Not that the board needs another DiFara thread but…
…most DiFara threads (including the long one nearby) primarily debate whether the great pizza is worth the crowds and bad service.
My issue is whether it’s worth the lack of cleanliness. I mean, the place is a pit, it’s 50/50 on passing its health inspections (in fairness, it did pass its most recent one and the failures are borderline), and DeMarco handles alot of bills, food, bills, food, etc… When I’m eating the lack of cleanliness crosses my mind a few times, which definitely detracts from my enjoyment. (I’m no clean freak, either, I’ve worked in several restaurant kitchens.)
Obviously, many (including me) think it is worth it, but, assuming crowds etc. are not an issue, only cleanliness, how much of a taste decline would it take to make people think twice about going? (Not necessarily a question that won’t be seriously asked if his kids take over.)
If I rated DiFara a 10, my favorite coal oven place a 9, the type of high-quality slice place found in only a few neighborhoods a 6, and the good slice place found in many a 5, and DiFara dropped to:
-as low as 8, I’d subway/bus 1-2 hours to it (since it’s different than coal-fired)
-as low as 7, I’d subway/bus maybe 45 minutes to it, but might subway/bus to a cleaner 6
-as low as 6, I’d probably never eat there again, unless I happened to find myself w/in a 15 minute walk
-as low as 5, I’d never eat there again, even if I was in the nabe and no other 5 was convenient (don't know if one is or not)
(Crowds aren’t much of an issue for me since I go when crowds are less likely (weekday, before 5, bad weather), and I won’t go in if it’s crowded (I continue on to Brighton Beach or Coney Island). I also haven’t been there in 2 years, so don’t know if crowds can be avoided anymore.)
I agree bmd, my question’s been answered: if the food’s good enough, for most cleanliness barely registers (while, from the other threads, crowds/wait/service do). Sort of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of thing (in the sense that ignoring grunge is easy, ignoring a jerk cutting the line isn’t). I probably view cleanliness as a real issue since I’ve had a pretty bad case of food poisoning, and that clued me into the milder, “24-hour bug” cases I’ve had since.
So, I do think about a restaurant that has worse hygiene than the average dirty-water-dog cart vendor, since that’s about attitude, not resources, and I know what I can see isn’t worse than what I can’t see. It obviously doesn’t keep me from enjoying the food, just meaningfully detracts from that enjoyment. (I do eat dirty-water-dogs, btw, but not from guys who unnecessarily handle the food, since I know a guy who’s spent a few minutes learning his tong/fork will be directly across the street.)
Personally, I think DiFara's is over rated. The owner is a nice enough man but I'm not a fan of the taste. Saying that I will say that some of my favorite places lack basic cleanliness guidelines and/or good service. Ex: NY Noodletown & Wonton Garden. Both place have bathrooms that make the NYC Subway look like Felix Unger's apartment. Gray's Papaya, also lacks somewhat in sanitary aesthetics. I overlook the obvious that any health inspector would have a field day with because said eateries make up for it with their exquisite cuisine. My guess is this how DiFara fans feel as well.
Oh my god, I just had a flashback. The last time we were there, I asked his daughter if I could use the bathroom; it was in the back, and I was afraid to touch anything including the doorknob and the faucet handles. Definitely the dirtiest I've ever seen and I've been in thousands of restaurant employee facilities. It didn't stop me from eating the pizza though!
I get it--trying to scare away the crowds! Maybe it will work. I just went for the first time today--no waiting at 12:30pm on a frigid super bowl sunday. Yeah, mediocre pizza, the place is so dirty, not worth the ride out there, everyone should just stop going...
I was really glad to finally taste the work of this artisan and I seeing it for myself I can understand the situation there a bit. He is simply making awesome pizzas nonstop, at the speed he believes is necessary to make them to his standards. He takes orders from whoever is at the counter. Since he is continuously making pizzas as fast as he can, his capacity is full. I don't think he sees it as his duty to figure out how to make every person who shows up there happy. I am sure he would like everyone to be happy. If he wanted to figure out how to expand his business he would have done it a long time ago. For now, either play the game with the crowd or go at a time you'll expect it to be less busy and the pizza is definitely worth it.
In answer to your questioned I Im inured to bussing and cleaning my own table there . There are plenty of health issues to worry about in the world and the fact that Dom handles money and food alternately (well, dont you?) doesnt rank high up on my list.
I cant think of many one-man operations where this doesnt happen.