Reheat: Jeffrey Steingarten's Epic 3 a.m. Di Fara Denunciation

In the previous post here, I mentioned Jeffrey Steingaten's epic rant against Di Fara, but maybe it's best to break it out into its own post here as a "reheat" for the click-averse....

This post will not make me popular. Is DiFara's transcendent or merely epiphanic? As a professional food critic, I can report only on food I have eaten. I have visited DiFara's just twice, once two years ago and again about ten months ago—both times mid-week and mid-afternoon. And both pizzas I ordered were banal or worse.

I consider pizza among the most important foods on Earth, for reasons I have written and would be happy to write again and again, but not right now. And so when I stumbled upon another series of disappointing peans to diFara, I finally could not longer stiffle my continual instinct to increase the volume of truth in the Cosmos rather than decrease it. No, that sounds grandiose. It is just that we all have the duty not to increase ignorance—in either the Dewey-decimal-sense of the word or the Buddhist sense, which may not be applicable here.

Adam, a long line means less in New York City than it means elsewhere. Can you imagine the people of a small town in the Sierras forming a long line to buy a banal (or worse) pizza? In New York City, Manhattan in particular, long lines form because they were long yesterday or because this morning they began long and consequently will not shrink for the rest of the day. A mathematician should study this. Or a statistician. But for now we can benefit from an analogy to the word "factoid," which became current, as I remember it, about four years ago, especially on cable news network stations. But it was used to mean, "a tiny fact" or "a fact of so little significance that if I called it a fact, you would consider me trivial, which of course I am."
The definition in the Oxford English Dictionary, the O.E.D., is far more useful: factoid, n. and a.

n. Something that becomes accepted as a fact, although it is not (or may not be) true; spec. an assumption or speculation reported and repeated so often that it is popularly considered true; a simulated or imagined fact. 1973 N. Mailer Marilyn i. 18/2 Factoids+that is, facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper, creations which are not so much lies as a product to manipulate emotion in the Silent Majority.

Naive and trustful as I am, I did not understand the application of the factoid principle to food until I stood in line for two hours to get into Tomoe Sushi on Thompson Street, which for several years had received a 27 rating in Zagat. The slices of fish were awkward, clumsy, warm, outsized, and while not "fishy" tasting, not remarkably fresh. It was time to return to Freud's analysis of the madness of crowds. Maybe someday.

For now, I'll summarize and abbreviate my view of what an ideal pizza should be: A pizza is a flatbread with a sparse but often intensely-flavorful topping, usually of Italian origin, especially in its olive oil. It is not an edible platter for Italian cold cuts, cheeses, and marinated, roasted vegetables. It is a flatbread, a wonderfully delicious, yeasty flatbread baked on a hearth; the hearth can be the stone or metal floor of an electric or gas deck oven, but small logs of wood burning on a stone surface are preferable for both flavor and temperature, which ideally should vary between about 600 dg. F. at the hearth and 800 or 900 dg. in the air above it, just right for finishing the flatbread in 90 to 120 seconds so that the dough underneath the pizza is crisp and charred; the top and topping are burnished and bubbling; and the dough in between is more chewy than crunchy or bready; and the rim of dough around the circumference is puffy and crisp and shot through with bubbles of air. (The Italians call it the cornichone, which sounds like the French corniches, the three highways that curve above the Riviera. The crust should have the assertive taste of roasted, yeasted, refined wheat.

This pizza, this flatbread, is little different from the first yeasted bread ever baked, on a stone--perhaps three thousand years ago in Egypt, which is why I become sentimental and even teary whenever I consider pizza in its very heart and essence.

I don't become teary or sentimental at DiFara's. Di Fara's is the Tomoe Sushi of wood-baked yeasted flatbread.

A good pizza is a flatbread with

[Note: This is the complete text of Mr. Steingarten's comment. He either hit "send" too early or reached the limits of Slice's comment character count. —The Mgmt.]


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