Food & Drink

One of NYC’s Best Pizza Shops Was Just Shuttered by the State

Di Fara Pizza
Di Fara Pizza | Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Di Fara Pizza | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

For the second time this year, beloved Brooklyn pizza institution Di Fara has been shut down for running afoul of government agencies -- though the Di Fara family says they should have the pizzeria open again within days.

On Tuesday, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance slapped a blazing orange sticker on Di Fara’s facade. “This property has been seized for nonpayment of taxes, and is now in the possession of the state of New York,” it barks in all caps. Department spokesperson James Gazzale says the business owes $167,506.75 dating back to 2015. And all this after the Midwood staple was temporarily shuttered in May by health inspectors when an inspection revealed vermin and other offenses amounting to 45 violation points. (Di Fara rebounded to earn an ‘A’ rating.) 

The department does not comment on specific cases, but Gazzale could not rule out the possibility that Di Fara could be slinging pies again soon. “We continue to have an open dialogue with the business in order for them to resolve the debt and re-open,” Gazzale said. “In general, we just want to have the confidence that the business is going to be operating in good faith moving forward.”

The Di Fara family expects that very outcome. When reached by phone Tuesday evening, owner Domenico DeMarco’s daughter Margaret Mieles said that Di Fara’s doors were locked while the ovens were on. “I had to call the fire department because the ovens were blaring,” she said. “They found a way to get in without breaking anything.” 

Mieles attributed the whole situation to a misunderstanding that could have been resolved today were it not for the Department of Taxation and Finance’s hours. “There’s nothing you can do after 4pm, that’s the problem with these agencies,” she said. 

“We’re on a payment plan with them,” she said. “We have a six year plan. We made our monthly payment with them. We think that we mailed the payment, we do things the old school way. There’s a blip in the system somewhere.”
Mieles is hopeful that Di Fara will be back open by the end of the week.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, an employee at the Williamsburg outpost who sometimes picks up shifts at the Midwood location said that everything at the now locked-down pie purveyor was business as usual as recently as Saturday, and that employees were not notified in advance of the closure. “Everything seemed nice, pretty normal.”
 
“I hope [Di Fara re-opens],” the employee said. “A lot of people rely on that job.”

DeMarco making pizza
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Established in 1965 by Italian immigrant Domenico DeMarco, Di Fara’s pies are consistently ranked among the best in New York City.

Scott Wiener, pizza expert and host of Thrillist’s Really Dough? recently sang the iconic shop’s praises in a definitive guide to NYC’s best pizza places. “It’s just one of those special places trapped in time,’ Wiener said. Legend is so important, like going to the Great Wall of China, you need to go as a lover of the cuisine. Di Fara is just such a special place. If you’re there when Dom is there, you feel it.”

“I just wanted to make pizza that tasted good,” DeMarco told Thrillist in 2018. “That means good ingredients. That’s why people like it, plain and simple. While I’m still standing, that’s not going to change.”

The Williamsburg location remained open on Tuesday.

Update: Di Fara reopened on August 22.

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Amber Sutherland-Namako is Thrillist's New York editor.