Back to NYC: Pizza Quest Resumed

Best Slice in Brooklyn?

You know one of these days, if I really want to find The Best Slice in Brooklyn, I should try to look up more than two places per trip.

Might help.

Never seems to happen.

So I’m almost certain that it would have been faster to get to Louie and Ernie’s in the Bronx or whatsahoosit in Queens than it was to get to Di Fara, especially if you factor in how long it took to actually get food.

Di Fara is pretty deep into Brooklyn. I, once again, was about as far away from Brooklyn as you can get without ending up in Yonkers. So it wasn’t a short subway ride to get there, one which was complicated by train line maintenance. We had to leave the train mid-Brooklyn, board a bus, ride it to the next open train station, passing who knows how many fun and/or quirky Brooklyn eateries (certainly one donut place I considered making a note of, and then realized there was no way I was making it back there), and then continue to train deep into suburban Brooklyn.

From the Avenue H station it was just a short walk to a small corner storefront, a faded sign revealing itself as my destination.

An hour and change of transit, and a lot of hope that Johnny T hadn’t steered me wrong, and here I was.

It’s not a big place, geared more towards takeout than eating in, and I’d estimate it seats about 12, if everyone’s skinny and has no issues about personal space.

Not that were ever, ever as few as 12 people in that place when I was there.

Max capacity: bribe the fire inspector until he stops asking.

A fortunate few had seats, and ate at the restaurant. I was not among them. At most I found a place I could lean a little.

Like most high-end New York pizza places, they use a coal-fired oven, one which was constantly having pies shoved in, shuffled around, and pulled out for slicing and serving. Word has it owner/originator Domenico DeMarco himself usually works that oven, although he is 83 years old, so it didn’t surprise me a great deal that he wasn’t doing it when I was there.

You’ll note the lack of any octogenarian chefs.

The menu is drawn on a sheet of cardboard, the orders are tracked by scrawling our names and requests in a notebook, it’s a tiny kitchen of perpetual chaos, and the New York Times, Anthony Bourdain, Zagat’s, a wisecracking puppet toad, and many others have all named it as one of the best pizzas in New York, so yeah… bit of a wait.

Close to an hour, in fact.

I did wonder if having asked for pepperoni was stalling the process. Would I have to wait until enough other people ordered pepperoni to fill a whole pie? No, it turns out. What happens is, when toppings are requested (less common than you’d think, it seems), they 90% bake a cheese pizza, take it out, slice it up, add the topping where necessary, then put it back in to finish baking. So whatever my worries, it seemed that the wait was simply the wait, not some personal affront against me or failing on my part.

Still. It had been a long trip to get there, I’d been standing around for nearly an hour waiting to eat, this was my first meal of the day, and it was after 2 PM. I don’t really get irritable when hungry… well, not often. Well, not always. Well, not that day. Well, not, like, out loud. When a young child was darting around the crowded shop, and managed to keep zipping right in front of me when I moved, I only thought “Dude, I am not trying to kick your child over, but if he doesn’t stop doing that, it’s gonna happen.” Didn’t say it out loud at all. A model of calmness and civility, that’s me.

So there was a lot of pressure on those two slices of pepperoni pizza.

Getting hungry just looking at them…

How to describe it.

The crust was nothing to write home about. Unless you really felt the need to write a postcard about the thin, mostly flavourless pizza crust you just ate.

So bear that in mind when I say that first bite was the most amazing thing I’d tasted in easily two days. That’s… I’d have liked a bigger, bolder statement about how utterly, spine-meltingly delicious that slice was, but this was Saturday, I’d been to BarBacon for lunch on Thursday, and god damn.

Smoked, maple, pepper, and jalapeno bacons, perfectly cooked, paired with craft beers. I love pizza but come on.

It was heavenly. One bite and every stall and frustration between Washington Heights and that street corner vanished from my mind. I immediately regretted not getting a whole pizza and cursed the stiff winds for attempting to rob the slices of their heat.

So, yes, Di Fara lived up to the hype.

Not that L&B didn’t come to play.

Nothing fancy this time, I thought, a statement I’d never expected to include pepperoni. It was less crowded than Di Fara, sure, if also more lacking in seating, but I felt it prudent to just grab a standard cheese slice in both varieties: traditional and square.

Di Fara had square pies as well, but they ran out of clean square pans while I was there and they were saying it was going to be an hour wait on square slices from that point, so no regrets on not trying theirs.

Sure, L&B’s traditional slice was… nothing special. It had been out of the oven a while, that probably had an impact. The Sicilian style square slice, however, was utterly delicious. That one made the trip worthwhile.

But for the real New York pizza experience, I required a guide.

Next page: The Tour

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