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Di Fara faithful okay with $4 slice - Despite cost, Dom still has ‘em lining up on Avenue J waiting for pizza

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It’s 1 p.m. on Friday and Mother Nature has decided to dump four inches of sleet and snow on Brooklyn, turning the streets of Midwood into a slushy, miserable mess to navigate. It’s a day for snow plows, snow men and hot chocolate. And still Di Fara’s Pizza is packed to the gills. Did we mention that the shanty corner pie shop on Avenue J and East 14th Street has only been open for less than an hour? If anyone’s holding a grudge over their unfathomable $4 slice – a Brooklyn first – it wasn’t apparent by the standing-room-only crowd who spit an anchovy into Old Man Winter’s eye just to fork over the extra cheddar for what is arguably the best pizza in the city. Adam Kuban, a pizza devotee who runs the blog SliceNy.com, said that the $4 price tag also makes Di Fara’s the costliest place for pizza in the city. “It’s the highest ever for a single slice of pizza without any toppings — definitely in the city, probably in the state and anywhere else outside an airport or ballpark, where you’re at their mercy,” he told reporters last week. But still business hasn’t slowed. From every turn – and there was very little room to turn – there were seasoned diners waiting for their slices as well as newcomers who braced the cold just to see what all the hubbub was about. But they will have to wait – just like everyone else. Dressed in a beige beret and a dough-caked apron, proprietor Domenico De Marco doesn’t take notice of the surging crowd on the other side of the counter as he diligently pours tomato sauce from a brass tea kettle and drops gobs of cheese on the pie that’s the focus of his attention. When that is done, he puts it in the huge oven on his right, trading it in for a piping hot pie that he pulls out with his bare hands. Yes, his bare hands. It makes you wonder if he’s been at the pizza-making game so long that the nerve endings in his fingers have been seared away or if there was something to the health code violations that forced the place to close twice last year. But workers at Di Fara’s, which is comprised only of DeMarco, his son and daughter, say that all of the violations have been cleared up. The closures haven’t slowed business down for a minute, his daughter Margaret Miles explained to reporters, as the crowd found on Friday can attest to. The hike to $4 wasn’t to make up for any improvements brought on by the Department of Health’s new interest in their pizza either, she said, adding that that the prices were raised to make up for the costly fresh ingredients that DeMarco uses. “The prices should have been raised a long time ago,” she told reporters. Miles and her father were too busy for interviews on Friday as they rushed to keep up with the crowd, which was growing impatient with the substantial wait. As this reporter visited the pizza shop, at least three people bailed before they were given a chance to put in their order. “I’ve been here for an hour already, I’m out of here,” said one customer wearing medical scrubs, proving that Di Fara’s isn’t a favorite with the lunchtime crowds from nearby health centers. Still, others say it’s worth the wait. “There’s no other place for pizza,” said Hofstra college freshman Ralph Andrew, who grew up in Midwood. “When it comes to pizza shops, this sticks out like a sore thumb. I’ll wait as long as I have to for a slice.” “I think he [De Marco] could use some more ovens,” said Frank Concerto, who drove from Bay Ridge – a neighborhood that prides itself on having a pizza parlor every two blocks – to Di Fara’s just to see if De Marco’s slices are worth the hype – and the $4. “Friday night is pizza night,” he said. “I figured I try it and if its good I’ll get a pie when its not so busy and bring it home.” Upon realizing that there probably won’t be a “not so busy” time, Concerto speculated that a good business venture would be to open a pizza place right next door to Di Fara’s. “You’d get all the people who can’t stand the wait, and it would probably be cheaper, too,” he said. While Di Fara reportedly has few equals in the pizza making world, he has a complete lock on Avenue J. From Ocean Parkway to Ocean Avenue, there are no other pizza places, save for Pizza Time, which caters to a more kosher clientele. As he handled his own lunch crowd, a manager at Pizza Time said he hasn’t noticed any increases in business since Di Fara upped its price. “We have a different customer base,” he said. “Still, a lot of people are talking about it.”

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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