Friday, May 02, 2008

Mama Mia, What a Pizza

The first time I tasted mole poblano I cried. I had been living in Mexico at the time and the woman I was staying with happened to be an amazing cook. She could make just about any type of food, Thai, Chinese, Italian, and of course her native cuisine, Mexican. I’ll never forget that first bite of that rich nutty sauce, a sumptuous wrestling match of smokey and sweet. The tears that welled up in my eyes had nothing to do with the artful blend of Pasilla and Guajillo chilies, neither did it have to do with the Spiced chocolate that was so lovingly stirred in at just the right moment. To be honest, at the time I had no idea what caused the crying episode. I was simply overwhelmed and that night I rushed to a phone both and called my mother to tell her about my experience. Considering I was such a long distance, she was rather surprised to hear from me, “Is everything okay?” she asked me having sensed the urgency in my voice. I paused for a moment not knowing what to say, then clumsily blurted out, “ I had mole. It made me cry.” As it turns out, along with all the Italian Pastry my mother gorged on during her pregnancy with me, she also consumed Mexican food in record amounts, Mole Poblano in particular! Well that explains my tearful discovery of the food I was prenatally weaned on.

I was recently reminded of this story when a very close friend and dinning companion of mine, Kara, made plans to have lunch. Kara, being pregnant and subject to random and overwhelming food cravings, was in charge of selecting the type of fare. As it turns out what she was craving most, was Pizza. “Bread, Tomatoes, and Cheese. Its all that I want” she informed me. “Well I know just the spot!” Di Fara Pizza is as famous for the pizza as it is for the wait for pizza (sometimes up to 2 hours). The Pizza is well worth the wait is the general consensus and in a city like New York where time is coveted in a fashion akin to power and wealth, that says something.

Kara and I planned to meet at Di Fara’s at 3pm on Saturday afternoon. As it turns out it was spring break and in total we waited two hours for the pizza. Here is the run down of those two hours:

Arrival 3pm

A crowded mess and not many seats. Little did I know that I would have plenty of time to poach us a table.

Kara arrives and we put in our order for a regular pie and sip our bottles of root beer while watching for a table. A woman sitting beside us tells us that she has been waiting for an hour and a half. I ask her why she is smiling. Her eyes widen with delight, ‘cause it’s worth it…and my pie is the next one up.’

We get a table in the back and finish our root beers. Classical music showered down upon the sea of patrons and the little green room seemed to inflate and deflate as people came in hungry and left full.


The group next to us receives their two pies. One of them guards the pies from the drooling crowd as the others pick out beverages. Wise decision, I think to myself as I hungrily eye their steaming pizza.

I get up to film the fames owner Mr. DeMarco work his magic on pie after pie after pie. (DeMarco is a bit of a perfectionist and works seven days a week. He is the soul architect of the pie, basically because he does not trust anyone to make pizza up to the standard that his patrons have come to expect). I film DeMarco drizzle olive oil atop a pie then place it in the sweltering oven, the gingerly retrieve a perfectly cooked pie, my pie as it turns out, from the oven. On lookers swoon and he finished my pie off with a sprinkle of grana padana cheese and some fresh Basil.

I was so hungry by the time we got the pie that I literally drank my first slice down in one messy slurp. How did Kara like her first piece? I couldn’t really tell you cause there was very little talking. The second slice we both savored. The crust was thin and perfectly burnt at the ends. The sauce was not overly sweet – one of my biggest pet-peeves – and the grana padana cheese added a level of complexity in both flavor and texture that caused an involuntary smile to well up from the depths of your soul.

By the third slice, Kara and I had slowed down to a moderate pace and I told her about my mothers Mole eating habits while she was pregnant with me, and the emothional affect it had on me decades later. “ Wow. So what your telling me is that its possible that, twenty years from now, my son or daughter (we don’t know the sex yet) is going to wander into Di Fara’s and start crying after their first bite of pizza?” I swallowed my last bite and brushed the crumbs from my lap, “Are you kidding me, I believe it’s in their destiny clause”

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