Di Fara – the slow decline of a legend

Continuing my weekend of Brooklyn adventuring, I met up with some friends to try the legendary pizza of Domenico DeMarco, better known as the proprietor of Di Fara. Dom started his Midwood pizzeria almost 50 years ago with no expectation of receiving the fame of what is reputed to be NY’s best pizza. Despite his age, he still does the bulk of the pizza-making, with his children playing a supporting role. Di Fara attracts hungry customers from all around the country, so expect a long wait.

A slice will cost you $5, so get an entire pie ($28 regular, $32 square). Since it’s best to arrive with a group, most of your focus should be on staking out a table, which can get quite aggressive. A square pie went unclaimed, so I shaved about an hour off our wait time by accepting it. After Dom takes the pie out of the oven with his hands, he uses a scissor to cut basil leaves onto the pizza, which is then sprinkled with a layer of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

What I noticed immediately was the beautiful charring along parts of the crust. Without hesitation, I made sure to grab a corner slice. The blackened parts of the the thick crust added a nice smokiness to the entire pizza. Di Fara uses the highest quality ingredients, which was apparent from the aromatic basil leaves imported from Israel. Dom insists on using three different cheeses for his pizza, all shipped in from Italy. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to  keep the cheese from sliding off.

The pizza is drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and liberally applied with sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes. You can probably tell from the pictures that the ingredients were applied in excess. What further disappointed me was that the sauce was weakly spiced with herbs and overly sweet, a telltale sign of a poor pizza. Di Fara sometimes runs out of material in the middle of the day, and this may be due to Dom’s “heavy-handedness.” Too much of a good thing can ruin a pizza.

If you’re a fan of Dom’s pizza, you’re probably aware of (and aren’t fazed by) Di Fara’s history with the Dept. of Health. Di Fara has been shut down numerous times for  health violations. Dom’s daughter was kind enough to let me use the bathroom beyond the counter. What I saw on the way there was disgusting to say the least. I couldn’t wrap my mind around was how something so beautiful could emerge from a place so horrid. I can accept Dom refusing to wear gloves (I personally never liked to while making pizza), but cobwebs and mice in the rusted, decaying kitchen are unacceptable.

It used to be the case that only Dom would ever touch the pizza, but it seems like his children are being given more responsibility in preparing the food. The intense passion that he has for making pizza may have blinded him from the other aspects of running a pizzeria. If I didn’t have the misfortune of seeing what went on behind the scenes, I would have given Di Fara a second chance despite the uncomfortable wait and inconvenient location. If you do plan on trying Di Fara’s in spite of my warning, be aware that it’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Dom also takes a rest between 4pm and 7pm, so you’ll have to plan accordingly.

Di Fara (site) ★★★☆☆
1424 Ave J
Brooklyn, NY 11230
Neighborhood: Midwood

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4 responses to “Di Fara – the slow decline of a legend

  • Mo Arafat

    Pizza looks delicious, and was delicious. The behind the scenes look at the place makes me almost want to regurgitate it back out.

    The square pizza, I agree, was underwhelming. Each ingredient (the bread, sauce, cheese) was phenomenal individual, but together, was less than the sum of its parts.

    I will be returning again, though, just to try the regular pie again. It was as close to heaven as a slice can get.

    • eatloveny

      You’re spot on about the sum being less than the individual parts.

      Instead of spending two hours of your life and $5 on Di Fara’s for a *slice of heaven,* you should check out other pizzerias that are slated to be the best of NY. There’s a lot to explore in the city, and limited time. Use it to your advantage.

  • Ishmam

    Definitely should have tried the regular pie. It is much better, I’ll swear by it. I didn’t think the square pizza was good at all, save the cheese. Way too much sauce. The regular pie is worth it. Disappointing you didn’t like the pizza; though understanding since the square pie was not great to begin with.

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