One of Brooklyn’s most beloved — and frequently shuttered — pizzerias has again been closed by the city, and the owner says he’s happy to get the time off.
“The only time I get to relax is when they close us,” said Domenico DeMarco, the owner of the legendary Di Fara Pizza on Avenue J in Midwood, who jokingly posed with his daughter behind the gate of his restaurant as if in prison after the Health Department forced them to close last week.
But the violations are no joke.
The city reported the 46-year-old pizzeria at the corner of E. 15th Street, known for it’s drop-dead Sicilian pie, racked up 67 violation points during last week’s inspection and was cited for mouse droppings “throughout the kitchen,” enough to shut the store and require the owner to take a course in food protection. Once the place is cleaned up and proof is provided to the city that the course has been completed, the world-famous joint will be allowed to reopen.
The DeMarco family argued it was caught off guard by the inspection thanks to what they called a perfect storm of bad timing and new city rules.
“The person who was supposed to come in and clean on Nov. 16 wasn’t able to make it, because they had a medical emergency,” said Margy DeMarco, who works alongside her father in the shop. “The inspector came that day.”
She also blamed a paperwork-related delay thanks to the massive Occupy Wall Street protests in the city on Thursday for keeping the shop closed longer than it should have been, and claimed she is now waiting on the city to reinspect the restaurant so the family could re-open it.
Pizza lovers who for years have waited up to an hour just to get their hands on an expensive-yet-mouth-watering slice were understandably devastated by the closure, and some reasoned that a ticket-happy city was simply making an example of their favorite pizzeria.
“It’s a symbolic shutdown just to strike fear through everybody else,” said Scott Wiener, a Di Fara disciple who leads pizza-tasting tours around the city.
And all the pizza-lovers we talked to vowed to return as soon as the shop reopens, mice or no mice.
“Is it worth risking rodent-borne illness?” wondered Josh Bauchner, a Di Fara enthusiast. “Certainly.”
That risk could remain: when one of our reporter’s visited to the pizza shrine on Monday, a mouse scurried under the oven, leaving us wondering if the next time we go back (and we will!), will we be getting toppings … or droppings.
It’s the third time the pizzeria has been closed by the city because of uncleanliness since 2007, and each time mouse droppings were involved. Back in 2007, it was closed twice between March and June.
The restaurant had received a B rating from the city prior to this week’s closure.
— with Kate Briquelet and Colin Mixson.