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Di Fara disappointment

  • j

So my husband and I were visiting a friend in Midwood today and we decided to take the opportunity to try a pizza at Di Fara. We were ready to taste heavenly pizza and tell our chowhound-y friends that we had made one of the stops on the NYC chow trail of fame. But this was not to be...

We got to the place around 6:30pm. It was pretty busy - about 3 people were ahead of us with orders and a line quickly developed behind us. After about 10 minutes, Dom turned to us and took our order for a mushroom pizza. We repaired to one of the tables in the back with cold drinks for a wait. We had heard from these boards that the wait can be long, so we were expecting it. We waited about 45 minutes and saw those ahead of us in line depart with their pizzas. Fine, no problem. Then we saw some of those who had ordered after us get their pizzas. Hmmm - what's up with that? So my husband and I went to the counter and told Dom's son that we had ordered a while ago. We didn't really catch any conversation they had about it, but it seemed clear that our order had fallen through the cracks. Again - fine, no problem, it was getting really busy, so we understand. But then - nothing. A number of new pies went into the oven, but not ours. My husband was not happy. We asked again - "any news on our mushroom pizza?" - nothing. In the end, we got some slices and ate them, but the service had left a sour taste in our mouth that no amount of heavenly pizza could surmount.

There is no way I will get my husband to go back to try again, but I would like to know if anyone else has had this kind of experience, in case I make a visit with other friends. Were we wrong to order a whole pie? Were we wrong to order mushrooms? I hadn't gotten this from previous postings, but is this another case of a grumpy owner who decides that he doesn't like you and gives you bad service to get you out? If this is the case, what could we have done to tick them off?

If we had gotten a pizza in regular time and it was terrible, I don't think I would be as disappointed as I was with the service we got today. Bad Chow Day.

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  1. Heh heh. You obviously haven't been following the threads closely enough. When you order a Pie you stay there and watch Dom make it..Do not retreat to the tables for enjoyment. You stand and wait and make sure Dom makes it and then you will achieve enlightenment....

    2 Replies
    1. re: Venom

      Well said, Venom. I'm not even going to talk about ordering strategies, frustation with lines/"lost" pies or which topping is best. I love Dom's pies and, of course, love eating them. Call me crazy but one of my best DiFara's experiences consisted of taking an hour train ride and deciding not to eat, but rather stand counterside watching him ply his craft.

      Keep on smokin',
      Joey Deckle

      1. re: Joey Deckle

        Just think, for most of the show you're looking at his posterior.

        Incredible...a contact high on Dom (or maybe there is something about his mushroom pies).

    2. does anyone understand that difara's is JUST a pizzeria? a good one, but JUST a pizzeria, not a restaurant. give them a break!

      2 Replies
      1. re: mag

        Regardless, I have to agree w/ the OP. When you place your order, you kinda EXPECT it to arrive...having it fall through the cracks is unacceptable. Very busy pizzeria's usually use those yellow legal pads and write each order down. It's a practice DiFara's should employ. (along with a cleaning person for those communal tables). I still like Dom and his pizza. Viva L'Italia.

        1. re: mag

          A pizzeria IS a restaurant.

        2. Its ok to be disappointed and its ok to expect more, but it is a pizzeria. Dom is not grumpy but he can get frazzled, it seems to take a little bit of effort to get him worked up, more likely it's the chaos of the customers that will confuse him (and his children) I have had orders fall through the cracks, and I go about once a month and spend $30 to $50 everytime...

          Convince your (sensitive) hubby to try again - tell dom what happened the last time you ordered, (happens to the best of us) and be prepared to forgive. Actually you wont have a choice.

          1. Reactions to service and hygiene issues at DiFara are unpredictable, in my experience, but over time, I've decided not to encourage people to try again if they are irritated by the long time it takes to get pizzas. I've never had a completely lost pizza, but I don't think it's a crazy reaction not to want to wait an hour or want a cleaner environment.

            It just isn't my reaction. I brought a visitor from Japan, a young woman, to DiFara's and she was utterly charmed by the experience. She loved watching Dom work, loved the crowd and all the angry, impatient customers. And she loved the pizza.

