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Di Fara Pizza: One of New York's Great Slices

Di Fara Pizza: One of New York's Great Slices

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One of New York's Great Slices

Dom De Marco's handmade pies are things of beauty.

The New York style of pizza is a completely different breed from the Neapolitan style, Chicago-style, and countless other pizza varieties. It's big, cut into 6 to 8 slices, and is firm on the bottom, able to hold up to toppings, as opposed to saggy like a Neapolitan. For what's essentially the Platonic ideal of New York-style pies, look no further than Di Fara, located in the unsung Brooklyn neighborhood of Midwood.

What makes Di Fara great? In short, Dom De Marco, who founded the pizzeria decades ago and remains the only person who ever touches the pies. Somewhat of a local celebrity. Di Marco takes his time with each pie, stretching the dough, applying the toppings, glugging on olive oil, and cutting basil directly onto it, even as lines of hungry patrons stretch out the door. He exists in a void where pizza is the only constant. He's been at it so long that he doesn't even use a pizza peel to remove the pizzas from the oven; he uses his bare hands.

When you go, make sure you order a whole pie, and be prepared to wait (unless you go right when they open during the week, which is what I did). If you can, watch the man in action, the star of his own movie. He's methodical, a perfectionist, and the pizzas he serves, while possibly a bit too charred for some tastes, is pizza perfection.

The use of high quality ingredients plus such a deft hand is the secret to Di Fara, but making a pilgrimage there is more than just about the pizza. It's about seeing a legend at work.

Not A Love Letter: Di Fara Is Home To New York City’s Junkiest Pizza Slice

&ldquoThis is New York&rsquos best pizza, bruh!&rdquo exclaimed one self-proclaimed expert and Di Fara diehard as he carried a $28 cheese pie to his table in the cramped Midwood institution. As the superlatives continued, I surveyed the joint, observing obvious evidence to the contrary. Cans of Filipo Berio olive oil, notoriously bland and low-quality industrial junk, sat in the prep area. Owner Dom DeMarco grated Grande brand mozzarella from a block &mdash each flaccid shaving was an affront to nature and dairy. The basil was plucked straight out of its transport box and trimmed, unwashed, onto every pie. The oven was opened and closed repeatedly, causing temperature fluctuations that wreaked havoc on the pizzas within.

Nothing seemed to indicate we were about to experience pizza nirvana, and the clear &mdash blatant &mdash display of squalid ingredients registered somewhere between disheartening and repugnant. Yet DeMarco and his family-run pizzeria have been praised by critics and clients, from Bourdain to de Blasio and customers queue, often for hours, for a taste of what they are told is the best of the best.

It was a chorus of critics that whipped diners into a frenzy about Di Fara in the first place. When the pizzeria was first lauded by Eric Asimov in the New York Times back in 2001, the pizzeria was pulled out of relative obscurity and more positive reviews rolled in. One and a half decades later, Di Fara is now a full-blown NYC institution and has the framed accolades, passionate clientele and escalating prices to prove it.

Institution status at Di Fara was achieved not on the pies alone. The pizzeria&rsquos success hinges largely on its story. At Di Fara, the story revolves around proprietor Don DeMarco, who rarely takes a day off, makes all the pizzas himself and shuffles into the back to fetch dough for each order. Articles and TV shows have cast him as a perfectionist with a slavish devotion to tradition and quality. Yet his poor choice of ingredients and disappointing pizzas seem to suggest otherwise.

But Dom&rsquos lazy sourcing and banal product has somehow transcended criticism. Journalists and bloggers perpetuate his mythology, telling his story ad nauseum (hey, here&rsquos a documentary, here&rsquos the Times covering its slice price hike&hellipto $5) and drawing attention away from the food&rsquos shortcomings. Pizza tourists who cling to articles and blog posts live to collect experiences like Di Fara. That is, they thrive on the feeling of exclusivity associated with waiting in lines. Judging from Di Fara&rsquos popularity and nearly universal appeal, most diners are ill equipped to discern truly high quality ingredients from what DeMarco uses.

The pizzas we tried confirmed that even a six-decade veteran can&rsquot transform industrial toppings and ordinary flour into spectacular pizza. Those &ldquoMade in Italy&rdquo ingredients everyone gets so worked up about aren&rsquot actually any good. After all, San Marzano is not necessarily synonymous with quality. In pizza making, if you start off with poor quality ingredients, the final product is doomed. Indeed, at Di Fara, the sloppy crust made from Italian flour ranges from overcooked and chalky to chewy and insipid. The meat toppings are ordinary. But the cheese was the most terrifying part. With each bite, the grease from both the melted mozzarella and Berio&rsquos sub-par oil hit my palate, coating it with a bland viscosity. This was immediately followed by the liberally salted tomato sauce its straightforward savory note was the only thing that made the pizza a slight notch above edible. But by the second slice, the grease from the pizza had soaked through the dough, leaving it flabby and dull.

The oil slick caused by the three-cheese cocktail that tops each pie (cow's milk mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella and either grana padano or parmigiano reggiano depending on who you talk to) &mdash not to mention the difficulty with which it is digested &mdash makes Di Fara pizza boring at best, and at worst a Q express train ride to stomach cramps. After three slices and two whole pies (costing $75), we were full, but not sated, and needed a well-made, crisp-crusted, fairly priced pie (or two) to get our minds off the great Di Fara disappointment. So we drove directly to Best Pizza in Williamsburg. Over slices of a properly made cheese pizza served by a polite staff in a clean environment, Di Fara&rsquos flaws seemed even more egregious. But for Di Fara&rsquos fans, ignorance is oily bliss.

