Heaven is Made of Cheese and Tomato Sauce

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A few years ago I had to move from Long Island to Brooklyn. I didn’t much care one way or another about the move as I really just dwell in my room most of the time anyway. The one shining moment about the move though was when I realized how close I would be to the most magical place in the city, Di Fara Pizza. In the middle of Midwood, a predominantly orthodox jewish area of brooklyn, is a little pizzeria that, for all intents and purpose, has no reason to be there. And yet, even with its quasi-misplaced location, it’s probably the most successful storefront in the area and that’s for only one reason, the food. It looks like nothing on the outside (pic above) and inside isn’t much better (recently renovated though, not that one who hasn’t been there before could tell) but, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you, this is the best slice of pizza you’ll ever come across.

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The place is run by a little old man in his mid 70’s, Dom DeMarco, and his kids. His kids help with taking orders and preparing the ingredients for the next pie, but Dom is the only one who ever makes anything, slowly, by hand, fresh per order. At first it will seem like he mechanically moves around the workstation preparing one pie after another, and to some extent that’s true. But as you watch him, and if you don’t get there early you’ll be watching for a while, he almost looks like he’s dancing. There’s no real precision to his workmanship, everything is by feel. How do you spread the sauce on? Dump some on and spread until it looks good. Is the pie in the oven done? Let’s shove a hand inside to check. Watching him work is really half the pleasure of the entire experience, well not half, but a good portion. As you stand there, the smell of the cooking pies fills you with hunger and anticipation until finally your turn arrives, and what meets you is simply perfection.

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The process. It takes a long, long time to get your food. The first reason is that he’s an old man, so cut him some slack. The second is the amount of ingredients and steps that go into each pie. He starts with some designer dough that’s special ordered and spreads across his work table. Once it’s in a nice, thin circle, he pours on the tomato sauce. This sauce is magnificent, made from plum tomatoes. They’re never completely crushed into the sauce so every now and then a slice comes out with a little chunk of tomato. Make sure to fight tooth and nail for this slice because those pieces of tomato or mouthwateringly unbelievable. Next, he drops on two different cheeses, buffalo mozzarella, and and some parmigiano-reggiano because if you’re gonna use cheese, you better make it the best damn cheese you can get your hands on. Then we pour some extra virgin olive oil both under and on top of the pie and into the oven it goes. Every now and then he’ll slide his hand into the oven and check the pie, and turn it by hand. I would have a photo of this, except I flinch every time I see him do it, pretty sure his fingertips have lost any feeling they may have once had. Once he decides the pie is read he pulls it out and lays it on the counter, bringing delight to the owner of the pie, and jealousy from everyone else still lying in wait.

He then sprinkles the third and final cheese, the gran padano; one of the sharpest and most delicious cheeses to ever find their way to a pizza (I always ask for some extra of the padano, they put it in a container so I can sprinkle more on later). The pizza is still so hot at this point, you can stand and watch as this third cheese melts its way into the pie.

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After that comes the final touch, some cuts of fresh basil, and another small pouring of olive oil to complete the pie.

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The end result is magnificence (though don’t be greedy and bite int too quickly, I did that today. Burned my lip and got a blister, still finished my half of the pie though because somethings are just worth the pain).

Here are some tips and tricks for visiting Di Fara. First, it’s right off the Avenue J stop on the Q-Train, but if you want to drive make sure you’re with other people, that way one of you can look for parking while the rest get in line. once inside, break off into groups again, one person stays in line to make the order, while the rest scramble for a table and chairs; the place is small and every second counts, time is of the essence. Next, come early. I usually arrive 20-30 minutes before they open, because once they get going, it takes longer and longer for your pie to come to you (especially when some asshole forgets where he is and orders five pies to go). This is what the line looked like 15 minutes before opening (Brother held my spot while I went to take this photo. Got there 30 minutes early and was  still only third in line, my skills are slipping):

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They have a weird system for who gets what pie, if you order multiple pies then your pies have to come out close enough to the same time for them to be yours. If you order two pies and only one is ready, it will go to the next person who ordered one pie. The optimal group size and order is to come with four people and order two round pies to stay. If you order to stay they’ll give you one pie and cook the second while you’re eating. If you’re waiting on your first pie, and a square pie has come out for slice orders GET ONE. The square pie is absolutely amazing, thick crunchy crust, globs of cheese floating on top on a pizza so hot the cheese is still partially liquid. It’s a must have. If you’re ordering to go, go for one round pie and one square pie, it’s a lot of food, and day old pizza for breakfast is the best. Next, when ordering, don’t order slices of the round pizza, go for the pie; this is for two reasons. First, because so many people order pies it’s hard for him to make a pie for slices, and he only makes them one at a time, so you might be waiting a while. Second, a slice of pizza is $5, but the pie is $28, so you actually get a per slice discount when you order the pie (take home what you don’t finish, can never go wrong wit too much pizza). Finally, don’t get toppings. The pizza is perfect the way it is, don’t sully it with more than what’s necessary. So, get on out there and enjoy a slice of heaven.

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