On Tuesday, pizza enthusiasts across the five boroughs and beyond were crushed to learn that the original Di Fara's pizzeria in Midwood had been shuttered and seized by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance over unpaid taxes. Perhaps no one was more devastated than Mayor de Blasio, who has long considered it his favorite slice joint in the city. The mayor took a break from campaigning in Iowa to vow righteous vengeance upon anyone who hurts his precious pizzeria: "I’m ready to do anything I can to get them reopened," he said in a Tweet which he has since been ratioed. "My team and I are looking into how we can help resolve this situation."
Di Fara is THE best pizza place in New York City. It MUST be saved. I’m ready to do anything I can to get them reopened — as are thousands of New York City pizza-lovers.
My team and I are looking into how we can help resolve this situation. https://t.co/oL1jKxpgh5
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 21, 2019
Asked how exactly the city might be able to help Di Fara's reopen, de Blasio spokesperson Freddi Goldstein said in an email, "Di Fara Pizza is an iconic New York institution and the mayor speaks for many when he says it’s the best pizza in the five boroughs. We are reaching out to the family to determine the extent of their problems and whether there is anything we can do to help."
The Midwood pizzeria, which is located at 1424 Avenue J, has two warrants for unpaid taxes over the last two years, totaling $167,506.75, according to James Gazzale, spokesperson for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. The store has been owned and operated by Domenico DeMarco since 1964.
"Everything is handled on a case by case basis, and there's no definitive timeline when a business is seized," Gazzale told Gothamist. "Long before we seize a business we are in communication with the owner to let them know there is an outstanding tax debt, and try to find a way to resolve that debt as quickly as possible. Seizing a business is always our last resort."
Di Fara also faces two additional warrants for unpaid taxes, totaling $163,520.02, according to the Tax website. Gazzale could not comment on the specifics of those, citing state privacy law.
Marc Vaughan drove an hour and a half from Huntington to visit the Midwood restaurant around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday when he saw around 15 people hanging around outside the store. He watched as cops came and put the seizure sign on the door.
Margaret Mieles, daughter of owner DeMarco, was milling about outside at the time. She told amNY that her family had worked out a six-year tax payment plan with the state. "Small businesses struggle. No matter how popular you are, you’re still a small business and you still struggle to keep up. You’re fortunate if you can get up and do it every day and still have people walking through the door," she said. "My father is an honest, hardworking man for 50-something years. No fancy mansion or fancy cars. They’re looking for a lump sum of money and we have a payment agreement so it doesn’t make sense."
She did note that they missed a tax payment in May, when the business was shut down over a city health violation. She also told the Daily News the state believes they didn't pay corporate taxes in 2017. The family opened a second Di Fara location in Williamsburg, in a food hall at North 3rd Street, in 2018. It seems as though the debt roughly coincides with that opening, though Gazzale could not comment on that.
Another source told Gothamist that the extra two warrants against the family, which are not included in the Midwood amount, could be toward a "separate business operating under the same name."
So far, this is the only social media post the restaurant has made since the closure.