Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mecca (food)

Well, pizza mecca anyway.
Those who read food blogs will most likely at some point have come across the name Di Fara Pizza. It is a little place in the middle of nowhere Brooklyn that has been voted the best pizza in NYC for like forever. It is notorious for long waits but its fans are like a cult. So last week, I took half a day off and made the trek with two friends who are currently unemployed. I will use a Q&A to try to describe everything I can remember. Any other questions are welcome in the comments.

Q: How long was the total trek?
A: Leaving from Union Square, the subway ride felt like about 50 minutes each way.

Q: How does the place look?
A: It's a dingy pizzeria, tiny and not particularly clean. It's been shut down by the DoH previously. But as one of my friends said, that's how you know it's the good stuff. When a place isn't aesthetically appealing but people are still lining up anyway, you know there's a good reason.

Q: How long was the wait?
A: We arrived at what I thought would be an off-peak time of 2:20ish, after the lunch crowd and before the after school crowd. We were the 8th pizza in line, and the wait was about 50 minutes total.

Q: What did you order?
A: We ordered a round pie with half artichokes, but were also lucky enough to get three square slices fresh out of the oven without too long of a wait. A pie costs $20 (which is expensive for the middle of nowhere Brooklyn) while slices cost $4. So the cost of not waiting is a 60% premium.

Q: What did you do while you were waiting?
A: There really is nothing nearby so we didn't bother going outside. Instead we just stood there watching the master craftsman do his thing. Dom Demarco makes every pie and goes at it religiously.

Q: Some say that's a big part of the experience. How did you feel?
A: I always admire the work of a master craftsman. It's one thing to pretend you're an artist or creative chef or whatever, it's another to churn out fine work time after time and day after day. He was just there, continuously making pies, tearing mozzarella, grating cheese, pouring olive oil, and cutting basil. The most memorable parts for me were watching him practically take the pizza out of the oven with his hands (we could barely touch the pizza immediately after we got our slices) and the smell of the fresh basil he cuts after the pizza is out of the oven and he finishes off the pizza with basil and some more grated cheese.

Q: Moment of truth, how was the pizza?
A: The square slice was probably the best slice of pizza I've ever had. Everything about it was great, the sauce, the cheese, the crust, and the fresh basil. The round pie was excellent, and the crust was probably the best you could hope for without a coal oven, although the people next to us had over a quarter of their pie black underneath. The artichokes were very good also.

Q: Was it worth the wait?
A: That's very subjective. Is it worth waiting 45 minutes for a couple of burgers at Shake Shack? I would say that it's worth waiting for a pie if you're already there, but the total trek did take up 3 hours. I would do it again if I was bringing people for a "been there, done that" experience, but I don't think I'd go out of my way just to grab a pie.

Q: Final verdict?
A: Excellent, yes. Transcendant, no. Not an epiphany meal, but certainly a trek that I would advise people to do at least once.


wildman said...

I've been meaning to check this place out. In recent weeks I've been reading Chowhound blogs about different Brooklyn neighborhoods and of course this places comes up time and again. Besides Di Fara, I also have high on my list checking out the Bahn Mi in Sunset Park and going to Fernando's Foccaceria for Panelle. Problem is their hours are really tough!

The Pretender said...

Let me know how the other places turn out. I really don't go into Brooklyn unless it's Peter Luger (and now Di Fara) or anything else of that top notch level. Take Bahn Mi, for example. Is it really worth 20 extra minutes of travel for me just to save $2 on a sandwich? I'm pretty sure price and "authenticity" are two major driving points and I'm not a big fanatic about either compared to most chowhounds.