If you ask New Yorkers where the best pizza in the city is, chances are they will say Di Fara. It routinely shows up on nation-wide best-of lists, and has been featured on numerous television shows. People make pilgrimages to Di Fara, as if it was the holy grail of pizza. It’s been eleven years since my first (and only) visit. Thats kind of crazy, considering how close I live to it. Whenever I thought about going I remembered how long it took to be served, and how expensive it was, and ended up not returning. On a recent summer afternoon I went on a whim, and sure enough it was crowded, and there was a group wearing matching t-shirts reading “Brotherhood of Pizza Enthusiasts”. There wasn’t much of a line, though, mostly people just waiting. I noticed Dom wasn’t making the pizza that day, which I understand is happening more frequently, but there was still a 35-45 minute wait for a pie. The last time I was there a single slice was $4, now it was up to $5. In these days of dollar pizza slices that’s an outrageous amount. Still, I approached the counter and asked for a single slice. The woman at the counter started to write my order down, but then stopped. She conferred with another person, and then handed me a plate with a large misshapen slice with a smaller slice right next to it. “There was a torn slice,” she said, “so you can have that one too.” Yes, I got a slice and a half from Di Fara with no waiting at all for the price of one. I took my plate outside to eat.
The pizza was better than I remembered. The crust was chewy and crisp, with just the perfect hint of char. The sauce and the cheese were nicely seasoned and it all worked together in a great pizza balance. I remembered then that $1 pizza slices are terrible, and sometimes it’s worth paying extra for the good stuff. I don’t know if Di Fara’s is the best pizza in the city or the country, and that kind of thing is subjective anyway. What I do know is that Di Fara makes a mighty good slice of pizza — and I think it’s even better when you don’t have to wait for it.
Di Fara — 1424 Avenue J
I last ate at Bedouin Tent in 2012, and on a recent visit it didn’t seem like anything had changed at all. We ordered a platter of salads – in this case hummus, beets, feta, chickpeas with spinach, and lentils with bulgur – and some falafel sandwiches. Everything came out immediately, and it seemed like the falafel had been sitting around for a while. Though they were nicely spiced, they were soft on the outside and mealy inside when the should have been crispy and smooth. The salads were a treat, though, especially when spread out on the warm fresh pita. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat at Bedouin Tent again, but it’s a fine once-every-seven-years restaurant.
Bedouin Tent — 405 Atlantic Ave
As a food blogger there is nothing I like more than knowing about something that no one else does. Getting the inside scoop isn’t easy these days, so when I saw my friend Mo post about picking up a Detroit-style pizza in Sunset Park I was intrigued. Mo takes pizza more seriously than anyone I know (with the notable exception of Adam Kuban). I immediately followed @seanyslices on Instagram to find out more. Sean, who runs @seanyslices, makes individual pies similar to Emmy Squared. He doesn’t have a restaurant empire, though, he sells them at pop-ups and occasionally through Instagram. I wasn’t able to get one right away, but eventually my schedule lined up and I placed an order for a single plain pie ($11). I received an address in Sunset Park and a pick-up time. This was all very insider-y stuff.
When I picked up my pie it was still warm. I brought it home and heated it up for a few minutes in the toaster oven before slicing it up. The dough was light and chewy on the inside, but the real star of any Detroit-style pie is the outer crust. Here it was perfectly, shatteringly crisp and well seasoned. The thin layer of tomato and cheese on top was just icing on the cake, so to speak. So I got my inside scoop, a great pizza, and a new Brooklyn adventure.
Follow @seanyslices on Instagram to find out how to get yours.
The farmer’s market is overflowing with seasonal fruits and vegetables right now, and when I go I sometimes get overwhelmed with choice. Most of the time I gravitate to something unusual, or hyper-seasonal, but I realized that I always make sure to grab zucchini and summer squash. It’s not the flashiest vegetable, or the most flavorful, but there’s something undeniably wonderful about it. Maybe it’s the versatility; you can eat it raw (here’s a simple recipe) or cooked, it can be stuffed and baked, it can be stir-fried, it can be turned into a fritter. You can even eat the flowers. So I say let’s embrace the humble zucchini, which is out in force all summer long.