This Famous NYC Pizza Can Be Delivered to Your Door

Finally a way to skip the insanely long line (and the trip to the Big Apple!).

Di Fara Pizza is a Brooklyn institution – a humble corner pizza joint in the borough’s modest Midwood neighborhood that a) makes what many regard as among the best (if not the best) pizzas in New York City, b) attracts pie and slice lovers from all over the world and c) has crazy-long lines that can be off-putting, patience-testing and apt to turn your hungry into hangry.

Now, though, you can avoid the lines (and the trip to New York) and enjoy Di Fara’s famous Neapolitan and Sicilian pies -- with their legendary crisp crusts yummy tomato sauces three-cheese blend of fresh buffalo mozzarella, fior di latte, and Parmigiano-Reggiano and scissor-cut basil topping -- in the comfort of your own home.

Di Fara has hooked up with Goldbelly, an online company that finds iconic local foods from around the country and ships them to your door, so that anyone, anywhere in the U.S. can enjoy its vaunted pizza pretty much straight from the loving hands of Domenico (“Dom”) De Marco, who founded Di Fara Pizza in 1965 after moving to Brooklyn from Italy and still carefully (almost tenderly) makes most of the pizzas served over his humble counter. (Thus the long lines …)

The freshly made pies will be shipped directly from Di Fara’s -- frozen with dry ice and with instructions on how to heat them.

“Goldbelly and the Di Fara family have worked together for a few months getting the packaging and product perfect for shipping -- even down to the little basil bags,” a spokesperson tells FN Dish.

The partnership will launch on Thursday, December 5, for a very special reason: It’s DeMarco’s 83rd birthday. In honor of the beloved pizza maker, Goldbelly is offering a limited batch of $83 four-pizza packages shipped anywhere in the U.S.

Goldbelly has received more than 20,000 Di Fara pizza requests so far, making it the delivery company’s most-requested items since its 2013 launch, according to founder and CEO Joe Ariel.

“There are many people around the country who crave the taste of New York City and the iconic pizza of Di Fara's and can't get it,” Ariel says. “We aim to make their food dreams come true.”

Biting into a Di Fara pizza without the hours-long wait? That’s definitely living the dream.

Apr 2 Di Fara

New Yorkers take their pizza seriously. Perhaps that's because of New York's Italian roots, considering 30% of Italy immigrated to New York at the turn of the 20th century. The majority of these immigrants emigrated from the south, from areas such as Naples and Sicily, carrying with them recipes, traditions, and skill to turn mere flour and water into one of the most delicious foods ever created. It is no coincidence, then, that New York has been labeled by many as the pizza capital of the world. But is it really? Truth be told, a visitor to America's pizza home may not feel the same way. While great pizza in this city can be found, the majority of pizzerias serve mass-produced pies lacking any sort of character or flavor. With the viral growth of chains like Sbarro, Famiglia, and "CPK," most of the city's great pizza has moved from an Italian artisan craft to the product of a big city assembly line. A relatively mundane mix of ingredients, in theory, pizza should be simple. But simple ingredients lend to complex preparation intricacies that, if left to the wrong hands, can result in a pizza that tastes terrible. Let alone soulless. A lack of skill, care and quality ingredients can lead to soggy crust, excessively salty cheese, oily residue, and a frown. Great pizza is no easy task.

There is one place, though, in a far-away land called Brooklyn, that is a Neapolitan oasis in a desert of dry, dense, tasteless slices. Some might consider it a little out of the way, as it's closest metro stop is Avenue J off the Q subway line, about 45 minutes from Times Square. The pizzaiolo Domenico DeMarco has owned Di Fara for forty years. For forty years he's been the only one with his hands on the dough and those same hands, often bare, reaching into the hot pizza ovens. The place has been shut down on numerous occasions for health code violations. Zagat gives Di Fara the lowest rating in New York, an abysmal 4, for atmosphere and ambiance. Yet despite this, lines for pizza can wrap around the corner and into the night. If looking for "toppings" like pineapple and ham, or low-fat tofu with sustainable organic oregano and French comté, Di Fara is not the place. Here, there are no gimmicks. Mr. DeMarco is not bothered by the number of hungry people waiting in line for lunch. He stops to talk to locals, takes walks into the store room leaving the front counter unattended, and takes his time cutting fresh basil and pouring olive oil on every pie as he removes it from the oven. He absolutely loves what he does, and it shows.

Di Fara's signature pizza is the square pie, often known around NYC as the "Sicilian" or the "grandma slice". This pizza is heavy not only from the crust, but from the cheese and sauce layered on top. It's also New York-sized, meaning Italian onlookers might question why it's double the size of what they're used to. The crust is fairly spongy like a crisp, airy focaccia of about 3/4 of an inch thick. Thanks to the deep, heavy pan in which it is baked, the underside is always on the fine border of crispy brown and burnt black, with just a hint of charred flavor adding complexity to the flavor. Holding below the crust makes the excess flour sand off in a fine powder, conveniently absorbing excess oil that may have spilled overboard. His sauce tastes slightly of pork fat and ground bits of pancetta, a blend that contributes to a meaty tomato sauce with surprisingly little hint of smokiness. Molten islands pools of fresh mozzarella bubble on the smoking red sauce when the pie emerges from the oven. A bit of basil gets snipped on top, and the challenge begins -- do you have the patience to wait to dig in, or will that first delicious mouthful be consolation for a newly-scorched tongue?

