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DiFara

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I know he uses a gas oven, and I am perplexed as to how he makes such an (argueably) really good pie with great charring. Is he using one of the new high tech ovens that throw off 700 degrees plus, or the Bakers Pride or similar?

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  1. His oven looks 50 years old! Not sure what type of oven it is, but there is no way it's new, even in the last decade....

    1 Reply
    1. re: Foodluva

      last a great cast iron pan, used for generations his oven is seasoned and contributes to the overall taste and flavor of the pizza.

    2. His oven is so old with such bad hot spots that he has very poor heat control and is constantly burning the pies, not carefully and purposefully charring them. He badly burns around 50% of the pies he makes, especially when he has a line. I haven't been there many times because while I like a wee bit of charring, I don't care for charcoal and oil pizza.

      1. Pizzafreak, good call posting this on outer boroughs. You are going to laugh your ass off when you finally see DiFara. There is NOTHING high tech about this place.

        1 Reply
        1. re: a_and_w

          ditto - just go and see.

        2. I am a DiFara virgin and may go there for the first time this weekend. Please advise about what to order (whole pie v. slices, square v. triangle). I will be with one other person in all likelihood. Grazie!

          4 Replies
          1. re: LJW

            Don't leave the place before you've had a piece of the square pie. Order twice as many as you think you'll eat. Only get a round slice to tide you over until the square is ready.

            Ignore the dirt.

            1. re: LJW

              Square pie is great.

              Regular pie is fun to watch him make, but there's way too much grease for the crust and it's a sloppy mess to eat. There's no balance in the regular pie.

              1. re: Luther

                You kats are out of your minds it the regular pies that are the specialty especially the ones with artichokes the square are excellent but nowehere near comprable. Man you guys are wierd!

              2. re: LJW

                Last week I had a pie with baby artichokes. They were amazing.

              3. I had to give up on this place. Aside from the greasy slice, which is wonderful, the wait time is ridonculous. I live near Spumoni Gardens and the squares there are excellent.

                1. I was a DiFara virgin until this weekend, too. I LOVED IT! The best pizza I have ever had, almost juicy. I love how this dirty, dusty, unpretentious place attracts cops to guys in business suits to kids in baseball hats. I love how slow and careful Dom is. He putters over every pie. He's like the Mr. Rogers of pizza. And, since I was on vacation, I really didn't mind the wait (about 30 minutes for a full pie). It gave me a chance to watch him.

                  1. His pie's are great . But ever since he became a PIZZA star. It now takes an 1/2 hour or better to get a slice. A few years ago you could just walk in and grab a slice. Not any more ,now people are taking pictures, new paper reporters are in there, a tv show was interviewing DOM this week. Happy for him I am but not waitng on line for a 1/2 hour for a slice. Does anyone remember when he let his kids make PIZZA.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: FAL

                      If you never had waits of a half-hour (or more) for a slice two years ago (or ten years ago, for that matter), you were luckier than I was.

                    2. Ever since this web site. Plus the newspaper in the last few years.It gotten out of hand . It like it when it was just a Brooklyn thing.

                      1. I haven't gone because I care only about crust, not toppings, and I can't believe a gas oven could make as good a crust as Totonno's. But one day I must make the pilgrimage. So how can I be sure if Mr DiMarco is working that day? Can I simply telephone? Or will he reply, "You annoyed me by telephone, no pizza for you!!!!!" Also, can I sit while waiting for my slice or must I stand in line?

                        20 Replies
                        1. re: Brian S

                          1. Get the square pie. It's different from "real pizza" in that he puts a bunch of oil under the crust and cooks it in a seasoned iron sheet pan. Entirely different experience.

                          2. He's always there, unless he's ill.

                          3. I haven't been in over a year, and it seems like the hype has greatly increased recently (not sure). The longest I've waited is like 30 minutes (for a slice or a whole square pie). There are tables that you can sit at while waiting, assuming the place isn't mobbed... I'd recommend going on a weekday.