            So I wouldn't try to coerce your husband to go. But don't let that keep you from going!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Dave Feldman

              I tend to agree with Dave's take, and would simply add that you have to be both vigilant and assertive at DiFara's when it's busy. Also, I love the mushrooms, but I've decided they make for a watery round slice, as you may have discovered.

            2. Just to clarify, it wasn't the length of the wait that was frustrating - it was the (non) reaction that we got when we reminded them of our order. After waiting 45 minutes for the pizza that was lost in the shuffle, we did stand at the counter after our first reminder for about an hour. We were front and center, almost chanting "mushroom? mushroom?" for a pizza that never came to be.
              A pizzeria is a restaurant, no? Actually, some of the best service I have gotten in food establishments is from pizza places, so I think that trail of argument is a non-starter.

              7 Replies
              1. re: JulesNYC

                "In the end, we got some slices and ate them, but the service had left a sour taste in our mouth that no amount of heavenly pizza could surmount." Sour taste aside, what did you think of the pizza? I think you got the ultimate first time DiFara's experience. This is what a true "chowhound" place is all about. It's much more than pizza, it's an experience. Now, go back and get that mushroom pie!!!!

                1. re: sg

                  I liked the toppings - sauce was tasty, cheeses were good, herbs a nice touch. The crust was okay (not charred as discussed in other threads), but disintegrated in the middle where the toppings were.

                  Not to be blasphemous, but I like Grimaldi's on the whole better, mainly because I love their crust and the overall texture of their pizza. If you could put DF's toppings on the Grimaldi's crust, now THAT would be a pizza to talk about! I guess I'll have to pull out the pizza pan I have at home and try to make my own approximation in the old home kitchen.

                  1. re: JulesNYC

                    I've had awful waiting experiences at DiFaras' the last three or four times I visited and as a result, I haven't been back since last December - some sort of record for me. The pizza's still great, though. I am a long-time regular customer and I've been going to Difara's long before he was "discovered".

                    The very last time I was there, I waited for two and a half hours before my pie was made. I called in my order and was told that the wait would be about an hour. I got there about 30 min. after I called, figuring I'd only be there for about another 30 min. -- and waited another two hours. Now I'm a very reasonable person, and I understand that there's a margin of error when Maggie sez: "about an hour for the wait". But something is very wrong when she's off by 250%! And yeah, there were others that got their pizza even though they clearly put their orders in an hour or an hour and a half after me. I don't mind waiting two hours for a pizza but that's only provided that I'm told that the wait is gonna be about two hours so that I can make an informed decision to wait two hours and also, provided that everyone else is also waiting about two hours. Fair is fair.

                    My visit just before the last was similar. Ordered at the counter and waited about two hours. After about an hour I noticed that people after me were getting their pies - and in 45 minutes - no less.

                    It's a major flaw and it's inexcusable. When 20 or 30 people pack the tiny joint, all waiting, there has to be some order. It's only fair. Nobody wants to wait two hours if nobody else is waiting two hours and other customers are being served in less than one hour. Maybe Dom should start taking numbers or writing 'em down.

                    1. re: nolan49

                      I've never been there- but this place sounds like a nightmare. No pizza is worth the aggravation and stress so many people have described. I can think of other ways to earn my merit badge for patience.

                    2. re: JulesNYC

                      Just FYI in case you do go back, the mushroom is not a safe bet. I once ordered a mushroom pie and it was amazing—topped with firm, delicious mushrooms that seemed to be roasted. Then twice after that, I ordered mushroom and they were soggy and more or less wrecked the pie. I think the best topping is the fresh artichokes (ask if they're fresh) or broccoli rabe. Also, try the square pie. It does not have the problem of sogging in the middle.

                      1. re: Gnosh

                        if you get mushrooms, go for the porcini.

                      2. re: JulesNYC

                        You should try the artichoke slice or ... WHOLE PIE. Heaven on earth.

                  2. Di Fara's is certainly not for everyone, for this reason. The lengths you have to go to in order to insure you get a pie are, in fact, pretty bizarre. It is amusing to me that you refer to "the service" - there is no service. It's like a restaurant where the staff has gone on a wildcat strike, leaving only the lone chef behind the counter.

