If you're interested, see the rest of my new york culinary adventure at the link below.
That evening I insisted to my sister that we go to DiFara in Brooklyn. There was a small amount of complaining, as the place was off the beaten path, and my sis & her hubby are not in the habit of leaving the dusty trail to forage for excellence. Thankfully my sis convinced a friend to drive us there. As we approached, there were groans in the car. From a distance it looks as if there are no dining tables, and there was talk of taking the pizza home. I shuddered... after hearing so much praise for difara's pizza, I was determined to eat it as quickly as possible after coming out of the oven. real chowhounds know how rapidly pizza devolves once it comes out of the oven. Thanfully as we got closer we saw a few tables in the back and my fears were allayed.
For those who have not been there, let me tell you. DiFara's is not pretty. It is a dingy little hole. We arrived at 8:45pm on SUnday night, and the place was packed, and a mess. The pizza man (dominick, I think is his name) is a one man show making the pizzas. Only occasionally does a young guy come from the back to grate some fresh parmesan for him before returning to the back room, leaving this withered pizza master to himself.
We were immediately hit by a blast of smoke in the eyes as we entered. You know, the kind of teary eyed smoke reaction when you eat at a korean bbq place with inadequate ventilation (I have one venerable LA institution in mind). But what a smell. There was also a crowd of people, and a really messy room. Half eaten pizza crusts piled high on pizza trays. greasy pans stacked up on top of each other. One dining room chair had a pile of parmean cheese poured on top of the seat. And dominick himself has no problems taking people's money, and pressing those same fingers into the next customer's dough.
But.... it was truly excellent pizza. Per suggestion of many on chowhound, we ordered 1/2 cheese and 1/2 broccoli rabe pizza (FYI Broccoli Rabe is not on the menu). After waiting for 25 minutes for the pie, I went back up to the counter to check on the status of our order. Dominick tells me "I think-a I forget your order". (my brother in law is not amused by this set of events, so I get 2 slices of pizza for the 4 of us to help take the edge off.) I watch Dominick make one pie after another.... his secrets are all out on the table. After stretching the douch, a ladle of sauce. Then olive oil poured on top. Then shredded mozzarella, then generous pieces of fresh mozzarella, which he tears up into chunks and places randomly on the dough. Finally a sprinkle of fresh grated parmesan, and into the oven.
About another 20 minutes go by and our order 1/2 rabe pie finally comes up. The pie is beautiful. Smoky, beautiful crust with uneven, ruddy browning along the edges and a couple of grey spots imparting a wonderful smoky aroma and beautiful contrasting look and texture to the pie. wow. He gives us a generous portion of fresh parmesan to sprinkly on top as we see fit. We bite. The sauce is perfect. Not too sweet, not too acidic, just perfect balance. The crust is crispy, chewy, smoky, beautiful. The broccoli rabe... well, too bitter and overpowering I felt. The flavor of the broccoli rabe that so many chowhounds here love was just too strong. It overpowered that delicate sauce.
After finishing the pie in about 10 minutes, we were still a little hungry. By this time it was close to 10pm so the place had cleared out. I see a handwritten sign-- "wild/porcini mushroom slice $5.00". I decide to try. It's quiet now, and dominick warns me "the cold porcini go on hot pizza". I say that's fine. He takes out a huge glass jar filled with meaty, beautiful mushrooms suspended in an herbed olive oil marinate. He ladles a generous portion onto a plate for my sister and I to taste. We bite. I don't know how plant-derived food can taste sinful, but these mushrooms in olive oil were. And with a scoop of these on top of a slice of pizza, it was the perfect combination. The mushrooms were not overpowering like the broccoli rabe was. They imparted their own subtle flavor and contrasting texture, and the fruity, aromatic olive oil on the pizza added a layer of decadence and richness to an already wonderful pie. DO NOT MISS the porcini mushrooms. It is incredible.
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