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Dec 21, 2007 05:05 PM

DiFara = Disappointing.

Very disappointing.

1. Unbelievably long wait.
I waited 50 minutes after politely asking for two plain cheese slices. The place wasn’t even that busy. Plenty of people jumped ahead of me with entire pizza orders that were filled before any slices were made available to anyone. Finally, a customer who had already ordered and received two pies, asked if another one could be made. Dom’s daughter responded “sure, it’ll be ready in a few minutes.” I politely asked if my order would be speeded up if I requested an entire pie, to which she kind of rolled her eyes. I asked if it would be much longer for my slices, she responded (for the third time), “yeah, it’s in the oven now.” That same customer who jumped ahead of me kindly offered a slice from his own pie, fresh from the oven, which I gladly snapped up, as I was almost ready to pass out from starvation. Seriously, I hadn't eaten all day! After one greasy, dripping bite, I realized further waiting would not be adequately rewarded, and I walked out.

2. Good, not great pizza.
The crust was not particularly flavorful, and certainly rather dense. The sauce had a bit of tart/sweetness too it, which was nice, but no better than above average. The cheese was clearly better than typical NY ‘pizza cheese’, but not in the realm of Patsy’s, John’s, Grimaldi’s, etc. It was okay. The whole slice was dripping in an unnecessary slather of olive oil that goes on after the pie is delivered from the oven. The final dusting of cheese (parmesean?), and clippings of fresh basil were a nice, though visually unappealing touch.

3. Long haul from the city.
This is no destination eatery. If you're local, and place your order an hour ahead, it makes sense to eat there. If not, find a good pizzeria closer to home. I'm sure there are many as good as DiFara.

4. It’s just a pizzeria.
This is not really a criticism, just an observation. It’s just a pizza joint, and kind of a dump at that. It’s certainly not a destination spot for a sit down meal. If you're in Brooklyn, go to Lucali instead.

Overall, I was not impressed. I could speculate as to the reasons why some people act so fanatical about this place, but there would be no point. It’s just pizza. If you like it, good for you. You won’t have to worry about this chowhound jumping ahead of you in line.

On my way home, still hungry, I considered my many options for good pizza in the city, and settled on Una Pizza Napoletana on 12th between 1st and 2nd Ave. There was no wait. I got a single pie to take home, but ate most of it on the subway. Now THAT is a pizza made of “the finest ingredients”, as so many have claimed about DiFara. I suspect that DiFara fans lack the taste buds needed to discern the difference. The small pie was $21, but only took 5 minutes, I was treated well, and served water while I sat down and waited. How much was that 50 minutes spent standing around like a jackass starving at DiFara worth? If you're thinking of trying this place for the novelty, as I did, don't bother, it ain't worth it.

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  1. "I suspect that DiFara fans lack the taste buds needed to discern the difference"

    Or, imagine this: people, like myself, who have enjoyed DiFara's pizza amongst others, just have opinions that differ from your own.

    1. Without the usual battle, I simply offer this challenge to you powermd: go one more time and get an entire square pie. If you do not like it better I will pay for it myself somehow.

      3 Replies
      1. re: NYJewboy

        I couldn't even get two slices, let alone an entire pie. This pizza is okay, but not worth the trip out from the city, let alone a full hour wait. The guy who kindly gave me a slice was local and said it was typical to wait that long regardless of what you order.

        1. re: powermd

          A full hour wait? Uh... Why? How? When did you go!?!? You should never be waiting that long on a non Fri-Sat. There's a pretty big difference between a single slice and a pie there also. That pizza has to be eaten before the cheese even sets for maximum enjoyment.

        2. re: NYJewboy

          "The cheese was clearly better than typical NY ‘pizza cheese’, but not in the realm of Patsy’s, John’s, Grimaldi’s, etc"

          dom uses doc bufala mozzarela, the best in the world. Patsy’s, John’s, Grimaldi’s all use cheese many notches below. get a grip, man.