                    (My silliest experience has been dutifully standing at the counter, and Dom turns out a cheese pie, indicating it's mine. I go back to the table with it, and a couple who was there before me (but not doing the sentinel bit) gets VERY upset w/ me. I hand over the pizza and go back and explain "I had to give it away." Dom kind of chuckled about it and gave me the next one.)

                    But, Dom is a likeable guy. I don't think he's grumpy so much as inscrutable. And the pizza is pretty wonderful.

                    We can only go when we are at the absolute height of patience. We don't bring friends and family there.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: bklynd

                      OK, cool. This is what I was hoping I would hear.
                      Your description of the wildcat strike is spot on - I don't feel so alone anymore...

                      1. re: JulesNYC

                        Jules, if misery loves company this exact thing happened to a couple in line right after us a couple weeks ago. Order forgotten and watching helplessly as pizzas are given away. The husband just about lost his shit. It's one thing to wait as everyone else is waiting; it's another to wait only to watch people behind you getting theirs.

                        1. re: Pupster

                          I find it comforting to know that it's the husbands that seem to get crazy about the wait. When I think of the one time I went there, I picture me inside, and him outside smoking a ciagarette for an hour or so, giving me dirty looks through the window!

                    2. Not that this helps, but Id say they way to go is to try to catch Dom's eye - he's the one who's going to determine whether your pie gets made or not. Ive never seen anything written down in there, so its understandable that there can be slippages. On the other hand, I was flabbergasted the second time we went, after the lapse of more than a year and fairly minimal interaction the first, to find that dom recognized me personally. So the man has a memory.

                      We've never had this problem but then we have never interacted with anybody other than Dom.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: jen kalb

                        Oh, I'm so sorry to hear of your dissapointing expirience, My Fiancee and I have had one similar, and it can be maddening.

                        We love pizza, and especially love Dom's. But I agree wth the OP above who stated that you have to catch Dom's eye. He doesn't tend to write orders down anywhere other than the Pizza boxes on the counter, and I think he remembers visually, so once we order one of us always stands front and center.

                        Another trick, don't go at prime dinner time! (If you can avoid it). We try to go on weekend afternoons or weeknights, when it's the locals and not food tourists.

                        I hope you're willing to give it another chance :)

                        1. re: ampersand

                          Why does everyone hope this person gives DiFara's another chance? As Dave F. said, it aint for everyone so please move along. You'll have a much more relaxing time at Grimaldi's. Plus its hot as hell in the summer so it may be an uncomfortable dining experience. Dom is also mean and probably has it out for many of you.

                          1. re: josh L

                            dom doesn't have a mean bone in his body. he's a lovely guy who makes a great pizza (slowly).

                            1. re: josh L

                              Josh, I think there's a bit of projection going on here...


                              1. re: josh L

                                Unless I'm reading him wrong, I think josh l is joshing here (with a name like that, don't you expect it). The fewer people who go to DiFara's, less wait time for josh.

                                The other DF

                          2. I looooove DiFara's, but sometimes when I go there and see the line, I check out. I know that you have to catch Dom's eyes and hover to get your Difara's fix, and sometimes I have the stamina for that and sometimes I don't.

                            Be that as it may, there are so many places out there with perfectly fine service but mediocre food, that I'd be wary of doing anything to upset the equilibrium that produces such sublime results. Either I resign myself to an hour of watching Dom do his thing (which can actually be pleasantly mesmerizing), or I strategically go on an off-hour: after 9:30 pm on a weeknight or about 3 pm on a weekend. If you're with someone, you can hover in shifts and spread the waiting pain.

                            I think the only thing that disturbs me about the tone of your post was a whiff of imputing bad faith on Dominick's part, which I've never observed. Reading subsequent comments of yours, that seems not to be the case.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: JackS

                              no - no assertion of any bad faith. there are quite a few delicious places out there with particular owners (Shopsin, Azuri, etc) and I just didn't know if he was one of them. I actually kind of like the grumpy owners - makes the whole thing kind of a challenge!

                              1. re: JulesNYC

                                Dom is not grumpy, he's just focused on making pizza.

                            2. n

                              So when are the off hours?

                              And can you EVER walk in and buy a slice that's just sitting there?

