Di Fara Pizza - Part I of a 3 stop pizza quest:
Dave Wilson (our very own Pizza Quest Director of Photography and Co-Director on our various webisodes) and I were working in New York together and realized that it looked like we were going to actually have a Saturday afternoon off. Time for ourselves! The wheels were spinning. What to do? Where to go? NY is limitless after all! With this much time off we quickly came up with a small "p" pizza quest to keep ourselves busy and fed.
Our first stop was Di Fara. We had heard so much about it, but neither of us had ever been. We figured we would go try some pizza there and make our way over to Roberta's while still in Brooklyn and then come back to the city and end our quest at Keste -- because Dave had never been there either and I insisted that he would have to try it.
Armed with iPhones and subway apps we hit the rails. Our destination was in an out of the way place in Brooklyn. We didn't know how "out of the way" it was until later when we were trying to find a cab to take us "up" to Roberta's. The road trip was happening. Too bad, we thought, that Peter, Jeff and the rest of the crew and equipment weren't all piling into the subway car with us.
Brooklyn, here we come!
The stop at Avenue J is only steps from Di Fara's. You notice right away that this area is different. It's more run down, or less developed depending on how you look at it. Not knowing the area, you have to wonder if it's safe. Since we were on a quest, we knew it was safe. Nothing happens to you when you are actually on a quest, right?! (Well, miracles happen, but nothing bad.)
There was something else different about this stop, these streets, and this pizza place. The Di Fara Pizza sign is original to say the least. It's a classic to be sure. The street and the pizzeria seem suspended in time. This place is the same pizzeria you would have visited 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 15, 20 etc.
As we walked up to the pizzeria, we could see Dom DeMarco through what may have been an old ordering window open onto the street. We snapped this picture on one of our iPhones. The funny thing is that there is a artist rendering inside that is of Dom in almost the same position as we found him - how old was that? How old is this place? How much time has Dom stood there, making pizza after pizza over the years?
The place wasn't as crowded as I expected. We were there a little after the lunch rush around 1:30Pm I think. There was one guy taking orders and Mr. DeMarco was making pizza. I think there was another kid in the back kitchen, but didn't see him. We placed our order for the classic Regular Pie with Fresh Basil. The guy said it would be about an hour. Really? There were not that many people around. Ok?! We'll wait.
I couldn't wait. It all smelled so good. An hour? I found a way to let go and embrace the experience. I decided to visit this place in this warp of arrested time and allow it to unfold around me.
Mr. DeMarco made a pizza. We watched. We walked outside again and watched through the window. We took a few more pictures of the sign. Time passed quickly, but not because it seemed like all of a sudden our pizza was ready, but because time acted differently. I'll admit that our quest may well have been the main reason we seemed to pass our time so effortlessly, but it was something I not only noticed, but felt.
We wanted to get a table to experience the place instead of eating our pizza on the street. There are only about 6 tables, so after our hour or so, we waited inside and got some sodas and sat down. I think we waited almost 2 hours for our pizza in the end. Mr. DeMarco made pizza after pizza after pizza by himself. He wasn't rushed, and wasn't necessarily taking his time either. He was making each pizza with as much time as each pizza needed to be made with - as if time was actually one of the ingredients. I have never seen this before and didn't really think about that until just now as I am writing this blog post. That's an interesting concept.
Our waiting time was up. Mr. DeMarco held the basil over our pie and snipped away at it with his shears. I broke the time space continuum here, and moved quickly through this stalled timeless place and snapped a photo of my pizza. It was still Mr. DeMarco's pizza though, as it hadn't been passed off yet, but Dave and I were soon to become it's new owners.
Dave and I were dying to speak to Mr. DeMarco. I knew that Peter has met him before and I could have easily said hello. Instead we wanted to visit this place and experience it for what it was. I'm glad we did. I have often thought about watching Mr. DeMarco make his pizzas. It's almost surreal. He gave each pizza his undivided attention. Would he have done so if we told him we would likely be posting pictures and writing an article? Based on everything we saw, it probably wouldn't have phased him one bit!
We ate. We smiled. We enjoyed. We watched everyone around us doing the same. For the record, Dave ate one more slice than I did and he's half my size! We had to stop though, because this was stop 1 of 3 on our small "p" pizza quest. But wait, I didn't say enough about the pizza.
Oh my god! So good!!
What makes great/memorable pizza? Is it the dough? Is it the tomato sauce? The cheese? Is it super fresh basil? Is it the oven temperature, or type of oven? I think the answer in part to all of these is yes, certainly, but there is something beyond that. Perhaps another important aspect is, in fact, time. It's the time the pizzaiolo has spent perfecting his craft. It's the time he spends focusing on each ingredient. it's the time he gives to each pizza, which is really being given to each customer. You could call it love, dedication, or passion, but it's all about the connection of the food to the customer through the time given to sharing the experience.
I'm glad I spent the first part of my day off in Di Fara's time-less zone. I thought time had stopped, but it was, instead, shared.