• #1 by Pete-zza on 11 Aug 2004
  • One of my pet pizza projects has been to try to reverse engineer the pizzas made by DiFara's, one of the quintessential pizzerias in the New York City area (Brooklyn).  I have never been to the pizzeria myself--although I plan to the next time I am in the New York City area--but over the past year or so, through stuff I have read on the Internet, I believe I have been able to piece together quite a bit about what goes into the typical DiFara pizza.  Maybe DiFara fans or others at this forum (I believe, for example, that Arthur visited DiFara's not too long ago), can help me fill in some of the missing blanks.

    I feel a bit like Sherlock Holmes, but this is what I currently know about DiFara's pizzas, based solely on what I have read: 1) the dough apparently is made the same day as the pizzas are made, using a 75/25 ratio (I assume by weight) of the Delverde brand of 00 flour and a high-gluten flour; 2) a 75%/25% combination of buffalo mozzarella cheese (imported, I assume) and the Grande brand of full-fat mozzarella cheese; 3) a tomato sauce made from a mixture of canned San Marzano tomatoes and fresh tomatoes; 4) one or more fresh herbs--but quite possibly only basil--grown in the vicinity of the pizzeria; 5) a sprinkling of extra-virgin olive oil on top of the pizza;  6) a dusting of grana padano cheese; and 7) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on the side.  

    What I don't know is whether the crust is thick or thin (or something in between), whether the pizzas are heavy on the sauce or cheeses (I have seen some commentary about too much cheese being used), whether the cheese is grated or sliced (or whatever), whether the sauce before baking is cooked or raw, and whether the olive oil and basil are added before or after baking.  I also don't know the specific dough ingredients, but I believe I can come up with a 00/high-gluten dough combination that will suffice.  I also don't recall offhand whether the dough would have to be ready for a lunchtime crowd, but I think I could start the dough early enough in the morning to meet that target.   (Doughs with 00 flour are commonly made for use the same day).  

    I look upon the DiFara's pizzas as being a cross between two of my favorite pizza styles: a Neapolitan style pizza (because of the 00 flour, the bufallo mozzarella cheese, San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil and basil) and a New York style pizza (because of the high-gluten flour, the Grande mozzarella cheese, the use of American style toppings such as pepperoni, and the larger overall pizza size).  I don't have a Difara type oven, but I think I can come close enough in my standard home oven.

    Thanks in advance for any additional "clues".  It would be interesting to see whether whatever I can concoct will be anything like the "real thing" when I actually get around to trying it.

  • #2 by Arthur on 11 Aug 2004
  • Ah yes....DiFara's.   It was like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.   As a pizzaioli you spend years perfecting your craft and to see one of the greats is such a thrill.

    Now...I must admit, his pizza wasn't exactly my taste, but it's like saying I don't like Manet, but I recognize greatness  :)   My sister did like the dough given it's 00 flour inclusion.

    Can you post your email address - or some newly/temp created yahoo email address so that I can send you an email with my additional comments.   ;)

    Also, if you're in New York, the must go-to pizza places:

    - Totonnos (Brooklyn - coney island) - just classic
    - Nick (Queens - forest hills) - it's amazing what they do with a gas oven
    - Lombardi's (NY - 32 Spring street) - the first pizza place so you must go - although was a little doughy last time I went
    - L&B Spumoni Gardens (Brooklyn) - the best square and atmosphere
    - John's (NY - bleeker street) - just plain good
    - Patsy's (harlem - I haven't been, but next on my personal list)
    - DiFara's - (Brooklyn - midwood) - just to see the master and taste something different

  • #3 by canadave on 11 Aug 2004
  • Interesting you mention about Lombardi's being "a bit doughy" last time you went, Arthur.  Last time I was in NYC, I spoke to a long-time friend there who said that she was under the impression that Lombardi's had changed owners not too long ago, and that the pizza quality had suffered immensely because of it--she was quite annoyed about the whole thing.  I don't know if that's true or not, but it might explain your experience.

