This article is presented in partnership with Connoisseur as part of our flavour tour of Brooklyn. You can watch our episode on Flatbush here, and read about one of its iconic establishments—Di Fara Pizza—below.
It's 11am in Brooklyn, where Flatbush meets Midwood, and Dom Demarco is starting his day with a little quiet time and one cup of espresso.
As a line begins to form out the front of Di Fara Pizza, he walks behind the counter to make sure all is as it should be. He checks the dough and the wood-fired oven; he tests the tomato sauce, soft mozzarella, and fresh basil. At 12pm, when the door opens, he will make pies for eight hours, taking just one small break along the way. Demarco is here Tuesday till Sunday. He's 88 years old.
Pizza is New York's spirit food and Di Fara is one of its faded temples. The hand-painted menu on the wall is hard to read but you get the basics: classic slice $5, square $6. Expensive by New York standards, but you won't find a better slice. This could be a dangerous thing to say in Brooklyn, but Demarco's earned the praise.
There's a portrait on the wall of Demarco doing his thing. It could have been painted 20 years ago, or yesterday, because the vision is the same. Demarco rolls dough onto a wooden board, coats it in a simple tomato sauce, layers the mozzarella, and then sticks it in the wood-fired oven. Once the cheese is soft and the crust gone firm, he drops the pie on the counter and cuts fresh basil on top. Since 1965, this has been his dance.
People patiently watch Demarco work the dough. They sometimes wait an hour for a slice. His daughter, Maggie, takes orders. Four of the kids (there's seven all up) are involved in the business—they pick up their dad each morning, manage the shop and share the workload. Demarco used to make everything himself, but his kids have stepped in to help over recent years.
The classic slice is what people order, but the square slice is what they talk about. Brooklyn's pizza guys—Lucali's Mark Iacono, Roberta's Carlo Mirarchi, Best Pizza's Frank Pinello—marvel over it. Cooked in a cast iron pan, the pizza base slowly fries next to the fire until it's perfectly thick and slightly charred. The square's cut rough and generously: four corners of herby sauce, milky mozz, and peppery basil on a crispy dough base.
Di Fara is a quiet place; a few older guys come in to catch up: "We see all the kids line up, but we've known Dom forever so we don't have to wait for our pie," one explains, but mostly the crowd stands in silence. They're here to eat. It's that simple. And to watch an old master at work.
Presented by Connoisseur
Photographer: Pep Kim