Finally made the pilgrimage today and wanted to share my experience, to aid other first-timers and to reiterate the very very useful tips provided by fellow Chowhounds (thanks guys).
Saturday lunchtime...I picked a very cold (24 degree) day hoping that would keep the crowds down. Was aiming to get there by 11:45 am or so but had to wait for a FedEx delivery (damn!) Some aggressive driving on the FDR allowed my friend and me to arrive just minutes before noon. We pulled the car into a spot right in front. Only two guys ahead of us in line, sike! Dom’s son took our order immediately (plain round pie, two square slices with pepperoni and porcini), writes it down on a small pad even, and we had our choice of tables. I sat facing the counter/Dom both to watch him work and to keep an eye on any pies emerging from the oven. I am feeling confident.
10 minutes later, there is a small crowd (10+) of people huddled just inside the front door (nobody wanting to stand out in the cold, of course). Things start to break down a bit. Dom’s son disappears into the back, comes back out and is filling cheese/olive oil canisters, Dom is making a pie, nobody is taking orders. The two guys in front of me in line are also at a table. A round pie comes out. Dom cuts it into slices and hands them out to people in the crowd at the door. He jots down more orders, on stray bits of paper, to-go boxes... I chat some more with my friend. More people come in. Most of the tables now have people seated and the whole front half of the place is jammed. I get nervous and decide to start my hovering act at the counter. Dom’s son sees me and reminds his dad of the 2 square slices. They come out of the oven, I quickly sidle over to claim them, deliver them to our table, and go to hover again, feeling a bit silly.
The two guys who were in front of me seem confused. They come to stand next to me. Dom’s son sees me and asks, “Was your pie to stay or go?” I say to stay. He puts a big metal platter on the counter and disappears into the back. Dom takes a round pie out of the oven and does his triad of garnishes (grated cheese, snipped basil, olive oil) as I watch mesmerized. He then HANDS THE PIE TO A GUY WHO STEPS UP TO THE COUNTER AND CONFIDENTLY CLAIMS IT AS HIS.
I am confused...were this guy and his wife in the place when we came in and I just didn’t see them? Did I misunderstand Dom’s son in thinking that pie was mine? Long minutes pass...I start to think something is very wrong. Dom’s son now thinks I’ve gotten my pie (and may wonder why I’m still standing at the counter) and Dom has no idea that I am owed a pie. I determine that the VERY NEXT ROUND PIE out of the oven will be mine. It comes out, a young guy who is there with his two friends steps up to take it, Dom’s son gives him a nod...and I say (in a voice slightly louder than I’d intended), “Excuse me, we haven’t gotten our pie yet!” Dom’s son looks surprised and says that he thought my order was complete. I say (somewhat sheepishly), “Someone stole it!” and then “I hear you’ve gotta be kind of aggressive around here sometimes”. He cracks a smile and replies, “Yeah, half the time I don’t even know what’s going on!” He tells his dad that the pie is mine, I have a nice chat with Dom about his window herb garden while he snips basil, pay, and bear the pie aloft to our table feeling like a conquering hero. The pizza is, needless to say, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever had in my life. I am filled with bliss, triumph and relief, a heady combination.
So to reiterate what those in the know have said here many times, 1) you must stay at the counter and make your presence known, 2) coming early helps, 3) do not be afraid to get aggressive in claiming your pie!!! Because it’s for sure that other people will gladly take it if your wimpiness gets the better of you, and they deserve to!
To finish on a sentimental note, this experience captures why I love New York: the place, the people (Dom and his son, plus my fellow pilgrims, both local and tourist), the experience, and of course the pizza....there can be nothing else like it in the whole wide world. Long live Di Fara!!
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