Cibo Express Gourmet Food Hall, Delta Terminal (Terminal D), LaGuardia
Pizza Style: New York
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: An interpretation of the wildly popular Di Fara pizza by Dominick DeMarco's son may disappoint if you are looking for an exact clone. Otherwise it serves a very good classic New York slice, especially for an airport
Price: Slice, $5
Notes: Available only to ticketed passengers at Terminal D
Let's get this out of the way: Tagliare is not Di Fara. It is not an offshoot of Di Fara. You will not see Dom DeMarco doting over each pie with monastic diligence. You will not stand in line for an hour (although you may have a lengthy wait in the security line, as you can only get to Tagliare as a ticketed passenger). Of course you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise because while you may not see the patriarch of the DeMarco family at Tagliare, you might recognize his son Dom DeMarco Jr. poking about behind the counter. The pies themselves bear more than a passing resemblance to the ones sold on Avenue J in Brooklyn. And the $5-a-slice price will look familiar as well.
Tagliare (which means to cut or slice in Italian) is a collaboration between DeMarco Jr. and OTG Management, the company that has elevated airport food around the country by partnering with local chefs. At LaGuardia, for example, they have enlisted chefs Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr of Balthazar and Minetta Tavern fame to devise a bistro menu for Bisoux; Micheal Lomonaco of Porterhouse NY at the Prime Tavern steakhouse; and Sullivan Street Bakery's bread guru, Jim Lahey, on a Neapolitan-style pizza joint called Crust. It is a testament to the now-legendary status of the Di Fara brand that DeMarco was called to service among such illustrate company.
DeMarco says the ingredients are the same as those used at Di Fara but that he has changed the sauce — it is sweeter, less acidic than that on a Di Fara pie, with a more pronounced tomato flavor. But while the pizza sold at Tagliare uses the same raw materials and draws inspiration from Di Fara, it is its own creature. And judged in and of itself, and when heated all the way through (more on this later), it is far better than I thought airport pizza could be. In fact I think it is a slice that most any New Yorker would be happy to have as their local pizzeria. Unless you live in the vicinity of Avenue J. Those expecting Di Fara will probably be disappointed.
What's different? Well the crust for one. While the crust at Tagliare is wholly commendable as long as you get it heated through (otherwise I think it gets a little soggy), it lacks the burnishing that Di Fara's hellacious oven puts on a pie. The proportions are different as well; the cheese and sauce are put on in more sparing amounts. The "heavy hand" has been dialed back: The deluge of grana padano, basil, and oil used to finish the pies is there but is far more moderately applied. Also the pies at Tagliare tend to sit around, something that never, ever happens at Di Fara.
But the flavor profile of the pie is almost identical, and the slice (putting aside the pricey but inevitable $5 cost) is far better than a lot of typical New York City slices. Certainly it beats the pants off the two middling slices I tried last week in Manhattan.
There is also a Sicilian pie available that uses the same ingredients but is not as easy to recommend as the regular slice; the crust lacked the crunch and airiness of the best examples of the breed (like the one at Di Fara, for instance).
Tagliare might not compare favorably with Di Fara and a handful of truly excellent NYC slice joints (Ray's on Prince, Patsy's, Joe's, Sacco, etc), but it is better than an average neighborhood joint and any other airport pizza. Although I will stress again that you should make sure it is heated all the way through or, better yet, order a fresh pie if you have the time.
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