Health conscious onlookers might notice in horror that his pizzas are dribbled with olive oil not one, nor two, but three times. Once before the dough is set in. This causes the dough to act as a sponge in the oven, absorbing flavor while not sticking to the pan. The second time is just before placing the pizza in the oven. And the third time is just before service. This is not forgetfulness, but a relic from many years ago when pizza was created for flavor and not for California. Between the cheese and olive oil, this pizza packs just as much flavor as calories. And my, is it worth it.

The second pie is what you and I might know as the traditional pizza margarita, but here it's known simply by it's shape: the "round". Otherwise known as the pizza barometer from which other pizzas can be compared, this pie has a much thinner crust and no pork in its sauce, but is just as delicious as it's sibling, the square. The crust remains crispy and never gets soggy. It's a lighter pizza by Di Fara standards, meaning a slice can be picked up with one hand without risk of collapse. The quality of the cheeses used becomes immediately apparent, because there is no orange oil leaked from baking any of them, as seen with cheese of low quality. The only visible oil on this pie is that of the Colavita and Philippo Berio oil chef DeMarco uses.

For this pie, DeMarco uses three types of mozzarella of different moisture contents. The first is called "La Bonita," and comes from Caserta, Italy, near where the chef is from. The second is Fior di Latte, a bufala mozzarella submerged in water tubs. The last is regular mozzarella from the Grand Cheese Company. This mix of three cheeses of different salt contents adds to the complexity of the slice, mixing different varieties of salt and sweet.

What continues to amaze me is the way Chef DeMarco is able to crisp the crust -- even blackening certain parts -- without burning. Despite his jovial conversation with the line out the door, or his long, delayed trips into the back to bring forward more cheese or flour, those pizzas are always taken out of the ovens at precisely the right time. Sometimes he even uses his bare hands! Scattered about on top of the sauce and cheese is freshly cut basil that Chef DeMarco cuts with plastic scissors seconds before serving.

But even though Di Fara offers New York's finest slices, there is a more impressive, lesser-known option on the menu. My most memorable experience at Di Fara involves not the pizza for which it is so (rightfully) well-known, but for a crescent shaped stuffed pillow of cheesy goodness, thoughts of which make me contemplate the quickest return possible. Di Fara's calzone is what I believe to be the best item served there. It starts with pizza dough folded in half around an overflowing heap of fresh ricotta cheese. Overflowing in the sense that no matter how tightly he seems to seal this giant Italian dumpling, fresh ricotta always seems to find its way out. After folded he compacts the edges so as to form a tentative seal, locking in the moisture and flavor of the fresh cheese. Delicious.

Now comes the magic: he takes scissors and clips small half-inch dimples in the sealed region around the crust, which result into this perfect texture when combined with the moisture from the ricotta. This saw-tooth patterns creates a texture very similar to that small sweet spot of a pizza in-between the crispy crust and moist slice, and it's everywhere. Lightly seasoned with fresh basil and olive oil, the dominant flavor here is fresh ricotta and perfectly baked dough. It is absolutely delicious, and well worth the hour wait, as each calzone is baked to order.

While waiting in line amongst Brooklyn locals and tourists trekking an outer-borough culinary adventure, diners' certainly get hungry and may even briefly question the merits of waiting two hours for pizza. The crowd waiting on line can at times be pushy and direct after all, this is New York. But the scent of fresh pizza can be pretty convincing, and somehow makes waiting not so bad. Di Fara is edible proof that fine dining needs no minimum budget or Michelin stars, since the cost of a pie or Calzone is a steal for $15. This is the freshest and best tasting pizza outside of Napoli, and anyone in New York for more than a few days would be insane missing out on something truly special if they didn't make make a lunch-time trip to Brooklyn and say hello to Domenico DeMarco.

Where a Meal Can Cost a Fortune, 99¢ Pizza Catches On

The signs at the corner of Ninth Avenue and West 41st Street have an unbelievable, you-gotta-be-kidding quality, like free beer or affordable housing — 99¢ Fresh Pizza. Like many things in New York City, they are also too good to be true. They are off by a penny, as one slice actually costs one dollar.

Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, New Yorkers stand at the outdoor counter of 99¢ Fresh Pizza and pay as much for a plain slice as they did for a subway fare in 1986. At $1.50, the fee to use the sidewalk A.T.M. nearby is more expensive.

This being a city with a 10.4 percent unemployment rate in January, this being a recession, there is no such thing as change that is spare. Customers, taking the signs at their word, have been known to ask for a penny back after paying with a dollar bill.

“I give them penny,” explained Mohammad Hossain, a manager at the pizza shop.

No pennies change hands one block down Ninth Avenue, at West 40th Street, where the competition posted signs of their own: “Pizza, $1.00 per slice, tax included.” Postal workers, teenagers and businessmen step into the 24-hour 2 Bros. Pizza, $5 bills in hand. Allegiances have formed. Trash has been talked. A cabdriver said he preferred 99¢ Fresh over 2 Bros., because it was easier to find street parking outside 99¢ Fresh. A patron of 2 Bros. prefers their sauce over the sauce up the block.

