February 9 – Pizza Pie Day
I promised another nail-biter food day today, and here it definitely is. Along with commemorating the bagel and lox, February 9 is also Pizza Pie Day, a day to celebrate the amazing marriage of dough, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese into something every New Yorker craves.
Like the bagel and lox (and January 16’s pastrami sandwich), every eight million people in New York City have an opinion on the best pizza pie in the five boroughs, and your blogger is no exception. The best pie in NYC may be the biggest food argument in the city, so I’m hoping to start up a conversation on the topic, and definitely some other recommendations–and hopefully not a huge battle in the comments 😉
Like churches, baseball teams, and bagel shops, every family in New York, including my own, has their pizzeria they are loyal to. They’ll eat at other places if they’re out of delivery range, but they have full obligation to berate the inferior slice, and let everyone know it doesn’t compare. It’s typically an old store, not one to be found in a strip mall, with clear glass displays along the counter filled with remnants of the day’s pies divided by the slice, as well as your necessary assortment of calzones, brocolli stromboli, and garlic knots. The ovens are smack dab in the front of the shop, right behind the counter, silver behemoths that without fail cook up piping hot wheels of flavor, whether they be mushroom, sausage, or just plain extra cheese. And then there’s the final necessary component, the pizza master behind the counter, molding and shaping each pie dough by hand, flipping it in the air to the delight of children, spooning on the homemade sauce and sprinking the cheese expertly, unafraid of the oven’s heat, working for hours upon years upon decades with the same recipe and hitting it out of the park every single pie.
That’s exactly what I feel when I go to Di Fara’s Pizza in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. Recently found at the very top of every “Best Pizza” chart and plagued with health code woes, Di Fara’s has become the Mecca of pizza places in Brooklyn, if not the entire city. One can now wait in line for hours outside the tiny shop as Dom DeMarco makes each pie individually by hand–only his hand, for over forty years. But I remember it before the “best of” buzz, when I was a teenager going to high school in the neighborhood. It was one of the few fast food places in the area that wasn’t kosher, so kids flocked to it after school. And when I told my mom I had an amazing slice at Di Fara’s, her face lit up, and she recounted the times when she was a bored teenager gobbling down slices at Di Fara’s. It’s a family institution, for Midwood, the DeMarcos, and my family. 🙂
I feel I have absolutely no culinary or writing chops to let you know the authentic, fabulous taste of a Di Fara margherita pie, with sprigs of fresh basil sprinkled atop the sauce and cheese, each pie offered with toil and love from old Dom. You can find reviews of Di Fara’s in all pockets of the food writing world, from Serious Eats to NY Magazine to The New York Times. You can certainly find someone more skilled and better paid than I am to describe to you the delicious euphoria of a steaming-hot Di Fara’s pie. All I can offer you is my own personal history with the pizzeria, and tell you why, no matter what other pies come along, this is my place. 🙂
Di Fara Pizza
1424 Ave J, Brooklyn
“Readers who have been to DiFara already know what makes it so good. For the rest of you: It’s Dom’s stubborn perfectionism—he’s the only one to touch the pies there—and use of only the finest and freshest ingredients that set his pizzas apart.”–Serious Eats
“In Midwood, Brooklyn, DiFara owner Dominic De Marco fashions his pizzas in a glorious tribute to the way things ought to be. He is obsessed with the quality of the ingredients. One bite of the pizza will convince you. The texture of the crust is exceptional. The tomato sauce has spice and flavor, the cheese is mellow and the extra ingredients are superb, including pungent anchovies, rich fennel sausage and freshly charred peppers.”–New York Times
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Not that this place needed anymore positive reinforcement but OH.MY.GOD. This place is delicious. Went here one cold night on the way back from Coney Island. I heard that the lines were outrageous but I must have been lucky because I only waited 15 minutes. This is the best pizza I’ve ever had. There is one old man cooking all the pizza in a brick oven. When it comes out, he comes basil leaves fresh off the plant and sprinkles them onto the pie. It was fantastically good.”–Lauren K.
“It’s a bitch to wait, it’s expensive, it’s not close by to anything else, it’s unorganized, and there is zero ambience, but watching Dom make a pie is magical. Someone else might grate the cheese, or bring him the dough, but he’s the master and no one but the master will actually touch your pie.”–Jenn C.