personally though, I would have to say I enjoyed my meal at Motorino more but that’s largely as a result of my preference for their Neapolitan-influenced style. Given the resources that Dom DeMarco has on hand though, I think he does a masterful job with pizza! This is the closest thing I’ve ever had to what I’d expect homestyle pizza to be like and it has a distinct personality that’s unlike any other I’ve had before.
It’s not the easiest destination to get to, but a trip out to Di Fara is a must for pizza nerds and food enthusiasts alike!
Things Roger Ate like a Pig
Di Fara Classic Pie – 4.5/6 (Very Good – Excellent), $32 for a whole pie
- Basic pie (tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil) with sausage, peppers, mushrooms and onions
Even in a takeout box sitting on a dirty subway bench, this pizza looks absolutely gorgeous!
When done right, this is the epitome of what pizza means to me: the perfect nuanced balance between dough charred for extra flavour, fresh sweet tomatoes, mozzarella in all its mild goodness and the aromatic oils of fresh herbs.
First up is the crust. The flavour of the crust was quite plain and featured heavy charring along the edge of half the pizza with barely any char on the other half. It’s not great execution but given Di Fara’s homeliness such imperfections are more understandable.
The middle of the pizza had some evidence of leoparding but the half of the pie near the uncharred crust was a bit lacking in that regard. I greatly preferred the slices form the charred half of the pizza which added a nice smoky aroma to the pie that tasted like a coal-fired oven even though the oven here is just a simple gas-powered one. However, the crust along the charred half was burnt to a pretty much inedible crisp.
The slices here were floppier than the usual as a result of the use of low-protein flour for their pizza dough which is pretty characteristic for New York-style slices.
The tomato sauce was made with a fresh San Marzano tomato that wasn’t quite as sweet as the Neapolitan style pizzas at Motorino and maybe a little lighter in tomato flavour.
There was a lot of cheese on this pizza for an Italian pie! It wasn’t even close to the stringy cheese layer that show up on American pizzas, but it was certainly cheesier cheesier than your typical margherita pie.
The fior di latte was grated pretty evenly and the buffalo mozzarella chunks were a little too small to be noticed like on Neapolitan pies. The Grana Padano wasn’t evenly crumbled at all but it had a really nice distinct and strong kick of Parmesan-like flavour!
As you’d expect from the fresh herbs (flown in straight from Israel), each leaf added an excellent aura of aromatic herb flavour to each bite.
The toppings, while untraditional in the Italian sense, were still delicious! In particular, the sweet crunch of the banana peppers and the salty kick of the sausage was irresistible.
Di Fara Pizza may not serve the most technically refined pizzas in the world, but the dedication and care that goes into making each pizza is second to none and each bite perfectly encapsulates their philosophy of making pizza with only the best and freshest ingredients!
Date visited: Apr. 20, 2013
Price range: $10 – $20