Saturday, April 26, 2008

Blondie and Brownie's Pizza Week Wrap Up

This week has been an unusually pizzariffic one for us. Pizza from the famed DiFara's. Pizza from a truck. And yes, a 99 cent pizza taste off...let's just say when you have pizza four times in a week, you know it's been a good week...

First up, taking Blondie on her first pilgrimage to Di Fara's in Midwood. I've been extolling the virtues of Di Fara's to Blondie ever since my first visit in February. She's heard Di Fara's this and Di Fara's that. I've forced her to look at my Di Fara's food porn album on flickr and she narrowly missed sitting through my Di Fara's tribute pizza dinner. It was time to savor the real thing.

We decided on Saturday visit because 1) I had already lured Blondie to Brooklyn with the promise of bicycle pedal blender mojitos from Cafe Habana's Earth Day opening celebration and cake from Cake Man Raven and once I had her in the borough, I knew I'd be able to convince her to stay for pizza, and 2) the fact that last Saturday evening was the first night of Passover was not lost on me--maybe, just maybe would be just a little shorter for pizza on the first seder night. It was worth a try.

I've blogged about my relationship with pizza before. Mom's Italian. If she wasn't making good pizza at home we were having pizza out at one of the best pizza places in the country. I was raised on the good stuff. New Haven style, that's how I roll. Blondie doesn't really understand my pizza obsession; my quest for the best. Don't get me wrong. She loves pizza and can appreciate good pie, but if you ask her what her favorite pizza is, she'll say the place that delivers to her mom's house. I just don't get it. Then again, she was allowed to watch Dirty Dancing as a kid, so I blame all of our differences on that. But back to the pizza...

We took the bus out to Di Fara's and arrived at around 7:30ish, it was close to sundown and Midwood was a ghost town, but Di Fara's was still hopping. Our friends had already arrived for their first Di Fara's experience and we called our order in to them as we walked over--one round regular pie and a square pie with artichokes. One of the best Di Fara's strategy's I've read about came from Brooklyn chowhound, JFores, who advocates gluing yourself to the counter to keep your pie top of mind and cut your wait time. Dom's son was managing the orders and we grabbed the big table in front which is almost as good as standing at the counter. At least you are still in view of the pizza making action and of the pizza maker. Still, it took about an hour and a half for our pizzas to be ready, but it was well worth the wait and as close as pizza nirvana as I've achieved this side of New Haven county.

I've had the square pie a couple times now and it's good, but in my book the round regular is where it's at. Between the olive oil under the crust, on top of the pie, and on the roasted artichokes, the square pie has perhaps just a little too much olive oil for me (and I didn't think that such a thing was possible). The round regular on the other hand is a perfect balance of thin crust, bright and fresh sauce, buffalo mozzarella, and basil. Sigh. Certifiably delicious.

Blondie enjoyed the pizzas. But even a taste of Di Fara's magical pie could not change her 'za position. She's just a love the one you're with kind of gal. I swear, it's the early Dirty Dancing exposure.

Pizza week continued on Tuesday with a lunchtime outing to Jianetto's Pizza Truck. I love any food that comes off of a cart or truck, so this was a must try. When we arrived at around 1:00pm there wasn't much of a line, which left just enough time to scrutinize the menu and decide on a $2.75 Grandma's Slice for me and a $6.00 Chicken Parm for Blondie. I was impressed to see that the truck had 3 stacked ovens; awesome. I did feel for the guy in the truck though. I've been in my little kitchen baking just one pie with the oven cranked to 500 degrees, so I can't imagine how he could survive on that truck during the warmer months. Within a few minutes our lunch was ready and we on our way to find some outdoor seating.

