Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is Kesté the Best Pizza In New York?

Grab Your Bottle of Tums, This Is Gonna Get Fun

It’s undeniable. The NYC pizza wars have begun. Again.

And what a time it is. Gone is the local argument about “who has the best slice”….. about “who has the best sauce”….. about “where was the original Ray’s”.

Instead, the conversation has transformed itself into pizza styles, dough and oven temperatures. Trust me, this is good news for you and me.

Don’t fret, your neighborhood slice isn’t going anywhere. But what has evolved in the city is the birth of truly Italian pies, that only a short time ago could only be found on your romantic trip to Italia.

The new trend in NYC pizza has steered away from the 18” pepperoni slice to what most label as “Neapolitan” style pies. No, the Neapolitan pie isn’t new to NYC… but the hype is. Eating trends have shifted to plate sized pizza, and waiting in the wings are a handful of true Neapolitan pie makers who are now reaping the benefits. One of the best? Kesté.

To a pie maker from Naples, Neapolitan style pizza is the only style of pizza that they consider authentic. All others are imposters, or experimental. The Neapolitan pizza is limited to very pure ingredients, tomatoes grown in the Mt. Vesuvius region, and to a perfect blend of simple ingredients that create a dough that can be hand crafted and baked at uber-high temps. Make no mistake about it… this is where the Margherita Pizza was born, and served with red (sauce), white (cheese) and green (basil) ingredients to the Queen herself, who dubbed it her favorite food. Serious stuff.

What may really set these pizzas’ apart may lie on the bottom. As San Marzano sauce and homemade mozzarella go, there isn’t a huge variation. It’s all good. But in the crust, lies fame. And the crust at Kesté is fantastic.

Yes, the pies have fantastic combinations and killer ingredients…. homemade Italian sausage… mushrooms…. lardo…eggplant… it’s all there. But the hand crafted crust, baked between 700 and 800 degrees in a brick oven, produces a special “char” that gives the pizza a smoky, authentic flavor that is indigenous to the Napoli region. Creating crust like this is an art form.

Simply said, it’s the real deal… and delicious.

But is there better pizza out there?

Well, yes. I firmly believe that the best pizza in America is being made not in New York, but in Los Angeles at Pizzeria Mozza, who also specializes in Neapolitan pizza… and use a wood fired oven to cook their magic pies. The biggest difference to me is Mozza’s crust, that tastes almost like something you’d expect to come out of a pastry shop…. chewy, crunchy and almost buttery. It’s really that good.

But that’s an opinion… truth be told, overall LA has horrible pizza. New Yorkers are blessed with everything from John’s, to Patsy’s, to Di Fara, to Motorino… well, you name it. This is the best pizza city in America, bar none.

So get out there, and experiment yourself. And pay attention to the crust, will ya? The folks at Kesté are nailing it.


271 Bleecker St., nr. Morton St.; 212-243-1500

+ authentic Neapolitan pizza, served by guys with thick Italian accents

+ fantastic ingredients and combinations

+ not crazy expensive and fairly fast service

- tight, itty bitty space

- just salad and pizza, that’s it.