Dom DeMarco has been making pies for over 50 years in Brooklyn
note: this is a much longer article than most, the rest of the pictures are after the story.
Pizza is one of the most important food items in the culinary world and extremely hard to nail with its varied taste preferences, depending on who you ask: deep dish, pan pizza, Sicilian, thin crust, thick crust, cracker-thin crust, cheese in the crust (thanks Papa Johns), mozzarella, provolone, cheddar, fontina, fromage blanc, spicy sauce (thanks 2 Boots), sweet sauce, white sauce. For good measure, the best way to test a pizza maker’s ability is to order a regular plain pie – crust, tomato-based sauce, cheese and see what it does for you. If it knocks your socks off, then you know there is some serious skill involved. I admire anyone who can make a killer cheese pie. The toppings are just embellishments that add a wide variety of taste and textures. I like a nice salty anchovy pie or the quintessential “Meat Lover’s” (thanks Pizza Hut).
The pizza wars here in NYC are a favorite subject of mine – I’ve tried Patsy’s, Lombardi’s, Grimaldi’s, Totonno’s, John’s, Joe’s, Artichoke, L & B, Motorino and about a million “Ray’s” (are any Ray’s above standard?) and while I would never scoff at any of these places, there still can only be one best pizza in NYC. Hands down, by a longshot, it is Di Fara’s Pizza. I declare that there is a pizza God and his name is Dom DeMarco .
I love when friends and family visit and tell me they went to Patsy’s and “OMG it was amazing” and I think “You didn’t go far enough”. And then another will say “I went to Lombardi’s and “OMG, isn’t it the best pizza you’ve ever had” and I think “You didn’t go far enough”. And then they say “I went all the way to brooklyn for the best pizza at Lombardi’s” and I think – “Grimaldi’s, really?” AND “You didn’t go far enough” This is why when they visit, I try to guide them the to the right places and I will take them to Di Fara’s because I truly want them to experience this place…plus it gives me a good excuse to go.
Yes, The best pizza in NYC is in Brooklyn, a city so great that it was once its own city, and by all rights should be today. No one scoffs at Brooklyn anymore. It’s a cool place – everyone wants to live here – HBO even rebooted Sex And The City, setting it in Brooklyn and called it GIRLS.
But Midwood, where you will find Di Fara’s Pizza, isn’t exactly, “On The Grid”. Perhaps slightly more on the grid then L & B Spumoni Gardens but considerably less on the grid than Motorino. But as the proverbial wise old man would say “the best things in life, you have to work for” (or something like that) – which in this sense means you’ll have to take the D train to Avenue J and its right there when you come above ground – no biggie.
The hard part is the wait, which in the heat of the summer is pretty miserable. And don’t think for a second “Oh its 139 degrees out, there won’t be a line at all”. Everyone is thinking that, especially me. People want this pizza, and they are willing to wait for it and for the most part they wait patiently. And when they don’t they’ve got about 2 dozen Dom defenders making sure respect is paid. I’ve waited two hours for a pizza – happily, with a smile on my face. They’ve messed up my order before – it happens I live with it – b/c its seriously the best damn pizza I’ve ever had. And not in some soup nazi kind of way either. Dom, the owner and sole pizza maker (The Maestro?), is very nice and if he remembers you, he takes a second to say hello – only a second though – because his main concern, well before they open, is making pizza.
I arrived at 11:20 on a Wednesday – 1/2 hour before they were set to open. Maggie, Dom’s daughter, greeted me at the door, her father and her were sitting in the dining room waiting for the ovens to warm up. I set up and talked to them for a few minutes. By 11:30, there was a person in line. By noon, there was a line 15 people deep. Dom made a pizza, put it in the oven, but wasn’t certain the ovens were ready yet. 12:15, the line is about 20 people deep. Pizza is not cooking evenly enough. 12:30, the oven is just about there and they open the doors. The people flood in. The first guy in line doesn’t say hello, just says “One Square pie with everything” (By which he means he wants the classic pie – onions, peppers, sausage. Within 5 minutes, they’ve got an entire sheet of orders. It’s at this point that I realize I should probably get my order in if I want to get a pizza.
This isn’t some factory where pies are constantly going in and coming out. Dom takes his time – patting the dough, stretching the dough, saucing, shredding the mozzarella, spreading it around, topping with parmesan, putting it in the oven. He could probably do it faster, he says, but that just wouldn’t be right. There is no rush for him. His customers, the ones in the know at least, they don’t mind. A customer, a local from the neighborhood, laughs, “It’s like he’s Michelangelo the way he makes each pie”. This is what I respect, more than anything. This isn’t a place you come to order a pizza and sit down. This is a place to watch a man and his craft in action. Even if the pizza were to suck, watching the process would be interesting enough.
I like to bring my family here when they visit from out of town but I warn them that having this pizza will 1.) be a very long wait in a very hot restaurant and 2.) will ruin them for pizza for the rest of their lives because no pizza, ever, will live up to what this place can do.
This isn’t some trendy brunch spot in your favorite nyc neighborhood. It’s not a passing fad (he’s been making pizzas for over 50 years). This is the real deal and I don’t care what you say – if you haven’t had Di Fara’s pizza, you still haven’t had the best pizza.
1424 Avenue J
Brooklyn NY 11230
A guy comes up with the last three slices of pizza and asks dom to slice them all in half so that “we don’t fight over who gets the last piece”. Dom say’s “You fight over a woman, not over a pizza”
If you come in for a square pie, be prepared to wait. The pizza goes in twice. Once to cook the crust and another time to brown it and cook the toppings – Dom’s square special pie is the best and worth the wait.