For more than 50 years, De Marco has been making every cake from Di Fara to Midwood.
Photo: Guillaume Gaudet
Domenico “Dom” De Marco died, who in 1965 opened a pizzeria called Di Fara in Midwood, Brooklyn, which attracted swarms of fans. The news was shared by her daughter, Maggie De Marco Mieles, on the pizzeria’s Instagram account, who did not provide a cause of death. She was 85 years old.
“The best sentence my father describes is that he was a man who loved America but missed his country of origin very much and spent all his time in America trying to create that Campania food culture,” says the son. by De Marco, Dominick Jr. “He brought the hills of Italy to Avenue J.” Young De Marco adds: “There will be a great pizza in heaven, so let’s do our best to get there one day.”
In 1959 De Marco emigrated to New York from the Province of Caserta. After working for a few months on a Long Island farm, according to the New York Times in 2004 De Marco opens with his brother a pizzeria in Sunset Park called Piccola Venezia. After a few years, he and a business partner named Farina opened Di Fara. “I do it as an art,” he said at the time. “I’m not trying to make a lot of money. If someone comes here and offers me a price for the shop, there is no price.
Defined as “the Holy Grail of classic New York-style pizza” by New York‘s Underground Gourmet, Di Fara was, for most of its run, a solo show, so much so that the shop would be closed if De Marco was unable to work. Until recently, he made every pizza himself, a fact that was deeply woven into the shop’s mythology. He gave the pizzeria an aura of craftsmanship just as the attention of the food world shifted to artisans and producers.
For decades, Di Fara was primarily known as a neighborhood charcuterie shop, but was eventually introduced by people like Jim Leff, the founder of Chowhound, and Adam Kuban, who started the Slice pizza blog. As time passed around the pizzeria and even more so at De Marco himself, a cult of fans developed, transforming the small shop into a destination that food-obsessed New Yorkers were practically obliged to visit.
Popularity has allowed prices to rise over time. In 2009 the Times covered the fuss around the pizzeria’s $ 5 price for a single slice, quoting then-Mayor Bloomberg as saying, “If you’ve ever eaten a great slice of pizza, you know there are worse deals.” A manager at Astoria’s Rizzo’s, another pizza favorite, stiffened: “I couldn’t possibly think of a slice that could cost that much.” (In the same article, the newspaper called De Marco “a bespectacled nonconformist of the New York pizza world.”)
Over the years, De Marco’s monastic commitment and insistence on finishing his pies with fresh basil have become a signature, and have helped inspire a new generation of pizza makers. There has never been a better time to eat a slice of pizza in New York and Di Fara is arguably the most influential meats shop in the history of the city. In a tribute to De Marco, the owner Lucali Marc Iacono – a legend of the pizza chef in his own right – wrote: “You have turned the world of pizza upside down on your own. You have set the standard and the trail of success for so many of us.
As Kuban says, “It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to think of another pizza chef of his stature, strength and importance”.