NYC Dining: Difara Pizza


Difara Pizzeria
1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY
(718) 258-1367

Related Post: DiFara, It’s Hip to be Square 

I don’t really have words that can adequately describe just how amazing the pizza that Domenick DeMarco makes at DiFara. The man has a magical skill for transforming simple, high quality raw ingredients into some of the best pizza in the entire NY Metro area. He isn’t using an anthracite coal oven like Patsy’s, Arturo’s, Grimaldi’s, Lombardi’s, or Totonno, but what he is able to accomplish with an old, beat up steel deck pizza oven is nothing short of miraculous. The pictures, really do speak for themselves.

Click for link to Newer DiFara post on Square Pies

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DiFara looks like an old beat up Pizza parlor in an old Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. The looks can be deceiving.

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Mozzarella di Bufala, which is used in combination with low moisture Mozzarella and Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese.

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A square pie being readied for the oven.

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A plain pie, bubbling, just out of the oven.

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Closeup, with fresh basil added.

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A happy customer. Expect to wait 30 minutes or so for a pie during prime business hours.

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Pizza Menu

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Italian specialties menu

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A row of fresh basil plants used to top the pizzas.

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Oregano

Dom said these were Rosemary Plants

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Dom saucing a pie.

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A baby artichoke slice

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Artichoke slice closeup. The oily residue is extra virgin olive oil used as seasoning drizzled over the top.

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A plain pie being hit with basil

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Plain slice closeup.

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Sausage and Porcini Mushroom pie

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Porcini mushroom slice closeup.

24 Responses to NYC Dining: Difara Pizza

  1. Eliot says:

    Last I checked, the hard cheese was Grana Padano, not Parmigiano.

  2. Judy Abbott says:

    you made me hungry, yummmy.

  3. I grew up just blocks away from Di Fara, and have been feasting on Dom’s pies for nearly 5 decades!……….Lucky me. If you were ever going to make a pilgrimage to Brooklyn’s interior, a Di Fara slice is all the incentive & reward you’ll need.

  4. Eliot: I asked dom what kind of cheese it was, he said it was a 6-month old Parmigiano. Although of course for cost reasons he could be using Grana, because there isn’t much of a difference, flavor profile wise, especially when the cheese is younger.

  5. ad says:

    STOP TALKING ABOUT THE BEST PIZZA IN THE CITY
    THAT IS EXACTLY HOW YOU KILL A GOOD THING

  6. greenlightsabers says:

    Ack, stop talking about pizza and NY! Now I want to go there. :P

  7. Nina says:

    There is no rosemary in that “rosemary and oregano” photo. And that is not from plants at DiFara – that is packaged dried Italian oregano. The labels are still on the packages – you can see that in the photo.

  8. Nina says:

    About the cheese – sometimes he uses parmigiano, and sometimes grana. It depends on his suppliers and what’s available.

  9. Nina: I’ve added an additional photo of what he said were Rosemary plants growing in the window. I don’t know if he is actually using them for seasoning or if they are just there for decoration. I know he uses the basil plants on the windowsill.

  10. Nina says:

    That new photo is definitely rosemary plants, which he does grow. And the one above it is definitely dried, packaged oregano. Thanks for fixing it.

    Some time when you’re there, ask Dom to make you a pizza bianca, which he also calls a “rosamarin” (rosemary) pie. He flattens the crust flatter, uses cheese, olive oil, and rosemary from the plant. No tomato. It’s light, and the crust is crispier because it’s thinner. Really good.

    Also, if you’ve never had a calzone there….it’s a must. A work of art.

  11. I don’t get there nearly often enough Nina, but I’ll make a point of it.

  12. aFunk says:

    Well, you can try and get the ingredients from the packages Dom uses but it won’t help. Every pie is blessed w/ his magic wand….He smiles with every pie he hands you. Midwood is were I grew up in the 60’s & 70’s & moved west to return here in the 90’s. My girlfriend and I live around the corner of this mainly jewish / religious neighborhood…it was mixed Italian, Irish, Jewish back then and it was just a good neighborhood pizza shop. If you come to Difara’s on Friday night (shabbat) you’ll notice that all of the other restaurants eerily are closed except for the old beat-up pizza shop on 15th St…. ..Its worth the trip.
    35 min from Times Square “Q” Train to Ave. “J”

  13. Annie says:

    Found DiFara’s (and love) last Sunday and have never tasted pizza that good. Not in 47 years. So there.

    I was amazed at how impatient New Yorkers–Broohlynites, yet–wait patiently for this manna from heaven.