Each establishment has the same daily special: Two slices and a can of soda for $2.75, which is what most places charge for a single slice. There is indoor seating at 2 Bros., but none at 99¢ Fresh. There is grated parmesan on the counter at 99¢ Fresh, but none at 2 Bros.

Asked who opened first, Mr. Hossain was adamant, perhaps even offended: “This is first! This is first!”

In New York City, the domain of the $1,000 omelet (Norma’s, at Le Parker Meridien Hotel) and the $41 burger (Old Homestead Steakhouse), the dollar wars between 99¢ Fresh and 2 Bros. are an unlikely development.

The shops are two of a growing number of New York delis and pizzerias offering $1 slices, a phenomenon that has delighted, dismayed and disturbed pizza lovers, food bloggers and rival pizzeria owners while defying a basic fundamental of the city’s economy — charging as much as you can whenever and wherever you can.

About 15 eateries around the city now sell dollar slices of pizza. The owners of 99¢ Fresh and 2 Bros. have turned bargain pizza into a business model: There are four 99¢ Fresh shops in Manhattan, and four 2 Bros., too. Next month, 99¢ fresh will open its fifth shop on 34th Street near Third Avenue.

While dollar menus have become a staple of many fast-food restaurants in New York, the low-cost pizzerias base their entire restaurants around the idea.

Pizza experts said the rise of dollar pizza was an economy-driven counterpoint to New York’s more celebrated high-end pizza. Last year, Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn, widely considered one of the best in the city because each pie is handmade by the owner using imported ingredients from Italy, raised the price of a plain slice to $5.

“I don’t think a drunk college student cares about whether there’s San Marzano tomatoes on their slice,” Jason Feirman, 25, who writes a pizza blog called I Dream of Pizza, said of the $1 pizza trend. “It’s a good business model. They’re not catering to food blogs. The idea is to turn out these pizzas as fast as they can.”

Theories abound as to how an establishment can sell such cheap food in such an expensive city. Dollar pizza shops have been accused of using frozen dough, skimping on the cheese and sauce and cutting slices too small.

“I think that it’s great for the people that aren’t interested in high-quality product,” said Margaret Mieles, Di Fara’s manager, of dollar-slice establishments.

The owners of 2 Bros. and 99¢ Fresh contend that their slices are made fresh with quality ingredients and that they make their own dough and their own pizza sauce. They describe the dollar-slice business as a kind of public service, with minimal profit margins.

In 2008, when the first 2 Bros. Pizza opened on St. Marks Place in the East Village, the owners decided to have a grand-opening dollar-slice special. It was so popular, they made it permanent.

“Financially, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s part of our brand,” Eli Halali, 26, one of the two brothers who co-own 2 Bros. Pizza, said as he stood next to sacks of General Mills enriched flour in the East Village shop.

Abdul Mohammad, the owner of the 99¢ Fresh chain, said there was no secret to his formula. His stores are in small spaces with low rent in pedestrian-heavy locations that can support a 400-pie day. “If I sell like 20 pies, 30 pies, I cannot pay the rent, pay the employees,” he said. “My rent is cheap. If I pay $15,000 to $20,000 rent, I can’t do dollar slices.”

He said that he made roughly 15 cents to 20 cents profit per slice and that it was not unusual for one 99¢ Fresh location to produce up to 450 pies a day. His pizza is so cheap some customers treat him like a wholesaler, ordering dozens of pies in the morning and selling the slices elsewhere — for $2 each.

At lunchtime the other day at Ninth Avenue and 41st Street, 13 men and women stood on the sidewalk outside 99¢ Fresh, impatiently ordering and impatiently eating slices amid the ambiance of ungentrified Hell’s Kitchen: idling delivery trucks near the rear of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a barking dog named Leo someone tied up down the block, a prostitute who hurried by saying something about $150 for a half-hour and a bearded homeless man with a cane who spoke loudly to himself about the size of the average bear. He ate two slices.

Some rave about the slices at the two chains, saying they are as good or better than more expensive slices, while others are only mildly impressed, or flat-out unimpressed. No one, however, complains about the price.

Last April, Adam Kuban, 35, the managing editor of and the founder of the pizza blog Slice, had what he called a “cheap-slice showdown” between 99¢ Fresh and 2 Bros. In part because of its “better hole structure” in the crust, Mr. Kuban declared 2 Bros. as the winner. Mr. Feirman of I Dream of Pizza would have voted differently, with 99¢ Fresh being his preference.

“Is it the best pizza out there? It’s not,” Mr. Kuban said in an interview, referring to both 99¢ Fresh and 2 Bros. “But for somebody who just wants bread and sauce and cheese, it’ll do you right.”

The inspiration for the trend, said Mr. Mohammad, considered the dollar-slice trailblazer, was not the cabbies, the tourists or the late-night drinkers of Hell’s Kitchen, but another demographic entirely: the homeless, who used a 24-hour drop-in center at Ninth Avenue and 41st Street.

“If they want to buy Chinese food, they need $4,” Mr. Mohammad said. “For a slice, it’s $2.50. I think about these people. I say, ‘I want to do something for these people.’ ”

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."

The 6 best slices of pizza in NYC

There are few New York City foods more iconic than the humble slice, perfected by pizza-making legends from Brooklyn’s Di Fara to Manhattan’s Joe’s Pizza.

But in recent years, the city’s top pizzaiolos have shifted their focus to whole Neapolitan pies — and while it’s led to some delicious discoveries, such as the much-hyped Roberta’s or the beautifully simple Lucali pie, it’s left the city’s slice scene in a state of neglect.