  • #4 by Pete-zza on 11 Aug 2004
  • Canadave,

    I visited Lombardi's within the past year and was not particularly impressed with the pizza I had--a basic Margherita pizza, the pizza I almost always order at a new pizzeria because it is the most basic and unemcumbered by too many toppings.   But rather than relate my experience at this thread, I will post something on the Restaurant Review section of the forum.

  • #5 by Pete-zza on 12 Aug 2004
  • Arthur,

    I'm still learning the many functionalities of the platform used for the forum.  I sent you a message offline about the DiFara post and hope you got it.  I included my email address.

  • #6 by Pete-zza on 30 Aug 2004
  • As part of my efforts to reverse engineer the DiFara pizza, I decided recently to try to engineer a dough similar to the DiFara dough.  I have a pretty good understanding of the various ingredients of the basic DiFara pizza, but few details on the dough itself, apart from the fact that the dough is a combination of "00" flour (the Delverde brand) and a high-gluten flour.

    For my version of the dough, I decided to try a 50/50 (by weight) combination of "00" flour (Delverde brand) and KA Sir Lancelot high-gluten flour. I also decided that I wanted a 14-inch pizza with a thin crust.   I don't know the percentage hydration (the amount of water) used by DiFara's for its dough, so I decided more or less arbitrarily to use 60%. What follows is more an exercise in how to engineer a dough from the ground up than anything else.  But I believe the exercise is constructive since it allows one to pretty much engineer a dough using any number and types of flours and any desired hydration percentage.

    I decided on the 14-inch diameter because that is the largest size my pizza peel and pizza stone can safely handle.  Using that number, I calculated the weight of dough that I would need to produce a pizza dough round 14 inches in diameter and that would yield a thin crust.  Using the standard equation W = Pi (the Greek letter, equal to 3.14) times the radius (R = 7 inches) squared times 0.10 (the thickness factor for a thin crust), the dough weight W came to 15.4 ounces (3.14 times 49 times 0.10).

    To calculate the weight of each of the two flours and the weight of the water I would need, I put on my math hat and came up with the following expression:

    0.50 x + 0.50 x + 0.60 x = 15.4 ounces  

    The value of x in this equation is 9.62 (15.4 divided by 1.6, that is, the sum of 0.50, 0.50 and 0.60).  From the value of x, I was able to calculate that I would need 4.81 ounces (0.5 times 9.62) of 00 flour, 4.81 ounces (0.5 times 9.62) of high-gluten flour, and 5.77 ounces (0.6 times 9.62) of water.  

    Using my Soehnle Futura scale, I was able to weigh out the three ingredients and proceed with making the dough.  As is my regular practice, I took the temperature of the room, the temperatures of the two flours (they were the same since both were at room temperature), and, using a friction factor of about 5 degrees F for my KitchenAid stand mixer, I calculated a water temperature of about 73 degrees F to get a finished dough temperature of around 80 degrees F (3 times 80, minus the sum of the flour temperature, room temperature and the friction temperature).  After processing the dough, I weighed it and took its temperature.  The weight came to 15.3 ounces--just slightly less than the calculated weight of 15.4 ounces--and the finished dough temperature was around 80 degrees F, right in line with the calculated finished dough temperature.   The dough also passed the windowpane test.

    The precision of the weight measurements is attributable to using a good scale.  In my case, I also converted the weights to volume equivalents, which came to about 3/4 c. of the Delverde 00 flour, about 1 c. of the KA Sir Lancelot flour and about 3/4 c. water.  Using the volume measurements will not be as accurate as the weight measurements, of course, but should come reasonably close for all practical purposes, especially if mid-course adjustments are made to flour and water during the processing of the dough.

    The beauty of the above analysis is that it allows one to change parameters pretty much at will.  For example, if one wanted to combine three different flours, with equal weights, and use, say, a hydration percentage 0f 65%, the above expression would be modified to be 0.33 x + 0.33 x + 0.33 x + 0.65 x = W (the calculated weight of flour for the desired diameter of pizza dough round).  From the value of x, one would be able to easily calculate the required weights of the different flours and the water, just as was shown above.

