Monday, October 25, 2010

I Wish Cavemen Ate Pizza

Speaking of getting fat, there's something about rainy days that makes me miss pizza. You know I love the stuff like nobody's business. Paleo or no, I'm sure the Clan of the Cave Bear would have been all over a hot slice of meaty/cheesy pie if they'd only figured out how to build an oven. And grow, harvest and process wheat. And make cheese.

Even if pizza's off my menu these days, I can still linger over my pizza-related memories, right? Today's gray weather made me dig up something I wrote about a trip to Brooklyn's Di Fara Pizza last year:
Today was wet and drizzly, and it took me almost an hour to get from the Lower East Side to the pizza mecca that is Di Fara. This unassuming, age-worn pizzeria sits just outside the grafitti-splashed Avenue J station in Brooklyn -- and despite its peeling brown paint and weathered, washed-out signage, the wafting smell of pizza goodness can't be resisted. Nor, for that matter, can its reputation as one of the best pizzerias in the country.

As expected, Domenico De Marco -- the maestro -- was personally, patiently and carefully hand-crafting each pizza one by one, just as he's done for four decades. He never looked up, keeping his head down and focused on his craft while his daughter Margaret took orders at the counter (and occasionally hand-cranked the cheese grater). The three small tables in the cramped space were already occupied, and I could see that there were lots of pies on the list that hadn't yet been made, so I ended up ordering a couple of slices of the regular pie rather than waiting.

They were delicious and hot -- fresh from the gas-fired oven. (Who says you need a wood-burning oven to make fantastic pizza?) I can't say enough about the wafer-thin crust -- the texture was perfectly charred and crisp. The simple toppings of tomato sauce, cheese and basil leaves were fresh and tasty, and a glistening sheen of olive oil added to the mouth-filling flavor of the slices I devoured.

Although the pizzas are pricey even for New York (e.g., $4 per slice, $20 for a regular pie, $25 for a "square" pie baked in a well-seasoned pan, $28 for the Di Fara special pie with mushrooms, peppers, sausage and onions), the pizza here is worth every penny (as well as an interminable subway ride from Manhattan).

Plus, who can resist the allure of a chef so dedicated and passionate about his cooking that he insists on personally making every single item that comes out of his kitchen?
I'm not a big believer in cheat meals, but it doesn't help that I just stumbled upon this 15-minute documentary about Domenico De Marco. Seriously: If you've ever considered yourself a pizza fan, you need to watch this.

Thankfully, I live three thousand miles from Brooklyn, or else I'd be hoofing it to Di Fara for lunch today.