Domenico “Dom” DeMarco, the owner of the Midwood pizza institution Di Fara Pizza, has passed away, Brooklyn Magazine first reported. He was 85.
DeMarco’s daughter Maggie DeMarco-Mieles, posted on Facebook today, writing, “It is going to come as a shock to many because we chose to keep it private for good reasons. My world revolved around my dad. I worked alongside him since I was a little girl.” She did not specify the cause of death.
According to the company website, DeMarco immigrated to New York in 1959 from Italy via the Province of Caserta. He went on to open at Di Fara in 1965 on Avenue J, catapulting the pizzeria to one of Brooklyn’s most iconic restaurants. Eater critic Robert Sietsema has consistently listed the pie shop as one of the city’s best slices, amongst a crowded competition.
“Pizza has become a fast food. My pizza is slow food. And if I made it fast, it wouldn’t be any good,” DeMarco told the New York Times in 2005, about his line-inducing slices. For decades, the pizzaiolo was often seen on the ground at the storied pizza parlor making pies, where he took painstaking care to use top-tier San Marzano tomatoes, hand ground cheese and used fresh basil, snipped from a windowsill garden.
In 2011, the restaurant was shut down by the Department of Health for multiple infractions and reopened later that year, Brooklyn Magazine reports. Nevertheless, the lines of the pizza shop — which subsequently inspired spawned locations in Williamsburg and Las Vegas — never stopped coming. In 2019, Eater NY reported that Di Fara was seized by New York state for owing $167,500 in unpaid taxes but rallying cries from fans, including then-mayor Bill DeBlasio, and former Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams, quickly worked to keep the pizzeria afloat and it reopened within two days.
Di Fara’s national recognition has never waned. It garnered numerous accolades from publications often calling DeMarco’s pizzas among the best in the country, and by 2019, Goldbelly started delivering the Brooklyn pizza nationwide. This February, the restaurant had been listed as a James Beard Awards semifinalist, for outstanding restaurant. Also last month, SILive.com reported the team was gearing up to open a Staten Island outpost.