Over 50 years ago, in 1965, Italian immigrant Domenico DeMarco opened Di Fara Pizza in the Midwood section of Brooklyn.
To this day, it’s considered by critics and locals alike to be “the best of the best,” as former chef Anthony Bourdain reportedly put it back in 2007.
Just look at this:
There’s a lot of pizza in New York City. It’s a cliché maybe, but Di Fara Pizza is considered by many to be New York City’s best pizza. It’s notoriously expensive ($30 for a regular cheese pizza), and has a notoriously long wait (over an hour, easy). It’s also dangerously delicious. And I should know — I ventured deep into Brooklyn to try Di Fara’s legendary pizza for myself. This is what it’s like!
The first thing you need to do is get to a part of Brooklyn that isn’t well-serviced by New York’s world famous subway system. My wife and I took the B68 bus.
One of the best parts of going to Di Fara’s is visiting the Midwood section of Brooklyn.
Midwood is a predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, Eastern European in origin, though plenty of other religious groups and ethnicities live in the area. Famous names, from Adam “MCA” Yauch (of the Beastie Boys) to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, hail from the Midwood section of Brooklyn. The neighborhood has largely resisted the forces of gentrification sweeping Brooklyn’s western coast (the side facing Manhattan).
But you’re here for the pizza. I get it. Di Fara Pizza is located at the corner of Avenue J and East 15th Street. I went at night, but this is what it looks like during the day from the outside:
Once you get inside, the first thing you’ll want to do is to give the menu a look. Gird yourself for those prices — they’re crazy high!
Maybe you don’t see it, but yes, the price of a regular cheese pizza is a whopping $30:
Before you get too exasperated about that price, there’s good reason for it: First and foremost, there’s only one (elderly) gentleman, Domenico DeMarco, making the pizza.
Second, the ingredients used in Di Fara’s pizzas are high quality, directly from Italy.
As DeMarco explained in a New York Times article from 2004:
“My pizza is good, because I use fresh tomatoes. They come from Italy, from Salerno. Then I started to get mozzarella from Italy, from my hometown in the province of Caserta. It’s $8 a pound, and this parmesan, it’s $12. It comes twice a week. This might have been made two days ago, or three days ago.
I do this as an art. I don’t look to make big money. If somebody comes over here and offers me a price for the store, there’s no price. There’s no money in the world they could pay me for it. I’m very proud of what I do. I don’t have any employees; I use my kids.”
But enough about money and ingredients — here’s the pizza:
Wondering how the pizza was? It was really good.
I’ve lived in New York City for over six years, and eaten at some of New York’s best (from well-known spots like John’s of Bleecker Street to lesser known gems like Luigi’s in Green-wood). Before that, I grew up with amazing pizza from first- and second-generation Italian families that moved to the suburbs in the 1960s and ’70s to open restaurants. I lived in the Mediterranean region for a year in college. I really like pizza, y’all.
All that said, Di Fara’s was easily one of the best pizzas I’ve ever tasted. Every bite is a punch in the face of flavor, accented by sharp parmesan and herbaceous fresh basil. It easily stands among the titans of New York pizza.
I mean, come on — look at this delicious piece of art:
There’s clearly a lot of thought put into even the simplest cheese pie. The sauce is tangy and sweet, contrasting beautifully with the sharp, salty parmesan and gooey, creamy mozzarella. The crust is, in many places, burned black and soaked with savory, pungent olive oil. At first it looks overdone, but it’s another intentional move from DeMarco — the man does have over 50 years experience making pizza, so I’m gonna defer to his judgment.
Don’t take my word for it — here’s DeMarco himself explaining it:
“I come from Italy, and I go back there every once in a while to see how they do it [the dough] over there. They don’t throw it in the icebox. It’s not supposed to be cold dough. The fresh dough bubbles when you put it in the oven, and the bubbles get a little burnt. You see the pizza, and it’s got a lot of black spots, it’s Italian pizza. If you see pizza that’s straight brown, it’s not Italian pizza.”
There are some downsides to eating at Di Fara’s, built into the experience:
Di Fara Pizza has a legendarily long line. We arrived on a Sunday night at around 6:45PM. We got our pizza at around 8PM. Really.
Di Fara Pizza is cash only, and has limited seating. You’d better be ready for a long wait, likely on your feet, and you better have a good chunk of cash on you (remember: a single, standard eight slice cheese pie costs thirty dollars).
That said, it’s a worthwhile trek for any pizza lover. It’s also a great way for tourists to see a part of New York City that’s actually lived in by New Yorkers.
And, clearly, we had no problem finishing the pizza — this slice didn’t last long after the photo was taken.
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