                          1. re: Brian S

                            I was skeptical about the gas oven, too, until I went a few years ago and became a believer. somehow, he coaxes an amazing crust out of his gas ovens.

                            do try a square slice, but have a regular too, so you can compare it to others. It's a different animal, but very good.

                            I also feel that the place has gotten much much more crowded in the past couple of years.

                            1. re: Brian S

                              You might not like it that much. The char on the crust isn't the thing at DiFara's. The crust is tasty, but he can't get the kind of char you can get with a coal oven. The best thing about the pizza at DiFara's is the high-quality toppings and the taste. If for you, the apotheosis of pizza is a plain pizza with a paper-thin charred crust, Patsy's is probably best for you.

                              1. re: Pan

                                You are absolutely correct. As someone who has been going for the almost 40 years that Dom's been there, this is a (very) upscale version of NYC street pizza by the slice, not a comparable product to coal, wood or other type oven pizza. However, given the age of his oven, he does manage to burn the crust a bit more than most places using gas and some folks consider that "char" and miss the point. My opinion: the square is the absolute best in NYC and the round w/toppings is the gas oven best, mostly due to the high quality ingredients used and the artisan care in making the pies.

                                1. re: Steve R

                                  I much prefer Dom's square pizza (I like sicilian / breadlike/ thick crust best as a rule and prefer to cracker crusts - we were long term partisan of the New Haven pizzerias, which feature a charred yeasty crust + good toppings - Dom's sicilian can get a little soggy in the middle sometimes but the flavors are unbeatable. We always order whole pies - they reheat just fine if any is left over. I will always advise trying his other dishes, soups, vegetable pasta, the soggy delicious salad, etc. Not cheap but very good, and good to cover you during a wait.

                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                    Does that mean that the non-pizza dishes are served up more quickly than the whole pies and slices when the place is busy? I've only been there at slower times when the wait wasn't too bad.

                                    1. re: gnocchi

                                      Along with ordering by the whole (square) pie which takes you out of the slice queue, we try to snag a table, order both pizza and non-pizza disshes, and eat the non-pizza dishes while we wait. Sometimes they will come out quite fast. It creates more interaction with Dom, a good thing, he will give you a plate of fresh grated cheese and some bread with your side, for example, Its also effective in sating hunger during the wait period. I think the tie up is with Dom's production out front, not with the folks in the kitchen. Its at least worth a try, weve had some good dishes - does jack up the cost of the meal.

                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                        The non-pizza dishes are very worthwhile. One day, he asked me whether I liked tripe, and gave me a portion of Tripa alla Napoletana that was spicy and delicious! I was very full after eating that portion plus a slice or two with mushrooms and artichokes.

                                        1. re: Pan

                                          cool! Its worth asking what they can put together that day. You may have that kind of surprise. I usually ask about vegetables and wind up with something excellent

                              2. re: Brian S

                                While we cannot confirm that the crust is just as good as the crust at Totonnos, since we were at Totonnos only once many years ago, and our memory eludes us right now, but yes, along with the other millions of DiFara devotees, we can vouch that the crust on the slices are quite crispy, but soft, sinewy, and chewy inside at the same time and quite good. The sauce is quite flavorful and along with the creamy mozzarella cheese, and the other two kinds of cheese that Mr. DeMarco uses, makes for a delightful pizza.

                                Our usual time at DiFara’s is at lunch time on weekdays, hence it is very crowded with people three to four deep on most of the occasions that we have been there, and only on one occasion has there been no crowd there with our party the only ones there. Probably the best time is after the lunch rush hour at 2 or 3 PM.

