Midwood is a small neighborhood deep in the heart of Brooklyn between Prospect Park and Coney Island. The subway ride is a good hour or more from midtown. And when you arrive, most of the signs are in Hebrew. As we walked from the Q train, we passed a few places that attempted to advertise their own pizza, but why even bother when they’re just a few doors away from the legendary Di Fara. But as it turns out, Di Fara is the only non-kosher pizza joint on the street.Di Fara is also legendary because of its owner and pizzaiolo, Domenico DeMarco. DeMarco is well past 70 years old, yet he makes every single pizza by hand. He ladles the tomato sauce, grates the cheese, drizzles on the oil, bakes the dough, and then finally, shears fresh basil (grown in his windowsill garden) over each pie. He does this very methodically (and slowly) as if he has been doing it for over 40 years. Wait a pizza-loving minute…
Di Fara has been catering to the public for decades. And it’s often considered the best pizza in New York for almost as long. As with any good NY pizzeria, the lines start early and run long. We got there shortly after 6 (when they open for dinner) and there were quite a few people already outside. They were opening a bit late because according to a hand written sign on the door, they had a shortage of dough.
When we were finally called over, we took our slices and huddled to one of the few run-down tables. We had just watched the pizza bubbling from the heat of the gas oven so I knew I should wait for it to cool down. The last thing I wanted was one of those agonizing pizza burns on the roof of my mouth. You know, the ones that remind you of the stupid mistake you made for days after. The resistance was hard (almost futile). I smelled and looked at that seductive cheesy slice. The more I tried to resist, the more I thought of this. But if I waited this long, I figured I could wait a few moments more.
My first slice was the original round slice. It was a bit orange-y but there was plenty of fresh basil to balance the colors. And I loved the charred crust. The bite met my high expectations a bit more than halfway. The cheese was fresh and plentiful. The tomato sauce was a bit messy and wet but had lots of great seasoned flavor.
Slice number two was the square slice. This was cooked in a pan, Sicilian style and received a bit more oil than round one. I watched Dom pour the oil on top and underneath the dough. I imagine that’s a big reason why this slice was incredibly charred and crunchy. The pizza was a bit too oily, but I have to admit that it tasted great. However, this slice was certainly heavier and crunchier.
It was right about this time that the place started filling up with smoke. Nobody paid much attention and the in and out of the customers aired the store out a bit. I really wanted to finish my last slice, but I had been on a pizza excursion today and the heaviness of the square was just too much for my little body to take. And I could feel the smoke and grease seeping into my clothing.
Di Fara is pure New York pizza. The gas oven, the crispy thin crust, and the slightly dirty environment bring to mind the old days rather than the old country. The technique is still Italian (Dom is from near Napoli) but the methods here are all Brooklyn. It’s definitely worth a trip to see what the fuss is all about. And as good as the pizza is (and it is mighty tasty), the legendary Domenico steals the show.
Is Di Fara the best pizza in NY? It’s a good possibility. It gets a 9 out of 10 from me. The flavors and textures are what you expect from the best pizza in NY and the trip out to Midwood and the wait is an adventure in itself.