Ever waited in a crazy long line for some famous pizza or doughnuts or barbecue? Was it worth it? This week Dan goes to Di Fara Pizza with Serious Eats founder Ed Levine. Di Fara is a legendary Brooklyn pizzeria that’s famous for its slices – and its line. Along the way, Dan talks with scientists to find out when a long wait makes your food taste better — or worse. Plus he spends some time with the legendary Dom DeMarco, who ran Di Fara for more than half a century. We’re replaying this episode from 2016 in honor of Dom, who died last month.
This episode originally aired on August 11, 2016, and was produced by Dan Pashman, Anne Saini, and Caitlin Pierce, with editing help from Shoshana Gold. Special thanks to Arwa Gunja. The Sporkful production team now includes Dan Pashman, Emma Morgenstern, Andres O’Hara, Johanna Mayer, Tracey Samuelson, and Jared O’Connell.
Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:
- "Give It Up" by Steve Sullivan
- "Sweet Summer Love" by Stephen Sullivan
- "Worldly Endeavors" by Cullen Fitzpatrick
- "Scrambloid Remix" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
- "Narwhal" by Casey Hjelmberg
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Olaf Kreitz, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.
Dan Pashman: How long ago did you get here?
Person 1: About, say 40 minutes —
Person 2: Three days ago.
Dan Pashman: You waited 45 minutes? Already? You’re still waiting for your pizza?
Person 1: Yeah, about. Pretty much.
Person 2: Absolutely.
Ed Levine: Is it worth the wait? We're asking ourselves that question.
Dan Pashman: You ever waited in a crazy long line for some famous pizza or barbecue? Was it worth it?
Person 2: It's just part of the experience with hall. If you want the best pizza you have to wait, as long as you need to.
Dan Pashman: Today, we take a trip to a legendary Brooklyn pizzeria that’s famous for their slices and their line.
Person 3: I'm getting aggravated. I'm getting aggra — it's hot. I could keel over right now.
Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful, it’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters. I’m Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people.
Dan Pashman: Quick note before we get into the show, limited edition cascatelli gift boxes are back, just in time for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day! This is a 4-pack of pasta plus the special recipe booklet and dish towel. They’re already going fast because I told our newsletter subscribers about this a week ago. See, you really should sign up for the newsletter. Anyway, there are still a few left, so go to Sfoglini’s website to get yours! That's Sfoglini.com. Thanks! All right. let’s do this …
Dan Pashman: Look up any list of the best slices of pizza in New York, and Di Fara Pizza is going to be there. It’s been in the same spot, deep in Brooklyn since 1965. And for more than half a century, it was always run by the same guy: Dom DeMarco. Dom died last month, he was 85. His daughter, Maggie, wrote on Instagram: “I worked alongside him since I was a little girl ... He was the hardest working man I know.”
Dan Pashman: Dom was born in Caserta, Italy, and came to the U.S. in 1959 with just $30.00. He opened Di Fara 6 years later, and never left. The critic Pete Wells of the New York Times has described Dom as “a link between the cooking of Southern Italy and the city’s corner slice institution.” Well's said other cooks, "Probably wouldn't equal Mr. DeMarco's stolid fastidiousness, but they could try."
Dan Pashman: Another of New York’s top pizza makers called Dom the “Joe DiMaggio of pizza.” I visited Di Fara Pizza for the first time back in 2016, and I remember watching Dom at work, carefully snipping pieces of fresh basil and drizzling each slice with olive oil. So today, we’re going to replay that episode again. It’s a tribute to Dom, as well as a deep dive into the psychology and economics of long lines. Enjoy.
Dan Pashman: You can get really good pizza and a lot of places in America, certainly in New York without having to wait in a long line. Why is Di Fara worth it?
Ed Levine: Part of it is it's a destination restaurant. People are willing to wait in line. It's like barbecue joints in Texas. It's self-validating, right? It's like I just drove 500 miles. There's a line. I must be in the right place.
Dan Pashman: This is Ed Levine, he’s the founder of Serious Eats and he wrote a whole book about pizza. Now as I said, Di Fara is famous for its pizza, for its history, for Dom … but it’s also famous for one other thing: its line. Everyone knows that when you go to Di Fara, you are going to have to wait a long time for your food. That's why I never went. I didn't want to deal with that line.
