Friday, October 9, 2009

Pizza Sukkah

Yesterday, I took the bus down to Avenue J, on my way to a bus to the Rockaways. As I strolled down the avenue, I noticed many Orthodox Jewish men selling the sprigs of a plant. I decided to ask what kind of plant it came from. It looked a bit like Oleander to me, sensible to my mind knowing that it is native to the middle east and Mediterranean. But no, the man told me he thought it was willow. He was a little suspicious of this camera wielding gentile, and I was asked to disclose my purposes!

I was well aware that it was the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and everyone who has lived near or in Orthodox neighborhoods is aware of the temporary huts or booths that sprout up at this time of year. Sukkah, the singular, means booth. Sukkot, the plural, is a holiday of pilgrimage and feasting, coming as it does at the end of the agricultural season. The willows belong to a group called the Four Species. Read those linked Wikipedia articles so I don't have to write about it here, pretending as if I know what I'm talking about.

My purpose on Avenue J was a pilgrimage of sorts, however secular. I certainly had feasting on my mind, and was prepared to enter the ramshackle booth of Di Fara pizza to do so. Much has been written and said about this pizza and pizza in NYC in general. I will not get into it. I was happy to arrive just after opening; there were seats and no line. His prices have risen again, to $5 a slice. No one should pay that for a slice of pizza, but here, every so often, yes. I ordered a slice of round (regular) and square (Sicilian), my usual no matter where I go. The round was regular Di Fara and good. The square, which I had to wait for, was phenomenal. The sauce was meaty, rich, and anyone who knows pizza knows the sauce on Sicilian must be different from the round. Two guys came in, ordered a whole square, uncorked two bottles of wine, and feasted.

I hesitate to order pies and bring them home, they need to be eaten right out of the oven. But the place is a dump, which is okay by me. Dom De Marco has always understood that renovation can destroy the work. Kahlil Gibran wrote that work is love made visible. I go to see this man work as much as for his pizza. Its a privilege to see and enjoy his work, his love.

My grandfather, Carmelo Di Maio, who I didn't know as well as I could have, making pizza 40 years ago.

After my pizza feast, I ran across the street to get some Challah. Then to the bus to the Rockaways. The only people on the beach were Orthodox families celebrating Sukkot with an outing -allowed on this holy day because it does not belong to the category of work. May I assume that this work is work not of love, but distaste?


  1. We'll seek it out this weekend.

  2. BE CAREFUL on weekend for insane waits. Call ahead for new hours. He is working less than just a year ago-and if he ain't there -its closed.

    He's got good toppings.

  3. very nice, the photo of your grandfather. i think most all of us do not know our grandparents as much as we could have. i was lucky enough to know mine but not smart enough to know i should record their stories. i am starting now with the next generation.

  4. My grandmother died when I was 8, my grandfather when I was 16. He wasn't much for talking to kids and he seemed scary to us as kids.

    But you're right, we don't know them as well as we could, and that's most of us.


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