                                If you have gone sufficient enough times that Mr. DeMarco recognizes and likes you, which is easy for us, since we are one of the few Asian diners there unlike the non-Asian hordes at the counter (although we could not see Mr. DeMarco not liking anyone), you should catch Mr. DeMarco’s attention and after you put in your order, you can sit down at one of the cafeteria type tables (must be self cleaned as mentioned in many DiFara posts) and wait approximately 30 to 45 minutes for your slices to be ready (on some bad days, the wait can be over 60 minutes) when Mr. DeMarco will actually call you with your order, although it is highly recommended that you periodically reconnoiter the situation by going up to the counter area with the other hungry and desperate diners and by hook or crook, try to catch Mr. DeMarco’s eye to inquire about your order (we recommend that you go with a friend to not only hold your seat, but help chat away the wait time or bring reading matter or of course enjoy watching the master at work). There have been moments when a pie finally comes out of the oven that we feel that we are in a third world country bereft of normal law and order rules and people are straining and heaving at the counter ready to pounce at the pizza, but fortunately, under Mr. DeMarco’s calm demeanor and cheery leadership, civilized norms prevail and the pizza is parceled out in an orderly manner, if not always in the most fairest and accurate order as we have read in this forum and confirmed during our visits there. Apparently, even though pizza is one of the most elemental street foods for the masses, DiFara pizza lovers are quite civilized, since not once have we ever seen any major disagreements about the fairness of the distribution of the pizza, other than a few grumbles. We think that no one wants to criticize Mr. DeMarco for his less than organized distribution system, since everyone understands that his system is free from any hint of corruption or favoritism, and of course the basic civilized manners of DiFara customers.

                                When we go to DiFara’s, we usually try their artichoke slice when the fresh artichokes are in season and also the square and round slices (straight with no toppings other than the artichoke slice), which makes for a very filling lunch. We will also get a takeout of DiFara’s Zepoles when available. The last time we were there, DiFara had these special yellow and orange flowers, the name of the flower escapes us at the present moment, air freighted from Italy that are lightly battered and pan-fried. We tried a flower and it had a light texture and faint sweet taste, although even with the light batter, the flower is quite fragile and light in weight and texture, and one can miss tasting the flower if one were to wolf down the flower too quickly.

                                If you have an extensive lunch at DiFara’s, payment is by the honor system, where you will advise Mr. DeMarco of all the items that you have eaten or drank, and Mr. DeMarco will write your items and total them up on the first available writing material (pizza boxes, paper bags, paper plates, etc.)

                                Have no fear, Mr. DeMarco is definitely not a “Pizza Nazi” ala Seinfeld. Mr. DeMarco is one of the nicest persons around and obviously is enjoying his new found fame and deservedly so.

                                Our understanding from reading the many DiFara posts is that it is the unsaid policy of DiFara’s that no one except Mr. DeMarco makes the pizzas. On every occasion that we have gone to DiFara’s over the last several years, we have only seen Mr. DeMarco making the pizzas.

                                Mr. DeMarco is quite along in years, hence if you would like to partake of DiFara’s, you should not wait too long. Father time waits for no one.

                                1. re: lwong

                                  Thanks for the wonderful post. One little trick. If you do order a pizza with toppings, you have a better chance of receiving it at the "right time," as at least the finished pizza is not likely to be claimed by the plain slice or plain pie people.

                                  1. re: Dave Feldman

                                    Thanks for the DiFara tip. Yes, normally it is for the artichoke slice that Mr. DeMarco calls to us while we are patiently waiting at a table, but we must be either very lucky or Mr. DeMarco must like us, since he has also called us when we have only ordered square or regular slices, but to be on the safe side, we still periodically go up to the counter to check if a new pie has come out.

                                    1. re: lwong

                                      Thank you for writing the long review above, I definitely must go. I read in the Chowhound book (I've been doing research) that the artichokes achieve maximum goodness only when they are cooked as part of a whole pizza, not when ordered as a slice and put on after the pizza is cooked.

                                      1. re: Brian S

                                        We have had the artichoke slices both ways and can confirm that it does indeed taste better when the artichokes are cooked with a new pie rather than just reheated on a slice. Our guess is that cooking the artichoke together with a new pie allows the cheese, sauce, and artichoke flavors to somehow blend and fuse together for a better flavor rather than if the artichoke was just reheated on a cooked slice.