The result: an onslaught of rubbery, reheated wedges fit only for uninformed tourists and late-night revelers already broke from their bar tab.

Thankfully, there’s a slice renaissance a-bubbling. Everyone from Francis Garcia and Sal Basille of Artichoke Pizza fame to Greenpoint’s own Paul Giannone (aka Paulie Gee) are getting in on the slice action with new counter-service joints. And these spots are slinging out single-serving ’za like you’ve never had it before: in Roman squares, in Detroit-style baked-cheese crusts, even sunny side up for breakfast.

Here, The Post rounds up six of the city’s newest, tastiest pizza cuts. Fold, eat and repeat.

The new classic

“There’s something called the pizza cognition theory, [which] states that the pizza that you have first is the pizza that tastes best to you for the rest of your life,” Giannone, of Greenpoint’s famous Paulie Gee’s pizzeria, tells The Post. “The slice I remember was a classic New York slice.” That’s what he’s tossing at his new Greenpoint spot, Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop. His Platonic ideal slices are less fluffy than Paulie Gee’s famous, nan-like Neapolitan pies. But they’re much better for traveling, ideal for one-handed consumption.

Back in 2014, Giannone stopped serving takeout pies at his original eatery — “The best pizza is served right out of the oven,” he says — and was met with a “backlash” from the hungry masses. To appease them, Giannone and chef Andrew Brown started tinkering with his pizza recipe, hoping to find a formula that would help a slice survive the oven-to-table journey. When he found one that worked, he ended up opening a whole new restaurant to go with it.

Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop, which opened last week and is just a three-minute walk from Giannone’s original Greenpoint restaurant, is “an homage to every great old-school New York-style pizzeria that I’ve been going to for the past 50, 60 years,” he says. In the retro space, he serves big, sturdy slices starting at $3.50 and made with “a firmer, snappier crust.” Try standout slices of the white pie, which he says is reminiscent of Totonno’s version, and the Hellboy, a fan-favorite combo of sopressata and Mike’s Hot Honey from the original Paulie Gee’s.

110 Franklin St., Greenpoint

Roman masterpiece

It won’t take you long to wolf down PQR pizzeria’s square, Roman-style slices. But they take much longer to make than they do to eat, co-owner Fabio Casella explains.
“Our dough is fermented for 96 hours,” says Casella, who opened the Upper East Side slice spot this past spring with chef Angelo Iezzi after the success of their other uptown pizzeria, San Matteo. Roman pizza maker Iezzi — who runs the global pizza school Associazione Pizzerie Italiane — and Salerno-born Casella are obsessive about using only the freshest, highest-quality ingredients.

“If you use the right ingredients, 75 percent of your work is done,” says Casella. Such is the case with his summer special, the $7 Piennolo slice, topped with cherry tomatoes imported from Italy’s Vesuvio region, creamy stracciatella cheese, olive oil and fresh basil. “Just [these] ingredients make your mouth full of flavor,” he says.

1631 Second Ave. 646-449-0889

Top toppings

Mama’s Pizzeria on the Upper West Side has served New York-style slices since 1969. But owner Frank Tuttolomondo was looking to expand his family’s repertoire and venture into square territory. “I wanted to bridge the gap between an Italian-style Roman and an American Sicilian [slice],” Tuttolomondo tells The Post. So he opened a counter late last year, just a block away from the original Mama’s, in a cozy, tin-ceilinged space.

Tuttolomondo describes the resulting crust as “nice and airy, like a Roman focaccia,” with a “nice crunch” from a coating of crispy cheese on its edges. Pizza lovers can opt for gourmet toppings, such as red-wine-braised fennel sausage or Gorgonzola with poached pears, on the $4.50 slice. But the pepperoni square, with its shimmery pools of grease in every meaty cup, is an irresistible choice. Wash it down with an Italian-imported beer or glass of wine for just $6.

2750 Broadway, at 106th Street 212-510-7256

Detroit-style stunner

Artichoke Pizza owners Garcia and Basille have a new gourmet slice shop: Lions & Tigers & Squares, which opened in Hell’s Kitchen in the spring and spotlights Detroit-style rectangular slices. “It’s really different” from Artichoke’s cheesy offerings, and just as decadent, Garcia tells The Post. The almost-deep-dish slices are coated all over with Wisconsin brick cheese — a softer, meltier version of cheddar — giving the dough a crunchy crust. “It almost tastes like a Cheez-It,” Garcia says.

The cousin co-owners got deep-dish pizza in their heads while filming Cooking Channel’s “Pizza Cuz,” where they tried a similar four-cornered personal pie at Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit. The restaurant name is a tribute to all things Motor City: Detroit Lions football, Detroit Tigers baseball and, obviously, Detroit square pizza.

Their $5 classic version features two thick bands of tomato sauce over a pillowy bed of cheesy bread. It’s the stuff of dreams, at least for Garcia: “I’ve been making pizza my whole life, and, like, I dream about the friggin’ Lions & Tigers & Squares pie.”