Dan Pashman: Then one day I was tweeting with Ed. And I said, "Ed, look, I've been putting off going to Di Fara. Should I go? Is it worth it?" And he said, "Yes, Di Fara is special." So I decided to give it a shot. Of course, if I was going to go wait that long for my pizza. I was going to make Ed keep me company.
Ed Levine: This is a long standing tradition of a line. It's — in other words, it's like clubs. You know, sometimes when a new hot club opens, the velvet rope line is really long of all the wannabes that want to get in and then they move on. Right? So it's fashion. And what's interesting about a line like Di Fara’s, it hasn't changed, you know, there's still a line.
Dan Pashman: Well, right. So it's interesting. Some — like you say, some of these lines places, it's a status symbol.
Ed Levine: Yes.
Dan Pashman: So like, what is the difference then with a place Di Fara’s? Is it the history? Is it — what is it?
Ed Levine: Is it ... it is still status, for sure. It is history. And part of that history is that Dom DeMarco is still making pizza. You know, he cuts the basil. You know, he cuts the oregano. He uses two or three kinds of cheese. There are qualitative differences, whether it's worth the wait. It is a unique slice.
Dan Pashman: The day we were there, it was super hot in the nineties, really humid. Dom DeMarco's daughter, Maggie. She takes the orders. She announced they weren't opening the inside of the restaurant. They needed to conserve their meager AC. So all the orders went through the window on the street and everyone had to wait outside. We talked to some people in line. Here’s Lisa.
Lisa: It's a very Brooklyn thing and I'm — that's why I'm here. I'm here for experience.
Dan Pashman: And I guess part of waiting outside is part of — that's part of the experience.
Lisa: Yes. I would say that after a certain amount of time, it turns into aggravation. And that is a thin line.
Dan Pashman: So let's say 1 is pure bliss, wonderful experience. And 10 is total aggravation experience ruined.
Dan Pashman: And 5 is the tipping point.
Dan Pashman: Where are we right now?
Lisa: Well, right now I'm with my friends here. It's my birthday and I'm not at work. So I say, we're ... We're doing good. It's a little hot for me, but then I'm from California. So I'm a wimp when it comes to weather, but other than that, it's good.
Dan Pashman: Ed and I actually got to the front of the line in like five or 10 minutes. Kind of not so bad, but one thing we would learn is that a big part of the wait in Di Fara comes after you order.
Dan Pashman: Can I please have two regular slices? And should I — should I get one plain square slice, Ed?
Ed Levine: Sure. Yeah. Get — just get a plain.
Dan Pashman: Plain square?
Ed Levine: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Okay. So one plain square, please.
Dan Pashman: Now it was time to wait.
Dan Pashman: How's it going?
Alden: Good. How are you, man?
Dan Pashman: What's your name?
Dan Pashman: Alden, you're standing here with a frustrated look on your face.
Alden: I’m not that frustrated, I'm just hungry, man.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] How long you been waiting for this pizza?
Alden: I don't know. We were in line for like 20 minutes and then I think it's like 10, maybe five. I don't know.
Dan Pashman: Where are you in from?
Dan Pashman: So you never been here before.
Alden: I've never been here before.
Dan Pashman: What are your expectations at right now?
Alden: I mean, if it's this long it has to be good.
Dan Pashman: We'll get back to Di Fara in a bit, but what that last guy, Alden, said was kind of true for me too. Expectations were building in that line. So is that a good thing for the eating experience. I reached out to Dick Larson. He's a professor at M.I.T. who studies the mechanics and the psychology of lines. He goes by the nickname, Dr. Queue, as in Q-U-E-U-E.
Dick Larson: The longer the wait, the higher your expectation is of the quality of service you're about to get. The simple example is in supermarkets, a housewife or house husband with $200 worth of groceries for their family for the week. That's a big service checking that out. And so they expect to wait longer than somebody who goes through self-checkout or express lanes. So the same, I think, is true in restaurants. If you're gonna wait, be willing to wait an hour for your piece of pizza, that piece of pizza better darn well be very, very good.
