For two terrifying days, New York City was down one of its best and most beloved pizzerias, the legendary Di Fara in Midwood, a slice and pie joint that's been around since 1964 but was suddenly seized and shuttered by the tax man on Tuesday morning. But on Thursday afternoon, they were back in business! Doors open, pies sliding in and out of the ovens, happy kids, grateful grown-ups, relieved city.
The cause of the scare was because of missed monthly tax payments to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance—owner Maggie Mieles said yesterday that the family structured this payment deal after an audit in 2014. James Gazzale, spokesperson for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, told Gothamist on Thursday that they returned the keys, but could not "discuss specifics" on the arrangement that allowed Di Fara to reopen. He did note, however, that "We've reached a mutual agreement to move forward and we're confident the business will be operating in good faith into the future."
As it reopened yesterday, I took the Q to Avenue J for the grand re-opening and it was shockingly relaxed inside, at least compared to all the other times I've been here, when long lines and chaos at the counter were more the scene. Admittedly, many of those times were back when the patriarch Dom DeMarco wouldn't let anyone help him as he fastidiously snipped each leaf of basil with a tiny pair of scissors while hordes of us hovered nearby, starving for a slice. Several regular customers confirmed my sense that the place was much less busy than usual, but that's to be expected, as the reopening news likely hadn't reached everyone yet.
Two of those regulars were Umar and his teenage daughter Zahra, who live right upstairs and eat at Di Fara at least once or twice a week. "We love it, and are really happy they're open again," Umar said. "Though I was surprised by the amount of money they owe."
A young man named Jake from Midwood, who was there with his buddy Eric from Brighton Beach, recalled how he was "literally brought to tears" by the sight of the shuttered shop on Tuesday, and made the plan to come yesterday after hearing about the reopening. They both said that it was "hilarious" that Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to get involved.
JUST IN: @DiFara will re-open today!
This family-owned small business has been a Brooklyn icon for more than five decades. Glad to know the best slice in town will still be in Midwood for years to come. https://t.co/X7Gq9w4C32
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 22, 2019
While Mieles expressed her surprise and gratitude that the Mayor noticed her family's plight and personally stepped in to help, most locals were far from impressed by de Blasio's actions. Sam, a Midwood resident of 55 years, launched smoothly into a sidewalk speech about how "de Blasio should worry more about all the stores in New York City rather than flying off to Idaho or Iowa or wherever the hell he is, but also if Dom didn't pay his taxes he should be out business..."
Mark, who's lived in Midwood for 70 years, believed de Blasio did it not for political gain, but to score some free pizza. "He's never, ever going to be President, so he might as well try to get a few free pies by pretending to do something." And Akira, also from Midwood, who was bringing his son Zosime here for the first time ("usually there's such a line"), thought that de Blasio's Di Fara tweet "was the only good thing he's done in past few years. The guy is trying to beat out Dinkins for worst-ever NYC mayor."
And then there were those who had been floating peacefully through their lives this week blissfully unaware of all the pizza anxiety and drama. Carlos from Canarsie, for example, who stopped by for slice on his way home from work, said "it's the best pizza in the world, I've been coming for years, and didn't even know it had been closed. Really happy they got it all settled."
Me too, my man.