To make the simple zucchini pizza you see above I used store-bought pizza dough. While the oven was heating to it’s highest temperature I used a vegetable peeler to make strips of zucchini, both green and yellow. I put the strips into a colander and salted them, then let them drain for a little bit. This both seasons the zucchini and removes some of the water. After about half an hour I quickly rinsed the zucchini strips and squeezed them to get as much moisture out as possible. I stretched out the dough, topped it with the zucchini strips, a few red chile flakes, and a big handful of pecorino cheese. Then I drizzled olive oil over the top and slid it onto my baking steel. After about twenty minutes I pulled it out, drizzled some more olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and some more pecorino, then finished it with some fresh torn basil leaves. Sure it’s not ideal to use your oven when it’s so hot, but the zucchini pizza made it all worth while.
So join me in celebrating zucchini season. What’s your go-to zucchini recipe?
It’s been 90 degrees here in NYC for the past few days, and as miserable as that sometimes is it does give me an excuse to eat a lot ice cream. Not that I need an excuse, but you see what I mean. Malai Ice Cream recently opened on Smith Street, serving flavors inspired by India (and beyond). I got two scoops: Turkish coffee, which was pleasantly bitter, and sweet roti with ghee, which was creamy and milky with crumbles of buttery-flaky pastry mixed in. I’ve also seen pints of Malai at specialty food shops around the city – I have all summer to pick out a few more flavors to try.
Malai Ice Cream — 268 Smith St
Several months ago I vowed to spend more time in the Latin American section of Sunset Park. I finally got around to it a few weekends ago, when I was struck by the overwhelming need for a torta. I looked up places to go, and the number one suggestion was Don Pepe Tortas Y Jugos, a juice shop/restaurant not too far from my apartment. Despite having dozens of tortas on the menu there is only one vegetarian option- the chile relleno torta. I can hear you now – surely a giant chile stuffed with cheese and deep-fried in an eggy batter is enough of a meal. It is enough for a meal (and don’t call me Shirley) but why not drop it on a toasted roll with avocado and veggies, beans, mayo, pickled jalapenos, and some more cheese? It’s a good torta, though not great; it was missing some acidity to balance all of the richness, maybe some more pickled jalapenos or some kind of tomato-based sauce. Still, it’s a good sandwich and one worth walking to Sunset Park for.
Don Pepe Tortas Y Jugos — 3908 5th Ave
Smorgasburg came to Prospect Park right around the time I was getting sick of the weekly food event. I don’t think I went at all last year, even though it’s a 10 minute walk from my apartment. Yet it was so nice out this past weekend that I went for a walk in the park, and ended up at Smorgasburg. It was nice to be back, though it’s still crowded and overpriced. But one thing that struck me on this visit was the wide variety of food on offer – Sudanese sambusas, Japanese okonomiyaki, Portuguese pastry, just to name a few. The other thing that struck me is just how good Smorgasburg has gotten for vegans and vegetarians. There’s a vegan Filipino dessert stand, as well as vegan sandwiches from Monk’s Meats. The best thing I ate was the vegan BEC (bacon egg & cheese) from ATM Vegan Deli. ATM makes vegan versions of bodega classics, and the BEC was one of the most exciting things I’ve eaten in a long while. A thin tofu patty has the creamy texture of eggs, it’s topped with mushroom bacon, vegan cheddar, and a magical vegan “yolk” sauce. I have no idea how they make it but that sauce is something special. Maybe it’s for the best that I don’t make regular visits to Smorgasburg — when I only go every few years I’m still capable of enjoying it.
ATM Vegan Deli
Smorgasburg — Prospect Park At Breeze Hill