Dan Pashman: So big expectations can be a problem because Dr. Queue says the key to happy customers in any service business is to surpass expectations.
Dick Larson: The people at Disney World, I believe are the Machiavellian experts of the psychology of queueing. So you might see a sign on a Disney queue, say, oh, if you join the queue here, you can anticipate one hour of delay. But that sign is usually put in a place where it might only be 45 minutes of delay. So the sign deliberately overestimates that duration. So when they get on the four-minute ride, husband says to wife, “Look dear, we're 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
Dan Pashman: But managing expectations isn't always so simple for a restaurant. Doug Sohn spent 13 years running a famous hot dog and sausage joint in Chicago called Hot Doug's. It was known for items like duck sausage with foie gras on top or duck fat fries. You know, light fare. Also, Hot Doug's was known for its crazy long line. Doug was burnt out. He announced he was gonna close up shop, but he gave six months advanced notice. And in those final months, the lines got longer and longer and longer. At the end, people were waiting 2, 3, 4 hours for their food.
Doug Sohn: Yeah. Was it cool that there was a line out the door and people down the block and it looked great? It was wonderful for the publicity. But it made for, in some ways — it's tough. It's tough because you're already in a mindset where you're now trying to weigh: Well, is this worth it or not? Which is an sort of an absurd question. Anyways, when people ask me, is it worth waiting in line for, I’m like, “If you think it is.”
Dan Pashman: But you did have a certain sense of like, I guess, it's maybe it's impossible expectations. People walk in the door with impossible expectations when they've been waiting for your food for two hours.
Doug Sohn: That’s part of it. Yeah. And part of it was, you know, I mean, I felt a tiny bit of pressure, but at the same token, you know, I forced myself not to the sense, well, that was your choice. But that each 10 minutes over an hour and a half, people will just get, rightfully so — I mean, I'm not saying this as a negative thing — a little, little crankier. Certainly, hungrier and you're expecting, you know, get in line at 12, if you're having lunch at 12:20, 12:30. Fine. If you're having lunch at 2:15, 2:30, not that great.
Dan Pashman: For Doug, towards the end, all the hype around the restaurant and the line had another downside.
Doug Sohn: If I heard the phrase bucket list one more time towards the end there, I was going to just beat someone severely with a baseball bat. So it's like, oh, gosh.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] Why? Because it sounds corny or because —
Doug Sohn: Yeah, it's just because, part of me — that's not what I set out to create. The goal was to create this place where you went and sat and had lunch and had a meal, where you didn't photograph everything, where you didn't Instagram everything, where you didn't overanalyze everything. And then it just kind of became, okay, well now you're doing this to say you went here.
Dan Pashman: But Dr. Queue says a lot of people love the exact kind of line that Doug's talking about, the kind of line they have at Di Fara. He calls them celebratory queues and he says they're really different from waiting at the post office.
Dick Larson: It's not unlike the iPhone 8 coming out, there's bragging rights. People take selfies, you know, you can tell your friends and neighbors you were the first one to get this iPhone. So it sounds like this Di Fara’s a little bit like the celebratory queue. Maybe some selfies go on Facebook and say, "Hey, I was there. I paid $5. It was pizza. It was great!"
Dan Pashman: But even though it gets us bragging rights, we still don't love long lines. Dr. Queue says there are some simple ways restaurants could make our experience better. First, keep the line moving. Research shows we're happier after spending an hour in a line that's moving quickly than an hour in a line moving slowly, even though we spend an hour either way. Second, just have a single line, even if it's long. You know, that set up with the multiple registers and the multiple lines and you got to like strategize and figure out, which is the best line to be in? That stresses us out.
Dick Larson: The guarantee of first come first serve seems to make people much more — much happier and less threatened by social unfairness.
Dan Pashman: That's — so people really care about the line being fair.
Dick Larson: Correct. They care about that more than they care about the duration of the wait.
Dan Pashman: Also while we're waiting, distract us. Disney has that one down.
Dick Larson: Basically, the amusement starts when you're in the queue channel because you see photographs of things going on, cartoons, images, things that kids can play with.
