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Pies, Lies, and Videotape: The Di Fara and Grimaldi’s “Scandal”

(Photo: Di Fara Pizza via Flickr, Zakisa)

The pizza scene in Brooklyn these past couple of weeks could best be summed up in one word: DRAMA. Seriously there's enough material to fill an entire episode of Maury. Below is the latest on all of the backstabbing and pie-slinging currently going on in Kings County:

Di Fara vs the DOH

First, Di Fara, New York's best or most overrated pizzeria depending on who you ask, was shut down by the Department of Health for racking up 67 sanitation violations on November 16th (you can see the detailed report on Eater). The closure caused an uproar on the internet with both Domenico (Dom) de Marco's defenders and detractors jumping on various food and city blogs to comment (and still complain about the 2009 price hike). The Midwood pizza place passed its reopening inspection last Wednesday and, so far, things seem back to a slightly cleaner version of normal. Of course, this is not Di Fara’s first run-in with the Department of Health. In 2007, the pizza joint was shut down for three weeks for similar violations including De Marco's legendary use of his bare hands to make each pie.

As a hole in the wall pizza joint that manages to attract two hour waits on even a Tuesday night, Di Fara is somewhat of a sitting duck for the Department of Health, which has been accused of being a cash cow for the city by some restaurateurs. The DOH also knows that any inspection of Di Fara will be tirelessly chronicled by New York's various food writers and bloggers, which perhaps translates into the famed pizzeria being held at a higher standard although seeing evidence of mice on a health report is enough to make even the most die-hard of Dom fans wince. Of course, given the scrutiny Di Fara pies face on a daily basis (see here, here and here)  one would imagine that word would travel pretty quickly should Di Fara’s pizza be a real threat to the public’s health. 

Grimaldi vs Grimaldi's

Meanwhile, down in DUMBO, tourist favorite Grimaldi's announced last week that it would be relocating its never-ending lines to One Front Street after owner Frank Ciolli was unable to renew his lease at 19 Old Fulton. Ciolli has had a rocky history with the property’s landlord Dorothy Waxman, who, according to Brooklyn Paper, tried unsuccessfully to evict the popular pizzeria last year for unpaid rent and taxes. It seems Waxman may now be having the last laugh - the Post, of course, reports that Patsy Grimaldi, Grimaldi's original owner until 1998 when he sold the business to Ciolli, is taking over his old coal oven and opening Juliana's, which will serve - yes, you guessed it, pizza. As if competing against one's former eponymous restaurant in said restaurant's former space isn't confusing enough, Grimaldi is also related to another famous New York pizzeria - Patsy's in East Harlem. I think I'm starting to see a trend here. Check out the Post article for the Grimaldi family's saucy (sorry) history - it's sort-of like Game of Thrones but with coal ovens (not really).

Update: In an unexpected twist of events, Brooklyn Paper now reports that Grimaldi's move to One Front Street has been halted by the city after Ciolli installed a coal oven without proper documentation. Looks like Juliana's might have just taken the lead.

What do you think - is the Department of Health being too hard on Di Fara? Will Grimaldi's be able to relocate their crowds to One Front Street or will the original Grimaldi regain his coal oven crown with Juliana’s? What are the odds that Patsy Grimaldi will use his middle name in possessive form if he decides to open another chain of pizzerias?

[Eater, NYP, Brooklyn Paper]

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