    In my case, after the pizza was prepared, about the only thing I might change for future pizzas of this type would be to aim for a bit thinner crust (I would use a thckness factor of 0.09 instead of 0.10) or I would just make the pizza dough round greater than 14 inches to get the increased thinness (in which case I would have to  use a pizza screen of the right size because my stone wouldn't be able to handle the larger size).



  • #7 by canadave on 30 Aug 2004
  • The one thing you didn't mention is how good it tasted! :)

  • #8 by Pete-zza on 30 Aug 2004
  • Canadave,

    With me, the science sometimes gets in the way of the emotional side of eating pizza ;D.  Before doing anything, when the pizza comes out of the oven the first thing I do is check it out quite carefully, looking for color, texture and flavor, and whether it came out as I might have expected based on what I did in preparing it.  I often take notes on my observations to add to my original recipe, and I sometimes note possible improvements based on those observations.  But once I retrieve one of my cherished bottles of red wine to drink with the pizza (for this occasion it was a 1986 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac bordeaux), all of the science immediately vanishes.  And for some inexplicable reason, the pizza gets better with each glass of wine ;D.  

    The pizza in question was very good--a cross between a 00 Neapolitan pizza and a New York style pizza but with a bias toward the Neapolitan style, with a combination of the softness and flexibility of a Neapolitan style pizza and the crust color of a New York style pizza (because of the high-gluten flour).  One day when I have a chance to go to DiFara's and actually watch the pizza making process in person and sample one of their pizzas (which I will most likely scrutinize with great care), I will have an even better idea of the nature of the DiFara dough and its relationship to my own version.  Maybe Mr. DeMarco will even tell me the hydration percentage and confirm the ratios of the two flours used.  That, together with knowing the typical size of a DiFara pizza, should get me closer to the real thing.  Unfortunately, I will never be able to get the bake temperatures used at DiFara's, but the pizza should be pretty good nonetheless.  

    I can tell you one thing, though, and that is that trying to replicate a DiFara pizza is not cheap.  The typical DiFara pizza uses imported buffalo mozzarella cheese, a Grande "fior di latte" cheese, imported DOP-designated San Marzano canned tomatoes, fresh basil, grana padano cheese, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on the side.  Mr. DeMarco could give away all his trade secrets without worrying about people copying his pizzas.  His price points for ingredients will beat mine any day, although the folks at this forum have done a great job tracking down sources of the ingredients used by professional pizza makers, for which I am personally grateful :).

  • #9 by Ronnye on 30 Aug 2004
  • You picked the right pizza to reconstruct.  It truly has ruined me for all other pizza.  If you ever get there you'll have plenty of time to observe, as it often takes an hour or more to get your pie since the owner/artist makes each one himself and the people sometimes line up ten deep for just a slice.  But don't just get a slice, because you will want more!

    Here's what I can offer in response to your inquiry:

    Crust - thin and crispy with slight charring on the bottom, which is crucial to the allover taste.  I don't know if that can be reproduced in a regular oven, but maybe a pizza stone would help.  The dough is made in the back room, so the ingredients remain a mystery, although I doubt that there is anything unusual in the recipe.  I think it's more the way it's handled that makes the difference.  The dough is NEVER refrigerated.  His sons work in the back room making dough all day.  It is raw when it goes in the oven.  He gives the crust a little ping with his fingers to test if it is done to his satisfaction.  And his hands are always floury.  It's really a thing of beauty the way he works each lump of dough with a such a loving and delicate touch.

    Sauce - simple and slightly sweet, with fresh garlic and large pieces of fresh basil throughout.  I'd say it's a light application. but not so light that it dries out in the oven.

    Cheese - he hand grates it just before putting it on the pie, then
    adds a sprinkling of parmegiano reggiano when it is finished.  Everything else (olive oil, basil, etc.) is already on the pie when it goes in the oven.

    That's about all I can tell you, except that the man has magic that none of us will ever truly comprehend.  I hope his children have been paying attention so that they can continue his tradition for many generations to come.  

