A Report on a First Visit to DiFara's
I recently made my first visit to DiFara's and after hearing such buzz on this board and frankly from all sources about the legendary pizza, my thoughts going into the experience revolved around how it would ever live up to the hype. Let's get some points out there first: There are a lot of pizza places in NYC where you can get a good slice, and there's a smaller subset of places you can get a great one. In regards to DiFara's itself, I'll admit that waiting for 40 minutes as I did is not something I would do very often at all, nor drop $3 a slice if I can avoid it. I live in Bensonhurst, moved there only a few months ago, so the relative distance of the place isn't a problem for me. I know some people might take issue if they lived in Manhattan. For anyone out there who has ever eaten pizza, you are absolutely, positively missing the boat if you have never tasted DiFara's. It's so easy to grab a slice and scarf it down that I think we've lost perspective. Artisans who put not just effort, but soul into their food just aren't appreciated enough. We spend more time arguing over which TV chef can open more restaurants in a calendar year or which tasting menu has the most miniscule portions. Watching Dom put those slices together was an experience in itself, never mind the actual eating. My wife is Japanese, a people with a serious reverence for food and the ceremony of its preparation, and she was transfixed watching the poking and prodding going on. The mixture of cheeses was incredible, far far far superior to anything I've ever tried. I'm not a big time foodie, but even I could tell the ingredients were top notch. All in all, if I ever want to make an impression on a visitor and give them a taste of NY and what it means to be from this town, I'm taking them, kicking and screaming if need be, to Midwood.
I also made my first visit to Di Fara the week before Christmas. My wife and I arrived around 1pm on a Thursday. There was a small crowd inside of about 10-15 people. We nudged our way towards the counter as advised in countless Chowhound posts. Dom's helper (I assume she was his daughter) took our order after about ten minutes. We watched Dom work his craft. The crowd only got larger as we waited, but our order only took about 20 minutes to complete. The same could not be said for some of the other people in the room. The group in front of us said they had waited 45 minutes, but they were regulars and didn't seem to mind. The guy behind us was clearly a novice and was getting irritated with the wait. I could hear him making comments under his breath about the fact that Dom only uses one level of the oven and how much faster it would be if he used the whole oven. I just kept my mouth shut and watched the master at work. That guy was still waiting for his pie when we were finished eating ours. Like a typical tourist I snapped a picture of our pie as soon as we put it on our table. That prompted a guy sitting at the table next to us to wax nostalgic about the old days when he could walk into Di Fara and have a pie in ten minutes. "That was before he got famous and all the tourists started showing up," he said in his thick Brooklyn accent. The place was absolutely mobbed by the time we left, which surprised me because it was 2pm on a Thursday.
As for the pizza itself - incredible. A perfect balance of flavors. I could really taste the grated cheese and it was amazing how the fresh basil just soaks in the oil and adds a unique flavor that I've never experienced on a pizza before. I had read in the past that the grated cheese was Grana Padano, but the old-timer seated next to us insisted that it was Parmigiano Reggiano. Either way it was delicious and worth the wait.
I'm glad we didn't order any toppings. I wanted to taste the pizza in its most basic form without loading it down with additional flavors. Plus, I think toppings would have caused the pizza to collapse as the crust was very thin and the slices flopped down when you held them up. Next time we'll order a square. Those looked fantastic coming out of the oven.
It always makes me feel good to read about good DiFara experiences. It's like travelling abroad, if you don't have a little adventure in your heart, you're going to be put off by the hassle factor.
I'm a DiFara bigot and I don't even bother posting in these DiFara debate threads. I could care less, and Dom might agree with me, if not another person ever "discovers" DiFara again.
If you get a slice of the square pie, you'll be assured to die a happy person.
Get this scenario...4:50 on a balmy, otherwise ordinary Tuesday afternoon...man walks in, sidles up to counter "notch", peers downward onto the slices below...greets Dom and orders a pair "well-done" and "extra-hot-to-go-please" from Maggie...adds sprinkle of grated cheese and powdering of oregano...out the door in 8 efficient minutes flat (with 22 left on the meter).
Good Lord, was I ever lucky...the pie - superb.
The unfortunate part of this afternoon's rapid-fire experience was not hanging around long enough to allow the atmosphere and electric human presence to penetrate my being...and Dom's black beret...hysterical!
A woman at the counter, fully engaged by her slice...but why-oh-why would she not offer a taste of the good life to her little companion in the baby stroller?
re: Mike R.
I've told this story before and I'm not embellishing it.
I live in Dallas but I go back to Brooklyn once a year to visit family. I had read about DiFara's on CH when it used to be a staple topic among the lovers and the haters.
My first trip to DiFara's was on a hot Sunday August day around 12:30 PM. I had read the horror stories about waiting and when I walked in, NOBODY was there! I sincerely thought I was in the wrong place. If I had not recognized Dom from pictures, I would've been convinced I was in the wrong place. And being a fellow gumbah, I chatted with Dom, telling him how I'd found the place and he told me how long he'd been there and how much the neighborhood had changed.
I ate regular slices, I ate square slices, I experienced multiple food orgasms. This was the sublime pizza of my youth. Now by the time I left, you would've thought a Greyhound bus had broken down outside. There were tourists, cops, and locals who were in front of the counter doing the DiFara Mating Dance.