        3. Fresh basil clippings visually unappealing? egads....

          3 Replies
          1. re: King of Northern Blvd

            I should have explained. Dom drizzles oil all over the cooked pizza, then clips the basil leaves from the stalk which land on the pizza in clumps, and finishes it off with a dusting of parmesean. The whole post-oven pizza treatment is kind of visually unappealing.

            1. re: powermd

              Oh, I know what he does. It's just most people like to watch him treat his pizza out of the oven..But to each his own.

              1. re: powermd

                Interesting how different people have different opinions and tastes. I would be in pizza heaven if I saw someone put fresh basil leaves on a pie after it came out of the oven. Usually you're lucky to get fresh basil at all or it's a few tiny, stingy shreds of the sweet leaf. The open kitchen. . . you have to be into that. I need to take a Brooklyn pizza tour. I have only been to Spumoni Gardens, Grimaldi's and a brew pub in Red Hook that had pretty good pizza.

            2. Powermd, I'm curious about how you approached your visit. Did you research any of the literally hundreds of Difara's posts littering Chowhound? If you had, I expect you'd have noticed conversations specifically addressing your complaints. Judging by your issues, I'd also judge that if you had done any small amount of research you would have learned enough to steer clear.
              However, I fear you did no research. Therefore you had no idea when were the best times to visit; what might be the best way to secure your pizza; that Dom's daughter is barely tracking things; what the prices were; that indeed the place is a dump and that there is always a generous pour of olive oil. And you'd certainly learn that standing around waiting for two slices, not tracking slice pies and without being assertive and attentive will get you little.
              Finally, the fact that you feel you can judge Dom and his food by eating exactly one slice leads me to believe you had little intention of doing more than debunking what you feel is a myth.
              Concluding your, ahem, review, with the lovely statement that "DiFara fans lack the taste buds needed to discern the difference" makes me wonder why you even bother reading and posting on Chowhound. DiFara, like a few other places, are known to be long standing Chowhound favorites. Likely the majority of NY 'hounds ARE Difara fans. It follows then that you believe many NY 'hounds lack discerning taste buds. I'm puzzled.

              14 Replies
              1. re: noisejoke

                Until the "taste bud" comment, despite disagreeing with some of your points/logic, I was willing to accept that the you were honestly reporting on a bad first experience, which is fine. But that comment signaled that you had an axe to grind, which is why I responded in the first place. Besides that, it was just plain incorrect.

                There are a great many Difara enthusiasts on this board, a few of whom I've had the pleasure of meeting, whose taste buds are not only discerning with respect to pizza, but with respect to a wide variety of foods and cuisines. We're talking experienced eaters here. Now, that is not to say that they are right, and you are automatically wrong; honestly, how can you contradict another person's taste buds? But you were the individual who brought it into that silly realm of right and wrong anyhow.

                I tend to enjoy the DiFara's threads - obsessive and crazy as they are - when people just stick to the pizza, and leave their egos out of it.

                As for the pizza, I had three slices last Friday afternoon, around 12:30: in succession, a regular, a regular with baby eggplant, and a sicilian, each better than the one before it, each bursting with freshness and flavor, the combination of pure tomato and tasty crust on the sicilian being off the charts good.

                As obnoxious as the hype can be - and the occasional backlash - it's the pizza that matters. And that's some amazing pizza.

                1. re: Polecat

                  The "taste bud" comment was added to address the inevitable comments from those who would trash Una in favor of DiFara for reasons having nothing to do with the food.

                  I went on a Friday around 5pm- sure, a typically busy time for DiFara, but it wasn't that busy at all. In fact, there was a solid 20 minute period when I was one of two or three people standing around the counter. I had asked three times, as politely as possible, when my slices would be available, and if it would be much longer. If Dom's daughter had just told the truth and said it would be a full hour wait, I would have left and come back.

                  And to JFores- the slice I eventually got was piping hot, right out of the oven, part of a full pie destined to go home as take out. It was literally dripping all over my fingers and on to the floor. I never said it was bad pizza. Just not something to make a religion out of.

                  And I wouldn't have gone all the way out there just to "debunk the hype". I was literally starving and hadn't eaten anything all day, I was hoping it would live up to the hype of the fanatics on this board. I'm very democratic in my hounding. I gave it a fair shot, and it's not better than any of the majors I frequently see bashed in favor of DiFara.