    • Ronnye
  • #10 by Pete-zza on 30 Aug 2004
  • Thanks, Ronnye, for the added information and encouragement.  I decided to work on the DiFara pizza because it is considered by many to be the very best in the New York City area and because of Dom DeMarco's devotion to the craft rather than trying to build a mini pizza empire like others of the old-timers have done.  He also uses high quality ingredients, cheeses, tomatoes and other toppings.

    You answered one of the questions I had--about refrigeration.  The pizza dough I made over the weekend had no refrigeration.  I made the dough in the morning and baked the pizza in the evening, letting the dough sit at room temperature for the whole time before final preparation.  I did this on the assumption that the dough at DiFara's was made in the evening and left to rise overnight for the next day's luncheon crowd, or the dough was started early in the morning for use later in the day, or quite possibly a combination of both to meet what I understood to be quite a volume of business.  I theorized that there was enough natural sugar bound up in the flours so that the yeast wouldn't run out of food over a several-hours period and the dough would be supple and easy to shape into a pizza dough round.  The dough I made was soft and supple, with good extensibility and low elasticity--the characteristics of Neapolitan style doughs.  I did stretch the dough using my knuckles but it was basically shaped on a flat work surface.

    I have a second batch of dough working today to use up the remainder of the toppings I bought and prepared for use on the first pizza.  This time, however, I made the dough last night and put it into the refrigerator until late this morning, when I took it out to rise slowly throughout the day.  I used only about 1/4 teaspoon of instant dry yeast (added at the end of kneading per Giotto's recommendations), and no added sugar, so it will take a while for the dough to grow to the size for shaping.  I won't know until tonight whether the second pizza is as good as the first one was.  I was planning to try out one of my new pizza screens for tonight's pizza, but I may stick with the pizza stone just to have a more valid basis for comparison with the first pizza.  The experiment will also tell me whether the dough lends itself well to refrigeration, for those times where it may be necessary or desirable to use refrigeration.   It's all part of the learning process, and what makes pizza making so much fun.

  • #11 by giotto on 01 Sep 2004
  • Pete-zza:

    I'd be interested in how the 2nd batch went...  I'm curious if you can contributed any differences with refrigeration, adding yeast at end, or other steps.
  • #12 by Pete-zza on 01 Sep 2004
  • Giotto,

    Thanks for reminding me. I had intended to report on the results but just forgot.

    By way of background, I prepared the second dough batch as follows: I mixed a small amount of flour (the Delverde 00/KA Sir Lancelot blend) with a little bit of water (temperature adjusted to get a finished dough temperature of around 80 degrees F) at low speed (#1) for about a minute to, in effect, make a paste.  I then gradually added more flour and water until all of the flour was taken up and a rough dough ball was formed.  I was trying to go slow with the kneading at this point so as to minimize oxidation of the dough and, hopefully, to preserve its color.  I then covered the bowl and let the dough rest for about 10 minutes (autolyse) to permit fuller hydration of the flour.  After the autolyse, I added the salt and continued kneading, at a slightly higher speed (#2), until the salt was fully incorporated and the dough ball was pretty much done, that is, it would pass the windowpane test.  As the final step, I added the instant dry yeast to the dough and continued kneading (at #2) until it looked like it was fully incorporated into the dough.  (As a note here, I should mention that the first batch used active dry yeast proofed in a small amount of warm water which was added to the flour along with the rest of the water).

    Once I was satisfied that the dough was in proper form, I took its temperature, put it in a bowl, lightly covered it with flour, made a 1/4-inch deep cross in the dough ball (I was looking for divine intervention ;D), and immediately put it into the refrigerator.  One of the things I noticed when I took the dough's temperature was that the dough ball was around 84 degrees F, a few degrees higher than I usually shoot for but still within the 80-85 degrees F range that is usually specified as being optimum for fermentation purposes.  I attributed the higher temperature to what must have been a longer knead time than I usually use, allowing for a temperature buildup in the dough.  In retrospect, I perhaps should have used the lowest mixer speed for the entire kneading process.

