Photo courtesy of Arthur Bovino
How many chances do you have to give a pizzeria’s slice, any pizzeria’s, before passing judgment?
Once? Twice? Four times, à la The Times? There are enough bad slices in a two block radius of the Empire State Building to not to have to try each more than once to know it tastes like cardboard. How about when there’s a one or two hour wait for a pie, you’re at the counter watching every slice and you notice the same thing about each? They’re burned. Enough empirical evidence to form an opinion?
Inconsistent pizza at Di Fara is not news. But consistently burned $5 slices? During a post-$5 slice Di Fara visit on August 1st to sample the eponymous special (sausage, peppers, mushrooms and onions), having been fifteen spots behind the first person, and heeding Adam Kuban’s ‘Hold Your Ground’ advice for once you get inside, I staked out a counter spot. Didn’t budge until the pie was ready. It was a prime vantage point to watch every ‘slice’ pie that left the oven and each slice served. (Upskirt of a single plain cheese pizza slice from a ‘slice’ pie at Di Fara.)
Two ‘slice’ pies were made, and overcooked. The oil separated (before Dom’s signature drizzle), the cheese turned orange, and two-thirds of the crust’s rim was charred. The final scattering of grated cheese resembled a masking, not the pleasant accent it can be. Worse, when three patrons lifted slices plate to mouth, the upskirt was black as the coal used in Frank Pepe’s ovens. But you can’t just go on sight. Right? This was once. Right? What about when pies are made? Is the end of service a valid excuse?
A visit on Sunday (11/15) was another prime vantage point. The night’s last service. First spot on line. The order: a full plain cheese pie and one plain slice. The economic answer to “is Di Fara’s $5 slice worth it?” has already been settled (Adam’s ‘volume discount’ argument). It is not worth it. Buy a whole pie and take the rest home to eat in your Underoos. It’s also not worth it taste-wise.
It’s burned. And it doesn’t taste good. Di Fara can be mentioned in a conversation about the best artisanal slices in New York City then immediately eliminated because its crust tastes like Faber-Castell’s Willow Charcoal. Di Fara’s is a bad slice. As my first-generation, Italian-American grandfather would say, anyone who would pay $5 for a burned slice is ‘stunad.’
Plain Cheese Pie.
Di Fara’s Whole Cheese Pie is another matter. A slice from a whole pie can be excellent. It doesn’t count as one of the city’s best ‘slices,’ but you can count a Di Fara pizza as among the city’s better pies. Light and crispy. A sweet/salty sauce in the proper ratio to cheese— a little more sauce to make the bread and cheese go down easy. It’s a slice on the verge of being structurally unsound without going over the edge.
The unburned upskirt of the whole Plain Cheese Pie.
Pizzerias have off days. Things happen. But they’re not happening once in a while to slices at Di Fara. Whatever the reason, at the end of the day, when it comes to Di Fara: love the pie, hate the slice. For the sake of quality, Di Fara, and the reputation of pizza in New York City, Dom, let’s move to the John’s of Bleecker Street model. Whole Pies only.
The Di Fara Special.