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: NativeNewYorker

                                i was there today at 4pm...have 5 slices sitting in my kitchen waiting for dinner (i like them cool in the summer) and there were a small handful of people waiting...nothing awful. be forewarned...it's about 130 degrees in there.
                                he seemed to be taking great care not to burn anything and while dom never goes fast, he was getting one after another out.
                                have a chocolate ice while you wait. yummmmm.

                                1. re: redgirl

                                  or order a salad , a vegetable or some pasta to eat while you wait for your pizza - they usually have something good on offer like beans and escarole or broccoli raab, or spaghetti with white clam sauce. these things arent cheap, maybe $8 bucks, but they round out the experience a bit and get you a little more attention. If you get the beans, dom will grate you some of that cheese and give you some bread, too.

                                2. re: NativeNewYorker

                                  Monday to Thursday 1:30 to 3:30 are very light. I go about two times a month at those times and there might be two or three people at most at the counter and my pies come out very quickly. Not the most convienent time to eat but it might be the best time.

                                  1. re: NativeNewYorker

                                    My first and only visit to DiFara's was on a hot August Sunday afternoon at 12:30 PM. I had read many posts about this place so I was prepared for the worst. I walked in and I thought I was in the wrong place. Nobody and I mean nobody was there. I chatted with Dom and told him I had come a long way to taste his pizza. I had 2 slices of round and he said he had a square coming out in a few minutes. By the time I got my square slices, you would've thought a Greyhound bus had broken down outside. Cops, foodies, et al. had landed and I witnessed the chaos as so aptly described in many posts. But damn, that pizza had a taste of Italy in every bite!

                                    1. re: NativeNewYorker

                                      Yes, you can just find a slice (or 4) sitting there...late afternoon on weekdays is ideal, after the lunch rush cools down. Or a holiday--Father's Day was ideal. It's my local pizza place, and I've learned DiFara's survival skills. You do have to be aggressive, in a friendly sort of way--hover at the counter or else. Every time I go there I see a tourist wait politely, forever.

                                    2. I'm sympathetic to your complaints to a point. DiFara's is notorious for the chaotic ordering system. You have to be aggressive. You don't wait for Dom to ask you what you want. You go up to the counter and tell him what you want. And then, after you've ordered you have to stay up there and keep your eye on things. You cannot go sit down and expect to get your pie. When we go, my husband or I stays up there and chats with Dom until we see our pie go in the oven. It can take a while - sometimes as much as an hour But when you take that first bite, it's worth it.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: pizzalover

                                        I can drive to New Haven in not too much more than an hour and get a very very very fine pizza -- and not have to shout out my order in a 130 degree filthy restaurant where no one can be bothered to simply use a pen and I have to watch like a hawk for an hour or more just to make sure that my food actually gets made.

                                        I've been there several times when I used to do a lot of work in the neighborhood, but I must say that the attraction of the DiFara "experience" has almost always eluded me.

                                        1. re: Woodside Al

                                          Or, Woodside Al, you can stay home and score a real decent oniony grandma slice at the pie station on 61st Street under the tracks!

                                          Never thought of doing the New Haven thing with your spin on it, but you've definitely got a point here.

                                          Dom has decidely reached "Rocky Horror" status...like the folks who returned umpteen times to discover another film-sy nuance, they must also get jacked-up in the hover mode, observing another take of Dom's "show" every time out.

                                          Listen, if you're not satisfied with spending the wait time, then here's some sound Brooklyn advice - Take the "Q", pass the "J" (as in Avenue J) and head for TOTONNO's at the last stop.

                                          1. re: Mike R.

                                            As Yogi said, noone goes anymore because it's too crowded (or something like that). Everyone complains, yet it is still packed all the time. Personally, I wait, but if you don't want to I would be more than happy for you and everyone else with a problem to go to New Haven, Woodside, Coney Island or anywhere else!!

                                          2. re: Woodside Al

                                            >>"and not have to shout out my order in a 130 degree filthy restaurant where no one can be bothered to simply use a pen and I have to watch like a hawk for an hour or more just to make sure that my food actually gets made."<<

                                            Your description reminds me of Sally's...