Dan Pashman: It’s a similar principle when you go to a restaurant and they give you the buzzer, or they take your cell phone number and call you when your table's ready. You can go off and get distracted. There's a barbecue place in Austin called Franklin. It's known for as long lines, but at Franklin while you're waiting, you can drink. Eh, that's its own special kind of distraction. Maybe Disney should try that. I got to say, give me a case of beer, I'll wait all day to meet Anna and Elsa. Anyway, there is one more way to improve your experience in line. Wait with the right people.
Dan Pashman: Dr. Queue, do you think of yourself as a fun person to wait in line with?
Dick Larson: No.
Dick Larson: Without hesitation, no. No. Dr. Q has his own little ways of trying to avoid queues.
Dan Pashman: Okay. Tell me about some of them.
Dick Larson: Okay. So for lunch, there's a place, a national chain, which has excellent food. And what I get every day is the minimum queueing food, namely soups. They have six excellent — or sometimes eight excellent soups they create every day. Now, those are self-serve. And check out with Apple Pay, so there's no cash and I'm in and out fast. This place also has excellent sandwiches, but the sandwich queue is 15 to 20 humans deep. I have never ordered a sandwich there.
Dan Pashman: Do you think that that restaurant's bottom line would be better off if they manage their queue more efficiently, and thus, persuaded you to order an occasional sandwich and then maybe you'd eat the sandwich and see how amazingly were and tell all your friends about it and then they'd want to come?
Dick Larson: [LAUGHS] Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Coming up. I'll take you back to Di Fara to see how everyone there is holding up. And I talk to a doctor about how long waits affect your appetite. Then spoiler alert, we will actually eat … but will it be worth the effort? Stick around.
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I’m Dan Pashman. In last week’s show I talk with Duff Goldman, from Food Network’s Ace of Cakes and Kids Baking Championship. He’s known for his over-the-top cakes, like a life-size motorcycle cake he made that came complete with a revving engine and fake exhaust. Duff’s always wanted to do things his way, and as he told me, at times that’s gotten him into trouble. Like when he worked at McDonald's as a teenager and decided to put his own spin on the fries.
CLIP (DUFF GOLDMAN): Listen, I just thought that they needed, like, another 25 seconds.
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): You wanted them a little golden brown, a little crispier.
CLIP (DUFF GOLDMAN): Tiny bit more. They weren't into it.
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): [LAUGHS]
CLIP (DUFF GOLDMAN): People make mistakes, and sometimes you just —
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): Who was making the mistake in this scenario? You or McDonald's?
CLIP (DUFF GOLDMAN): McDonald's! They knew!
CLIP (DAN PASHMAN): [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: That’s episode’s up now, check it out. All right, let's get back to the scene outside Di Fara Pizza. I was with Ed Levine, founder of Serious Eats and renowned pizza expert. And while we were waiting, we talked about how a long wait at a place like this can affect your order.
Dan Pashman: The other thing I'm wondering, do you think that when the longer people will the bigger their orders are?
Ed Levine: You know, I've often thought about that because especially in a slice place, I always used to — because maybe I was just trying to kid myself that one slice would do the trick. So I'd say, oh, but I could always order another.
Dan Pashman: Right. But here you don't have that option.
Ed Levine: You don't have that option.
Dan Pashman: In fact, as we sit here, I'm thinking to myself, like, I feel like I should have gotten a second regular slice.
Ed Levine: Yes.
Dan Pashman: All right. Hang on. I'm going to go change our order. All right. It's Maggie. That's her name? Right? Okay. I'll go talk to Maggie.
Dan Pashman: Adding another slice to our order did give me a temporary boost of adrenaline, but that faded pretty fast. At this point, it's like one o'clock in the afternoon. It's in the mid nineties. It's humid. The sun is beating down on us mercilessly and we are starving. This does not feel like a celebratory queue. I checked in with Lisa. She's the woman you heard earlier from California.
Dan Pashman: Lisa, I see you pacing back and forth nervously in front of the window. Where are we on a scale from 1 to 10, now?
Lisa: I'm a little hot. Was 10 the worst?
