When we go to NYC every year we manage to do a lot of eating. But if there is one thing we tend to avoid, it’s Italian food. I know that some of the best restaurants these days in New York are Italian, and I’m probably missing out, but still. There is only so much time, and so much food we can eat and I’m just not going to waste effort on things we can find easily back in Rome.
But during our most recent trip we managed to make one very important Italian pit stop. Who knew that one of my favorite meals during our trip would be a pizza place in Brooklyn?
During a whirlwind drive through Brooklyn with our friend Edward we managed to eat our way through pie, barbecue, chocolate and bourbon. Our final stop, before heading over the bridge and back into Manhattan was at Di Fara’s.
Di Fara’s is way famous, and has been written about millions of times. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I think I had imagined something more along the lines of all the artisinal, hipsterish places that has been on the rest of our Brooklyn food trek. But Di Fara’s was completely old school. It looked exactly like all the other pizza-by-the-slice places I had ever known in NY. Dingy kind of window, beat up counter, a handful of tables covered in greasy paper plates.
Edward had warned us before hand, that there would be a line and a huge wait. When we got there though, there were only a about 8 people hanging out, so we thought we were ok. Our names and order got scribbled on the yellow pad that is their ‘system’ (three slices) and were told it would be at least 45 minutes. 45 minutes. For a slice of pizza. Well, ok.
Now, if you’ve ever bought a slice of pizza in New York, then you know that there is no wait. It is immediate and instant pizza gratification. And at first I couldn’t quite figure out what the wait was about, since the place wasn’t that crowded.
That’s when I started to watch the pizzas being made. Domenico DeMarco opened Di Fara’s in 1964 and has been hand making the pizzas, all by himself, ever since. It was amazing to watch him take the dough, stretch it out, check the other pizzas cooking in the oven, stretch it out a bit more, cut one of the pizzas that was already done, go back to the original pizza and add some toppings, take a cooked pizza out of the oven, and on and on. All by himself. He seems to allow his daughter to take the orders, and there was another family member who would bring him toppings from a back room, but as far as actually making the pizzas, it was only DeMarco and there was no rushing things.
Waiting turned out to be kind of fun, mostly because it was fascinating to watch DeMarco at work. He never looked up, was completely concentrated on the pizza at hand. The only painful part was watching others walk away with their slices as our hunger increased.
Finally though, it was our turn. “Three slices Edward!” the daughter called out.
Our slices, sitting on top of a wax paper-covered paper place, had each been topped with fresh basil (hand cut with scissors seconds before by DeMarco).
Thin crust, a thin slick of tomato sauce and just enough mozzarella. As good as anything, and even – I have to admit – much better than a lot of pizza I get back in Rome. Definitely worth the wait and absolutely worth the trek to Avenue J, if only to get a chance to watch DeMarco do something he so obviously loves.
As we walked out the door, wiping our chins and hands with the flimsy paper napkins I turned to watch him one last time. DeMarco hadn’t looked up the entire hour we were there, so zen-like and concentrated was his pizza making. “Arriverdci and grazie per la pizza” I called out. He looked up,finally, and gave me a huge smile, “Prego!”
Di Fara Pizza
1424 Avenue J
Dinner 6:30 to 9pm