    Are the “specialties” lasagne, ziti, etc. equally good?

  14. -- says:

    For a kosher alternative, Pizza Time (few blocks down) comes close in terms of taste if not quality.

  15. John Fox says:

    I haven’t been to DiFara’s yet. How does it compare to the famous New Haven, Connecticut pizza places?

  16. […] A taste so delicious that it caused me to miss my flight This is one of those confessional stories that I normally would be extremely selective about who I tell. 99.9% of the population just wouldn’t get it. Frankly, they’d see me as a glutton. Or a buffoon. Probably both. But, hey, I figure if you’re still checking in on my blog after I haven’t posted for a month, then there’s a good chance that you might be part of that 0.1% that would be sympathetic to my gluttony enthusiasms. You see, I missed my flight yesterday for a couple of slices of pizza. Plain. Cheese. Pizza. No toppings. The menu posted on the grease-stained wall calls it simply “regular.” My odyssey began at 11 yesterday morning in Manhattan. What am I doing in NYC? This is a story about pizza, so where else would I be? Really, though, my darling wife N is there for the summer. Something to do with graduate school, a masters degree, training for her promotion into school administration, yadda, yadda. All I know is I missed her, so I visited her over the long holiday weekend. More on the rest of the trip another day. At 11, I departed the place where we were staying on the Upper West Side, suitcase in tow, umbrella poised over my head. I dodged puddles, ignored the light rain, and hopped aboard the A train to JFK. I learned the hard way that a few sprinkles are enough to grind the subway system to a halt, so it took 2 hours to reach the airport. Then again, the ticket only cost $2, so I can’t complain. I checked in my bag, leaving me 4 hours to grab a bite to eat in Brooklyn before my 5:30 flight began boarding. 4 hours. Seems like plenty of time for a couple of slices of pizza, no? The object of my quest wasn’t just any pizza, but you probably suspected that already. Although I didn’t know this at the time, my Grail has been universally praised in virtually every publication that writes about food, New York, and/or pizzas (even the London-based Financial Times). This pizzeria receives a 27 in the most recent Zagat Survey, the same score as Jean Georges (!!??). Pizza blogger Adam of Slice has written about it so often, it is its own category. It is featured prominently in Ed Levine’s pizza guide. I, however, had only read about it in Molly’s memorable post last September on her food blog, Orangette. Her story and accompanying photos were enough to convince me that I needed to visit DiFara Pizza.* From the airport, it took me 3 transfers and over an hour to reach the pizzeria. When I last checked my watch, it was well before 3:00, leaving me an ample 2 hours to eat and get back to the airport. At the time, I had no idea that waits at DiFara routinely exceed an hour. All I knew is that there were only about 10 people in front of me. Shortly after I arrived, 2 of them tossed up their arms in disgust and left, a gesture which should have given me pause, but instead strengthened my resolve. Mind you, I was ravenous, having eaten little more than a croissant for breakfast. I was also completely mesmerized by what I saw before me. Time had ceased to have any relevance. The aroma of bubbling tomato sauce, fresh basil, and melting cheese blindsided me as soon as I stepped into the diminutive corner store. Like the truffle pig digging furiously in the dirt, I was driven mad with desire. DiFara’s walls are painted tomato sauce orange, every square inch of space devoted to press clippings singing the praises of its pizza. The décor is classic dive, a half dozen grease-smeared, crumb topped folding tables surrounded by a few wobbly chairs. Little pots of fresh herbs – Greek oregano, basil, rosemary – sprout off the counters and in the front windowsill, where passersby occasionally place orders for an Italian ice (sorbetto) or antipasti like stuffed zucchini flowers. A 12-foot white tile counter divides the room in two. On the one side, are the surprisingly patient New Yorkers, who were, like me, entranced and salivating. On the other is the master pizzaiolo, Domenic DeMarco. The 69-year-old DeMarco goes about his business, in no particular hurry, serenely crafting pizzas one at a time just as he has for the past 47 years, 7 days a week. This is a one-person operation. No one else touches the pizzas. If he’s sick or needs foot surgery, as was the case in April, DiFara closes. A few of his 7 grown children help him by taking orders and doing other tasks behind the scenes, like making sauce and dough and cleaning dishes. DeMarco makes 2 kinds of pizza, round (thin crust) and square (thicker crust Sicilian-style, cooked in a blackened rectangular pan). For each round pizza, I repeat, made one at a time, he strolls into the back, emerging with a well-proofed blob