BK’s finest

For more than 50 years, New Yorkers made the pizza pilgrimage to Midwood, Brooklyn, to eat at famed slice spot Di Fara Pizza. Today, it’s much easier to snag a piece of heaven, now that Di Fara is selling its slices in a stall in Williamsburg’s North 3rd Street Market. Margaret Mieles, co-owner and daughter of the pizzeria’s founding father, Domenico DeMarco, wanted to bring the restaurant’s storied slice to a more central part of the city for tourists and locals. The market “felt like the perfect place to start,” she tells The Post. The Di Fara stand serves the food fans know and love: slices, which start at $5, are smothered in a simple yet rich tomato sauce, and served alongside Calabrian chilies that Mieles says are “nearly impossible to find” elsewhere in the US.

103 North Third St., Williamsburg 646-694-9750

Morning glory

Jordan Baker wants you to eat pizza for breakfast. That’s the concept of Baker’s Pizza & Espresso, a sister restaurant to the 30-year-old pizza maker’s Baker’s Pizza in the East Village. The new Hell’s Kitchen spot opens at 8 a.m., and serves breakfast-ready slices featuring baked eggs and other flavors typically found at brunch.

Baker, who runs the shop with brother Jeremy Baker and Bronx-born pie tosser Jamie Cacace, says he would eat egg-topped pizza for breakfast before shifts at his East Village spot. “Regular customers would come in early and would see it and ask for it,” he tells The Post. So they decided to sell it to the masses.

Along with their $5 eggy ’zas, Baker & co. are serving Stumptown coffee and espresso drinks ($3 and up) at their marble-and-tile counter nook. There are also more traditional lunch and dinner pizzas, such as the eponymous Baker’s slice, with caramelized onion, herbed ricotta and house-made pork sausage.

DiFara's ripped by Rosengarten

from David Rosengarten's latest ezine. forgive me if I am violating C'hound policy by copying and pasting from the email I received (the ezine is free).

Pizza with a Smile. or Not

Way back in January, 2002, I published a piece in The Rosengarten Report about New York City pizza—classifying the different types, as well as identifying the very best pizzerias in the five boroughs. I found my #1 "classic New York pizza" at a very old, very small pizza parlor in the heart of Brooklyn called Di Fara, run by Domenic De Marco. "Virtually no one outside of the neighborhood knows about this place," I wrote, "so hurry here please, before De Marco does something sensible like retire."

If you read that piece, I hope you took my advice. Five years later, De Marco is a superstar to a much, much wider public. He has not retired. He is still around, receiving accolades on a regular basis from all quarters the 2007 Zagat Survey, for example, calls Di Fara pizza "da best pizza in Noo Yawk," and nary a freshly researched New York pizza story fails to agree. (The current issue of New York magazine calls De Marco "the last of the old pizza masters.")

Having not been back to Di Fara since all this happened, I thought it was high time I got myself over to Avenue J to see how the old maestro has handled the boom. and to see whether you should put this place on your itinerary. I set out from Manhattan on a warm, sunny, jacket-less Saturday in January, my spirits buoyed by the unusual weather.

As I approached Di Fara, at about 3:45 PM, I caught my first glimpse of The Modern Disaster: lines pouring out onto the once-tranquil street. The good news: The people in line were not freezing. The bad news: They were confused and surly.

I saw two lines on the sidewalk: one had about 6 people and led to a window outside the store, the other line had about 10 people and led directly to the counter inside the store. Not knowing quite what to make of the two lines, or which one to join—and with no signs or indications—I took a guess, asking someone on the "window" line if this line was for take-out. "That would be a good guess," the waiting girl told me. "That's what we thought. But it's not. You can take out from either line."

All right. Fair enough. "So what's the difference between the two lines?" I asked. She pointed at the longer line, the one going in the door, and said "that one's faster." Hmmmm. Interesting.

Couldn't help myself. "If that one's faster," I gently asked, "how come you're on this line?" At that point a sweatshirt-clad ex-hippie of a certain age in front of her turned abruptly to me and said: "because we're idiots."

Allrighty. This guy either originally came to us from hell, or, perhaps, waiting on a slow line for a slice of 'za nudged him in a demonic direction. I needed more info. Exactly how long had he been waiting?

I cannot answer that queston, but I can tell you this: I got on the counter line, the longer one. and, other than a lot of tile-counting, nothing happened for 30 minutes except the capture of a few centimeters. That's not a typo—thirty minutes.

What I observed was this. The old guy, De Marco, was making every single pizza by hand (normally a good thing!). After obsessing about the placement of the dough on the pizza paddle, and all the other details, he might—if toppings were ordered—disappear into the back room for two or three minutes to pick up a handful of mushrooms.

Very occasionally, the only other worker in the place, De Marco's son, would stride from the back room with a handful of mushrooms or sausage.

So. including the making of the pie, the placement of the pizza in the oven (sometimes requiring a stepladder), the removal, the final grating of cheese on the cooked pie (for which the cheese is grated pie-by-pie, as the pies come out of the oven), the final placement of fresh basil leaves on each pie (for which the basil is snipped pie-by-pie by scissors set on the other side of the store), and the final drizzle of olive oil (which, blessedly, is only a few feet behind De Marco's finishing spot). the total labor time (not including cooking) for each pie is probably a good 4-5 minutes. Hey, artisanal makes me happy! And you may want to trek to Brooklyn to see this dinosaur operation!

But here's what one disorganized man taking 4-5 minutes per pie does to a line of 30 people. After about half an hour of waiting, I started counting pies in the oven like a card shark counts aces at the casino during blackjack. I was able to pretty much identify who in line was waiting for each pie—except for De Marco's mistakes, which were many.