                                        1. re: lwong

                                          Is the artichoke slice just reheated from a whole pie that was previously baked with artichokes on top, or does he sauté the artichokes and then place them on a plain slice for reheating/sefrving? I thought someone posted on here at one time that the toppings were freshly sautéed for the slices but I might be wrong.

                                          1. re: gnocchi

                                            Sorry for the confusion in not mentioning the initial step of sautéing the artichokes, but we were answering Brian S’ query about which was the preferable method of heating the artichokes: on a new pie or on an old slice.

                                            Our understanding for the making of an artichoke slice is that the artichoke is sauté first and than either:

                                            a. Placed upon a new cooking plain pie that is presently in the oven, or
                                            b. Placed on a slice from a plain pie that has been cooked already and on the counter, and than reheated.

                                            It all depends upon the timing when you place the order. If there is an available pie cooking already in the oven, than you are in luck and will get option A, but if there is no available pie in the oven and there is an available slice on the counter, than one will get option B. Obviously, it is better to get option A.

                                            With all the crowds, it would not be easy to time the placement of the order, and we usually consider ourselves lucky if we are able to get Mr. DeMarco’s attention to place our order without asking for extra service in getting option A, hence we have learned to live with whatever Lady Luck brings us. However, you might try to ask Mr. DeMarco for option A and if it works, we would obviously want to be informed, naturally.

                                            Good luck!

                                            1. re: lwong

                                              Not only are the arthichokes freshly sauteed, but they are rich with garlic and goodness. Heavenly.

                                  2. re: lwong

                                    "Father time waits for no one."

                                    Not according to my Di Fara haiku:

                                    Time and tide must wait
                                    For a quirky pizza man.
                                    Time is my square slice.

                                    http://petercherches.blogspot.com

                                    1. re: Peter Cherches

                                      Enjoyed your DiFara Haiku.

                                      Also enjoyed reading your Philadelphia food jaunt on your web blog. We will have to try some of the restaurants that you mentioned in your trip to Philadelphia.

                                      The line in your Philadelphia blog, “I never eat cheese with my pork” because “It’s not kosher,” had a certain ironic and wry humor to it.

                                    2. re: lwong

                                      Those sound like zucchini flowers, which I have seen at DiFara's.

                                  3. "I am perplexed as to how he makes such an (argueably) really good pie with great charring."

                                    You leave bread in any oven above about 300 deg f, the water will evaporate and the rest of it will eventually burn up.

                                    BTW, order the heros at DiFara's.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Geo8rge

                                      my experience is that the heros are good, but they are overshadowed by the rest of the things on the menu. Are their particular ones that stand out for you?

                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                        The meatball parmesian hero, with a little of the hot pepper relish sitting on the counter. The chicken cutlet is also very good.

                                    2. Ok Im sold...now will someone please tell me where it is (laffs)

                                      I used to live in Brooklyn but never heard of it.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: PeteDelfino

                                        Enjoy!

                                        DiFara's
                                        Address: 1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, corner of 15th Street
                                        Telephone: 718-392-1222

                                      2. I lived a couple of blocks from DiFara's from 1965 until 1988. His pizza always was the best in NY in my opinion, but now it has reached an amazing level. The care and skill that goes into each pie is unreal. I took two out of my 4 kids to DiFara's as part of their christmas gifts. My son and I went on a wed afternoon and waited 1 hour for a pie. when I took my 9 year old daughter, the wait was just absurd. 3 hours to get our pie on a Saturday night. I went across the street and got a beer and talked to some very nice people who were waiting to get there first taste of dom's masterworks. I love the place dearly, but 3 hours for a pie was a bit much. On the other hand, the pie was so ethereal that it was probably worth the wait.

                                        1. The 'secret' to his crusts is oil in those pans. Dude pours a considerable amount of oil in those pans, and they are heavy. I am sure he has that oven cranked as well. What I have noticed recently is that the traffic is so high (he must be making more pies per hour than even two years ago) is that the oven is losing heat and it takes longer for the square pies to get made. He likes them to smoke.

                                          1. Whats the scene Aat Difaras lke on a weekday afternoon?