Dan Pashman: Yeah, 10 means it's a disaster and this pizza can't possibly be worth it. One is pure bliss.
Lisa: Well, you have to understand that nothing is sheer bliss because ... because, my background as a, uh, you know, neurotic Jewish woman, so nothing — who left New York.
Dan Pashman: So you woke up at a 3, basically.
Lisa: Right. Exactly. And I have a mother who's a 9 .
Dan Pashman: Okay.
Lisa: So ... so yeah, I'm uncomfortable and it doesn't help that I can sit down and eat my pizza.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Lisa: I'm at about a six or seven.
Dan Pashman: Okay. So we're past the tipping point where you're — you are starting to —
Lisa: I’m getting aggravated. I'm getting aggravated. It's hot. It's hot.
Dan Pashman: All right.
Lisa: I could keel over right now.
Maggie Mieles: Three slices for Ali!
Dan Pashman: How long have you been waiting for your pizza?
Dylan: Uh, about 45 minutes.
Dan Pashman: Where are you from?
Dan Pashman: Are you here visiting?
Dan Pashman: Where are you staying?
Dylan: Harlem, Manhattan
Dan Pashman: That's far from here.
Dan Pashman: So how long did it take you just to get here, about — it's an hour, right?
Dylan: Yeah, about an hour.
Dan Pashman: It took you an hour to get here. You've been waiting 45 minutes for your pizza.
Dan Pashman: It's also — it's like 90 something degrees out today. It's not a pleasant day to be waiting outside.
Dylan: No, it's not.
Dan Pashman: How has your state of mind evolved over these 45 minutes?
Dylan: Uh, pretty much the same. Just ... just want the pizza,
Dan Pashman: Yeah, but I mean like, are you getting a little bit antsy?
Dylan: Little bit, yeah.
Dan Pashman: A little frustrated.
Dan Pashman: Starting to wonder if this was a good idea?
Dylan: Yeah. Definitely.
Dan Pashman: As we stood out there on the sidewalk, what really struck me was just how slowly the pizza was coming out. I mean, many minutes would go by without a single person getting a single slice. I asked Maggie Dom DiMarco's daughter, why.
Maggie Mieles: Well, now I would say age, but before then, just the process, you know, he's ... he's an artist. What he does is more of an art.
Dan Pashman: When we first recorded this episode in 2016, Maggie’s dad Dom was 79. She said that for the first 40 years of the place, Dom made every single slice, himself. By the time I visited, he’d started taking accepting a help — but he was still making maybe 90 percent of the pizzas. Even right before the pandemic, Dom was still back there every day. And I gotta say, seeing him hunched over that counter, cutting the basil by hand for every single slice, I found it kind of moving. Like over all these years, how many people from all over the world have come to this place to eat this pizza made by this man? And now I was going to get to be a part of that. I was able to pull Dom away from his work for just a minute.
Dom DeMarco: My name is Dominic. What's my job title? Make pizza.
Dan Pashman: It seems like part of the experience of coming here is that people wait a long time for their food.
Dom DeMarco: Yeah, they do here.
Dan Pashman: Do you feel like you — you like it to be the way it is or would you like to try to find a way to make it go faster?
Dom DeMarco: No, I like it like it is. Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Why, what do you like about it?
Dom DeMarco: It's uh ... because it's perfected that where, you know? I make a lot of pies. Customers, they wait longer time. And sometime when you come over here, you're going to take a day off.
Dan Pashman: Fortunately for me, I didn't have to take a day off because this is my job. Same for Ed, my spirit guide on this quest, but now we've been waiting for about 45 minutes. Ed was slumped on the only bench around and for both of us, this was a tough day at the office.
Ed Levine: We're clearly not getting special treatment. They’re very democratic.
Dan Pashman: It's true. Yeah. I thought you're going to pull some strings for us here.
Ed Levine: I know. There's obviously no strings to pull.
Dan Pashman: Right. I am ... I'm getting very ... I'm ... I got to say, I'm starting to feel like I'm past my hunger peak. The heat and the weight and the — you know? the humidity. I don't know. I got to say, I mean, maybe when I get that first bite, I'll be right back in the zone but ...