of dough. He dusts the table with a big handful of Colavita brand Italian Tipo “00” flour, then gently but purposefully prods the dough with all of his fingertips until it roughly approximates a circle. He picks the dough up once or twice to stretch it, gravity causing it to ooze like a Dalí clock. He lays the gooey dough (the wettest I’ve ever seen) onto his wooden peel, unbothered (satisfied, even) by its amoebic shape and twisted, tattered edges. Onto the dough DeMarco swirls a generous 12-ounce ladel of barely cooked red sauce made from a combination, I’ve read, of fresh and imported canned San Marzano tomatoes with basil. Next come the 3 kinds of cheeses. First, he uses the slicer side of a well-worn box grater to reduce a block of low moisture, full fat deli mozzarella into slivers which he spreads out on the pie. Then he grabs a fist-sized ball of fresh fior di latte mozzarella (or, some days, mozzarella di bufala from his family’s hometown in the province of Caserta, Italy) and crushes it into 6 or 8 chunks (the proportion of cheese looks to be about 2 or 3 parts deli mozzarella to 1 part fresh). He then douses the pie with extra virgin olive oil from a long-spouted copper pitcher before he slides it into the (purportedly) 700˚F inferno (nearly 400˚C). After a few minutes, DeMarco pulls the pizza, cheese and sauce now bubbling volcanically, the edges and bottom of the crust scorched in spots, from the oven and showers it with the third cheese, a young parmigiana reggiano (sometimes grana padano) which has been grated from a hand crank rotary grater affixed to his work table. For his final touch, DeMarco uses a pair of scissors to snip a bunch of fresh basil onto the top of the pizza, and then slices it into 8 wedges. I watched this process over and over and over again as I waited for my 2 slices. But really, I could have easily whiled away the whole day in that shop without a complaint, observing the master artisan and listening to local Brooklynites’ comments. One man stopped DeMarco from snipping basil onto his round pizza to go. “No green leaves. I have to pick them off or the kids won’t touch it.” DeMarco quietly shot back: “Don’t come crying back to me when your pizza doesn’t taste right.” Was the pizza worth the wait? Was it worth missing my flight home? An emphatic YES! The cheeses, olive oil, and sauce co-mingled into a soupy mess, but played off each other perfectly. The tomato sauce, infused with basil and Greek oregano, had just the right degree of tanginess. The milk flavor of the fresh mozzarella shone through, while the reggiano added its distinctive salty nuttiness. The crust was magnificent, proving that you don’t need a wood fire to make a perfect pizza. It was crisp on the outside and pleasantly chewy within, exhibiting irregular air pockets like a loaf of ciabatta. Still blissfully high from my pizza, I stood outside DiFara for 5 or 10 minutes, slowly slurping on a lemon Italian ice, dreamily hoping I might be able to hail a cab. Not a single one passed in that time. I glanced at my watch. An hour had passed since I had arrived. “Oh, it’s 4:00. Don’t I have to be somewhere?” Panic slowly gurgled up as it dawned on me that I may miss my flight. After a series of long delays on each subway line (curse the MTA!), frantic cell phone cries for help to N, and a futile sprint through the airport, I arrived too late, drenched in sweat. Fortunately, N got through to the airline 2 minutes before the flight left, so I didn’t lose any money and was able to get on a flight home today for no extra charge. Would I do it again? In a heart beat. You never know when you will again be able to witness a master craftsman like Dominic DeMarco. In an article that appeared in the New York Times a year ago, DeMarco shared his philosophy, saying something I find very inspiring, something which makes me glad I missed my flight. “Pizza has become considered a fast food. This one is slow food. Anything you do, when you do it too fast, it’s no good. The way I make a pizza takes a lot of work. And I don’t mind work.” * DiFara Pizza 1424 Avenue J (at E. 15th Street) Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn Subway: Avenue J stop on the Q Line Telephone: 718.258.1367 Cash only ________________________________ I felt too much respect to interrupt DeMarco by taking lots of photos, a decision which I later regretted. Fortunately, others weren’t so shy and there are countless photos of Dominic DeMarco and DiFara on the Web. In fact, thanks to Jason Perlow, the founder of eGullet, you too can while away hours watching the gently stooping DeMarco make pizzas. Perlow filmed the master in action as he assembled round and square pizzas. You can watch the 4-minute DiFara video (Flash required) which plays in a nonstop loop, or peruse his excellent still photos on his blog, Off the Broiler. […]

  17. […] Difara Pizza (Brooklyn)> Wow, it looks good on Off the BroilerHow could I not go after this story on Blogs That Cook? […]