                                            1. re: Woodside Al

                                              i was just at pepe's last week and i'm not sure how you can compare it to difara's. its much thicker, comes out of a coal oven and they use subpar ingredients. come on, totally different and difara's is more to my taste. i think john's on blleker street or arturo's may be the closest in nyc.

                                          3. A lot of this can be resolved with Dom's help and a little, say, Red Bull and/or a B-12 shot. I'm sure he'll do this of his own volition. Now cloning him so future generations can enjoy the same pizza we presently are, might take some coercing. Whattya think? Love Dom, love the pizza. Nobody likes the wait.

                                            1. Holy Mackerel guys!

                                              I haven't posted here in at least a couple of years. And rarely lurk either, but I'll keep my snooty reasons to myself. However, another chapter in the endless journal of Dom has woken me from my slumber.

                                              I don't remember if it happened when I was 19 and visiting London or 23 and touring northern Europe with one of my bands, but I remember a friend having a miserable time (either way it was the same guy). I can't say if I only thought or actually said, "Dude, it sucks...But, it sucks in Germany!"

                                              Point? Difara's is a hot, dirty, crowded, frustrating dump. It may not even have the world's or country's or city's best pizza. I just know it's unique and I like it and I want it now. I've been there when it's empty and I've been there when it's packed. I've dragged my daughter there who would complain when she saw that twinkle in my eye as we cruised up Ocean Ave from her tutor's on Ave N, "oh no, not the place with the old man where we have to wait!" Yes!

                                              It is what it is.
                                              - Years ago, I learned, as a naturally aggressive consumer with an outsized sense of self-righteousness, to belly up to the counter and while not being a nuisance, keep tabs, keep a bit chatty, and keep calm. (Dom absolutely has written orders on empty stacked pizza boxes.) I certainly didn't need a suggestion from these boards - you just need to assess the situation.
                                              - Don't call. I don't care how much you think he knows you. Unless you're truly an old-timer and I'm putting my foot in my mouth, I can't believe anybody calling, when there's thirty people in the joint clamoring, is gonna get anything that day!
                                              - It's thin, thin pizza: his toppings may be of the utmost quality, but it's gonna make the crust soggy. We've all had or at least read about the artichoke pie. Great! But, it's gonna be soggy. Better to enjoy something special he's making on the side (like stuffed whatever flowers), and damn, just dive into what I consider the ecstasy of the three components. Simple, but sublime.
                                              - Not everyone gets it. Or if they do it may not be worth it to them. That's cool, too. I don't ask them back. And in fact, it's best to go by yourself - no babysitting, no apologies, no huffing and puffing. My wife grew up in Carroll Gardens, and went there when she went to Brooklyn College. She likes it, but not enough. I go when she's not around.
                                              - If I go and it's packed, maybe I leave. But if not, it might suck, but it sucks in Germany!

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: noisejoke

                                                You made me smile. You made me nod. Thanks for the post, noisejoke.

                                                1. re: Dave Feldman

                                                  You're quite welcome, Dave. I'm a Dave too and I can tell we're on the same wavelength. Simply put, and to reiterate what Chowhound is about: to each his own...slice.

                                                2. re: noisejoke

                                                  DiFara's sounds like a nightmare.

                                                3. I've only been once - probably about 2PM on a weekday - I don't think there was even a queue. Had an awesome plain slice but had to be somewhere else or I would have taken another slice or two for sure.

                                                  If you just want to sample a Di Fara slice, pick an off-time as previously noted and you'll be fine. Alternatively, De Marcos on McDougal does a fine immitation :-)

                                                  This is a superb comment: http://www.haloscan.com/comments/slic...

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Yem

                                                    Great link! But I respectfully disagree with you regarding DeMarcos, unless they've improved since I was there last, which I admit could be a year ago. I actually work nearby and don't even bother. I mostly get great great Bahn Mih on Broome at Mott. But I guess I shouldn't mention that on the Boros board.

                                                  2. Went today at 1:30-line out the door. Bellied up to the bar and got the last two round slices of a pie within 5 minutes. Told Dom & son I'd be coming back for square slices and sure enough landed two squares in ten minutes. everyone else is waiting for whole pies. Needless to say, the pizza, especially the square, was orgasmic. I do admit to settling for DeMarco's sometimes.