                  1. re: powermd

                    This is an interesting thread to me b/c it's a lot more cordial than other Di Fara threads on which I have posted and I was a lot kinder to the pizza itself:-} As many CH DiFara regulars know, I'm not a fan and for most, if not all, of the non pizza reasons you mentioned in your OP. I have experienced all of the same waits, being ignored/passed over in favor of more aggressive customers. etc. After several visits, all of which were the same, I decided the frustrating ordeal to acquire the pizza was just not worth it. I also agree that the addition of the olive oil at the end is excessive. That's just a personal preference. I think, perhaps, the hype also had me expecting the whole "heaven in a slice" experience and that didn't happen either. For me, (And I stress: FOR ME) whether it's eating a slice, or dining at Per Se, I want the experience to be as stress free and enjoyable as possible. I accept that (again, for me) DiFara's is never going to provide that sort of experience ..
                    That having been said...
                    I respect my felllow CH's and realize, that for many, DiFara's is a beloved institution that deserves their apppreciation and support. Perhaps,they have figured out the best times to go and can set their hunger to those times, or perhaps (Grrr!) they are the people cutting the line and elbowing their way to the "sweet spot" at the counter, or maybe they have the patience of Job. I don't know, but I think it's a testemony to the Owner and his pizza that there is such a loyal, devoted following. It just doesn't work for us, but it does for them.

                    1. re: powermd

                      powermd: You were pissed off... you're not the first & wont be the last. It's an infuriating non-system that Dom uses and some of my best friends wont go for that reason alone. And you also wont be the first, nor the last, to not like the added oil nor some of his other "rustic" methods. But dont get carried away with yourself and think that the rest of us dont have taste buds & he's living on hype. It's just not that simple. And it's over the top insulting. Here's a proposition for you: since you recommended Lucali's in Brooklyn, take a hike over there yourself and have a conversation with Mark (the owner/pizza maker). Unlike Dom, Mark is laid back, friendly and approachable. Ask him why he spent so many hours at DiFara's watching Dom & why he feels as strongly about his product as we do. Ask him about the ingredients. Ask him about the taste buds.

                      1. re: Steve R

                        "Mark is laid back, friendly and approachable. Ask him why he spent so many hours at DiFara's watching Dom & why he feels as strongly about his product as we do. Ask him about the ingredients. Ask him about the taste buds."

                        Then ask Mark for a pie. You'll get it in less than 20 minutes and it's damn good.

                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                          You know, I was saying the same thing to myself. I was hoping someone would post that thought...
                          Thanks! :-}

                      2. re: powermd

                        Maybe it's just not your thing. I've heard of some people being bothered by the oilyness and other things. I personally can't stand Una because of the service (if it's a sit down restaurant I expect it), the price and the fact that the pizza is only OK on Italian standards. In my experience, Dom has WOWed Italians I brought there. Una would be like any other pie you'd get in much of Southern Italy.

                        The hour wait bit is silly though. You have to stay ridiculously attentative, at the counter and at a certain part of the counter or things take much longer.

                        I took two Londoners there and got a pie in the midst of a pretty decent dinner crowd in under 30 minutes. It was probably about 20. It was delicious and they loved it.

                        Two more tourists spared the evils of a Brooklyn Bridge walk followed by Grimaldi's (not to mention that I gave them a food tour of Bed Stuy.)

                        1. re: JFores

                          You did a food tour of Bed Sty?... I'm impressed. ...Seriously :-}

                          1. re: JFores

                            I was just rereading your post...Got distracted by the whloe Bed Stuy tour, thing.
                            See? That's the thing. I can't speak for the OP, but I wouldn't even mind the wait, Even if it was a l-o-n-g wait. It's the whole unfair and chaotic non system that they, the owners, perpetuate. I''ve been thinking about it (Beats thinking about work stuff) Doesn't Dom and family owe you, their loyal and devoted following (I'm not mocking: I'm serious) some sort of consideration, and courtesy for your patronage over all these years?
                            Don't they have some sort of obligation to take respectful care of you for standing by them for the long haul and for allowing them to have the benefits of a successful business? The gratitude should be a two way deal. No one should have to plot and plan and scheme and manouver to the counter, when all it would take to make everyone happy with a sense of being treated fairly, would be a simple number system and some sort of decision as to how often slices are made available vs whole pies. It's not too much to ask. The product, as good as it may be, should not jsutify allowing customers to be treated poorly.