    The dough remained in the refrigerator overnight and until late the next morning, when I brought the dough ball to room temperature to start its rise.  I noticed at this point that the cross I had made in the dough had opened up--not a lot, but noticeably--telling me that the dough had risen some while it was in the refrigerator.  Apparently, the 4 degree difference (84 minus 80) was enough to allow the dough to rise while in the refrigerator. The dough also looked more like the New York style dough I make.  Several hours later, after the cross in the dough had transformed into a flower petal-like configuration (telling me that the dough had just about doubled in volume), I shaped the dough into a roughly 16-inch round (the dough handled beautifully--much better than the first batch) and dressed it in the usual manner.   I decided after all to use the new 16-inch pizza screen but to bake the pizza on the screen on my pizza stone and to slip the pizza off of the screen onto the stone toward the end of baking in order to get the final browning on the bottom, as I do with my 00 doughs.  

    The pizza cooked up nicely, but what surprised me was that the pizza crust was more like a New York style pizza crust, with many but not all of the usual characteristics of the New York style crusts we have discussed before.  It was like a cross between the New York style crust and something else--not really a 00 crust.  It was like the battle between the two flours was won by the high-gluten flour.  I couldn't complain about the quality of the pizza.  It was very good, but not what I expected.  As between the two pizzas, I would select the first one (the one without the refrigeration of the dough), since it was more along the lines of a 00 type of pizza.  I am equally fond of the New York style of pizza, but I would use a different recipe for that style if that is what I wanted.

    One day when I get to DiFara's, I will be able to see for myself which of the two types of pizza I made was more like the real deal.  

  • #13 by giotto on 01 Sep 2004
  • Pete-zza:

    Ya know, good things are often accidental.  Sounds like you figured out how to make a very good NY style pizza with a protein level similar to an All Purpose flour-- something I have found only once at a pizzeria.

    The way you cooked it is very similar to how I do it.  I start at the top, then sometimes I take it off the screen and put it directly on the lowest level of the oven for about 40 seconds to get a crisp result.
  • #14 by Pete-zza on 07 Sep 2004
  • As those following this thread know, I recently tried to "reverse engineer" the DiFara pizza based on all the information that I could acquire through publicly available sources--and without ever having been in DiFara's pizzeria in Brooklyn.  By way of background and recapitulation, after I marshalled together all the ingredients for this exercise, I started with the dough, which included a 50/50 mix, by weight, of Delverde 00 flour and King Arthur Sir Lancelot high-gluten flour (the only high-gluten flour I have).  I used a 60% hydration, purely as a guess, and, based on that percentage hydration, I calculated how much of each flour I would require to give me a roughly 15 ounce dough ball (enough for a 14-inch thin crust pizza).  I used active dry yeast which I proofed in a small amount of warm water.  The temperature of the rest of the water was calculated to give me a finished dough temperature of around 80 degrees F.  I processed all the dough ingredients in my usual fashion, including a 10 minute autolyse.   I assumed that the DiFara dough was not refrigerated (later confirmed by a guest poster Ronnye), so I left the dough at room temperature for about 8 hours, at which time I proceeded to shape the dough into a dough round.  The dough was extensible yet with some elasticity, and handled very nicely.  

    For toppings, I used canned, drained and crushed San Marzano tomatoes (DOP); some fresh tomatoes (East Texas) drained of excess water and crushed; a fresh fior di latte mozzarella cheese; an imported Italian bufallo mozzarella cheese; a high quality olive oil; freshly grated grana padano hard cheese; pepperoni on half of the pizza and the rest Margherita; and some fresh basil from my garden.   I also set aside some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to sprinkle on top of the finished pizza.  The dressed pizza was baked on a pizza stone at the highest possible temperature for my oven, about 500-550 degrees F.

    The finished pizza is as shown below.  Maybe those of our members or guests who have seen the authentic Dom Demarco pizza can tell me whether the one I made bears any resemblance to his.