Ed Levine: I think so. I think, so. I think your blood sugar is plummeting and you're — yeah, you're feeling it.
Dan Pashman: Yeah, we were feeling it, but what exactly were we feeling? What goes on in your body when you're waiting so long for your food? Is there a such thing as a hunger peak? We reached out to Dr. Mark Friedman. He spent years studying appetite and eating at the Monell Chemical Senses Center. He confirmed that heat and dehydration can make you feel less hungry, but if you haven't eaten in a long time, on a physiological level, you're still hungry, even if you don't feel it. Dr. Friedman explained what was happening to Ed and me as we waited outside Di Fara.
Mark Friedman: Thinking about food or smelling it or seeing it can elicit a bunch of physiological reflexes, which are called cephalic phase reflexes. Cephalic phallic referring to the head because you're either thinking about it, seeing it or smell. Hearing it, if somebody is eating crunchy food next to you. And these reflexes prepare the body for the incoming wave of food that you're about to eat. So you have hormones that start getting secreted. You have gastric juices starting to flow and so on. And thinking about food can do that.
Dan Pashman: And what happens if those responses continue to be triggered for a longer period of time, and yet you don't get the food?
Mark Friedman: So while you're standing in line waiting and the, you know, to eat in the restaurant, you may feel hungry at times. You may stop feeling hungry. Just like if you're busy at lunch and you don't eat, you may have been hungry, but now you're not even thinking about it. So your attention essentially is drawn away from that hunger, from those sensations to something else. So you're not feeling hungry, but you're still hungry physiologically.
Dan Pashman: And when that happens, when you kind of feel like you've gone so long without eating that you lose your appetite, what is actually happening physiologically?
Mark Friedman: When you're fasting your body is supplying itself with energy from your stored fuels, stored food, if you will. So it could be that these feelings of hunger that wax and wane or go away is because your body is, for example, it goes away because you haven't eaten and your body, says, okay, I need some more. And it mobilizes more of this energy for immediate use. And then that maybe alleviates your hunger a little bit. I mean, this is pure speculation, but you can — you know, but it's conceivable. But we just — we don't know. To me, what I am continually surprised about is something as basic as hunger is how little we actually know about it.
Dan Pashman: So Mark, when you're waiting to eat, what's your strategy for managing your hunger?
Mark Friedman: Well, I'd say my strategy is more to manage my irritability. I tend to, like a lot of people, I think I get irritable when I'm hungry. In fact, my students, when I was teaching my graduate students knew not to come talk to me around lunchtime and my family certainly knows that.
Dan Pashman: So the idea of getting hangry that's real. And back at Di Fara, our friend, Lisa from California. It seemed like she reached her boiling point.
Maggie Mieles: Lisa?
Person 5: Lisa? I'll take it.
Dan Pashman: They just called Lisa's name. I don't see Lisa. Did Lisa give up? We seem to have lost Lisa. I think she went to go find air conditioning.
Ed Levine: I know. I think so too. I think, I think it had reached a 10
Dan Pashman: The two younger guys who had been with Lisa, they were still there. They'd grab the pizza and they took off down the street. They wouldn't tell me where they were going or where Lisa was. But I gathered she must've gone to some undisclosed air conditioned location to wait the food. Meanwhile, Dylan, the guy from Australia, he and his girlfriend, Viv, finally got their pizza.
Dylan: Uh, it tastes nice. And the crust is good. And it's all over my hands.
Viv: It's how you eat pizza. It's on your nose.
Dan Pashman: So you waited 45 minutes.
Dan Pashman: Was it worth it?
Viv: I mean, we won’t be here again, probably in our lives.
Dylan: Yeah, so ... I think it was worth it.
Dan Pashman: Is it worth it because the pizza tastes so good or because you can now say you've been here now?
Dylan: To say I've been here.
Viv: It's probably the latter.
Viv: We've been there. We've done that.
Dan Pashman: So if it wasn't famous, would you feel like it wasn't worth it because you wouldn't have that — then you have no bragging rights.
Dylan: Yeah. Exactly.
Viv: Probably. I mean, it was really good, but —
Viv: It could have been good in five minutes as well.
