Perhaps no pizzeria has inspired more hunger and admiration amongst pizzaphiles and food adventurers alike than Di Fara ― a classic corner joint in Midwood, Brooklyn. Lines snake out the door, the wait for even a slice can exceed an hour, and owner Dom DeMarco -- the man who makes all of the pies ― speeds up for no one.
I have written about the experience of waiting for pizza at Di Fara (awesome way to pass time!) and many have covered Di Fara with reverence for this man who does pizza the old-fashioned way.
But admiration for Dom aside, people go to Di Fara for pizza. Many places ― like Glaser’s Bake Shop and Russ & Daughters ― remain owner-run and convey multi-generational pride in everything they do. Things worth celebrating. But to my knowledge none have lines like Di Fara. Granted, Dom moves slowly and makes pizzas one at a time, but it's pizza that brings people there. Pizza. What is it about Di Fara’s pizza that makes such a splash? I asked the owners if I could weigh and measure the ingredients as Dom prepared pizza. Maybe I would find some answers. They said yes!
A tale of three cheeses. It turns out that with both varieties of pizza at Di Fara ― the square and the round ― it’s what Dom does with cheese that truly differentiates his pizza from others. By “cheese” I refer to any of the three general types he uses. Square and round pies both receive whole milk low-moisture mozzarella (a cheese common to most pizza) and grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Regiano (both aged Italian cheeses). The square pie also receives fresh mozzarella ― either mozzarella di bufala or fior di latte (from cow’s milk), both of which are imported from Italy.
But what does Di Fara do with these cheeses?
Altering the paradigm. With the round pie, Dom uses slightly more grated cheese (usually grana padano) than mozzarella. To my knowledge, no other place does this. The result is cheese-borne saltiness that finds its perfect counterpart in Di Fara’s good tomato sauce. Try it at home: make a pizza, however you normally would, and use at least as much grated grana padano as mozzarella. Drizzle on a little olive oil and voilà - the Di Fara flavor.
Defying physics. Dom again alters the paradigm with his square pie, a triple cheese-and-sauce power combo. Ask for extra cheese at most pizza shops and it means a thicker coat of the same stretchy and congealy mozz. The cheese on Di Fara’s square is 40% whole milk low-moisture mozzarella, 40% fresh mozzarella from Italy (either mozzarella di bufala or fior di latte), 20% grana padano. Its twice-baked dough, though topped with over 2¼ pounds of cheese and sauce, defies physics and comes off light, airy, crunchy, and chewy on the bottom and, yes rich, but also refined on top.
I’ve seen how, when Dom has more than one square pie in the oven, the room can get a little smoky. The day I went to measure and weigh ingredients was a big day for the square. It happens because olive oil, liberally applied onto the pan’s surface below the parbaked crust, has splattered onto the hot oven surface. I wouldn’t attempt this pizza at home! Instead, head to Di Fara, spend the afternoon, order a slice and a square, and taste the cheese.
Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn, NY. 1424 Avenue J (at East 15th Street). Tel. 718-258-1367. Q train to Avenue J. Map Di Fara. Hours: Wed - Sat: lunch 12 - 4:00 pm, dinner 7 - 9 pm; Sun: lunch 1 - 4 pm, dinner 7 - 8 pm; closed Monday and Tuesday. Check Di Fara’s Facebook page for updated and last minute changes.