Arguably, the Best Pizzaiolo in the World
I didn’t always agree with the late Anthony Bourdain (I really disliked Bonci in Rome). But I do agree with Bourdain that DiFara Pizza is “the best of the best”. And that would make Dominic (“Dom”) DeMarco the best pizzaiolo in the world.
DeMarco imports all of his ingredients from Naples. The traditional pie (this is what you go for) has a blend of mozzarella, mozzarella di bufala and gran padano cheeses (his daughter told me this). The cheeses melt onto the dough like ice cream melting on hot tar in summer. When the pizza comes out of the 905 degree wood oven, Dom sprinkles olive oil and fresh basil on the pie. I usually eat half a pie in less than 15 minutes and I feel light after eating it. I think his secret is in the dough. He kneads it by hand and I’m assuming he uses the highly refined type 00 wheat flour, with a pH level between 6-7, that is required in Naples. [Beware, the DiFara square pie does not have the aforementioned 3 cheeses and is made differently. The square pie is good - possibly better than L&B Spumoni Gardens’ square pie, but it’s not what we are discussing here.]
I have waited from 20 minutes to 3 hours for a pie (I would never just get a slice). The average wait for me now is 30 minutes. I have yet to regret any of these trips. I view it as saving money since I don’t have to fly to Naples for an amazing pizza! Plus, after many years, I now know the wait trick.
Here’s the thing. If you want to try one of these pies made by Dom, go soon! At 81 years old, Dom is slowing down and (finally) letting his kids make some pies. I have recently, for the first time, tried one made by his son and I literally stood up, clapped *really loudly* and let everyone know that I couldn’t tell the difference. It was on par.
DiFara Cheat Sheet
~ Tuesday - Saturday, arrive at 11:30 am. Doors open at noon, so you will be one of the first in line.
~ Sunday, arrive at 12:30 pm. Doors open at 1 pm, so you will be one of the first in line.
~ When it’s not tourist season, the wait is minimal from Tuesday to Thursday between 3-4:30 pm.
Now is the part where I preempt what you may be thinking:
Reader: Really? Better than all the other pizza spots in NYC?
Me: Yes. And Brooklyn is pizza heaven. Even the owners of Roberta’s and Lucali agree that DeMarco is a pizza legend and they question their own pies after eating his.
Reader: Have you had pizza in Italy? In Naples?
Me: Yes (North and South) and yes.
I was happy to learn from Italians in Italy and this article that, “The dirty little secret about Italian cuisine is that it's highly regional, and that the only place where you can find great pizza pretty much anywhere consistently is in Naples.” Pizza in Northern Italy is for tourists, which is why it’s blah (the gnocchi and pesto, on the other hand, are to die for). Pizza was introduced to Rome post-WWII, by southern immigrants. What is known as “pizza” in Rome is focaccia bread with toppings, not the pie that we are accustomed to in NY/US.
The pizza in and around Naples, on the other hand, is amazing, really good. It’s just that Dom DeMarco’s pies are better. Even Dom says “When Italians come here to try my pizza, they tell me that they like it even more than the pizza they eat in Italy . . . I don’t understand how that’s possible because all of the ingredients I use for the pizza come from Italy.”
Reader: What other pizza spots do you like in NY?
Me: Well, it’s usually DiFara. But, once a year, when I want a deep dish slice, I would go to L&B Spumoni Gardens. My local favorite is Bravi Ragazzi. The owner is from Napoli, they recently opened in my neighborhood and their customer service is impeccable. In Manhattan, I am a fan of NY Pizza Suprema for quick slices.
Reader: But what about all those other hyped spots that I hear about?
Me: 1) Don’t always believe the hype in NYC #groupthink, 2) I am unable to write about every spot, but here is a sampling.
Grimaldi’s - Patsy Grimaldi was pushed out of his own restaurant. He started again, from scratch, and now owns Juliana's (same location as the original Grimaldi's). The pizza at corporate chain Grimaldi’s is not good.
Juliana’s -THIS is Grimaldi’s restaurant. But not even comparable to DiFara.
Speedy Romeo - NO. Neapolitan pizza does not have this type of burnt crust thing that many NYC “Neapolitan” spots have.
Roberta’s - NO. See Above.
Saraghina - NO. See Above.
Reader: Is this all just your opinion?
Me: Yes, of course this is just my opinion. This is a personal blog.
Reader: What if I disagree with you?
Me: Please do. I’m always trying to find pies that make my saliva drip in the same way. Just write the name and address of your favorites in the comments.
I know talking about pizza in NYC is like arguing about God. So, please keep the comments kind :-)