DeMarco founded Di Fara’s in Midwood in 1965, a few years after emigrating from the province of Caserta in Italy to New York. He told the New York Times in 2004: “When I came here, I spent three months on Long Island, in Huntington, working on a farm…then someone put a bug in my head and told me there was a good place on Avenue J. I didn’t even know Avenue J existed.
He opened Di Fara with a business partner whose last name was Farina. “So when the lawyer made the paper, he put the two names together: Di Fara,” he recalled to The Times. In 1978, DeMarco bought out his partner but kept the name.
For much of the past 50 years, DeMarco has been directly involved in the creation of every pizza, importing ingredients from Italy several times a week. The pies were all topped with fresh basil (cut with scissors by DeMarco) and a drizzle of olive oil. Slices cost just 15 cents when it opened in 1965, but now cost $5 a pop. Even so, the place was almost always flooded with people trying to get a taste, and visitors could sometimes expect an hour-long wait.
DeMarco’s attention to detail and passion for all things pizza have made Di Fara’s a pizza staple in town, frequently appearing on top lists from Zagat, Village Voice, The Times, Gothamist and Moreover. Chef Anthony Bourdain and former Mayor Bill de Blasio have both said the Di Fara is the best slice in town at various times.
Over the years, Di Fara has expanded to other locations, including the Lower East Side, a now-closed location in Williamsburg and even Las Vegas. The original location also faced a few brief closures, including in 2011 due to violations by the Ministry of Health, and in 2019 when it was seized by the Tax and Finance Department of the New York State for unpaid taxes. At the time, a state spokesperson told Gothamist that the pizzeria owed $167,506.75. De Blasio vowed to help make Di Fara’s pies again, and a few days later he did indeed reopen, with a state spokesperson saying, “We have come to a mutual agreement to go from forward and we are confident that the company will operate in good faith in the future.”