At about that time (30 minutes), De Marco looked up at the guy at the front of the line and said "what do you want?" The guy kept his cool pretty well, but said "I already ordered a pie, half mushroom, half pepperoni." De Marco said nothing, but turned around and started making a pie. half mushrooms, half pepperoni.

Because that guy was in line before I arrived, I'm guessing he had given his order at least 35 minutes earlier, and that it had taken him 30-50 minutes in line before he gave his order the first time. So, after waiting at least an hour, maybe closer to an hour and a half, he now had to put his order in a second time and continued to wait for his pie.

Also at that moment, I became aware that the only pies in the oven were whole pies with intended buyers—that there were no slice-dedicated pies in the oven.

I was there with two friends, who had been lucky enough to move in on one of the few tables in the place—and all we wanted was three slices of the famous pizza (for this was the first stop on a Brooklyn pizza odyssey). So, concerned that when I got to the front of the line there'd be no slices. and now, after 35 minutes, within one human rank of reaching the counter. and spotting De Marco's son in a brief appearance from the back room. I asked the pizza progeny politely "are you guys serving slices?"

Simple and fair question, yes. especially for a man who has waited quietly for over half an hour in line. De Marco Jr. darted his eyes in my direction and growled "whatever comes outta the oven."

Hmmm. Having failed Psychic Prediction in high school, I had no idea whether that meant I'd be seeing slices anytime soon. But while I was pondering my field position, my odds, my options—like get the hell out of hell—an unfortunate soul, a few inches to my left and slightly ahead of me, who had obviously been pushed to her own personal breaking point, brayed the following sweet words at me: "Don't push into line!"

Ever the reasonable philosopher, and truly concerned that she misunderstood, I responded thusly: "No, no, I'm not ordering slices—I'm just asking if there will be slices available so I know whether I should stay or not." "Doesn't matter!" she shoots back. "You don't talk to them until you're the first one in line!!"

Oh dear. A handful of cheese and tomatoes on a piece of dough has ruptured civilization. I quickly lost my appetite, and my desire to stay the course.

One of my companions was a great eating buddy from Florida who, from his table, sensed my distress. When he walked over to me in the diabolic line, and I expressed the thought that our exit strategy should most definitely be "NOW!"

"Hang on," he said. "We invested all this time. Let's take what we can get when you get to the front of the line." As I watched two lovely girls walk away from the counter with a whole pie and big smiles—and as the oil-splattered counter itself suddenly loomed before my eyes—I agreed.

Getting to the front, of course, is only the first step towards actually getting pizza. It was a good 10 or 15 minutes later before I was asked what I wanted (and I certainly wasn't going to say anything before I was asked, not with Cruella de Ville glaring at me).

"Three slices, please," I said with as much perk as I could muster. "No slices," said the dastardly spawn. I was crushed, like a San Marzano tomato. "But. but. I see two slices of square pizza there," I murmured. "Oh yeah. We got square slices," said pizza boy. "You want 'em?"

I knew from my keen observation that these square slices were sitting on the counter since that moment long, long ago that I got on line—but, with my friend's wisdom ringing in my ears, I agreed to an exchange of cash for two old, cold, square ones. It was the very best I could do.

After a quick re-heating, the square slices and I were sitting at the table with the boys. They were dreadful. Not the boys—they were in high spirits, much higher than mine. But the sodden, oil-soaked squares of pretty flavorless dough were, shall we say, far from the best pizza in Noo Yawk.

"I am really, really sorry," I said to my out-of-town friend, "that you had to come all this way, and waste all this time, for this. I wish you could have tasted a fresh, regular slice of Di Fara pizza."

"Maybe I can," he whispered. Now, with the din of the disgruntled line behind me, I couldn't quite make out the bewitching words that my friend was using at that other table. All I know is that two minutes later, he was back at our table with the square slice still in one hand. and a fresh, regular slice in the other. "They were very nice," he said," and they'd had enough of their pie."

Mama mia. So it came down to this: to get a slice of pizza at Di Fara, you have to go up to a couple of complete strangers and beg for it. Not that I minded, mind you. after all, this is major 'za we're discussing. but there's gotta be something wrong with a system that reduces a man to that.

The pizza was good. Really good. Though not quite up to my five-year-old memory. Why? I remember more flavor then this one was quieter. But it still had that droopy, soupy, wet-but-crisp textural complexity that the best Neapolitan and New York Neapolitan pizzas do. My faith in pizza was still secure—though my faith in humanity was a little shaken.

"OK Dave," said my other friend, a Manhattan buddy. "I know exactly what you need."

"Alcohol?" I asked, over the waning Diet Pepsi.

"Yes," he said, ". along with your next pizza."

And so it came to pass that one short car ride later I was sitting in another pizza place, this one on Flatbush Avenue, anticipating another pizza experience.

Now, I must confess that at first I was taken aback. As much as I hated my experience at Di Fara, I am used to pizza decor and service like that. That's how it's s'posed to be (though considerably less horrific).

A few minutes later, here I am walking into Franny's, a really cool and trendy, exposed-brick-wall kind of a place with sexy and seductive lighting. Rather than just the pizza maker and his son, there's a bevy of slim and beautiful waitresses, as well as three hip-looking young chefs standing at the brick pizza oven in the open kitchen.

