After wandering through Chinatown in New York one day, we suddenly were at a loss for what to do next. We could have gone to a museum, we could have wandered the streets more (but the clouds were foreboding), we could even have sat down somewhere and eaten somemore. And well, we kind of did do that last thing, only we hopped on a train to Brooklyn to try Di Fara’s pizza!
This was one foodie trip that I was really really really excited about as Di Fara’s is considered one of the best places to get New York pizza. Going all the way to Brooklyn was a little intimidating to me – I’d so far only stayed on Manhattan and all those subway lines leading off the edge of the map were surely a sign that we were heading off to the end of the world. But actually, it’s really easy to get there. For Di Fara’s, take the Q line to Avenue J, exit the station, turn left and walk up the road about 1-2 blocks. Not so hard.
The place is really really tiny, much smaller than I expected. There’s a counter where you place your order and where a few people choose to eat their slices, and 4 or 5 small tables. There are two menus, one for pizza slices and whole pizzas posted on the left hand side and the other for hot sandwiches and pasta dishes posted on the right. Everyone we saw there went straight for the pizza, either eating slices there or ordering whole pizzas for takeaway or sharing a whole pie there with friends. They make two kinds of pizzas – a New York-style round or a Sicilian-style square. Regardless of style, it’s $4 a slice or $5 with a topping. We each had a slice of the round first. I think this is their more famous pizza?
We had to wait for a fresh pizza to come out of the oven first. We watched as Domenico DeMarco (from the cuttings on the wall and a quick calculation, he’s at least 70 years old this year) spread the dough, spread the tomato sauce, grate the cheese on (a harder mozzerella, not fresh balls), and then slide it into one of the ovens. When it comes out, it goes straight onto a round pan where he examines it, throws on a handful or two of grated parmesan (or is it grana padano?), takes a huge bunch of basil in one hand and snips the fragrant leaf all over the freshly baked pie. Sliced into eight and then handed out.
This was amazing. This was some damn fine pizza. (Nope, haven’t been to Naples yet…I’ll let the situation calm down over there first before visiting.) The crust was thin but with some body to it. The edges of the crust had bubbled and were crisp. The sauce tasted wonderfully fresh and the olive oil (extra virgin, Filippo Berio) was delicious. The two cheeses could be tasted individually and blended beautifully. Oh, this was a wonderful slice. And oh, we walked out of there very happy!
We walked around the neighbourhood a bit but didn’t get very far as it started raining. We killed some time in a nearby nail parlour (it was torrential rain alright? We had to go somewhere quick!) and upon discovering that we had empty stomachs again, then wandered back to Di Fara’s for another slice. This time, a square slice; I mean, we had to sample all they had to offer, all in the name of science, no?
Again we had to wait for a fresh pizza to come out of the oven. This is a twice (perhaps thrice) baked pizza: first the dough is placed in the tray, baked once, olive oil is spread under the base, and then the sauce and fresh mozzarella are placed on top and the whole thing baked again. When it comes out of the oven, the tomato sauce and mozzarella have melted together and form something like molten lava threatening to spill out of the top of the pan if tipped a little too much. Again, there’s the extra parmesan on top and fresh basil snipped over and the whole thing is cut up and our slices are handed over to us.
This was impossible to tackle with our hands and so plastic forks and knives were employed. The base is much thicker and in some places, crunchy all the way through. Part of my slice was a bit burned (top of the photo) and the lava-like mixture tended to slip off the pizza but it still was a terrific slice. However, I still prefer the round slice.
For a real feel of what it’s like at the tiny joint, check out this video from Slice entitled “Sunday at Di Fara”.
Highly recommended! Go go go!
Di Fara Pizza
1424 Ave. J