  18. […] It probably comes as no surprise that one of our all time most popular posts on Off The Broiler has been my previous trip to Difara Pizza in Brooklyn. I’m not sure if it was the photos or the four minutes of Zen-like video watching the master at work, but we got an awful lot of hits. How could I top that post? I’m not sure, but I’m going to try to do it again. […]

  19. […] The restaurant itself is grungy and worn. But it has a place to sit and a place to put your pie, which is really all you need, possibly in life, (the hyperbole had to come back at some point) because, when it emerges from the oven, you will be faced with the best New York pizza ever. Possibly some of the best pizza anywhere, ever. I may not be the world’s foremost pizza expert, but I’m far from the only one who thinks we’ve It: just check out the countless awards on the walls, or the many, many, many… posts from other bloggers who have succumbed to Di Fara’s wiles […]

  20. stevie says:

    I lived in midwood back in the ’80’s, now I’m in Seattle and the pizza here, well sadly to say stinks. We need Dom over here. I last visited nyc in 1994 same with Difara’s pizza. I miss that sicilian and his pasta dishes so much!! He told me some 17 years ago that for his sicilian sauce he uses prosciutto and fresh roma tomatoes and olive oil and then cooks it for 6 hours!! Now who else in nyc, for pizza by the slice, does that? For his regular thin crust his style has changed some. I don’t remember him using shredded cheese or buffalo mozzarella. That ok, the regular pizza back then was just as great . Looks like I’ll have to plan a trip back to nyc real soon.

  21. […] Patsy’s or Arturo’s, or even a high quality steel-deck gas pie such as the venerated DiFara in […]

  22. Bob Miz says:

    Growing up in Brooklyn within a five minute walk of DeFara’s on Avenue I and E 16th Street (he is on the corner of Avenue J and E 17th) I never knew how good I had it. DeFara’s Pizza back then was simply our local Pizza Shop and having lived in that neighborhood from 1960 (when I was only two) until I moved in 1980 and with a pizza lunch costing less then a dollar for two slices and a small coke with change left over for a small cup of Italian Ices I remember eating there often. Sometimes I’d skip the Italian ices and instead go to the candy store under the Ave J subway station for an egg cream and a stick pretzel..oh those really were the good old days…What a surprise it was discovering pizza was so different outside of DeFara’s. I was weaned on that thin crust and piping hot cheese and tomato sauce fresh out of the oven. I eventually learned to appreciate other styles however DeFara’s was always my favorite. I recall when they remodeled one year sometime in the late 60’s or early 70’s. The dining room looked really spiffy with that new basement style wood paneling and new chairs and tables. ( I dont think they have bothered to remodel since) Dominic was in his prime then and he liked young kids but even then he was pretty serious about his work. Living on Long Island since 1983 Ive always made it my business to travel through the old neighborhood and try to stop into DeFara’s once every few years. Parking can be an adventure these days with all the traffice DeFara’s attracts. The last time I planned a visit I brought my two older sons (20 and 22 yo) for their first experience. They couldnt believe the lines and wait but after about an hour we gratefully grabbed whatever slices became availabe and ate them from the back of our SUV. My sons became instant converts…Looking forward to my next trip and long live Dominic DeFara and his family !

  23. Tam says:

    While I appreciate the publicity & extra profits Dom is generating from the word being spread about his ridiculously amazing pizza, we denizens of Midwood (particularly Ave J., Ocean Ave & Coney Island Ave.) would like to have our pizza shop back. I remember in 1999 & 2000 right before Dom’s (we refer to it as DOM’s) was discovered by the Yuppies & Foodies, we locals could walk over and enjoy a slice of what we already knew was the best pizza in NYC. Now, whenever we try to go by there afterwork or on weekends, it’s filled to capacity with a bunch of paper-pale, bespectacled, aged jean/khaki/docker wearing foodie geeks who never knew Midwood existed until they read about Dom’s from someone’s pansy-azz blog.

    I’m not saying “don’t eat there” but at least give us one Sat out of the month where you aren’t bugging the hell outta Dom for a a slice with “baby artichokes” (we Midwood residents usually get Dom’s pies plain or with pepperoni) or baby broccoli rabe/cremini mushrooms/porcini mushrooms/magic mushrooms etc.
    We live there and we’d like some pizza too…..in other words — beat it sometimes! Sheesh! Your locust-like presence & your stalkerish fawning over Dom & the pizza is truly annoying.

    RJ

  24. […] more pics here. […]

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