This Pizzeria Has Since Closed

Eating For Two: Slice editor in chief Adam K. was originally going to grab a quick couple of slices at new Village pizzeria DeMarco's before heading home after work Tuesday night. But then the idea struck: Why not also visit Di Fara's, the inspiration for the Manhattan newcomer? And so we sampled plain slices from both pizzerias that night. The photos at left above are from DeMarco's; those at right are from Di Fara. Click the image below right for an enlarged view of the interior space of DeMarco's take-out operation. The photos above also

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY ADAM K. .::. Late last year, shortly before leaving town for the holidays, we said we'd report on DeMarco's Pizzeria & Restaurant, the new Di Fara–associated pizza spot on the corner of Houston and MacDougal in Manhattan. We meant to do it in 2004, but things were hectic. We've returned from holiday and are slowly revving back to speed, so here are some observations and comparisons, from Tuesday night visits to both shops and a return visit to DeMarco's for lunch yesterday.

Di Fara Pizza is, of course, the renown Brooklyn pizzeria run by Dominick DeMarco and family. When word of this impending Houston Street pizzeria first hit the Web (we read of it initially on eGullet and Chowhound), that location's management was calling the place "Di Fara's NYC" and no one was sure who owned it or what affiliation it might have with the DeMarco family, for whom it was finally named. We're still unsure how great a role the family is playing in the operation, but one thing's certain: Dom himself remains firmly ensconced in his usual spot in Brooklyn.

Location: 146 West Houston Street (corner of MacDougal)
Phone: 212-253-2290, 212-253-2291
Hours: Sun.–Thurs., 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., opens at 11:30 a.m.; closed Mondays
Payment: Cash only, for now.
Cost: Plain slice, $2.50. Consult menu below for full range of prices and offerings.

Dom's been slinging slices at Di Fara for forty-plus years—all with an amazing concern for craft and high-quality ingredients. In fact, we've never seen anyone but Dom making the pizza at his shop. The big question was, How would a non-Dom-helmed Di Fara spin-off stack up to the original?

Quite well, actually.

It goes without saying that a DeMarco's slice will never be the same as a Di Fara slice. Dom's pies have been honed against forty years' hard work—seven days a week, with hardly any vacations or holidays. But the DeMarco's slices this weblog had Tuesday night for dinner and yesterday afternoon for lunch were very good approximations of the master's craft.

Present was the familiar three-cheese blend of grana padana, regular mozzarella, and fresh mozzarella (DeMarco's is using the same Grandé-brand fior di latté that Dom includes on his pies)—all evenly distributed. We witnessed the pizzaiolo dousing the pie with olive oil just before popping it into the oven, another Dom flourish. Lastly, the slices we sampled (all plain), featured a similar well-proportioned balance of crust, sauce, and cheese. Heck, even the take-out portion of the restaurant exhibits a no-frills practicality akin to Dom's shop in Midwood. (The Manhattan version is tidier, however.) Oh, and both establishments sell plain, regular slices for $2.50. We did not, however, see any of the DeMarco clan in there directing things.

The first thing you might notice about DeMarco's round pies (left) is that they're larger than Di Fara's. They're also more uniformly circular; Dom's pies exhibit an almost artisanal irregularity in their shape. Though the slices in the photos at top appear to be the same size, use the paper plates they rest on for reference. See how much bigger the DeMarco's piece is? When we visited last night, the pie on the counter had been sitting long enough that its gooey molten cheeses had congealed. (This was another difference—at Di Fara's a hot-from-the-oven pie doesn't last long.) Without the steaming-hot, oozey cheese (some would call is gloppy), it didn't quite look like a Di Fara pie. That didn't bother us, though; we still liked the looks of the slices on hand, what with their splotches of sauce clearly visible among the cheese. Our slices got the reheat, and while we waited, we watched the pizzaiolo build a pie, carefully studying a cheat sheet above the make table. Some people might scoff at this, but we took it as a good sign—the place is clearly concerned with adhering to Dom's recipes.

We first thought DeMarco's crust was thinner than Di Fara's, but just less than an hour later, at Dom's shop, we observed that the thickness was pretty similar. As seen in the comparison shots at top, Di Fara's crust displays a bit more charring, but DeMarco's had an adequate amount. Both crusts were crisp; Di Fara's crust, however, was notably chewier. DeMarco's was a smidge crisper, attributable, we think, to the reheat. For our lunch visit to DeMarco's, we were lucky enough to get slices from a pie straight out of the oven. Without the reheat, the crust had a very good, honest crispness to it—not the hard-to-gauge steroidal increase that comes with a second stint in the cooker—but it still lacked the toothsome chewiness of Di Fara's.

Moving up from the crust, the sauce at DeMarco's was good and fresh, with a slightly sweeter-than-Dom's taste. We don't know if DeMarco's gets its tomatoes from the same source as Di Fara, but it was close. It didn't seem as savory or as complex as Dom's, but it worked and we were pleased with it nonetheless.

The third component of a slice's trio of elements, the cheese, well, we've discussed that earlier. One difference here was that DeMarco's had pre-grated the grana padana and regular mozz; Dom grates those as needed, for the greatest freshness. Still, we didn't notice a difference, and it's probably not practical for DeMarco's to grate on an as-needed basis. It was also interesting that when we sampled the dinnertime slices Tuesday, the cheese, even with a reheat, didn't go all melty and soupy like Di Fara's. However, on the following day's fresh slices, such a gloppiness was in evidence. It's a trait that we think makes it difficult—and definitely messy—to eat a hot slice at either place, but it was nice to see DeMarco's match this Dom signature. (We usually follow the lead of one of our friends, impatiently waiting five or 10 minutes while the soupy mixture settles down a bit.)

OK. We've gone on quite a bit here, so we'll wrap up. DeMarco's is very good. And it's only been open a short while. We suspect it'll only get better, and we think it already beats many of the other renown pizza spots in the neighborhood.

Some tips, though: Like Patsy's in East Harlem, there are two operations on corner of Houston and MacDougal. There's the "Pizza Express" component, where you can get take-out or eat in, standing at one of two narrow bars along the walls. The Pizza Express location, sadly, offers a limited range of soft drinks. Noticeably absent was Slice's favorite, Dr Pepper. Even the upper-right quarter of Dom's refrigerator has more of a selection than the entire unit at DeMarco's. (To be fair, the delivery menu, bottom, lists a greater variety than was on display. Maybe you just have to ask.) The Pizza Express part is where you should go for slices. The fancier, part, which features a bar, is pies-only serves slices along with whole pies and other menu items, but it's table service. (And you enter that section through a door that faces MacDougal Street.)

The menu is below (click to enlarge). Click through the jump to see more photos from the night's excursions.

All Slice posts on DeMarco's [The Slice Archives]

OUTTAKES FROM DEMARCO–DI FARA TRIP (Click images for larger, pop-up versions.)

A close-up of a plain DeMarco's slice. Notice the olive oil pooling in spots.

The square pies (which we did not sample) are actually square at DeMarco's, as opposed to rectangular at Dom's.

The pans used to make the square pies at DeMarco's.

The pie our Tuesday-night slices came from. Enlarge the photo, and you can see that the cheese has congealed by this point. Compare this to the single-slice photo in the middle of the this entry.

The lights in the "Pizza Express" portion are made from pizza pans.

Yes. It really is called "Pizza Express."

The sit-down, whole-pie portion of the restaurant has a better ambiance than the take-out portion, as can sorta be seen in this photo.

The original master, Dominick DeMarco, in action, with daughter, Maggie, at Di Fara in Midwood, Brooklyn.

All Slice posts on DeMarco's [The Slice Archives]