At Di Fara Pizza, Domenico DeMarco defined the New York Slice

I first saw Domenico DeMarco in action over 20 years ago, although if you’ve ever seen him at work you know there was hardly any action ...


I first saw Domenico DeMarco in action over 20 years ago, although if you’ve ever seen him at work you know there was hardly any action to see unless you don’t look at it very closely.

Over the years he had organized his set-up so compactly, eliminated superfluous movements so ruthlessly, that it might seem to the untrained eye that he had simply tilted in a circle. of raw dough and waited while it came together into a pizza.

Mr. DeMarco has died at the age of 85, his daughter Margie DeMarco Mieles announced Thursday in a Facebook post. Originally from the Italian province of Caserta, he started making pies with Pizza Fara in Midwood, Brooklyn, in 1965.

He worked efficiently. That’s not the same as saying he worked quickly. Even in the years before Mr. DeMarco became a national folk hero and weekend lines stretched to the sidewalk outside his J Avenue store, getting hot food out of his kitchen took time.

It was true no matter what you ordered. Eventually, the demand for pizza pushed pretty much everything else off the menu, but by then you could still get an amazing meatball sub, or spaghetti with fresh clams, or baked manicotti. . This first time I had wanted to try a cross section of the menu. Then I saw a handwritten sign – on a paper plate taped to the wall, if I remember correctly – that said “baby artichoke pizza”, and suddenly all I wanted was a baby pizza artichoke. An integer.

It really took time. Mr. DeMarco sautéed what I thought were enough artichokes for four large pies, then spread them over the one that was going to be mine, all mine. Waiting for him to come out of the gas oven was one of the most exciting moments of my life as an eater, and it was no less exciting because the moment stretched for 30 minutes and kept stretching up to a full hour.

That day, I began to see Mr. DeMarco as a living link between the cuisine of southern Italy, where he was born in 1936, and the culture of New York corner.

20 years ago, pizza snobs thought it was obvious that the only worthwhile pizza was the one made by Neapolitan-style brick-oven pizzerias like Totonno’s and The Lombardi, whose culinary lineage could go back to Naples. It was less clear than bold slice of reliable new yorkcooked over low heat in gas ovens and eaten on the sidewalk by the likes of Tony Manerodid not belong to any culinary tradition.

Today, the gas oven slice is an object of serious study and appreciation. stores like by Scarr, Upside down and mom too reviewed the style and proposed subtle and respectful improvements. And it all started in Di Fara.

You couldn’t miss the integrity of Mr. DeMarco’s cooking, even though he did it standing still on a patch of kitchen floor no bigger than a bath mat. There was his sauce, both thicker and thinner than that of the other slicers; it would mostly be absorbed by the pulp, but would leave behind a few shreds of meaty red pulp.

There were the cheeses, in the plural, which he grated directly on the tomatoes in an ideal ratio that only he knew. There was live basil that he cut to order on pies or finished slices. I never believed it all came from the single, skinny potted plant growing in the window, but there are people who will swear they once saw Dom himself chopping off a branch. Before a second location opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, it was said no one else was allowed to make pizza at Di Fara.

Watch him bake a pie forced you to change your view of sliced ​​pizza places in general. A lot of them aren’t very good, it’s true. But gas ovens are not to blame. If Mr. DeMarco could use a gas oven to bake a pizza that made you see the sun shining down on the Bay of Naples, so could other cooks. They probably wouldn’t match Mr. DeMarco’s solid thoroughness, but they could try.

The last time I went to Di Fara was just before the pandemic. It was mid-afternoon on a weekday and there was no queue, just like the good old days. There seemed to be half a dozen people working on some sort of assembly line behind the counter, and I worried for a moment that Mr. DeMarco had been replaced by a team of cooks.

But every single one of them was involved in taking orders, managing money, and making sure every slice ended up in the right hands. Hidden behind that assembly line was Mr. DeMarco, standing on his little square of floor, bent over the dough, wanting the pizzas to exist.

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Newsrust - US Top News: At Di Fara Pizza, Domenico DeMarco defined the New York Slice
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