There’s been a lot of press about Keste 271 Bleeker Street, New York, NY 10014….

Keste awning

Being featured in Time Out New York and New York Magazine basically means this tiny place has long lines every evening. Lon and I walked in one Thursday night and couldn’t even get anyone to tell me how long the wait would be. I got shoved around, stepped on, and then eventually left, just frustrated with not having an answer.

I debated whether I really needed to try this pizza. Lon decidedly does not wait on lines, but I lucked out when I decided to meet Carol there for lunch. There was no wait, other than waiting for a short delay in opening hours (it seems they were painting the bathroom).

Having already read about Roberto Caporuscio on Slice (Serious Eats), I recognized him when he welcomed us in with a friendly smile.  This casual guy is the president of Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napolitani (APN), the association that protects and preserves the Neopolitan pizza tradition, and several accolades all over the internet tout Keste as the real deal, what pizza tastes like in Naples.

Robert Caporuscio 2

I got to snap a few pictures while he was teaching an employee. The first piece of dough he threw in the oven didn’t have anything on it, so I asked him about it, and he answered as he took the long peel and pushed the dough around the oven to clean it. He said something like, it gets out all the dust, and then he tossed it away. I was secretly screaming inside – NO, can I eat that? precious dough…who cares about a little oven dust? He continued to make pizza after pizza with ease.

making pizza - doughmaking pizza - dough 2
making pizza - sauce
making pizza - mushrooms
making pizza - toppings
making pizza - going in oven

Because of the extremely hot oven, pizzas are done in about a minute. Talk about efficiency! If NYC rents weren’t so ridiculous, they could probably serve more people. I wonder if I can just order it as take-out and eat outside? I just called, and yes you can. In good weather, just order and walk down Bleeker to where it meets Sixth avenue. There’s a park with benches there.

super Neopolitan pizza oven 4

The grand question is, is the pizza as good as all the hype? Well, I really hesitate to rank it or compare it to other favorite pizza places like Numero 28, Grimaldi’s, and Fornino, because it’s too different. I don’t like comparing vanilla and chocolate. You know when you get regular pizza, there’s big bubbles sometimes, sometimes by the crust, sometimes somewhere random in the middle. If you prize those bubbles, you will like Keste, where the entire outer rim is a fabulously airy and stretchy bubble. If you avoid the bubble, avoid Keste. (BTW, I had many debates in high school about the merits of the bubble. I happen to like the bubble.)

margherita 4

The pure tomat-y sauce is light and fresh. The milky mozzarella is subtle but creamy. I am still the biggest fan of the classic Margherita pizza.

margherita 2

The buffalo mozzarella is a bit weak, especially if you have other toppings to mask it. We tried the “Keste” pizza also, with prosciutto, arugula, buffalo mozzarella, and grand cru. All of the toppings are fresh and flavorful, but Carol pointed out that this ends up tasting more like a fantastic sandwich, not like pizza. I agree.

Keste Pizza 3

The pizzas are not cheap, the margherita $12 and the Keste $18, but they are filling. We had a little left-over so I brought it home for Lon. Even reheated, Lon thought it was excellent pizza. I thoroughly enjoyed it but I would never wait 30 to 45 minutes (normal wait time in the evenings). Luckily you don’t have to, ordering to-go is the way to go. Makes sure to eat it immediately though, like start scarfing as your walking.

posted by jessica at 02:01 PM Filed under Italian, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.