Here’s the thing about pizza: It’s awesome.
It’s such a perfect combination of flavors and textures that you have to jam hot dogs in the crust to mess it up. Pizza is so good that it’s literally saving lives. As for those who dare treat this gift recklessly…
When something is this good, people love to categorize, compare, and rank it against other good things. You might call it the Jordan Effect. Trying to crown a definitive “best” is a futile task (which sometimes turns violent), and it’s particularly tough when it comes something like pizza, which is all a matter of opinion.
But it’s also fun, so we’re throwing our hat in the ring and trying to come up with a true champion. And we’re starting at the top with Dom DeMarco of Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn.
When DeMarco is in the kitchen, it’s like watching a strange sort of ballet. He moves lightly, shaping dough, spreading sauce, and ever so slightly shifting each pizza’s position in the oven. For a finishing touch, he cuts basil, grates Parmesan, and drizzles olive oil over each pie.
The result is extraordinary. The crust is chewy and full of air bubbles, and the sauce is slightly sweet with the right amount of tang. Nothing is overpowering; it’s all perfectly balanced.
Admittedly, we’re not the first to discover Di Fara. The New York Times wrote a profile on DeMarco more than 10 years ago. Anthony Bourdain called the pizzeria “the best of the best” in 2007. Zagat, the Village Voice, and Frommer’s all love the place, and Di Fara still has our vote… for now.
Think your favorite spot can compete? Let us know in the comments. We’ll do our best to try it and report back. As for those hoping to taste Di Fara’s pies for themselves, we recommend you move quickly. DeMarco is 80 years-old and has a stake in a restaurant bearing his name in Las Vegas, so he’s probably got the money to retire whenever he wants.
A Few More Pizzas to Try Around the U.S.
- Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles, CA. — Chef Nancy Silverton founded La Brea Bakery, so she obviously knows bread. In The Mozza Cookbook, she details her scientific approach to pizza dough and offers a recipe for home cooks that goes on for pages. Unless you’re particularly inclined (and have access to barley malt), go to the restaurant instead. The crust is complex — there’s a sweetness to it and the slight flavor of rye. The sauce is uncooked, which adds a brightness, and the mozzarella is creamy and mild.
- Ken’s Artisan Pizza, Portland, OR. — Baker Ken Forkish launched his pizza joint in 2006, when Portland was still in the early stages of its food-revolution. The Beard Award Winning chef makes pies that are all about the char. The cornice (that’s the official term for the outer rim) of a Ken’s pizza will definitely have some black spots on it. If you don’t like that, you won’t like it. But if you’re down for the textural change up (crisp in some spots, chewy in others) you’ll love Ken’s. Plus, his menu has all the smartly sourced ingredients you’d expect of a place with “artisan” in the name, without all the pretentiousness.
- San Matteo Pizza and Espresso Bar, New York, NY — There are few truly hidden gems in the world anymore, but tiny restaurant nestled in a quiet corner of Manhattan’s Upper East Side that serves Neapolitan-style pies straight from the wood-burning oven is one of them. Despite the New York Times deeming it what “may be the Upper East Side’s best pizza spot” shortly after it opened in 2010, this charming little spot has remained largely a secret. Just go with the plain Margherita pie. You can thank us later.
- Pizza Delicious, New Orleans, LA. — Just a few short years ago, New Orleans — famous for being one of the world’s great food cities — was nothing less than a pizza wasteland, a place where chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut were among the best pie options. That is no longer the case. In the past five years or so, a revolution of sorts has taken place in the Crescent City, with a number of outstanding pizza joints popping up (perhaps not coincidentally, Pizza Hut has closed 40 financially strained restaurants in the area). Pizza Delicious — which was started by two New Yorkers as pop-up to serve the New York-style pies that frustratingly could not find anywhere in NOLA (they later used Kickstarter to raise funds for a permanent location) — is the best of the bunch.
- Lombardi’s Pizza, New York City, NY. — Lombardi’s claim to fame is simple: they are the first pizza joint in the country. Gennaro Lombardi opened up shop in 1905 and the pictures hanging on the wall at the current location attest to the endless number of famous fans the old pizza maker and his descendants have gained. Like the original Lombardi’s, the more recent iteration uses a coal fired oven — and even though there have been claims that the constant stream of tourists have negatively affected quality, it’s still a damn good pie.
- Fleur De Lis Pizza, Baton Rouge, LA. — Since 1946, Fleur De Lis has been serving square-sliced, Roman-style pies to Baton Rouge residents, largely unnoticed by the outside world. That changed in 2011 when ESPN’s Wright Thompson, a sportswriter of large appetites whose praise can enhance a business’ bottom line (some blame Wright for the perpetual shortage of Pappy Van Winkle), proclaimed it “the best pizza in the South” and “the perfect pizza” in a glowing love letter published on Grantland. Since then, it’s become something of a tourist destination, and for good reason.