Dan Pashman: Then there was Alden from Dallas. He and his mom finally got their pizza too.
Dan Pashman: Was it worth it?
Alden: For sure.
Alden's Mom: It's pretty good. It's pretty good.
Alden: It was a really good pizza. I should have got a whole thing. I would have eaten it all.
Alden's Mom: It was up to the hype.
Alden: Oh yeah, for sure. It was excellent.
Alden’s Mom: It was up to the hype, but I would caution close relatives to be prepared for a long wait. [LAUGHS]
Alden: Yeah, it takes forever. Yeah.
Dan Pashman: How much of your satisfaction with this pizza is the actual taste of the pizza and the fact that now you can tell all your friends you've been here?
Alden: Most of my friends don't know about this place, so I think it's just a taste mostly.
Alden’s Mom: I mean, it really is good. I didn't know it would be such an adventure though.
Dan Pashman: Then after nearly an hour, we heard the call from the window.
Maggie Mieles: Ed? Ed?
Dan Pashman: Our pizza was ready.
Dan Pashman: Let's dig in.
Ed Levine: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Typically at this point, you'd hear Ed and me bite into our pizza and say, mm, ah, it's so good. But funny thing happened there at Di Fara, which is that I forgot to point the microphones at our faces to record our reactions. I was blinded by hunger. I scarfed that first slice down so fast. I have no memory of it. And I guess that says something about what happens when you wait too long to eat. Thank God I ordered that extra slice. And once I got into those second, third slices, I was able to appreciate it a little more. So first the thin crust slice. Now, typically pizza is very mozzarella centric. The cheese is very rich and creamy, but Ed explained to me that Dom DeMarco uses a cheese called Grana Padano, a much sharper cheese, sorta like a Parmesan Reggiano.
Ed Levine: This is actually — it's much more like a composed Italian-American dish rather than a slice of pizza.
Dan Pashman: Then there was the thick crust, Sicilian square slice. Dom cooks it with a ton of oil. So when he takes it out of the oven, you can hear it sizzling. And that oil is basically frying the bottom crust. And when you bite into it, you can hear the crunch.
Dan Pashman: Yeah. I remembered to record that. In the moment that's the Sicilian was the best slice of Sicilian I ever had, and it was the clear winner at Di Fara, I thought. But it's interesting hours later, I found myself craving the sharpness and the balance of flavors from the thin crust slice. As Ed and I finished eating, there was one more question left to answer.
Dan Pashman: Was it worth the wait?
Ed Levine: I thought I was going to say no. And even though we did wait over an hour, it really was an experience. And I was reminded I haven't been here in a long time that it really is an experience. It's not simply eating a slice of pizza. You know, so the line is part of it and the craft that goes into every slice is still part of it.
Dan Pashman: I think that this — I think the pizza is outstanding. The combination of the location being out of the way, at least for where I live and where you live, and the long wait, I'm very glad I came. I think this experience was worth the wait, but I don't know that I would do it again.
Ed Levine: No. Yeah. You might do it once a year or you might want to show a friend it.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Ed Levine: But you're right. Like next Friday, if I was like in the mood for a slice, there's no way I'd come here
Dan Pashman: Well Ed, thanks a lot.
Ed Levine: Thank you, Dan. It was great, man. The pizza was awesome. Thanks for reminding me why this place is so special.
Dan Pashman: R.I.P. Dom De Marco.I think if you ever tried to pursue perfection in any craft, any skill, no matter what it could be, you can take inspiration from Dom DeMarco. One follow up note: Di Fara's is still open — you can still go visit and eat their pizza, and I hear it’s still very, very delicious. There’s even a second location these days, in Manhattan. It just won’t be Dom back there behind the counter snipping your basil.
Dan Pashman: My thanks to Ed Levine, founder of Serious Eats. If you like food podcasts, which I'm guessing you probably do, check out the Serious Eats podcast, which Ed hosts. It's called Special Sauce. Ed has longform conversations with people from chefs, like our friend, Kenji Lopez-Alt, to artists and writers like Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast. You can find Special Sauce wherever you got this podcast.