                            1. re: Tay

                              Tay -- Since I'm in this thread, I might as well jump in on your note to JFlores uninvited :-)

                              Your point is well taken, but misguided (at least as it relates to me). I've been going since I was 14 (that's 40 years) and I really dont feel disrespected or poorly taken care of by Dom (there's no other owner). The only 2 way "obligation", as I see it, is for him to be there and keep producing the same product (I would feel cheated if he suddenly put out something other than the quality he does) and for me to decide, given all the variables, to go and spend my $$ there or not. Whether he chooses to put in a numbering system (I've always thought you had a good idea here and even told him so... deaf ears on his part; not interested) or not, whether he chooses to serve folks based on their hair color or order of appearence at the door, that's his choice. As long as he's reasonably consistant, that gives me a choice of going or not, eyes wide open.

                              Hey, I dont like supplemental charges at price fixed dinners and many other irritating choices restaurant owners may make. At Lucali's, Mark forces me to only eat pizza and/or calzone if I want to eat there... but, if I am okay with the ground rules and the product is worth it to me, I'm in. But, no, I dont think a business owner owes a customer more than that.

                              That being said, most of us wish that Dom would bend a little on some things. But, if he was bendable, he probably wouldnt be equally self assured and focused on making pizza and who knows what would've happened then. Ya gotta take the whole package or leave it... no one's calling for a vote. Certainly not Dom.

                              1. re: Steve R

                                Steve R
                                I have to say, this thread is alot more uhhh.. dare I say 'genteel' than a previous one when I related my experiences and expressed my thoughts, RE: DiFara's and was somewhat personally attacked. Fortunately, I have an iron clad ego, and no one has my address,so it didn't have much of an impact. :-}
                                Seriously, I appreciate your thoughts and, of course you're right about choice .Except, maybe for that leeetle part about Mr DiFara refusing service to people based on their hair color, etc..But that's a discrimination suit of another color...... Kidding ! Kidding! :-}
                                I have to respectfully agree to disagree with you RE: The unwritten obligation that exists between the propriator.of a business and his/her customers. I don't think you'd accept this sort of experience from any other owner/Mgr. Certainly not without some demonstrated effort on the part of the Mgmt to improve the customer's experience.
                                This is a 'relationship' if you will, based on a give and take. For many of you, it trandscends just a business relationship. You are personally fond of this gentleman and you both admire his craft and appreciate and support his product/creation. I am sincere (I can be on occasion) when I say I genuinely admire the loyalty you ,show to this man and his business. He may write the checks, but it's all of you that pay the bills. In his own, laid back way, his refusal to make even the smallest of changes to acommodate, and better serve his customers, tells me something less than admirable about the way he conducts his business. Ironically, it's his devoted following that has 'word of mouthed' him into never having to show some courtesy and appreciation to the very peolpe who provide free advertising and excellent reviews. I suppose if I was a devotee, I would feel as you do, but if waiting for my fair turn in a "first come first served" environment is not possible because it's not something that DiFara's is even remotely interested in providing, then I acept that the owner doesn't care because he doesn't have to, and I'll make do elsewhere.
                                I did appreciate your post.. :-}

                                1. re: Tay

                                  I'm glad this thread is (so far) remaining civil as well. I see no reason for it to be otherwise; after all, I dont know you well enough to personally detest you (yep, that's me joking around). Actually, I even find it hard to personally attack those I do know (see upthread... another joke). At any rate, I really can see your point but disagree with your formulation. We make different acommodations & weigh things based on our own values and those of the specific person on the other side of the table. In the case of Dom, you short sell his end of the agreement. You cite his lack of organization, assume that he doesnt care about his customers, and place a negative value on it that isnt offset by anything else. You say we pay the bills & place a positive on our side... again, not looking at anything else. The scale tips one way. No surprise.