I am disoriented.I am further disoriented by the menu—which seems to have, along with pizza, exactly the kind of big-deal modern restaurant quality-in-simplicity that you find at a place like Zuni Café in San Francisco. Here's a look at the offerings:

New Harvest Olio Verde and Sea Salt- $7

Cranberry Beans and Bottarga di Tonno- $9

Chicken Liver and Pancetta- $9

Beef Tongue with Horseradish Salsa- $9

House-Cured Pancetta, Soppressata and Coppa- $16

Robiola Bosina with Toasted Filone- $9

Escarole with Meyer Lemon and Parmigiano Reggiano- $11

Satsumas and Cara Caras with Hot Pepper and Bitetto Olive Salsa- $11

Cauliflower Salad with Olives, Anchovies and Pickled Vegetables- $11

Baccala Montecato with Fried Polenta- $13

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Sea Salt- $8

Tomato, Garlic and Oregano- $12

Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella- $14

Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella with Anchovies and Chilies- $15

Tomato and Provolone Piccante with Wood-Roasted Onions- $14

Tomato and Mozzarella with House-Made Sausage- $15

Buffalo Mozzarella, Garlic and Oregano- $13

Clams, Chilies and Parsley- $16

Looks great, right? But is this the kind of place where you expect to find major New York pizza?

Turns out the answer is. yes. This is pizza on the same plane of quality as Di Fara's pizza! There are a few differences, however. Di Fara's crust, though thin, is thicker than Franny's, more of a throwback to the old New York pizzeria days.

Franny's crust is thinner, lighter, drier, crisper—catering more to that modern sensibility that can't get its pizza thin enough. But. this is no matzoh pizza Franny's crust, beautifully charred and blistered, has plenty of sensuality to it. What goes on the pie at Franny's is also a little more modern—not just in the "toppings," but even in the cheese choice (which seems a little less grana-ish at Franny's, a little more Gruyere-like). But fear not: though this pizza may not make you think of Brooklyn in the 1960s, it will definitely make you think of great New York. and great Rome. in the 21st century.

And to which establishment would I rather go? I gotta tell ya—as if I have to—I was really scarred by my Di Fara experience. Usually, the food's the thing as far as I'm concerned. But the level of sheer managerial incompetence here was mind-boggling.

This was perhaps the worst restaurant operation I've ever stepped into—including a lot of huts and shacks from southeast Georgia to southeast Asia.

I have nothing against the old guy he seemed kind of pleasant when I met him five years ago. And there's no questioning his talent as a pizza-maker. But how much hubris do you have to have to ignore the fact that people are waiting an hour-and-a-half for a slice of pizza. and sometimes not getting it? Hire a few people! Hire one person! Fix this!

Franny's is not only another world, but it's a wonderful version of another world. The servers were as sweet, knowledgeable and competent as could be. The food I tasted was delicious. The prices are reasonable. The selection of wines is just right.

I am planning to get back there as soon as I can to order everything on the menu and have a grand experience.I am not planning to go back to Di Fara anytime soon. And that's coming from me—the one who has made a career favoring funk over fashion.



Open for takeout and delivery

We could tell you about the way the chefs at Lucali roll out the dough with empty wine bottles in front of a wood-fired oven. We could tell you that this restaurant is BYOB, and that the little room feels like a spiritual place of pizza worship. But we’re not here to talk about those details that make Lucali an excellent place to eat. We’re here to talk about pizza. The thin-but-not-too-thin crust is the exact right balance of soft and crunchy, and the tomato sauce is the platonic ideal of tomato sauce: a little sweet, a little tangy, and good enough to eat with a spoon. Besides that, it’s just cheese and basil. If you want to add more toppings, you can, but you don’t need to. This pizza is absolutely perfect on its own, and it’s the best one we’ve had in New York. And if you don’t think it’s worth waiting several hours for, then we don’t have anything in common.


Open for takeout, delivery, and outdoor dining

“F*ck that - it’s not even in New York.” This reaction is to be expected from a lot of New Yorkers who see a Jersey City Pizza spot ranked this high. But even if Razza weren’t in the New York Metropolitan area (it is), and even if it weren’t closer to downtown Manhattan than most spots on this list (it is), the pizza here is so good that it belongs in the Top 20 for New York and New Jersey and Mars. The crust is super thin and light, but it never sags like some Neapolitan pies, and each bite is salty, sweet, and charred. We’d gladly eat it plain, but the locally-sourced toppings, like housemade cheeses and specially-bred hazelnuts, are also phenomenal. Before your next heated discussion about the best pizza in existence, take the Path train two stops to Razza. It’s a lot easier than trying to hitch a ride on one of Elon’s spaceships.

Di Fara Pizza

Di Fara Pizza recently opened its doors in downtown Cary. New York Style pizza lovers rejoiced! We finally got a chance to stop by to see what all the hype was about. Di Fara is a Brooklyn pizza restaurant that somehow found its way to Cary. The difference with their pizza is the water. The dough is made with water from New York.

We ordered the Chaos Pie which has sausage, meatball, cherry tomatoes, wild onions, and fresh garlic. They also have a nice beer list. I had a sour from Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company in Charleston. Both the pizza and the beer were great. I think the toppings on the pizza were so good. The tomatoes were the perfect pop of flavor and the fresh garlic made it so so good. The sauce was on the sweeter side of things and paired really well with the sausage and meatball.

They have outside patio spaces or you can do curbside pick-up. If you are in the mood for pizza make sure to swing by Di Fara’s for a slice of New York-style pizza goodness.


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