  • #15 by Pete-zza on 07 Sep 2004
  • As reported in an earlier posting, I also made a DiFara reverse-engineered pizza in which I allowed the dough to remain in the refrigerator overnight before using to make the pizza.  DiFara's does not use refrigerated dough.  His dough is made fresh several times a day.  As previously indicated, and as shown below, the finished pizza was more like one of my New York style pizzas.  The pizza tasted fine--which it should have with all the high-quality, high-cost ingredients I trekked all over Dallas to find ;D--but not like what I would have expected a Demarco pizza to be like.
  • #16 by Pete-zza on 14 Sep 2004
  • I recently conducted a couple of experiments in which I used a proofing box in the course of making pizza dough.  In one experiment, I intentionally introduced moisture and humidity to the dough.  In the second experiment, I repeated the first experiment but without the introduction of moisture and humidity.  The results of those experiments are reported under the Proofing Box thread.  

    For both experiments, I intentionally selected flours to try to produce a dough and crust similar to those produced by DiFara's in Brooklyn.   More specifically, I used 50% Delverde 00 flour (4.8 ounces) and 50% King Arthur Sir Lancelot high-gluten flour (4.8 ounces).  I used 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast which I proofed in a tablespoon of warm water, 3/4 teaspoon sea salt and 5.8 ounces water (less the one tablespoon for proofing).   The flours and the salt were combined in my stand mixer, the yeast/water mixture was added and, using the paddle, everything was kneaded at low speed (#1) for about 1 minute.  The paddle was replaced by the dough hook and the dough mixture was kneaded at low-medium speed (#2) for about 10 minutes, and at medium speed (#3) for a final 2 minutes.  I had adusted the temperature of the water used to achieve a dough temperature off the hook of around 80 degrees F.  No autolyse period was used.  The dough easily passed the windowpane test.  

    The dough was put into a bowl, covered, and put into the proofing box for about 6 hours.  At the end of that time period, after a short duration while the toppings were being readied, the dough was shaped into a 16-inch round, placed on a 16-inch pizza screen, dressed and baked for part of the total bake time on the screen and slipped onto a preheated (500-550 degrees F) pizza stone for a few final minutes to provide additional browning on the bottom of the crust.

    The pizza round was dressed with DOP San Marzano and fresh tomatoes, fresh fior di latte mozzarella cheese, provolone cheese, some Mexican oaxaca melting cheese, pepperoni on half and half Margherita style, olive oil, fresh basil and freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

    I took photos of the two pizzas made using the proofing box for proofing the doughs, but unfortunately the photos for the first pizza (the one where moisture and humidity was introduced to the dough) did not take because the camera batteries had expired.  However, with replacement of the batteries, I was able to take photos of the second pizza, one of which is shown below (the whole pizza) and the other (a slice) in the following posting.


  • #17 by Pete-zza on 14 Sep 2004
  • And, the slice.

  • #18 by A on 28 Sep 2004

  • I stumbled across your website and am amazed that someone is trying to recreate a pizza that they have never tasted.   That is crazy.

    I live in New York and would be willing to send you a few slices via FedEx.  I go to DiFara's every now and then.  Cold DiFara's is better then nothing.  

    I will say that I doubt you can recreate it. There are certain variables that will always go unquantified.  

    • A
  • #19 by Pete-zza on 28 Sep 2004
  • I hope one day to try the real thing at DiFara's.  I'll never have DiFara's oven and there are some ingredients that Dom Demarco uses that I can only get with difficulty, like the brands of high-gluten flour, San Marzano tomatoes, and cheeses Dom Demarco uses, which carry big shipping charges to get them from the sources to my place in Texas.  However, I do think I am getting a bit closer to the DiFara pizza, with each additional clue in the puzzle.   It doesn't really matter, though, because the pizzas I have made in attempting to reverse engineer the DiFara pizza have been very good in their own right.  As does Dom Demarco with his pizzas, I have tried to use the highest quality ingredients in my reverse engineering exercise.  That will produce a good product almost automatically.  If I ever get a chance to stand by Dom Demarco as he makes a pizza or two, I will have a few more clues.  

    One of the most interesting things about the exercise is how much information about a topic, even one as arcane as a DiFara pizza, can be found from public sources, and especially the Internet.  Before the Internet, it would have been impossible to get the same amount and level of information without leaving the home.  


  • #20 by snowdy on 08 Feb 2005
  • peteza, have you been to di fara's yet? Here's a pic i found of demarco and one of his pies  :D