What would you do for a
Klondike bar great pizza? Would you travel for hours to the ends of the Earth? And by that I mean, would you ride the subway for an hour or two deep into Brooklyn? For amazing pizza, anything!
And really, this was supposed to be some amazing pizza. Di Fara was the #1 pizzeria in NYC according to Zagat for 8 years, and it’s been mentioned in numerous places from The New York Times to USA Today to The Today Show. Dude, the mayor even said it was the best in the city. It all started when Domenico DeMarco, who came from a family of bakers and pizza-makers, immigrated to New York from Italy. He’s been running Di Fara for over 45 years, and when you go there today, he’s still the one making the pizza.
Literally, the only one. Making it all by hand, by himself. And that’s part of the reason, if not the reason, that the wait-times for pizza here are outrageous. We’re talking like 2 hours here. My friends and I went on a Friday but thought that since we were going for lunch it wouldn’t be that bad. When we got there around 1 pm (it opens for lunch at noon), we were excited because we didn’t see a line out the door and around the corner–because yes, this happens sometimes. Unfortunately, when we peeked into the incredibly packed place, we heard that the wait was 1 1/2 hours. What! Our original plan was to grab some pizza and then head to the New York Aquarium for its pay-what-you-wish hours on Fridays at 3 pm, so that wasn’t going to work. We decided to come back for dinner but this time prepared to wait, or in other words, not have empty stomachs.
On that first attempt, we thought that it was just packed inside because everyone was waiting the 1 1/2 hours to get a table and get seated. No, no, no. When we went back and actually stepped inside, we saw that that there was no “restaurant” portion of the place. There are a couple fold out tables in the back but that’s it. It’s a tiny space, everyone just kind of packs in there, and the wait-time just reflects how long it takes them to get to your order.
After standing around for a while, looking and feeling utterly confused how this all worked, a guy who looked like he’s done this a million times told us that we had to go place our order with the lady at the end of the counter. The lady there writes down your name and order on this yellow legal pad, and let me tell you, she had to flip through lots of pages of unfilled orders to write down our name. She told us that we had about 2 hours. Yowza. After wandering around for a while, we came back and decided to stake out the back area to grab a seat whenever someone else got up so we could eat inside when our order was finally up.
During this waiting around, we quickly noticed something. There’s no music playing inside and everyone is deathly quiet. It’s so odd. Maybe it’s a combination of everyone being so hungry they don’t feel like talking to anyone or they’ve entered a trance-like state because they’ve been waiting for so long, but it’s basically an incredibly eerie silence while everyone’s eyes are on DeMarco, carefully making each pie. There’s something about watching him work that’s so soothing. This is a man who’s doing what he’s meant to do. And when he’s generously drizzling olive oil and cutting fresh basil over the pies with kitchen scissors, you just know you’re in for something good.
Which leads me to what makes the Di Fara pizza special, besides the obvious care and skill behind the process…the imported ingredients. Yeah, the olive oil and San Marzano tomatoes, but really, I’m talking about the buffalo mozzarella and freshly grated grana padano and three types of mozzarella and hand-grated Parmigiano. We went with the Classic Pie, which comes with sausage, peppers, mushrooms, and onions, but if I had to do it again, I would go for the regular pie to really savor and enjoy all the flavors without any toppings getting in the way. Too late for me, but I suggest you do that if it’s your first time.
I get why a lot of people might think Di Fara is overrated. When you’ve waited for something for hours and are starving, it makes sense that anything short of out-of-this-world is going to let you down. The sheer fact of waiting for your pizza leads to so much build-up on top of everything else you might have heard. But all of that aside, I truly think that it’s one of the best pizzas I’ve had. You can taste the quality, and it’s as simple as that. Enough said.
Now, full disclosure: this is not going to be cheap by pizza standards. A regular pie is $28, and the square pie (they serve those here too!) and classic pie will run you $32. When the price for a slice was raised to $5 a while back, everyone kind of freaked out–not a surprising reaction in the city of $1 pizza. But when you’re here, you’re paying for the experience. No, not the experience of the restaurant with its tiny, narrow waiting area and bright fluorescent lighting. It’s the experience of seeing and enjoying the product of a master at work.
Di Fara Classic Pie
1424 Ave J
Brooklyn, NY 11230