I finally made the journey out to Midwood, it took about 40 minutes, first on foot, then by train. It was a nasty grey day but on a whim I decided that it was as good as any other. Midwood is very much suburbia, feeling far from anywhere resembling the NY everyone pictures. It looked a lot like Golders Green in London, urban scrawl graffiti over every bit of railway siding, plenty of semi-detached housing with driveways and garages, religious jews in their funny outfits and a high street full of double parked cars and the heavy usage of horns. In mitigation it was Friday just before all the jewish businesses were closing and the people were scrambling to get their provisions in before the sabbath.
The point of all this is to frame the pull that Di Fara has. It is a long way from the city with little reason for an outsider to visit. However, other than a police patrolman and some local mechanics, every other person in the joint seemed to be in the neighbourhood just for the pizza. One woman was collecting a pizza for her boyfriend in New Jersey, she was passing so had to stop in, “it would be worth it even for cold pizza”. I picked up some definite Australian accents, and a fella who judging by his girth was a regular but still very much in awe of his pizza.
They were all here for the same reason, anytime you Google New York’s Ten Best Pizzas you will see Di Fara. In my opinion some of the lists have him in quite bad company (don’t ever go to Lombardi’s or Grimaldi’s despite what any guide may say) but he has to be a genuine contender. As always you have to suspend some of the pre-conceptions of visiting the ‘best pizzeria in NY’. This is not Per Se your meal will not be the result of hundreds of chef hours preparing complicated sauces and foams, but it is still a real labour of love.
DeMarco makes every pizza himself and for a 75-year-old he is pretty sprightly. But that translates to a 40 minute wait for 2 slices of pizza on a quiet rainy Friday. Part of the reason is that at 75 he is not as fast on his feet as he once was. In fact this had been one of my fears that having put off this pilgrimage off for so long I was in danger of missing out should the old mans health begin to suffer. Fortunately he seemed in rude health, taking his time, but very deliberate about all his actions. Its his attention to detail that makes the pizza what it is. Making every one from scratch is a lot of work for one person, DeMarco himself finishes every pizza with scissor cut basil and extra parmesan which is periodically grated by his daughter.
Here in lies the success of this very ordinary looking pizzeria. Forty years ago there would have been many dedicated pizza men like Dom, keeping the business in the family and ensuring high standards were being met by being there for every pizza. Now many of the New York style pizza joints are anonymously owned or with priorities solely on profit rather than quality. Di Fara has remained a rock in the shifting sands and hence he stands out.
So the question I have been waiting to answer; Is this really the best pizza in New York?
No, but it is the best place you could go if you wanted a slice of true NY style pizza. The pizza genre has many different styles from classic Neapolitan, Chicago deep dish, New Haven super thin, grilled and I am sure many others. So the fairest I think you can say is that this is the best NY style pizza in New York. For the best pizza in NYC I would have to recommend the Neapolitan style pies at Motorino.