In Memoriam: Domenico DeMarco
The pizza community celebrates the inimitable founder of Di Fara Pizza—one of the original members of PMQ’s Pizza Hall of Fame.
Years before Pizza Hall of Fame inductions hit every issue of PMQ Pizza Magazine, there were just a couple of handpicked members. One was the oldest still-operating pizzeria in the United States, Lombardi’s in New York’s Little Italy. The other was Domenico DeMarco.
Dom, as he was known, opened Di Fara Pizza—tucked into a corner on Avenue J in Brooklyn—in 1965 after arriving in the States from Caserta, Italy, and he kept it thriving until his death in March. “Nobody has been more influential on the New York pizza scene,” says Scott Wiener, owner of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York. “He showed that a simple slice shop can be transcendent. Dom single-handedly elevated the New York slice by showing that it’s possible to make next-level pizza in a modest corner pizzeria.”
Dom was known for his painstaking, slow-as-molasses approach to pizza making: every piece of basil and shred of mozz arranged just so to craft a pie that was often hailed as one of New York’s best. “Standing behind the counter with him at his shop was like being backstage at a concert,” recalls Tom Boyles, PMQ’s former editor in chief and current senior account executive. “People were three deep waiting on pizza, but no one was complaining—and Dom was in no rush. He would stop working on one pizza and look over in the oven, reach in (with his bare hand!) and spin the pan. When the pizza was ready, he’d pull it out, take a paper plate, grind cheese on an old manual cheese grater that was bolted to the corner of the counter and sprinkle it on top of the pizza, then use a pair of scissors to cut basil he grew in the shop window. With all the people waiting, I once saw him stop mid-pizza to answer the phone. He spent five minutes giving someone directions to the shop—and still no one complained.”
John Arena, owner of Las Vegas-based Metro Pizza, has similar memories. “Watching Dom work was a master class in the power of single-minded devotion to our craft,” he says. “Every pizza he made was an autobiography that told you all you need to know about the man, his values and his love for the people who passed through his doors. Dom elevated the humble New York street slice from a commodity to a minimalist work of art that inspired the public to appreciate pizza on a completely different level.”
Indeed, in an era when many believe time is money, Dom stood out for his insistence that some things were more important than either time or money. Or, as Dom said himself to The New York Times in 2005, “Pizza has become a fast food. My pizza is slow food. And if I made it fast, it wouldn’t be any good.”
Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor and the editor of PizzaVegan.com.
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