                                  Well, I agree that he is disorganized and, knowing the man for quite a few years, risk the ire of many when I also agree that Dom truly doesnt much care about customer opinion either. But to think that the customer doesnt benefit from his devotion to the craft which, up until this year, led him to work 364 days/year, 12 hours/day, pulling every pie himself, and to not insert that into the equation or "contract" is incorrect, from my perspective. It's not just the money... he doesnt get to spend much of that &, based on even rudimentary math, he probably doesnt need any more of it either. What we offset the variables you describe with is the single minded devotion he has to put himself entirely into the process, something no business owner needs to do. It has a serious positive effect on what we, the consumers, receive & it makes it worthwhile for us to put up with the lack of "relationship". Besides, for some of us, you'd even have to factor in the entertainment value we get watching the show, including the antsy "fast food folk" who wind up in the slooooow food venue that is DiFara's.

                                  Understand that I really mean it when I say that this is specific to Dom. After 40 years, I sometimes get no more than an eye twinkle and nod. No real relationship and I'm okay with it. At Kebab Cafe, another place I regularly defend, I'd value the relationship with the owner (whom I know well and go out to eat with elsewhere) over the price and ambience (read: small, cramped space... otherwise, actually quite a charming place). Of course, in all places, the other variables only enter into it if/when the food shines to begin with. And, with Dom (& Ali), boy can they create.

                                  1. re: Steve R

                                    Steve (I now know you well enough to drop the "R" :-}
                                    You say:
                                    ".... But to think that the customer doesnt benefit from his devotion to the craft which, up until this year, led him to work 364 days/year, 12 hours/day, pulling every pie himself, and to not insert that into the equation or "contract" is incorrect, from my perspective. It's not just the money... .......
                                    . What we offset the variables you describe with is the single minded devotion he has to put himself entirely into the process, something no business owner needs to do"

                                    I absolutely think the customer benefits greatly from his devotion to his work. I never thought for a minute that it was just about the money. If I implied otherwise, Mea culpa. I will though, disagree with the latter part of your quote, above. I think every business owner should devote him/herself to the needs and requests of their customers. Within reason, of course. I appreciate that Mr DiFara is devoted to his craft. I'm just saying that he should be as devoted to the customers who provided him with the wherewithall to practice it.. And I don't think he cares much about his customers. If he did, he'd try to make the process of obtaining his pizza an easier process. I suppose that what bothers me. ...
                                    I think that's where you and I differ in our perceptions: I believe that
                                    he does what he does because he likes doing it. and not because he is devoted to his customers It's what he knows how to do and that's a great thing for you guys because you love what he does.He's doing it bcause it fills his days and gives him a sense of purpose which is also a good thing. I'm just saying if he were as devoted to his customers as thy are to him, you'd think he'd want to make sharing his artistry a nicer experience. Maybe allow more of the next generation to enjoy his pizza. Maybe leave a bigger, better business for his daughter. and, if he has any, Grandchildren,
                                    Of course, we're back to choices.and free will, and all that jazz... :-}
                                    As I said before, I accept the phnom. that is DiFara's, I just don't understand it. Too much like unrequieted love: I don't understand that either :-}

                                  2. re: Tay

                                    And likely there is no way at this point for fans of of Dom and his product (clearly a beloved product with a passionate following) to assess the 'service' without bias. Whether it's great pizza, good pizza, or the best pizza in the world, dismissive and uncaring service isn't that endearing - even for a legend. I admire his fans loyalty to a point, but I agree that they perpetuate the idea that this product is worth the whole bad ambience of the thing (I know, some think it's good theater). Dom works hard - seems to care about his product - but so do alot of pizza guys; the difference is, they know who's next in line.. Not such a tough concept to employ, if you care. I get the sense Dom knows more than his fans think about psychology and that he knows the 'gestalt' of it all is appealing and 'cool' to his fan base. IMHO, not so cool. Have had some yummy pizza there, but don't care for the game of it. Not gonna play.

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