It's hard to find a good Grandma's slice. Most are too thick crusted for me. This Grandma's slice however was quite good. The crust was nice and thin and the sauce was good and tangy. The basil on top was a welcome touch. The only drawback was that it could have used a bit more cheese sprinkled on top--but to be fair, they did have extra parm you could add, Blondie even asked me if I wanted cheese before we left. I was in such a rush to chow down that I shrugged off her suggestion. I should have opened the bag with my slice assessed the cheese situation before departing. Overall though it was a good slice. I should have ordered a second one because it wasn't as filling as I would have liked. On that count (and in general) Blondie definitely won with her chicken parm. Tender chunks of breaded chicken with a fair amount of cheese and sauce wrapped in a chewy, tasty crust. Mmm. Love that chicken parm. Nice find, Blondie. As for you, pizza truck, we'll definitely be back in the near future. I hear you make some good Rice Balls and Blondie has been jonesing for a rice ball fix. And I have to admit, I'm kind of intrigued by the fact that they offer pasta on their menu. Pasta from a truck? Could it possibly be al dente? How do they heat it? So many questions. Yes, a repeat visit is definitely in order.

We wrapped up pizza week on Friday with a 99 cent pizza taste off hitting up Prince Deli on 3rd Avenue and 99¢ Fresh Pizza on 43rd Street. Visiting 99¢ Fresh Pizza has been on my list of must try lunches since I read about it on Midtown Lunch. Then Blondie discovered that there were 2 places serving 99 cent slices within a block of each other. This definitely called for a taste off and with the nice weather, Friday seemed like as good a day as any to check what kind of pizza you can get for 99¢. First up was Prince Deli where I met Blondie. She had already bought my slice (and eaten her slice) by the time that I got there. The Prince Deli slice took me back to my elementary school days. It was like the Prince Deli had somehow managed to import the little old Italian cafeteria ladies from my elementary school to prepare the pizza for them. The pizza was very light on the cheese and can best be described as a step up from Ellios toaster pizza, but for 99¢ I couldn't really complain. And I was starving. This slice took the edge off my hunger and gave me the energy to walk a block over to hit up slice number two.

99 cent slice from Prince Deli

When we arrived at 99¢ Fresh Pizza there was a line out the door. To be fair the place is tiny, so it doesn't take too many people for the line to be out the door. The line moved quickly and soon enough Blondie was inside getting their special, two slices and a can of soda for $2.75. Two slices and a soda for the price of the Jianetto's slice. Not bad at all. The cheese and the sauce were much better here (heck, this pizza actually had cheese). And the crust was thinner and less doughy. This was much more like the pizza we got in school on the special Fridays when they let the cafeteria ladies order in pizza from the local pizza joint. (Come to think of it...why did they let the cafeteria ladies order from a pizza place on some Fridays? I mean, it was a nice break from their cooking for us, but what were the cafeteria ladies doing on those Fridays. How much time does it really take to reheat tater tots?). If 99¢ Fresh Pizza were closer to my office, I might become a regular customer, but it's a bit of a walk for me, so I would probably only visit when I don't have lunch and I'm too broke to get anything else and/or I want or need a nice long walk at lunch time. However, I was very excited to learn that the original 99¢ Fresh Pizza location is right near the Port Authority. Next time I need to take a bus somewhere I'm definitely grabbing a slice or two. It will definitely put a smile on my face as I deal with the requisite Port Authority craziness.

Pizza Week Wrap Up:

Di Fara's Pizzeria
1424 Avenue J
Brooklyn, NY 11230
(718) 258-1367

Jianetto's Pizza Truck
47th Street (b/w Madison and Park Ave)
New York, NY
(917) 287-7241

Prince Deli
690 3rd Ave (b/w 43rd St. and 44th St.)
New York, New York
(212) 661-2240

99¢ Fresh Pizza
151 E. 43rd St. (btw. Lexington & 3rd)
New York, NY


Matt Fisher said...

I've had baked ziti from Jianetto's truck before, it's unfortunately nothing to write home about, but it is a nice sized portion. I'd stick with the slices.

Brownie said...

Good to know. I'm a picky about my pasta (and especially picky when the pasta's been reheated--it's really hard to get reheated pasta right). Thanks for the tip, I'll steer clear.