Cary, NC — Husband and wife, Greg and Valerie Norton moved south with their three daughters in search of a better quality of life and a great location for their business.
Now, after six years of location shopping, renovating and factoring in a pandemic, the Norton’s are excited to serve up their top-notch New York style pizza to their Cary customers by the end of January.
While there’s been no official opening date announced, Valerie said, “We want to do a slow, quiet opening to ensure we are able to provide the customer service that we want.”
Family-Run, Brooklyn Based for 50+ Years
The story of Di Fara goes back to 1965 when its first location opened on a corner in Brooklyn. It was started up by Dominic Demarco and his partner named Farina. Their lawyers came up with Di Fara by combining their names and it stuck.
Greg Norton is Dominic’s nephew and with the help of his wife Valerie and cousin Michael Angelo Demarco, has brought this spin-off location of Di Fara to downtown Cary.
“My Uncle Dominic has been there for over 50 years and it’s an honor to have learned from him, the family and especially my cousin, Michael Angelo Demarco.”
The Brooklyn-based shops have gotten rave reviews from the likes of Anthony Bourdain who calls their pies “the best of the best” and NY Daily News who claims Di Fara as “one of the top foodie destinations in New York City.”
The big difference between the Di Fara locations in Brooklyn and Cary is that the one at 111 E. Chatham Street is larger and includes a full 15 seater bar with a pizza tavern feel. There’s outdoor and indoor seating with over a dozen flat screens for sports fans and there’s good word that patrons will see local Cary brews on tap in the near future.
Opening Shop in North Carolina
The Nortons’ move to Cary was more of a family-based decision than a business one. They were searching for a ideal place to raise their three young daughters ages 1, 6 and 13. Their neighbor in New Jersey had moved to Cary and encouraged them to make a visit and one drive through town was all it took.
“It was a hard decision to leave our family and friends and make that step for a better way of life, but we did it and once we were here, we fell in love with Cary more and more every day,” said Greg.
Since making the move in January 2015, the Nortons have had their fair share of road blocks — a lack of location opportunities, a leaky roof, an obnoxious prior landlord and of course the COVID-19 pandemic. A year after almost establishing in Apex, the property in downtown Cary became available and two storefronts were combined to create Di Fara Pizza Tavern.
“A lot of people want to know what took so long,” said Valerie. “It just wasn’t the best business decision to open in a pandemic, so we kept everything on hold and kept paying rent without being able to move forward.”
Finally, with the help of their current landlord, Jordan Gussenhoven with Chatham Street Commercial, the Nortons have weathered the storm of red lights. All that stands in their way are a few last touch-ups of paint and training sessions with staff.
Fresh Ingredients and a New York Water Maker
One of the more unique things about this business is Greg’s attention to detail. To him, their family business has been a success because of its commitment to authenticity. So, this meant doing whatever necessary to bring the exact taste of their New York-made pies to Cary.
“We’re not changing anything,” said Greg. “I had to move mountains to make it so we could use the same ingredients we used from 20-30 years ago. We’ll be getting those ingredients out here and we even brought in a New York water maker.”
On display in the restaurant near the kitchen is a machine that essentially transforms North Carolina tap water into the tap water you would find in New York. Ask any New Yorker — there is a difference. The machine is hooked up to a single faucet in the back next to the 80-quart dough mixer.
“I’ve made pizzas with both North Carolina water and New York water. It’s a night and day difference,” said Greg. Before coming across this machine, Greg was going to have a New York water truck coming each month because of the difference it makes. In addition to using this NY water, the pizza crew will also be cutting fresh basil and grating fresh cheeses over each pie.
“We are not cutting any corners. We want to make our New York family proud and you can’t get any fresher than what we do,” said Greg.
Di Fara’s COVID Protocols & Curbside Ordering
Di Fara Pizza Tavern will not make deliveries and will not be accepting pre-orders.
“It’s best served fresh out of the oven,” said Valerie. “It’s all about preserving the quality of the pies.”
Instead, the owners encourage customers to come by, eating outside or inside with their capacity limits in place. However, for those simply not comfortable with that, they’ve come up with curbside ordering. There will be three designated parking spots where employees will come out with a device to take orders and they will bring it out once it’s ready.
Owners also want the public to be prepared for a wait in line. While there’s less foot traffic in Cary than in Brooklyn, their shops in NYC average a 2-hour wait time.
Keep up to date on announcements from Cary’s Di Fara Pizza Tavern on Facebook.
Story and restaurant photos by Ashley Kairis. Pizza and family photo provided by Valerie Norton.
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