Pizza-palooza: Di Fara marks 50 years with pie-eating contest

Bite of Heaven: Pizza-eating contest participant Vincent Spagnolo chomps down on one of many slices consumed at Di Fara’s 50th Anniversary celebration on Sept. 22.
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

Famed Midwood pizzeria Di Fara celebrated its 50th anniversary on Sept. 22 with the debut of a special-edition pizza and a gut-busting pie-eating contest that had even the biggest slice savorers swooning.

The 78-year-old pizza artisan who opened his shop in 1965 says he never imagined it would last for half a century, much less become a culinary landmark and tourist attraction.

“I don’t think I ever thought about 50 years,” said Domenic DeMarco. “But everything turns around and things are good. I don’t got too many local people, though. They all come from far away. A lot of tourists.”

DeMarco turned to his seven children to create the special 50th-anniversary pie. Each of his kids selected their favorite pizza toppings — some picked the same ones, so the came up with five — and thus was born the Chaos Pie, featuring sausage, wild onions, semi-dried cherry tomatoes, fresh garlic, and meatballs.

Normally closed on Tuesdays, Di Fara opened for four hours in the afternoon to serve the Chaos Pie before shutting so DeMarco and his son, Domenic, Jr., could prepare the plethora of pies needed for the pizza eating contest.

Five corpulent competitors had ten minutes to see who could eat the most pizza. In the end, a competitive eater who specializes in chicken wings managed to stuff the final chunks of crust into his mouth just as time expired, barely finishing an entire pie in the time allotted. He said he was always confident in his victory, but admitted that the contest was more challenging than he thought it would be.

“It was tougher than I expected,” said winner Sean Lennon, who said he’s been a fan of Di Fara’s pies for more than 30 years. “The dough really gets you. Your jaw starts to get tired from the chewing.”

The birthday bash also included the opening night of Di Fara Dolce Fatts, a new dessert cafe just around the corner from the pizzeria that will feature espresso and goodies from popular Brooklyn bakeries, as well as in-house-produced treats, such as a cornucopia of cannoli, including a lemon basil variety made using the same aromatic basil DeMarco sprinkles on his pizzas.

The cafe shares an address with MD Kitchen the small storefront where the DeMarcos produce some of the Italian favorites the family patriarch used to make at Di Fara. One family member playing a large role at Di Fara Dolce Fatts says the dessert shop makes for a perfect complement to the pizzeria.

“The lines at Di Fara can be long and the seating is short, so you can take your pizza to Dolce Fatts and have some desserts after.” said Fabiana Santana, who manages Di Fara’s private party packages. “And we have a lot of tourists from around the country and the world. This gives them another reason to stay in the neighborhood and get to know the area.”

But then there are folks like Lennon, a tried-and-true fan who was eating at Di Fara long before hipsters and the Zagat set descended on the quaint eatery. Lennon’s love for Di Fara’s pies can hardly be doubted. The first thing he did after he won the contest and the “old man” presented him with a makeshift championship belt was scarf down a fresh slice.

Di Fara Pizza 1424 Avenue J between E. 14th and E. 15th streets in Midwood, www.difara.com, (718) 258–1367]; Di Fara Dolce Fatts (1012 E. 15th Street, between Avenues J and K in Midwood, www.difaradolce.com).

Reach reporter Eric Faynberg at (718) 260–2508 or by e-mail at efaynberg@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ericfaynberg.

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